Caution: The emerging African market PDF stampede

This  PDF report on the emerging consumer market opportunity in Sub Saharan Africa comes to us from Accenture, the most recent in the long line of consulting firm offerings that started with McKinsey’s in June 2010.  In order to differentiate themselves from the migrating herd, they offer us a single customer segmentation model for the combined population of ~ 43 countries :

Our segmentation identifies five broad consumer segments:

  • Basic Survivors are the largest consumer group in Africa and are characteristically low income consumers. They tend to make day-to-day decisions based on basic needs.
  • Working families are the second-largest consumer group. They focus their spending on their children’s needs and value stability and routine.
  • Rising Strivers value upward mobility and buy based on convenience, quality, or even more “expressive” factors.
  • Cosmopolitan Professionals are typically located in urban areas. They value pragmatic products but are also brand conscious and influenced by the media.
  • The Affluent of Africa have disproportionately high purchasing power, and are considered wealthy regardless of where they travel across the globe. This group is extremely small and very fickle.

Their segment of choice for future focus are the “Working Families” ($100 to $250 a month), described so:


Working Family Profile – The Biya family resides in a small city called Mbouda in Cameroon and has four children ages seven to 13. Francis (the father) works as a mechanic servicing local farmers’ trucks, while Calixthe (the mother) works as a housekeeping lady in a hotel. Due to both parents’ late working hours, they often make quick prepared noodle dishes for dinner and give their children small biscuit packets for snacks. They spend extra on laundry detergent for school uniforms.

I see the “consumer market opportunity too big to ignore” alright, lets see how they fare in the “African markets  in accordance with African realities”.  These insights are from their section titled Analysis, and it reminds me of Dean Roger Martin’s most recent HBR blogpost  “You Can’t Analyze Your Way to Growth” where he writes:

The fundamental reason is that analysis of data is all about the past. Data analysis crunches the past and extrapolates it into the future. And the past does not include opportunities that exist but have not yet happened. So, analysis conspicuously excludes ways to serve customers that have not been tried or imagined or ways to turn non-customers into customers.

Hence the kids being fed Maggi 2 min noodles and packets of glucose biscuits, most likely from Parle.   Martin goes on to add:

Organizationally and behaviorally, analysis and appreciation are two very different things. Analysis is distant, done in office towers far from the consumer. It requires lots of quantitative proficiency but very little experience in the business in question. It depends on data-mining: finding data sources to crunch, often from data suppliers to the industry. Appreciation is intimate, done in close proximity to the consumer. It requires qualitative proficiency and deeper experience in the business. It requires the manufacture of unique data, rather than the use of data that already exists.

I like the term appreciation but my caveat would be that appreciation of any thing, person or environment emerges from understanding.

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