Digital Marketing in an African Context – What is holding you back?

  • Digital Marketing in an African Context

Digital marketing in an African Context; “will businesses in Africa finally act on the opportunity or remain passive to the dawn of the digital era”?

In the words of Anders Jacques Poulsen on LinkedIn

Having worked intensively on almost every aspect of digital marketing for the better part of the last ten years in East Africa and Europe,  I will begin this little adventure with one given an indisputable fact:

 If you as a business do not proactively develop and evolve your business model and your organization on the basis of a data driven digital marketing strategy you will not only lose clients, you will most certainly also loose the organizational intent, agility, impact and capability to grow your market-shares and increase your revenue in the years to come.

No matter how strong or well consolidated you may think your business is and no matter how unthinkable you may believe it to be, the worst case scenario, which by no means is unlikely, is that your business may not even exist 5 or 10 years from now. Unless you act!

Let’s look at a few important facts:

Africa is the fastest growing continent on the planet when it comes to the rate of internet penetration and adaptation to the internet of things. This  is being driven by:

  • A strong consumer and audience based commercial intent and behavior which is being guided through various digital channels
  • A rapidly evolving and expanding financial services industry that provides the general population with easy access to pay on the go through several mobile solutions
  • A second to none growth in sales of smartphones and mobile devices with the full browsing capability that provides unconstrained access to the internet of things.
  • ISP (Internet Service Providers) and Telcos that supply the general population with increasingly cheaper and faster internet connectivity especially through 4G but also through cable.

There are of course a “few” more reasons for this rapid development, but if you for just one second stop and think about the fact that only approximately 4.5 million Africans had internet access in 2005 and that this number has grown exponentially to approximately 340 million as of 2016 where does your imagination take you if we jump to the year 2020 or 2025.

So where am I going with this?

The general population  – AKA your audience, your consumers, your brand ambassadors, your future catalyst of growth, the creators of wealth and the key holders to your ability to expand your business – are adapting to the convenience of easy internet access and they are doing it much faster than most businesses on the continent. In fact a lot faster.

What we know is that when consumers obtain easy access to the internet their consumer or audience behavior will change faster than the speed of light and they will adopt an online behavior like we have experienced it in more mature markets like Europe and North America etc. This behavior is erratic, disloyal to brands and with a strong focus on being self-serving ONLINE!

This change in behavior leaves traditionally thinking marketers in the dark when it comes to imposing influence in the moment of truth were consumers delivers their verdict over brands and products. If you as a business are being incapable of delivering swift, engaging, relevant and accurate information about your brand, product or service through whichever channel the consumer is looking in that Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) you lose the element of surprise and the moment of opportunity.

Consumers go through several micro-moments during the day, moments that leave them with intent and with the need and want to search for answers about brands, products, local stores and many other things. They are on Facebook, Google Search Engine, YouTube, they talk to friends and family, they visit blogs, they listen to the radio, they watch TV, they are on different websites etc., to gather the information they need and want and they do this across various online devices. Their journey will most likely begin on a smartphone and end up on a desktop

Your business must be there every step of the way from creating awareness to selling your brand, product, and services.

But something or someone is holding most companies back when it comes to making the jump to data-driven digital marketing.

Is it because:

  • You don’t exactly understand data-driven marketing?
  • You don’t believe in digital marketing?
  • You don’t think that sales, lead and demand generation is happening online?
  • Is it because someone within your organization is being a smart ass thinking that they know everything that is worth knowing what is good for the business?
  • Is it because it’s difficult to put your trust in marketing channels which are online and not directly noticeable like on TV, Radio, on billboards, painted on walls, printed in the newspaper etc?
  • Is it because the agency you are currently working with does not have the skills or experience to actually help you plan and launch a digital strategy?

One thing is an absolute certainty, there are a lot of business in the African market that has not even come close to scratching the surface when it comes to a business model which is digital, that is holistically crafted and that is well executed through a multi-channel strategy.

So where does this leave your business at this exact nanosecond?

It leaves you with opportunity, the capability to act and with the ability to be a first mover.

If you analyze, plan and execute not only as individuals but as integrated businesses and organizations then the sky is the limit.

What do I base all of the above upon?

In my two years in Kenya, I have been in plenty of meetings and had a lot of conversations with people from sales and marketing at most organizational levels. It has left me with a hands-on understanding of some of the eminent challenges.

This little “wake up call” is therefore based on my own experience but also guided by the many recent reports I have read.

Last but certainly not least I must give credit to the many conversations I have had with my good friend, Founder of Markedu and well-renowned speaker Michael Leander.

By |2017-12-17T19:32:34+00:00May 23rd, 2017|

About the Author:

Anders Jacques Poulsen
Anders Poulsen has worked as an agency development manager for Google in Denmark.


  1. Thandie 25-02-2018 at 13:28

    Thanks for the interesting post. In comparison to many other parts of the world it is true that many African countries are still to fully embrace digital marketing. However, the challenge for many African companies is also that the challenges and environment is much different that it for many European and US companies so a lot of the digital marketing education out there does not apply 1:1 in an African context. For that reason, more Digital Marketing content is needed that focuses on the needs of African users and companies.

  2. Michael Leander
    Michael Leander 27-02-2018 at 08:19

    @Thandie thanks for your comment. Completely agree with you. Content must be relevant to the local situation. And not just a copy-paste of what is being taught in EU/US etc.

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