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January 2014 Africa Trend Bulletin:
WITH IN 2014


Africa – and more importantly, African consumers – will be firmly on the global stage in 2014.

And while the ‘traditional’ African narrative of hardship and struggle will still contain elements of truth (macro-scale challenges such as the lack of constant electricity or under-developed manufacturing industries won’t disappear overnight), there will be huge opportunities on the continent for creative, daring and savvy brands, both domestic and global. The key to taking advantage of these? Understanding – and then catering to – the new desires, aspirations and expectations of Africa's enthusiastic, optimistic, yet-too-often frustrated consumers.

Hence this overview of five must-know African consumer trends (in random order) for you to run with in the next 12 months. Ready? Get set…Go!


For Africa By Africa: African solutions to African challenges done the African way.

It goes without saying that Africa is truly rising. And alongside rising incomes (throughout the high end, the middle classes, and for 'new' consumers), in 2014, confidence and pride will rise, too. Some numbers:

Every three years, life expectancy on the continent increases by a year.
(Renaissance Capital, July 2013)
11 out of the 20 fastest growing countries globally are in sub-Saharan Africa.
(The World Bank, January 2013)
Almost two-thirds of Africans think this year will be better than last, double the European rate.
(The Economist, March 2013)

Today, both domestic businesses and global brands creating products for Africans are realizing that, in order to offer real and relevant solutions, their offerings must reflect those customers by adopting as many region-specific features, elements and quirks as possible. Because for more conscious consumers, not only are FABA innovations, products and services more suited to their needs, but in many cases, they are also closely linked to ethical and/or sustainable business practices. This is especially true when these offerings make use of local resources such as homegrown talents, workforces or materials.

Next for FABA? In 2014, the most absolutely FABA-ULOUS products and services will attract the attention of consumers everywhere. Watch out for ingenious, wallet-saving, resilient and/or sustainable African solutions, competing with their global counterparts. Yes, even more competition, on an ever-more global scale ;)

Edun + Diesel: Studio Africa
Diesel and Edun’s Studio Africa collection showcases creative African talent

studio africa

October 2013 saw fashion labels Edun and Diesel collaborate to launch their second Studio Africa collection. The Studio Africa collection is made from raw, untreated denim, which woven from cotton sourced from Edun’s Conservation Cotton Initiative in Uganda and manufactured in Africa. The creative project is also designed to promote young African talent, with the latest campaign featuring three musicians from across the continent.

Bamboo/Seemahale Telecoms
Nigerian tablet and South African smartphone devices created for African market

bamboo/seemahale telecom

The ‘Made in Nigeria’ Android tablet Bamboo D700 produced by Debonair Devices and the South African-made Android smartphone by Seemahale Telecoms were both launched in Q4 2013. Both gadgets are completely manufactured in Africa and specifically designed with the African market in mind with features such as dual SIM slots and local pre-loaded apps.

Triggerfish Animation Studios: Khumba
South Africa sees release of first ever movie in Afrikaans and English


Released in South Africa in October 2013, Khumba is the country's first ever movie to be produced in both Afrikaans and English. The second full-length movie from Cape Town's Triggerfish Animation Studios, Khumba is a 3D animated story for kids and families featuring a cast of colorful safari characters typical of South Africa's indigenous animals.

SABMiller: Eagle Lager
Lager features traditional African ingredients


Early 2013 saw international brewer SABMiller introduce its second cassava beer on the continent with Eagle Lager in Ghana, in a bid to cater to local tastes. Instead of barley, the lager is made with indigenous cassava: a tuber, which is grown across Africa and is a traditional staple food in many African diets.

Ushahidi: BRCK
Backup Internet generator is designed for African conditions


Kenyan nonprofit Ushahidi successfully secured Kickstarter funding for BRCK, a portable, durable internet connection hub. Designed for use in African countries without constant electricity, BRCK automatically runs off its own eight-hour battery during power cuts and switches between Ethernet, wi-fi and 3G or 4G networks depending on which signal is available.

Sstreamm: Pockit TV
Mobile app streams only African-produced video content


October 2013 saw South African mobile technology brand Sstreamm announce the launch of Pockit TV: a mobile app featuring media content from across Africa. With content on entertainment, education and sports, the free app functions as a hub for Africa-produced only video clips. Users can also access Pockit TV content online.


The other ‘mobile’ to watch in Africa in 2014.

Like everyone, Africans want to be able to plan and execute their journeys affordably, enjoyably, reliably and conveniently. Yet Africans seldom have much to boast about when logistics, transportation and mobility are being discussed on a global scale.

