Why increasingly inquisitive, info-craving African consumers will expect brands to be totally transparent in 2015.
Power blackouts supplemented by diesel-powered generators, solar inverters, kerosene lamps and candles are routine (if not, daily) occurrences across the continent.
And yet monthly utility bills are expected to be paid, without question.
Lack of accountability for poor service delivery, questionable supply chain operations, disappearing government budgets and unsustainable sourcing of raw materials (to name a few), has long plagued most countries across the continent.
In an environment where the disconnect between governments and their citizens cannot be overstated, many Africans have grown accustomed to being the only party expected to fulfil their side of the transaction: be good, obey the rules and pay up, without question – or don’t, at your peril.
What's more, that's set a precedent that brands have followed. So that over the years, consumer's expectations from brands operating in Africa were far lower than their global counterparts…
Shell will pay out USD 83.4 million in compensation for oil spills in the Niger-Delta region in 2008.
BP will pay USD 13 billion in compensation following the much smaller Macondo rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.Reuters, January 2015
As the chasm between institutions and citizens shrink, brands that continue to follow the modus operandi of yesteryear do so to their detriment. African consumers today will not only call out opaque organizations, but will also patronize and support those that are more open, honest, real, raw and transparent.
Take, for example, the successful influx of electricity meters across key cities in sub-Saharan Africa – consumers will always opt for unbiased and measurable solutions in place of vague ones.
The rise of CANDID CONSUMPTION has only just begun, but survival of the fittest (brands) in 2015 and beyond will be determined by these aforementioned characteristics – so take heed!
Four key drivers to explain this new phenomena.
- Digitally Empowered Consumers: As they become more digitally interconnected, Africans are clued up more than ever.
- Returning Globals & Richer Locals: Increasing disposable incomes and global benchmarks understood by the diaspora and returnees are putting pressure on organizations to be more transparent.
- ¡Viva la Revolución! ... African style: From Lagos to Limpopo, the pendulum of activism is in full swing!
- More Competitors = More Choice: New offerings and solutions today are flooding the market, leaving consumers spoilt for choice!
In which ways are African brands today addressing CANDID CONSUMPTION? Here's three actionable opportunities for brands, entrepreneurs and organizations to take advantage of...
- CANDID EXPOSURE: Businesses and initiatives forcing open dialog and exposing information have risen where institutions have fallen short. In Africa, this largely speaks to governance and state-run services, which have remained opaque despite the changing times.
- EMBEDDED CANDIDATES: In some regions, certain brands have already embraced a transparent and CANDID approach with their customers. These progressive brands are challenging the status quo by embedding openness and accountability into their products and services.
- CANDIDS ON CALL: These brands understand that, in 2015, it is not enough to merely be informative and transparent: they must also do it at the right time (or even in real-time)!
1. Digitally Empowered Consumers
Africans are clued up more than ever, as they go online and become more digitally interconnected.
Between 2000 and 2014, the number of internet users on the continent grew from 4.5 million to 298 million: a growth rate of 6,500%, almost ten times the global average (Internet World Statistics, June 2014).
Africans are thus more informed and more able to investigate and interrogate brands in ways that were not possible before. Savvy organizations understand that willingly offering up information is ultimately better than being found out online.
And that truth is only intensifying as connectivity and the digitalization of services that are sweeping across the continent shows no signs of slowing (at least for now).
Internet.org, an initiative providing free access to Facebook and other online resources for emerging markets, launched in Zambia in 2014.
2. Returning Globals & Richer Locals (in a city setting)
Increasing disposable incomes and global benchmarks understood by the diaspora and returnees are putting pressure on organizations to be more transparent.
Between 2000 and 2014, there has been a tripling of middle-class households across 11 key African markets (Standard Bank Group Ltd, August 2014).
At least 32 African nations, in need of revenue, investment and human capital, have created organizations to tap their diaspora’s funds and know-how (Good Governance Africa, March 2014).
Cities have and always been melting pots for a broad spectrum of society. And in Africa, that's no different. The combination of more informed local consumers fused with diaspora and returnee communities, has resulted in citizens who not only expect but also demand more from their governments, brands and even society!
Now, these educated, assertive citizens are ready to call out those falling short.
In December 2014, Anarchist Bookfair – an activist group that challenges the political landscape in South Africa – launched a parody site (titled So, Happy in Cape Town?), satirizing societal inequalities and the lack of racial diversity in the city.
3. ¡Viva la Revolución! ... African style!
From Lagos to Limpopo, the pendulum of activism is in full swing!
