Ronelle Bester, founder of Red Ribbon Communications and Jessica Hope, founder of Wimbart – part of the global agency network Convoy – offer their top tips for achieving success in Africa.
By the end of the century, Africa will host 13 of the world’s top 20 megacities – including the top three. This young continent has an upwardly mobile population and is undergoing rapid industrialisation that is underpinned by technology.
Firms across the continent are bringing creative business models and innovation to the technology sector – driven by demand in the banking and finance, telecommunications and healthcare industries. Plus, large economies such as Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa have made great strides in developing next-generation mobile and digital networks and are currently trialling 5G.
African governments are promoting their tech sectors by reshaping their legislative landscapes to attract technology investment. As a result, innovation culture is deepening on the continent, both through homegrown entrepreneurs and international companies.
So, how can you ensure your b2b tech PR and marketing campaign succeeds in Africa?
GAINING LOCAL UNDERSTANDING
Africa is a continent with 54 countries, all of which have different regimes, policies, cultures, levels of development, languages and media landscapes. Despite this, tech companies too often enter Africa with an all-encompassing regional strategy, believing it will be applicable across the board.
Take South Africa and neighbouring Mozambique. South Africa has eleven official languages – including English, Afrikaans and Zulu – and is a majority Christian country. Its economy is more mature than others in the region and can be compared to the US or Europe. On the other hand, Mozambique’s official language is Portuguese. The country’s religious picture is much more mixed – with a large Muslim population – and the economy is less developed.
For your marketing and PR campaign to succeed in any African country, you must invest in understanding your target markets. This includes knowing cultural, religious, and leadership dynamics, as these will play a big role in shaping how stakeholders engage with you. Local PR agencies are increasingly able to assist with providing extensive market knowledge, competitor insights and introductions to key stakeholders.
GETTING YOUR STORY OUT THERE
Africans do business with people, not with organisations. Building trust with key influencers, decision-makers and journalists is crucial to success. When it comes to pitching journalists, cold approaches rarely work. Ideally, you will form a relationship before you need something. If not, it’s likely that a journalist will ask you for pay to play.
Once you’ve established relationships with key stakeholders, you must ensure you tell your story in such a way that it resonates on the ground. For example, if you’re investing in a country’s tech sector, demonstrate how your investment is contributing to the national development goals. Of course, to do this successfully you need to have done your homework!
MOBILE FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD
Africa has been dubbed ‘the leapfrog continent’ for the way it has foregone traditional fixed telecommunications networks and moved straight to mobile. For this reason, mobile is king across the continent.
When we surveyed Sub-Saharan African journalists on the best way to pitch them, the most popular answer by far was Twitter, with 38.7% of votes. In comparison, just 12.8% preferred a phone call. Even if you’re not comfortable pitching on Twitter, it’s still a great place to build relationships. Another common method of communication used by journalists is WhatsApp. A top tip is to email a pitch first, then follow up on WhatsApp.
International tech businesses that excel in their African marketing and PR efforts are those who make the most of local expertise. There’s no faster way to unlock opportunities than by integrating your brand with the target market it serves. If possible, having a physical in-country presence and a local leadership team is beneficial. If not, it’s all about doing your research to find the right combination of local partners.