10 innovations reshaping African expectations around social connection!


The mother of all African trends.

The eternal desire for connection is finding new expression and purpose.

A strong sense of togetherness and community has long been a hallmark of African culture. After all, social connection is a fundamental human need.

Now, African consumers are using new kinds of social connection and new kinds of relationships – online, P2P, the sharing economy, crowd-sourcing, co-creation, and more – to have fun, make money, learn new skills and tackle shared problems. We tracked these shifts in our original AFRICONNECTION Trend Briefing way back in 2014 – and they continue to evolve!

And when external change (in this case, often the internet) unlocks a new way of serving a basic human need, brands should see one word…



Why now?

Because when it comes to social connection, African consumers demand that you throw out yesterday's thinking – and business models!

Gone are the days when having a ‘social strategy’ meant simply integrating with social networks.

Now, more widespread connectivity – and the embedding of the internet into the lives of millions – means African consumers will demand more.

Connectivity is accelerating the growth of new kinds of business models. Think collaborative consumption, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platforms. And smart brands and startups are piggybacking on existing networks – from taxi companies to messaging apps – to roll out P2P initiatives.

Today, Africans expect brands to think deeply about what kind of connections their products, services or experiences encourage. How can you bring your customers together? And, more importantly, what benefits does that offer them?

Want to know where African connection is heading next?

Stop asking consumers. Start looking at game-changing innovations launching across the continent!

Every African CEO, entrepreneur, product designer, and marketer wants to know the future of social connection on the continent. What will Africa’s connection-hungry consumers want next?

The problem? The typical way to answer this question – conventional market research – is broken.

Simply asking customers what they want is limiting at best, misleading at worst. Watching them – that is, ethnographic research – can be slow and expensive.

But even in today’s accelerated consumer arena, you can know what customers are going to want next: by watching relevant innovationsWhy? Because game-changing innovations create new expectations. And new expectations spread – across markets, industries and demographics. Eventually, they’ll spread all the way to your door!

If you can see those new expectations coming, you can innovate for them.

And win…


Ready for ten innovations that are changing expectations around social connection?

As you absorb the ten innovations featured below, be relentless about asking: what new customer expectations do these innovations create? What do those new expectations mean for MY brand? How can we innovate to serve them? Of course, we’ll have some thoughts to share too ;)


Beat your competition in the race to connect African consumers with each other – for fun, commerce, skill sharing, education and more!



Social network connects African coders with tech companies

The world’s youngest continent’s youth population continues to explode. Connect these eager young consumers to meaningful opportunities!

Launched in Kenya during March 2016, Tunga is an online social network for young African programmers and tech companies looking for help with software. Created by Dutch social innovation organization, Butterfly Works Foundation, the platform allows companies to list their requirements, inviting the African coders who match their needs to follow them and begin working together. Payment to the coders follows completion of projects commissioned.

Consider how your brand can connect local businesses with those in need of their services, wherever they may be!


Integrated Waste Exchange

Government portal lets companies trade waste products

As the lines between producer and consumer continue to blur, opportunities increase for P2P commerce models that empower people as sellers as well as buyers.

Cape Town’s Integrated Waste Exchange (IWEX) service allows companies and the public to connect and recycle waste items such furniture, tires, computers and packaging. After an upgrade in February 2016, users can add images and details to their listing, and post ads for waste products they need or are looking for.

Engaging with the crowd doesn’t necessarily mean your brand taking from others. Why not allow peer supplies to connect and share resources with each other, too?



Messaging app launches social channel for live discussions

Transparency continues to be the operative word for many consumers across the continent. So how can YOUR brand empower citizens to connect and cast light on shared issues?

In January 2016, Viber announced that it would launch Public Chats in Africa and the Middle East. Public Chats is a social channel used to hold live discussions and can be used by celebrities, public figures and brands to reach local and regional audiences. Viber users can follow the multimedia chats in real-time and share with their communities.

Customer loyalty is all about trust, and earning trust comes from connecting honestly with consumers. Can you bring your customers closer by piggybacking on an existing network?



Social network lets people share voice content

In a world where connections are becoming ever more virtual, consumers will increasingly crave platforms that allow these connections to feel more natural, or human.

Available to download from Q4 2015, Guumzo is a social network and mobile app dedicated to voice clips and audio files. Via the free app, users can record voice messages lasting up to two minutes, which can then be shared with their followers. Guumzo also includes a premium service enabling users to share longer audio content and images. The app is available to Swahili speakers living in Guumzo.

140 characters will no longer suffice for the most demanding of Africa’s connected consumers. Consider how your brand can put the human touch back in virtual connection.



App’s doctors answer medical questions in real-time

When access to basic services remains a key challenge for some, innovative forms of connection can be lifesaving.

Launched in Nigeria in February 2016, WebDOC is a website and mobile app allowing people to ask doctors and medical specialists questions in total privacy and receive rapid responses. The company employs more than 2,000 doctors, and the service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. WebDOC Doctors have been trained to answer questions using simple, jargon-free terminology.

How can you use tech to widen access to vital services – or simply make them more convenient for everyone?


