Global consumer themes combine with new technologies

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Nairobi-Key global consumer themes are now also evident and relevant in Africa. Combined with new technologies this presents Africans with a real opportunity to participate – as producers and suppliers of consumer products – in the world’s rapidly evolving and expanding consumer market.

For too long Africa has been viewed as an exciting new market for a narrow range of globally produced and marketed consumer products. Today, however, the full range of global consumer themes – including health and wellness, convenience, indulgence, low/no calories and food protection – are now also major themes in Africa. This not only presents global marketers with a wider market, but also, “provides Africans with an opportunity to participate in the global consumer sector – as producers and suppliers – of new and innovative products that speak to global consumer trends,” says Brendan Grundlingh, Executive, Consumer Client Coverage Standard Bank.

As Africans adapt and combine technologies to service both local and global consumer opportunities, a world of new consumer product, service and support opportunities are emerging on the continent.

There is huge opportunity, for example, for existing digital and new speech technology to utilise algorithms around discounting a basic basket of goods – targeting lower income households in Africa, for example. Innovation in e-commerce focussed on digitally acquired consumer insights combining new distribution models, including, perhaps, delivery of goods or even medicines via drone to remote locations, is also presenting huge opportunity in Africa’s direct-to-consumer space.

The fact that global consumer trends are increasingly favouring the niche and the local over the global and the general presents Africa with further opportunity. While this is part of a broader trend towards sustainability and social and economic justice in production and consumption, it has meant that increasingly – and in Africa too – larger multinationals that previously dominated the personal care sector, for example, are either losing out to smaller local players, “or are being forced to buy out and incorporate the offerings of local champions into their brands,” says Mr Grundlingh. As such, looking ahead in Africa there is scope for smaller niche players – at home with ethnic and cultural diversity, for example – to win market share from larger multinational companies by using, “the smart, the small, and the local, to scale products though innovation – or bring new technologies to delivery and service,” he explains.

Africa’s large, growing and increasingly urbanised millennial population has a high expectation of integrity from brands, products and services. This is also likely to drive rapid change, and innovation, in how Africa’s consumer sector understands and meets holistic wellness themes in food and lifestyle.

With health and wellness emerging as strong consumer theme in Africa over the last five years, food providers that previously provided a handful of products now have an opportunity to develop an integrated range of healthy food products – across the full human life cycle.

With people living longer, for example, there is also a greater focus on, “early life and medical nutrition, healthier water and plant based beverages, sustainable foods, zero net carbon food production technologies, trusted origin and sustainable agriculture,” adds Mr Grundlingh.

Given Africa’s natural agricultural advantages – 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land, abundant water supply in many parts of the continent, and 80 percent of Africa’s population already involved in agriculture – the scope for innovation in food production, beneficiation, supply and distribution through the adaptation and application of new technologies is vast.

Add to this innovation in adapting to climate change – sustaining food production through drought or other extreme weather events – and the scope for new product and service development in the agricultural sector gets even wider.

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