How Can Made-In-Africa Engage European Consumers

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | June 7, 2017
Made in Africa Products

This article is a contribution by Penelope Muzanenhamo.

If Africa’s traditional negative image is anything to go by, one would be excused for quickly dismissing products made on the continent as a no go area for most Western consumers. But young Westerners are increasingly relating to the continent, thanks in part to Social Media for breaking communication barriers.

In the UK alone, more than 60% of the 2000 consumers surveyed by YouGov on behalf of the Social Enterprise, Proudly Made in Africa, are either comfortable or very comfortable with buying finished products from Africa. About 70% of these consumers shop at the Big Four retailers Tesco (25%), Sainsburys (17%), Asda (17%) and Morrisons (11%). The rest of the consumers buy their groceries at large discount stores, with a few high-end shoppers.

Market research reveals that consumer attitudes towards African brands are generally positive, but more than 65% of the consumers still associate the brands with low quality. The consumers may buy African brands, but their behaviours seem to be predominantly driven by perceptions of Fairtrade and poverty alleviation. Those two drivers may explain why over 70% of the consumers expect to pay the same price or more for a chocolate bar made in Africa, as they would for a Cadburys’ or KitKat.

Interestingly perceptions such as ‘organic’ and ‘uniqueness’ are some of the factors that the surveyed consumers also use as reference points, but do not directly link to quality. However, within these findings, there are indications that consumers may be starting to shift their attitudes towards buying African products based on quality rather than sentiment.

Shifting perceptions for the European mass market

The findings of the market research imply that there is lot of market potential for African brands in Europe, but these brands might not be committing enough investment in promoting their competitiveness. Marketers’ focus ought to be on leveraging quality perceptions among mass consumers.

Some African-brands in the wine and beverages sectors have succeeded based on their competitiveness. Some marketers in these sectors have targeted niche segments of customers who seek the so-called ‘exotic, ethical and organic’ brands. But niche segments are strategic for initial market entrance, and often not viable enough to guarantee sustainable growth for most African

Growth will be driven by long-term investment in building relationships between Western consumers and African brands. Apart from the traditional teas and coffees for Europe, Africa produces some of the world’s best cotton and leather goods. These can easily go mass market if branded competitively for increasingly Africa-friendly European consumers.

Heineken African Beers
NGok, Turbo King, Mützig and Primus (not pictured) are key beer brands in Heineken’s large African portfolio. Primus is a bestseller, Turbo King caters to upper class consumers, NGok is a value-for-money product. Heineken aggressively advertises them as “made locally”. The world leading brewer’s Made-in-Africa ambitions consist of sourcing 60% of raw agricultural materials from local farmers by 2020.

Strategic partnerships

Brand building is a costly and time-consuming project demanding patience, resilience and courage. The whole exercise starts with constructing a strong foundation for the future, laying one block at a time, monitoring and responding to reaction.

Thinking outside the box is vital for success, but an organisation might wonder how to do that, and take an African brand into a mass European market given all the constraints and prejudices around the continent. However, an answer to that is observed in Proudly Made in Africa’s approach.

For nearly a decade, Proudly Made in Africa has been acting as a mediator nurturing business relationships between European and Africa retailers, providing these partners with market intelligence, and developing the capacity of African SMEs to meet EU trade regulations.

Beyond that, Proudly Made in Africa has been mass educating potential consumers and future business practitioners through a Fellowship in Business and Development based at the University College Dublin.

Employing a Proudly Made in Africa Fellow who works closely with lecturers
across Ireland, the Social Enterprise has been able to reach approximately 10.000 Business students in 13 Colleges during the last 4 years. More than a third of those students now consider African brands to be at least as competitive as European brands.

Therefore, the perceived competitiveness of African brands is an issue of grassroots education and brand building, and more investment in marketing activities that will boost the competitiveness of African brands in the eye of the now very open-minded European consumer.