But in 2014, the continent’s steep economic growth will mean more of its inhabitants on the road, exploring and doing business with each other, sharpening the need for improved transportation options.

Driving (pun intended ;) this trend:

  • The emerging middle classes, who will travel more than ever, and often via new methods; and
  • The continent’s wealthier – and therefore more demanding – consumers, who will increasingly no longer feel the need to constantly make arduous journeys overseas when able to obtain similar experiences and to make and spend money, all locally.
From 2010 to 2040, the volume of transport on the continent will increase 6–8 times, with a particularly strong increase of up to 14 times for some landlocked countries.
(PIDA, June 2012)
80% of the movement of goods and people in Central Africa is by land.
(Deloitte, May 2013)

And while no single brand will solve the gargantuan issue of mobility, many startups and organizations will apply new technologies and models to remove some of the ‘challenges’ from the African transportation experience, and even the way Africans approach the issue of transport altogether.

Expect 2014 to pave the way for a boost in commuter freedom, logistical flexibility, and better (in both senses: more effective/ efficient and higher quality) travel options as new systems, vehicles, amenities, services and novel apps begin to take shape. But no matter what industry you’re in, think about how you might jump onto this trend and ride it successfully in 2014 ;)

Mobile site and app feature real time transport information


After a pilot program in Cape Town, in October 2013, FindMyWay launched its public transport information service across major South African cities including Johannesburg and Pretoria. The service enables public transport passengers to access information on the FindMyWay mobile site or free mobile app. Information on major transport providers such as arrival and departure times as well as pricing and maps are available via FindMyWay.

Global Vehicle Trust: OX
Flat-pack truck can be assembled in less than 12 hours

global vehicle trust

In May 2013, UK nonprofit Global Vehicle Trust unveiled the OX, a flat-pack truck for use in Africa. Three people can assemble the 13-seater low-cost vehicle in under 12 hours without specialist tools, and most of the parts are interchangeable.

Free electric pedicabs feature geolocated promotions


In August 2013, South Africa-based Mellowcabs began production of its electric pedicabs, which will be used across Cape Town. Mellowcabs rides will be available free of charge, paid for by advertising on the interior and exterior of the vehicles. Via on-board tablets running geolocation software, passengers will be shown relevant ads and promotions when the cab is in proximity to specific stores or restaurants. Passengers can also connect to their social media profiles and use the tablet to take photos of their ride, while an AR facility enables them to view tourist information as they travel around Cape Town.

Kenyan bank partners with Google to launch prepaid commuter cards


In April 2013, Google partnered with Kenya’s Equity Bank to launch BebaPay; a range of pre-paid fare commuter cards for use on Citi Hoppa buses across Nairobi. To pay, users swipe the card when starting a journey and their fare is automatically deducted. The free BebaPay cards can be topped up at Equity Bank Service Agents or through the bank’s mobile banking platform, and passengers can also sign up to receive free SMS receipts and balance confirmations.

Jaguar Executive Coaches
Rwanda-Uganda coach service features free wi-fi connection

jaguar executive coaches

July 2013 saw Rwanda-based Jaguar Executive Coaches equip its fleet of buses with wi-fi connections. Available across the company's 24 buses, passengers can access wi-fi with a speed of 21.6mb per second. Jaguar Executive Coaches offer a shuttle service between Kigali and Kampala in Uganda.

Sierra Leone: The Drivers' Way
Board game increases drivers' road safety awareness

sierra leone government

In October 2013, Sierra Leone launched a policy designed to cut down on traffic accidents. Residents of the country seeking a driving license are obliged to purchase and play The Drivers' Way: a motoring-themed board game. Players move cars around the board, and must tackle challenges, which reinforce knowledge of the highway code, and basic vehicle owner obligations, such as providing valid insurance. The Drivers' Way is available to buy for SLL 60,000 (around USD 14).


Why Africans will embrace even more accurate, empowering, objective and timely information in 2014.

The inherent human need for reliable, unbiased information is universal. But for many years, both transparency in governance and objective news reporting have not been a luxury afforded to most Africans. Today however, online activism across the continent is catalyzing a new wave of optimism in media platforms. These organizations are empowering citizens to learn about, discuss, investigate and react to what is going on around them like never before.

2013’s online social movements: from the Zambian government’s unsuccessful attempts to shut down a local whistleblower publication, to the “They don’t dictate to us. We dictate to them…” remarks a South African broadcaster made towards DStv (one of Africa’s biggest satellite networks), prove that citizens are willing to support media organizations that are prepared to boldly take power into their own hands when governments are not up to the task.

