NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVES

Celebrating new, bold and empowering demographics in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

It’s time to retire the clichés when it comes to African consumers.

Remember how ‘Bottom Of the Pyramid’ (BOP) began as a useful term for Africa’s struggling economic lower classes, but somehow evolved into the blanket term for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole?

Today, the new (and contrasting) cliché is ‘Africa Rising’: a view of Africa that can't see past the new wealth sweeping across the continent.

The problem? Both approaches are over-simplistic narratives that don’t take into account the multiplicity of Africa’s languages, cultures, tribes, ideologies and the diversity of its people, whose stories are diverse and complex.

Today, Africans are constructing many new identities of their own.

So let’s change the NARRATIVE ;)

Across the continent, Africans are renouncing the age-old labels, clichés, and stereotypes placed upon them. And they’re refusing to be defined by the part of the pyramid they inhabit, their spending ability, or economic stature.

Instead, Africans today are forming new identities and tribes based on their own definitions, interests, passions, aspirations and lifestyle choices.

Here are three NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVES

Each one a newly-identified segment defined by the new aspirations, mindsets and lifestyles of a subset of African consumers.

1. OTT AFRICANS

Africans are opting to OVERCOME TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS by redefining their identities, forming positive aspirations, setting new benchmarks, and rewriting the socio-economic textbook.

2. ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES  

A new breed of no-nonsense citizens are chasing positive change in their communities.

3. HOITY-TOITY HEROES

A change of heart within the luxury class.

The challenge for brands? Discard outdated, economic-driven consumer classifications, and explore these, and other, NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVES.

1. OTT AFRICANS

Why Africans are opting to OVERCOME TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS by redefining their identities, forming positive aspirations, setting new benchmarks, and rewriting the socio-economic textbook.

1. OTT AFRICANS

The ability to OVERCOME TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS...

Has long been a characteristic that demonstrates the unique resilience of the African spirit.

And in 2014, some consumers are making it their personal mission to overcome their trials and tribulations, by turning their reaction to difficult circumstances into a self-constructed and (in some cases) outsized identity of its own.

Now, these OTT AFRICANS are expecting brands to champion, support and cater to the identities they create for themselves. Want proof? Look at these smart brands already doing it!

 
EXAMPLES: OTT AFRICANS

Guinness

Video ad highlights La Sape movement of Congo

Guinness’ latest advertising campaign highlights the ethos and moral code of the ‘Sapeurs’ of Congo-Brazzaville. A video and short documentary were published by the brewery in January 2014. The advert emphasizes the Sapeurs’ refusal to be defined by economic status and showcases their quest for sartorial elegance.

The Guinness ‘Sapeurs’ advert racked up almost 3 million views in its first week on YouTube.

(YouTube, January 2014)

 
EXAMPLES: OTT AFRICANS

Bell's

Video ad features illiterate South African father

In January 2014, Bell’s Whisky published a video advertisement featuring the life of an ageing illiterate South African father, who diligently studies and attends adult literacy classes in order to read his author son’s latest book.

 
EXAMPLES: OTT AFRICANS

Save & Buy

Saving platform helps Nigerians make major purchases

Launched in October 2013, Save & Buy is Nigeria’s first virtual saving platform. The website helps users who typically struggle to afford major purchases such as vacations and weddings to plan, budget and pay for them online in smaller monthly installments.

2. ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES

A new breed of no-nonsense citizens are chasing positive change in their communities.

2. ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES

Yes, 'Wahala' means 'trouble'...

And now ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES are embracing incentives or initiatives that help them address troubles in their local community – even if that means a little pain.

A new tribe of Africans today realizes that the development of their localities will not come overnight. Rather, that progress will require a change in communal thinking, culture and ethos. And these citizens know that for Africa to reach its full potential, they, too, will need to play their part as individuals.

ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES share the dream of a more positive African narrative, yet they are all too aware of the way their own lifestyles and consumption habits can hinder this. In turn, they are ever more ready to adhere to novel solutions conceived by businesses, governments, entrepreneurs and NGOs that lessen negative environmental and social impacts, and crack down on irresponsible or unsustainable behavior.

 
EXAMPLES: ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES

Commission Nationale de Prevention Routiere

Robot 'traffic officers' enforce road safety

February 2014 saw the installation of solar-powered humanoid robots across Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, in an effort to decrease the number of road accidents across high-traffic areas of the capital. The 8ft tall robots, operated by the DRC’s National Commission for Road Safety, regulate the flow of traffic by imitating human officers (raising and bending their steel arms) and helping pedestrians cross safely.

 
EXAMPLES: ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES

Wecyclers

Community members incentivized to recycle local trash

An entrepreneurial community initiative, Wecyclers incentivizes Nigerians to recycle their goods and clean up their neighborhood. Communities involved in the scheme can obtain points and claim prizes depending on the weight of their plastic recycled trash, which in turn is sold to manufacturers.