Botswana Telecommunications

Government-owned company launches IPO to general public

If you’re already in the business of social connection, how about letting your customers participate with you?

In December 2015, Botswana Telecommunications launched an IPO on the Botswana Stock Exchange. The government-owned company’s offer was available to Botswana citizens only, with a total of 352 million shares on offer. Botswana Telecommunications provides mobile, telephone and internet services, with the government selling 49% of its shares at an initial price of BWP 1 (around USD 0.08) each.

Okay, most brands aren’t about to IPO. But think expectations. How can you create an innovative, shared-ownership model that gives customers a stake in what you do?



Ugandan app helps people locate local laundry services

Let’s not forget 2016’s key regional trend. ORGANIZED MASS: the digital organization of informal services!

Yoza is a Uganda-based laundry service app connecting people who need their clothes cleaned with locals who offer a laundry service. Customers are provided with a list of local washers; Yoza then contacts the workers by phone call to assign them a job, which is usually done by hand on location. 80% of the agreed fee goes to the washer, who can be paid in cash or via a mobile money service. The app was updated in February 2016 to include an additional dry cleaning service.

There’s still a ton of on-demand services yet to be ORGANIZED. Which will you choose?



Matchmaking game connects immigrants and locals

In our recent GLOBAL BRAIN Trend Briefing, we referenced the OPEN ARMS trend, which is seeing consumers embrace brands that help them welcome newcomers.

A campaign to promote social cohesion among immigrants and their host communities launched in Egypt in January 2016. Initiated by the country’s International Organization for Migration in partnership with Egyptian click-funding nonprofit Bassita, It’s a Match – Ta’arafo gave halves of cash coupons (worth EGP 40 / USD 4.50) to beneficiaries in each community. Participants had to find their matching half, and take a selfie, in order to cash in the coupon.

How can you bring citizens and newcomers together in a way that benefits both parties?



Mobile network unveils website dedicated to entrepreneurs

Of course, connecting Africans around a specific interest or aspiration will always find favor with those eager to develop a skill, or network with like-minded peers.

The Entrepreneur Club is a website from Orange dedicated to entrepreneurs based in the Middle East and Africa. Live from February 2016 and free to use, the site includes a forum where users can connect and discuss business issues. Developed for entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses, the site also includes tools and practical tips, with information in both French and English.

What are the hopes and aspirations of your customers? How can you connect them to people who can help them achieve them?


Tasha Smith

Empowerment workshop connects local and Hollywood actors

When empowering people to learn new skills, think globally!

In May 2016, Hollywood star Tasha Smith partnered with fellow actor Morocco Omari to facilitate a series of art empowerment workshops for local actors, directors, script writers and other industry players in Gaborone, Botswana. The sessions took place at the Stanbic Bank Piazza, and brought creatives together to learn from each other, as well as provide an opportunity for local performers to benefit from the expertise of the globally acclaimed actors.

It’s not just Africans that have something to learn. Think about the expertise you can take to markets outside the continent.


New customer expectations don't emerge out of the blue – it's all about evolution.

The Trend Framework

16 mega-trends that provide context and structure when tracking the evolution of consumerism.

So we’ve seen ten innovations that are reshaping African expectations around social connection.

But these new expectations – that brands should help peers share skills and knowledge, for example – don’t just emerge out of the blue. Instead, they are evolve out of past expectations around community, inclusivity, shared responsibility and more. And they’ll soon evolve again!

At TrendWatching, we view new customer expectations – and the trends they fuel – through the lens of a Bigger Picture. That is, our 16 mega-trends. These mega-trends are the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena and taken together they form the Trend Framework: our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading.

Grab a glimpse of the Trend Framework below (clients of our Premium Service have full access).

Via the Trend Framework, we’ll keep tracking the new customer expectations we’ve seen in this Briefing – as we continue to receive relevant examples from TW:IN, our global spotting network.


See these innovations in context...

Each of our mega-trends captures the evolution of an aspect of consumerism. Via YOUNIVERSE, for example, we track the evolution of expectations around personalization. In INFOLUST we look at the on-going consumer quest for increasingly perfect information.

Looking at each innovation in this Briefing – and every innovation you ever spot! – through the lens of a relevant mega-trend means a much richer understanding of what that innovation means for customer expectations – and for you.


Customer expectations wait for no one – so GET GOING!

Intra-Africa is about to explode...

So think big and think across boundaries when considering new ways to connect consumers with each other. Can you be the first to connect people with a shared interest, taste or mind-set across African national borders?


Want to take it to the next level?

At our upcoming 2016 Trend Events in Singapore, Sydney, Chicago, London and Amsterdam you'll hear about THE trends that will shape consumerism in 2017 and beyond. And hear from innovators in the field already putting those trends into action!


But don't forget that new expectations can come from anywhere!

And today, customer expectations cross geographical borders faster than ever. So why not broaden your (G)LOCAL trend sources and subscribe to our free Global, Asia and Africa Trend Briefings?



Gather your team and start brainstorming on how you'll serve new expectations around social connections. Our free CONSUMER TREND CANVAS ideation tool can help!