Africa’s citizens give high marks to their national media for effectiveness in revealing government mistakes and corruption; an average of 71% say the media in their country is either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very effective’.
(JWT, September 2013)

As citizens of Africa’s emerging CIVIL INFO-NATION continue to lap up unbiased, engaging, timely and comprehensive information about current affairs, in 2014, even brands that aren’t specifically ‘information brands’ should think expansively about what information and knowledge they could distribute, in what format, and to which audiences. And the (totally unsurprising) common feature of successful CIVIL INFO-NATION brands? They are those that use information to educate, enrich and better consumers’ personal lives and communities.

And of course, those thinking further ahead will already be considering how information transparency, access and objectivity will reshape consumer expectations around all dimensions of business practices and behavior. Because once the info-genie is out of the bottle, consumers won’t want it to be put back ;)   

South Africa Broadcasting Corporation
South Africa sees race to launch 24-hour news channels

south africa broadcasting company

August 2013 saw two new 24-hour news channels launch in South Africa, joining eNCA (eNews Channel Africa) as the first three 24-hour stations in the sub-Saharan region. South Africa Broadcasting Corporation's channel and Africa News Network7 (ANN7) provide South Africans with live 24-hour news and commentary on areas such as politics, current affairs, sport and entertainment.

MTN Uganda: The Everywhere Project
Newspaper ad gives readers access to books via cellphone


Launched by telecommunications brand MTN Uganda in May 2013, The Everywhere Project was an interactive print campaign giving readers access to a digital library via cellphone. For four weeks, a single full-page print ad featuring images of bookshelves ran in Ugandan newspapers. Readers could type unique codes printed on the spine of each book into their cellphone, in order to receive the complete text of that book sent to them by instant message.

Ubongo: Bunga Bongo
Interactive TV series shows educational content


In October 2013, Tanzania-based social enterprise and digital entertainment brand Ubongo announced the launch of a television series designed to increase access to education. Airing on national television, Bunga Bongo features cartoon characters using math and problem-solving skills to solve community issues. The TV series has been created for both Swahili and English speakers at grade school level. An interactive aspect of Bunga Bongo allows viewers to participate in the show by answering questions via SMS.

Interactive mapping website shows Zimbabwe’s election results in real-time


During Zimbabwe’s presidential election in July 2013, electiOnride delivered real-time voting results on an interactive map. Community members updated the site (which was developed by an anonymous, non-political group) as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission released voting data. Users could explore and compare local constituency results during and after the election.

Wikimedia Foundation
Mobile network customers can access Wikipedia for free via SMS


October 2013 saw Airtel Africa and the Wikimedia Foundation announce a new service to provide the mobile network's customers with access to the Wikipedia site free of charge. As a result, approximately 70 million Airtel customers across Africa can view Wikipedia content on their cellphones without having to pay data charges. Wikipedia also began the pilot of a service sending its content via SMS to Airtel users, meaning that even individuals with basic cellphones can access information.

BudgIT: Tracka
Social website offers information on public budgets and projects


November 2013 saw Nigeria-based financial organization BudgIT launch Tracka: a social website designed to increase transparency and enable consumers to track public budgets and projects in their local community. Based on open, public data and integrating social media tools, Tracka allows Nigerians to share information, images and videos, make comments on projects and engage in an open online discussion with other interested individuals.


Why in 2014, savvy African brands will continue to rise by collaborating with others.

Branded collaborations remain infrequent and thus novel, and many African customers welcome these partnerships with open arms. Not only do they satisfy their longing for new products and services but also because it provides the opportunity for them to revel in the status boost that comes from accessing, indulging in and sharing brand experiences that were often previously inconvenient or inaccessible. 

Recent years have seen more and more African organizations reach a level of global excellence, most notably within the telecoms and financial services sectors, such as MTN, FNB, GTB (familiar brand acronyms, right?). For leading brands existing within these sectors, there’s a call – if not an expectation – from their customers for them to do more, offer more and bundle more products and services.