In April 2014, terrorist group, Boko Haram, abducted over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, an area in northern Nigeria. The #bringbackourgirls social media (and offline) campaign – initiated by Nigerian protesters – garnered the attention of global influencers worldwide, from Michelle Obama to Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Despite the failure to recover the girls to date, the campaign has continued to put pressure on the Nigerian government to act more decisively in investigating their whereabouts (PBS.org, February 2015).
Many African citizens are no longer waiting for change, but are catalyzing it. As the activism mindset permeates the continent, consumers – in search of a brighter future – are proactively engaging with organizations on issues both serious and trivial, on and offline.
And let's not forget 2015's more daring, tech-savvy African youth, who are aware that, regardless of their physical ability to call out the powers that be, the global momentum that can be instigated via a click or hashtag can be far more powerful.
Internet memes making fun of Robert Mugabe spread across blogs and social media, after the Zimbabwean president attempted to block photographs of his fall outside Harare airport in February 2015.
4. More competitors = More choice!
Like the metered billing system's triumph over the older, more obscure methods, today new offerings and solutions are flooding the market, leaving consumers spoilt for choice!
65% of Africans agree that the desire and ability to buy products move the economy and culture forward (Boston Consulting Group, March 2014).
Africans are natural consumers, and crave the plethora of products and services available in other markets. Although it has taken a while for supply to catch up with demand, that is now happening at an unfathomable pace. The race for this Final Frontier has never been so pressing, and the past few years have seen withering monopolies relinquish their strongholds to domestic, more agile, transparent and relevant startups offering exciting home-grown solutions, alongside global conglomerates eager to export their best-in-class innovations.
And all this results in the most choice-abundant consumers the continent has ever seen!
An average of 75% of 10,000 Africans polled were keen to 'buy more things' – higher than averages in Brazil, China and India, and twice the percentage in developed economies (Boston Consulting Group, March 2014).
Are you ready to become CANDID BY PROXY?
There are plenty of platforms, brands, programs, initiatives and fearless entrepreneurs across the continent ready to inform consumers about YOU!
Last November saw Namibia hold Africa’s first electronic ballot for over 1.2 million of its citizens. Opposition parties challenged the process, citing vote-rigging concerns; the case was dismissed by the country’s High Court. (BBC, November 2014)
Of course, not everyone will be excited about adopting CANDID CONSUMPTION, and this is where the opportunities for CANDID EXPOSURES lie.
The expectation gap between the information Africans demand and what institutions, politicians, and other types of state-managed service providers are actually offering, is vast. Yet, this year will continue to see a steady growth of programs, organizations and daring platforms fill these gaps, by shining a light on (read: exposing) previously hidden or opaque processes, institutions and people.
Whistleblowing site launches in Africa
Launched in South Africa in November 2014 by the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), afriLeaks is a ‘Wikileaks for Africa’. Via the whistleblowing site, people can anonymously submit information to media outlets and journalists across Africa. To protect individuals’ identities, afriLeaks blocks sender and location data and allows users to be contacted via untraceable codes.
Nigerian website offers information on public budgets and spending
May 2014 saw Nigeria-based financial organization BudgIT launch Tracka: a social website designed to increase government 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.
Initiative invites young journalists into South African parliament
Launched in Q1 2014, by youth platform Live SA, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group and Indigo Trust, Live From Parliament is an initiative providing young journalists access to parliamentary sessions, in an attempt to engage the South African youth in politics. The project also aims to encourage greater transparency, connections and accountability from Parliament to young people.
Yes, sometimes archaic and stubborn institutions must have transparency forced upon them. But if you are an institution willing to adapt, how about partnering with a platform that makes you more transparent? For smaller organizations, why not BE that platform that partners with a big institution and opens it up? Either way: Collaborate! After all, it's all about offering both your (and their) customers 100% candor!
Marlene Bester, Master Distiller at Van Ryn's distillery in Stellenbosch, stated that opening up their brandy-making process to the public helps to solidify appreciation of the brand. And that many of the brand's drinkers want to come into contact with Van Ryn's directly (beyond imbibing) – either by visiting the distillery to see behind-the-scenes, or via other informative immersive experiences. In January 2015, Van Ryn's was crowned the Best International Distillery Tour at the 2015 International Distillery Experience Awards.
So, maybe you're now ready to take that big step...
... and embrace this trend in its entirety and become intrinsically CANDID? We've identified two routes:
- CANDID SNIPPETS: Large brands, organizational bodies and multinationals may not be able to overhaul their entire transparency agenda straight away. But they can still run with campaigns, initiatives and events that allow consumers a 'quick snippet' of greater transparency.
- CANDID EPICS: Newer, more agile and adventurous entrepreneurs can embed CANDID CONSUMPTION into the essence of their brand and bring customers into the heart of their operations.
A few examples of organizations that have adopted candid elements into their products, services and experiences.