 
EXAMPLES: ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES

#AnotherLightUp

Mural lights up to encourage donations to street lighting fund

Launched in February 2014, #AnotherLightUp is an installation by Design Indaba Trust, Faith47 and Thingking that encourages the crowdfunding of street lights in Cape Town’s notorious Khayelitsha neighbourhood. The mural lights up at night when a donation is made for a new streetlight to be erected. The initiative aims to empower the general public to take responsibility for change in their communities.

 
EXAMPLES: ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES

Airware

Drone tracks and monitors rhino poachers

In January 2014, Robotics startup Airware announced a partnership with Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya - East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary. The collaboration was formed in order to design an anti-poaching unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for wildlife conservation. Via the UAVs, rangers on the ground will be able to receive real-time thermal imaging feeds of animals and poachers.

3. HOITY-TOITY HEROES

A change of heart within the luxury class.

3. HOITY-TOITY HEROES

From the Wabenzi to the Owambe...

Many financially able Africans have long been labeled as lavish, (and in some cases, wasteful) consumers lacking a conscience.

It goes without saying that in the West, GUILT-FREE CONSUMPTION has become all but mainstream. But Africa has it’s luxury-loving-yet-ethical consumers, too.

In 2014, a wave of privileged Africans are opting out of excessive extravagance and opting into more ethical consumption. Just a few of their motivations? A desire to go back to their roots and do things the natural way; a cultural pride in luxuries that are produced locally and sustainably; or simply an awareness of the need to consume responsibly.

Exemplified by the continent’s evolving role models – as Dencia’s demise becomes Lupita’s rise – Africa proudly presents: HOITY-TOITY HEROES!

 
EXAMPLES: HOITY-TOITY HEROES

Piratas do Pau

Premium furniture is made from scrap wood

In March 2014, Mozambican design collective Piratas do Pau showcased the 25s32e premium furniture collection made from scrap wood. A combination of pinewood from recycled pallets and Umbila, a local hardwood, were used to create a variety of items such as coffee tables, cupboards and shelving units.

 
EXAMPLES: HOITY-TOITY HEROES

Zashadu Bags

Luxury bags made from locally-sourced materials

Zashadu Bags is a Lagos-based sustainable luxury handbag company, specializing in clutches, bags, backpacks and pouches. Only locally sourced materials such as exotic skins, semi-precious gemstones and premium leather are used in the production of these handcrafted pieces.

 
EXAMPLES: HOITY-TOITY HEROES

Accra Green Market

Ghana's first premium, organic farmers' market

Launched in September 2013 by AgriPro, an intermediary organization connecting small-scale farmers with buyers and investors, the Accra Green Market is Ghana's first 100% local and organic farmers' market. The market offers premium selections of produce, delicacies, and unique speciality items from farmers around the country who use sustainable agricultural practices.

 
EXAMPLES: HOITY-TOITY HEROES

Styled By Africa

Platform for sustainable African high fashion

With a “Buy less, but better” style philosophy, Styled By Africa is an online store ‘for sustainable trade selling products from all over the continent to customers around the world’. It is aimed at those seeking the ‘best contemporary African fashion’. It also has an accompanying blog that contains lifestyle content, and showcases young African creative entrepreneurs.

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SO WHAT DO THESE NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVES MEAN FOR YOU?

Go ahead and serve these NANs. But don’t stop there – identify and serve your own NANs, too. Want to get started: read on!

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1. Discover. Ask. Research.

Hunt for new groups, tribes and communities that are emerging in your fields of interest. Even if it’s a seemingly small and insignificant number of people – be curious about their fundamentals, as you never know how sticky their cause will eventually be if you don’t ask first.

 
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2. Avoid gimmicks

Once you’ve found your new niche, tailor your products to them respectfully. If you would like to represent them in a campaign, as Guinness did, seek their creative input to ensure validity and credibility, not rehashed representations.

 
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3. Get together

Feel free to crowdsource ideas directly from these tribes. Collaborate with them or their champions in the creation of your products or services. Like the #AnotherLightUp Project, communities always appreciate getting involved with solving their own problems too. Help them to help themselves.

 
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4. Stay Positive

One common theme in previous African narratives is negativity. Avoiding the Messiah complex doesn’t mean failing to mention the hardships and challenges that communities face. But as with OTT AFRICANS and ZERO WAHALA COMMUNITIES, avoid patronizing consumers, and focus on how collectively communities can move forward.

 
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5. Evolve and keep evolving

If out of touch economists have gone from labeling Africa the dark continent to the lion continent, then as a brand, it is imperative that you are even more observant and agile to the changing nature of whichever NEW AFRICAN NARRATIVE you discover. In order to stay relevant, as they evolve, so too must you. No excuses.

 

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