The contribution of mobile to the Sub-Saharan GDP (6.2%) is higher than in any other region in the world.
(GSMA, November 2013)
In 2013, MTN was named the Most Admired and Valuable African Brand, with Globacom 5th and GTB 9th.
(Brand Africa 100, September 2013)
In a 2013 survey ranking the top 100 most valuable global brands, MTN emerged as the highest ranked African brand, and the only one in the top 100.
(Millward-Brown, May 2013)

As a result, in 2014, expect leading telecoms and financial services brands to meet this desire through collaborations with two main types of partners:

1. Domestic brands
Despite the continent’s boom, many local brands in other industries lag behind and at times lack the capital or resources to efficiently reach or deliver services to their ever-more expectant target market. Consumers therefore will welcome telecoms and financial services companies that use their networks and distribution channels to deliver new, much-needed products and services alongside their own, as MTN did with Kenya Airways below.

2. Global / non-African brands
Global brands seeking to connect with the hundreds of millions of eager African consumers are also cushioning their entry into local markets by teaming up with established domestic brands. And since many of Africa’s mobile and telecoms giants struggle to differentiate themselves from each other, offering the best of the best via global partnerships can often provide a much needed marketing boost for them too, as Cell C found by offering perks and exclusive access to Red Bull content.

Want to get going with AFRICA (COLLABO)RISING? Why not kick off a brainstorming session and start dreaming up collaborations that bring something genuinely new, useful and of course needed to consumers. And think beyond just telecoms and financial services brands: from traditional offline organizations with online startups to quirky brands with prevailing incumbents.

Whatever you come up with, in 2014 expect to see fearless African brands looking to reach new consumers via more divergent, less obvious and yet mutually beneficial branded relationships. Make sure you don’t get left out!

MTN Uganda and Kenya Airways
Airline launches mobile ticket payment service


August 2013 saw MTN Uganda partner with Kenya Airways to allow customers to pay for airline tickets using MTN’s Mobile Money platform. Customers can make reservations through the airline’s website or office in order to obtain a reference number, which allows them to then make payment via their mobile device.

Orange and Nashua Mobile
Orange signs South African retail partnership


In June 2013, Orange Horizons (a subsidiary of Orange) announced a partnership with South Africa-based telecommunications brand Nashua Mobile. Via the partnership, Nashua Mobile stores will offer Orange products at locations in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

Zoona and Airtel Zambia
Banking partnership aids Zambia's unbanked


In October 2013, Zambia-based mobile banking service Zoona launched a partnership with international telecommunications group Airtel. Via the partnership, Zambian Airtel customers can register for a free Airtel Money electronic wallet with any of Zoona's agents who are based across the country. Once registered, individuals can carry out transactions such as deposits, bill payments, transfers and withdrawals with a Zoona Agent.

Kipochi and M-Pesa
Bitcoin Wallet service facilitates remittances


July 2013 saw Kenya-based Bitcoin Wallet Kipochi partner with M-Pesa to launch a service enabling consumers to send the virtual currency (or convert it) to or from an M-Pesa balance. Via Kipochi’s service, customers can receive money transfers quickly and cheaply – even if they’re using a basic cellphone or located in a remote area.

MTN and Eskimi; iROKING and 2go
Partnerships offer social network and music bundles


In early 2013, Nigerian on-demand music platform iROKING partnered with 2go to offer the users of the mobile messaging service and social network free downloads. Whilst July 2013 saw MTN Nigeria launch a package designed to provide customers with affordable access to Eskimi, designed to facilitate cheaper access to the popular Nigeria-based mobile and social network. Through both collaborations, customers can enjoy a variety of data bundle options, free chat rooms, file sharing and social network browsing.

Red Bull Mobile and Cell C
Mobile partnership gives customers access to exclusive content and perks

red bull

In July 2013, Red Bull Mobile partnered with South Africa-based telecommunications provider Cell C to offer customers a prepaid mobile data package. Consumers can access 200MB of data each month for a one-off fee of ZAR 99 (around USD 10), as well as receiving access to the ‘World of Red Bull’, a dedicated portal where customers can access perks (such as concert tickets), competitions and exclusive content.


Why great brands will be rooting for the hard to reach in 2014.

It goes without saying that the continent, from Lagos to Luanda, is rapidly urbanizing (according to the United Nations Population Division, sub-Saharan Africa’s 3.6% annual urban growth rate is almost double that of the global average). Despite this, at 63% - the region’s population remains predominantly rural (The World Bank, 2013).

As a result, 2014 will see exciting opportunities for global brands to experiment beyond the constraints of Africa’s often hectic and overcrowded cities, and launch inventive solutions for those in even the most remote and hard-to-reach rural African locations.

Why? Because savvy brands understand that these less developed environments can be perfect platforms for them to present their vision of Africa’s bright future and demonstrate how they intend to successfully tackle the more arduous challenges of the continent.