People's Democratic Party
Lagos State governorship candidate announces his first ever Google Hangout session for local residents
In preparation for Nigeria's elections, Jimi Agbaje, the Lagos State governorship candidate for the People's Democratic Party, announced in January 2015 that he would be answering questions from Lagos residents via his first ever Google+ Hangout.
Social media campaign invites bank’s customers to ask questions
South African retail bank Capitec launched a website where customers could ask questions about the bank’s services. By using the hashtag #AskWhy, Twitter users could tweet any query for the bank to answer. The most useful questions and answers were then collated on the #AskWhy website.
Nigeria launches open data initiative
In Q1 2014, the Nigerian government unveiled an open data initiative to help promote innovation, growth and investment in the country. The scheme encourages government ministries to open up valuable datasets for use by citizens and businesses both locally and internationally.
One for more agile brands! Africans will eagerly champion organizations that go the extra mile and expose more than expected. Whether this means offering up your supply chain for scrutiny, inviting your customers to interrogate or openly criticize your service, or even baring your entire production process, there are many ways to shock, excite and ultimately gain the respect of otherwise jaded consumers.
The Coffee Station
Eco-friendly mobile coffee cart launches in Cape Town
Launched in December 2014, The Coffee Station is a gourmet mobile cart whose coffee-making process is openly and transparently sustainable. Built by Gourmet Carts, a Cape Town-based outfit designing mobile carts from reclaimed materials, the Coffee Station's structure completely exposes the fact that it is powered entirely by LPG gas and solar energy.
Bag brand's 'micro manufacturing' franchise model opened to locals
Founded in South Africa by Waste2Wow, Little Green Number open up their upcycled billboard bags production process to talented community members, with the aim of empowering them to establish their own micro manufacturing franchises in the region. These 'job creation cells' have been established throughout the Gauteng area, with the aim of wiping out poverty throughout the country.
Wolf & Maiden
Sustainable accessories brand utilizes a single space as studio, workshop, stock room and store front
Wolf & Maiden is a creative studio producing premium accessories and furniture in Cape Town. Their Woodstock store also doubles up as their workshop and studio, leaving visible their raw materials, stock and production process for everyday customers to meander through. The sustainable brand insists on creating a genuine connection with the people using them.
Now that you've embedded candidness into your core business, how can you milk it? If you're an offline business operating transparently, think about how you can bring this feature online. It wouldn't hurt for, say, Wolf & Maiden (above) to hold a Google+ Hangout session for their online community. And vice versa too!
CANDID CONSUMPTION in real-time anyone?
... because honesty/transparency/information is useless if it's late!
Many services in Africa are pretty honest, just slow. So slow that in some cases, there may as well be no service at all. The recently postponed Nigerian elections are yet more proof that there's no shortage of hindrances to the timeliness of vital events and services across the continent.
The next phase of CANDID CONSUMPTION sees its lines being blurred with real-time information and services. Because Africans in 2015 will demand that beyond just providing transparent and honest information, organizations take their accountability to the next level by disseminating it as and when it is needed, and often in real-time.
CANDIDS ON CALL recognize the overwhelming need for timely, trackable and measurable information.
Hotline provides rural Ethiopian farmers with real-time crop information
The 8028 hotline was launched as a partnership between the Ethiopian government and Ethio Telecom to offer rural farmers real-time crop information in their native language. The service provides information by automated voice message or SMS, and is designed to increase agricultural productivity by improving the technical knowledge of farmers. In December 2014 – after five months in operation – three million people had called the 8028 service.
Real-time, crowdsourced traffic updates helps Nigerian drivers and commuters
Available to download from December 2014, Traffic Lite is a crowdsourced traffic app for drivers, passengers and pedestrians in Nigeria. In an attempt to provide timely traffic information for commuters across the city, the free mobile app provides real-time updates and suggests the best route based on current data. Users can also log accidents or hazards, which are plotted on an in-app map.
Interactive mapping website shows Zimbabwe’s election results in real-time
During Zimbabwe’s most recent presidential election, electiOnride delivered real-time voting results on an interactive map, for citizens to monitor the political race as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission released voting data. The site, which was developed by an anonymous, non-political group, also allowed users to explore and compare local constituency results during and after the election.
Telecoms company encourages Tunisians to collect trash and track beach cleanliness in real-time, in exchange for free wifi
June 2014 saw Tunisie Telecom launch Keep Our Beaches Clean: a coastal protection and beach cleaning program. Beach goers were encouraged to collect trash from beaches, where sanitary conditions were less desirable and public cleaners absent, in order to unlock free wifi access. Participants could track their real-time collective cleaning progress via digital screens and were alerted once the goal had been reached.