All photos and the Heineken note/caption by Patrick Gaincko. The cover photo is a sample of Made-in-Kenya products.

The author is Penelope Muzanenhamo, a Proudly Made in Africa Fellow in Business and Development at UCD College of Business, Ireland.


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What Africans Want in 2017: The Consumer Trends

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | January 1, 2017
chinese africa retail market

Here we go again. In this end-year shopping season, Made-in-China toys have invaded various markets across Africa. They have landed in places that have been waiting for them feverishly. In everyday conversations, some of the narratives that have defined 2016 – the jobs wiped out by the oil crisis, the prices gone up due to the plunging currencies – are KO’ed by the eagerness to spend, the irresistible taste for trying new things. Streets are lavishly covered with adverts, radio and TV play commercials with the highest rotation, malls and stores promote their extended opening hours and oversupplied shelves. Consumers are salivating, hypnotized, under heavy influence. Stakes are high.

So Chinese merchants don’t bother with establishing stores, decorating windows, promoting products. They just find an empty, warehouse-like space in a popular market, unload the trucks, expose the merchandise straight from the box and open the doors. In a matter of minutes, shopper masses rush to the items. In these hard discount bazaars and fast shopping kingdoms, space is scarce, the heat is unbearable, the noise is deafening, the darkness is omnipresent. Brawls, stampedes, even fights erupt. Sales people are trampled, security staffs are overwhelmed. In comparison to the chaotic Black Friday sales in the USA, the scenes here have an equal degree of violence (albeit sans guns).

Convinced that everything is in limited stock, everything is new, everything is wanted by the next shopper, shoppers are obsessed, ecstatic about the “treasure hunt”. Perceiving that the prices are still high and can go further down – even though they are already amazingly low – shoppers bargain hard with the sales staff. Add the yelling and fingering, the language barrier, the contagious nervosity, the people changing their minds repeatedly, the last-minute let-me-take-that-too; and you get extremely long waiting lines at cashiers. On average, shoppers spend four-to-five hours in these toy stores…which actually sell much more than toys. There you also find condoms, DIY tools, clothes, shoes, ustensils, school stuffs, umbrellas, snacks, sunglasses, cellphones, chairs, luggages, pillows, radios, plastic buckets, trash bags, lamps, napkins, cosmetics, fake flowers, and the list goes on and on. It looks like China manufactures, exports and sells everything you need.

china africa retail market

Yet, the families I meet after their shopping spree are happy to have their hands firmly tightened on bundles of cheap, flashy toys and many other things they hadn’t planned to purchase. They are deeply seduced by the choice and the prices. Some are perplex when they found out the total money they spent or how they will bring all the stuffs back home.

But families also expect that there will be not much left of these toys in the hands of children in a matter of weeks. The balls will burst, the dolls will be dismembered, the guitars will lose their strings, and finally all the toys will end up in the trash without the slightest hesitation.

Africans massively buy Chinese toys for what they are – frequent purchase, rapid consumption, low involvement – and adhere to what Chinese merchants wrote in poor french or english at the door – “no refund, no exchange, no repair”. As much as African consumers want quality and durability when deciding on a purchase, when it comes to toys and certain product categories, they go for the cheap, unbranded, extremely fast moving.

One reason is that durability is less of a concern than it used to be. In today’s Africa, consumers are more open to new brands, new tastes, new trends, particularly the young, urban and educated crowds. This leads us to a set of questions:

  • For which products and brands consumers choose quality/durability over price?
  • For which products and brands would they pay a premium?
  • What’s the future of Western brands in African consumers’ wallets?
  • What does it take for consumers to show greater affinity for Made-in-Africa?

I will be answering these questions in Amsterdam The Netherlands on January 20, 2017. At the famous Heineken Experience venue, I will be presenting “The African Consumer Trends 2017″. It’s an exclusive delivery, a product of months-long cross-country field research, and a wealth of actionable insights. More information on

Patrick Gaincko



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