After all, many Africans (especially those in rural areas) are still forming their consumption preferences as they increasingly become acquainted with global brands. And in turn, organizations are realizing that they can appeal to these Africans by not simply inundating them with new products but also by contributing to their society-at-large.

And this is also true for those more sophisticated urban consumers who originate from – and are still deeply culturally proud of – rural areas. Indeed, these consumers will be forever loyal to brands that share their philanthropic burden of bettering their community, and do so on a more grassroots (often literally), sustainable and ethical scale.

And of course, brands that are REMOTELY GREAT in 2014 won’t find themselves or their successes confined to rural audiences:

  • The sheer impressiveness of these innovations (think Google’s Project Loon or Microsoft’s use of the white space in the TV spectrum) will often excite and delight online consumers everywhere (no matter how far removed from the actual issues they might be).
  • And more interestingly, smart brands will be mindful of the opportunities to apply lessons learned in rural areas to new urban audiences. Reverse innovation within Africa? Why ever not?

Drinks brand's portable kiosks deliver essentials to remote communities


After pilot schemes in Africa, September 2013 saw Coca-Cola announce the rollout out of its EKOCENTER kiosks. Branded as a ‘downtown in a box,’ the kiosks use the Slingshot water purification system to provide safe drinking water for at-risk populations and also act as a community hub. Each kiosk will be run by a local female entrepreneur and offer services such as wi-fi, vaccines and education on sanitation.

Solar-powered mobile truck brings healthcare to rural Africans


In March 2013, Samsung in Cape Town launched a solar-powered mobile health care truck designed to provide free healthcare to rural Africans. The truck is staffed by trained medical professionals and includes an ear, eye and blood clinic, and a dental surgery. Patients can be screened for a variety of conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and HIV.

International Center for Eye Health: Peek
Mobile app facilitates eye tests in rural areas

eye health

August 2013 saw trials of mobile app Peek (Portable Eye Examination Kit) commence in Kenya. Developed by the International Center for Eye Health, the app uses a cellphone's camera to scan eyes for cataracts, with the camera flash illuminating the retina to check for disease. Peek also features a basic vision test via letters shown on screen. Patients’ records are securely stored within the app, and their exact location recorded via GPS: an aspect designed to improve eye care even in rural areas. Peek test results can be sent via email to doctors or opticians, enabling remote treatment.

Google: Project Loon
Google tests out balloon-based wireless hotspots


In June 2013, Google unveiled the results of Project Loon: a program testing out balloons equipped with radio equipment. Pilot-tested in New Zealand, the aim of the project is to see whether it’s possible to provide wireless internet coverage for free via moveable balloon hotspots, particularly in areas such as sub-Sahara Africa where building the necessary infrastructure might prove difficult or costly.

Dell: Zubabox
Solar-powered mobile classroom increases internet access


May 2013 saw Dell partner with nonprofit Computer Aid International to launch the ZubaBox in Nigeria. Equipped with ten computers, the solar-powered lab and mobile classroom is designed to increase students' access to technology and the internet. Although installed at a Lagos-based high school, the ZubaBox is powered by roof-mounted solar panels, meaning that the classroom can function with a limited electrical infrastructure, and even in rural areas.

White space project provides broadband access in rural Africa


In October 2013, Microsoft launched a 12-month pilot project in South Africa using white space technology to provide broadband access to rural communities. White spaces are the unused channels in a broadcast television spectrum, and via the technology, broadband with speeds of up to 2mb per second can be facilitated. The pilot initiative will also use solar-powered base stations, providing five secondary schools in Limpopo with broadband access.


Trend watching is all about applying. If you don’t use consumer trends to inspire new, profitable innovations, they’re just ‘nice to know’.

So run with them, combine them, take them in new directions.

If you don’t know where to start, check out our CONSUMER TREND CANVAS section, which contains tips on how to unpack and apply trends step by step.

Ideally, you'll end up driving the evolution of an African trend, too.



Last but not least, if you’re really serious about staying on top of all the latest consumer trends and related innovations, check out our globally relevant, instantly available, online Premium Service. At a ridiculously affordable all-inclusive price, it’s guaranteed to give you an unfair competitive advantage. Today ;)

Dozens of African brands and agencies already have access.

No budget to spend? Then do make sure you’re subscribed to receive the upcoming editions of this Africa Trend Bulletin, and/or our big Monthly Trend Briefing: many more to come in 2014 and beyond!

Happy tracking, evaluating, initiating and innovating! trendwatching.com logo


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