The African Middle Class is Growing…can CSR help win market share?

A post on the Annansi Chronicle, noted an article in the Economist dated 8/27/09, about the growing middle class across  Africa.  The article starts out with the stereotypical, yet sadly still very true in some areas, description of un- and under-developed Africa:

a place of large families and high fertility, a continent in which societies are under extreme stress and where the young massively outnumber the old. Teeming, environmentally degraded, ravaged by poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS and civil war

But then the Economist article goes on to describe this more encouraging scene:

there is another Africa, an Africa whose people are charting a course more similar to that of the rest of the world: one where they are living longer, having fewer children, and in which more of their children are surviving infancy. Cities are restraining population growth, just as they have in Asia and Latin America. Addis Ababa, Accra, Luanda, may be fetid in parts—shockingly so for those coming from richer countries—but they have low fertility. An emergent African middle class is taking out mortgages and moving into newly built flats—and two children is what they want.


Courtesy of The Economist

And with mortgages, flats, and babies comes greater consumption of stuff.  Those who know me know that I don’t have nor have a need for lots of stuff.  Nor do I encourage a culture of consumption; a cultural mindset that I believe has largely contributed to the current economic situation we’re in now.  But for many Africans and people from other countries who are only now getting the opportunity to participate in the global economy, who am I to say they shouldn’t have their time to shine; their chance to buy that new car or real Nike sneakers?

Now I know the stereotypical and devastating realities of many parts of Africa still need to be addressed.  Basic human rights like shelter, food security, education, and freedom from violence are still denied to millions of innocent victims all across the Continent.  I know this from first hand experience having worked for humanitarian aid organizations and  volunteering in North, South, and East Africa.  It’s disgusting that these disparities still exist.  But some arguments state that with a growing middle class, goes a growing tax base, which may ultimately be the way African countries get their acts together (rather than depending on foreign aid).  I’m not necessarily advocating for this argument, but it is an interesting idea.  I digress though and want to go back to the idea of the growing middle class and opportunities for CSR around the World Cup!

So with this growing middle class comes a growing consumer base.  Marketers should be salivating at this opportunity; sure China and India have more people, but Africa as a continent, isn’t that far behind.  And the upcoming World Cup, widely acknowledged to be Africa’s games, not only that of South Africa, gives marketers a huge opportunity to reach Africans from all over the continent, who will surely be following the games intently.

Now TV, print, and likely digital (due to growth of mobile use in Africa) advertising will probably be effective.  But for #2 or #3 brands, particularly foreign brands which may not be as well-known in some countries, there is a huge opportunity to do some on-the-ground brand activation acts that could build brand-awareness, good-will, and potentially help communities and countries around Africa.

Doing some good now might go a long way in building brand loyalty down the road.  Hope marketers and CSR professionals can take the long-view and think  about opportunities/tactics that can have a lasting impact both for the brand as well as the communities they are operating in.

Full post can be found here:

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2 Responses

  1. Good post. I think that Sub-Saharan Africa’s middle class is one of a number of reasons it is a good target for CSR. When you couple this with the very unpolitical nature of much of the charity work done there and the relative strength of foriegn currencies in those countries it just makes sense that Companies would look to do aid there.

  2. Hello, I am very interested in the full text of the article of the Economist “The African Middle Class is Growing…” but can not find it. Can you please assist?
    Thanks in advance. Dror

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