Doing media business in Africa, the colourful continent
Africa is often perceived as being aggressive and unstable, with only the bad aspects highlighted. Many South Africans seem reluctant to get involved up north. Celia Collins is one of the few South Africans in this industry who understands media on the African continent. She gives insight into the state of play.
In the last 20 years, media moguls have grown and developed, not based on political connections, but from a position of wanting to add value and promote smarter thinking for all.
Most major networks have realised that Africa is the continent of opportunity – especially in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and cellular industries. Africa may not have the same per capita attraction as Europe, but it certainly has the most potential. If US$100 000 were invested in the United States, the return on investment (ROI) would be insignificant. But if the same amount were invested in Africa, the ROI would be far greater from a market share point of view.
Africa has been rapidly colonised by competition in terms of where agencies and their clients go and where they invest. Political stability on the continent is far better than many people think. For example, there is huge growth in Angola and the DRC, with Zimbabwe also showing underlying development.
If the logistical business framework is in place, marketing will naturally follow. The first step is to develop the necessary infrastructure.
Africa is laden with amazing opportunities just waiting to be discovered. Residents are hungry for information, are always looking for new opportunities and the regions don’t have the limiting legislation of many European countries, for example. If ideas or Eurocentric marketing concepts offer simple solutions, these can be easily transferred from SA to any other African country.
What works in the favour of the African work ethic is the ability to keep business churning in the face of adversity and unreliable supplies of the most basic resources. In Africa, generators are a standard feature in any business. However, when the power goes out in SA, we’re often caught unawares.
Research has historically been non-existent, or fairly basic, in Africa. The Pan-African Media Research Organisation (PAMRO) is addressing countries that are interested in doing research and promoting the growth of research on the African continent. This is gathering a great deal of momentum and interest, which could be put down to clients’ growth plans.
Sadly, corruption levels in Africa are quite high. Our experience is that those not prepared for these markets will sometimes make it harder for those who do want to get a foot in the playground. The best weapons to have in your armour are honesty and relationships: if you know someone you have dealt with before, you are less likely to be ripped off. The people who fall victim to corrupt practices are those not willing to build relationships with the locals.
There are also huge challenges with the currency fluctuations that affect trading. Vigilance is of paramount importance in terms of the exchange rate agreed on in negotiation and payment arrangements. The standards are low in terms of media buying, which leaves the door wide open for exploitation, again perpetuating the corruption problem.
It’s a fallacy that African business dealings can be handled from anywhere in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. To understand Africa you need to be in Africa; you need to be in each specific country you are dealing with at that time. For example, there are so many cultural nuances that need to be understood which, if misinterpreted, could be detrimental to a business or marketing strategy by either party.
We’ve noted major growth in mobile and in terms of online browsing, with Yahoo and Gmail being the predominant portals. Due to the majority of servers being unreliable and the Internet being accessed through mobile phones, these global giants are among the most reliable means from which to stream commerce.
TV is steadily taking over radio in quite a few of the African markets. Historically, radio was a cost-effective platform for consumers, but companies like Samsung and others are making imported TVs more affordable across the board.
Many South African media owners are moving into southern Africa – some of them are already firmly entrenched. We see NAB assisting on the print side; and, in the out-of-home field, Primedia Africa, Continental Outdoor, Global Outdoor, Alliance Africa and A1 Outdoor are strong players.
Zimbabwe (information supplied by ZAARF)
In general, Zimbabwean newspapers operate under restrictive media laws. The main pro-government dailies – Harare-based Herald and Bulawayo-based Chronicle – are tightly controlled by the Information Ministry.
Private publications are relatively vigorous in their criticism of the government and have come under severe pressure. In June 2010, newly-licenced title NewsDay hit the streets, becoming the first privately owned daily to publish in seven years. The private press also comprises weeklies like The Standard and Zimbabwe Independent. Another weekly, The Zimbabwean, is produced in London and distributed in Zimbabwe as an international publication.
The Herald is the most-read daily newspaper in Zimbabwe, with business weeklies and monthlies mostly read in the urban areas. Radio Zimbabwe is the most-listened to station in the rural areas while Power FM enjoys a larger adult urban population listenership. All radio stations in Zimbabwe are government-owned.
Sixteen per cent of rural individuals have access to satellite TV, and the vast majority in urban areas have access to at least one TV channel. Local dramas are the most popular programmes among rural communities, while most urbanites favour the news. Outdoor advertising in Zimbabwe has 60% penetration in the rural areas.
Internet is still non-existent in the rural regions, and in the urban areas it has a 22% penetration. Mobile penetration is high in both urban and rural areas, with Nokia being the most common phone, backed by Econet with the largest subscriber base.
Zambia (information supplied by Synovate – Steadman’s)
Community radio stations have mushroomed in Zambia, and more commercial stations are opening their doors to reach a wider audience.
There is a substantial reach through daily newspapers, and print quality has drastically improved since NAB created a footprint in Zambia to assist with quality controls. The majority of the newspapers have online links as well, which is fairly progressive.
Originally dominated by state-owned media, the Zambian media scene has become more complex and competitive. The print media industry is dominated by three publications, namely state-owned Times of Zambia, Daily Mail and The Post (the largest privately owned tabloid).
There are currently six TV stations in Zambia, but viewership is dominated by ZNBC, TBN, Muvi and DStv, with TV ownership sitting at around 1.54-million sets.
There are an estimated 1.9m radio sets throughout the country, with an estimated reach of 6.5m. Of all media, this segment has the widest reach across the country. Dominant stations include the ZNBC stable (Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 4); community and private stations Phoenix, QFM, 5FM and Ichengelo.
Botswana (information supplied by MTC Marketing)
In Botswana there is vast consumer fragmentation, especially for radio, into mainstream, vernacular, religious, foreign and community segments. Similar trends are observed on free-to-air TV channels, with entertainment, sports, soaps, music, talk shows and reality TV being the main segments. Interestingly, the number and quality of local productions (music and sports) has improved.
Although internet penetration is considerably lower compared to developed markets, there is evidence of an increased uptake of internet services with the introduction of Orange Live Box and Internet Everywhere via BTC and the mobile internet. A major paradigm shift taking place is the move from physically reading newspapers to browsing online. This is due to declining internet connectivity costs and rapid growth in the mobile telephony sector.
Angola (information supplied by Markest Angola)
Angola is open to the influence of global brands giving consumers more choice and global awareness. However, when it comes to cooking, the Portuguese tradition prevails – it has to be sweet or hot!
Television in this market should be high on the priority list, as it yields the highest brand recall and reach. Radio has the second highest reach, while print quality remains primarily basic. Most newspapers are in black and white and those papers produced in full colour generally only have four pages, and are brought out six months in advance!
Namibia (information supplied by Vision Africa)
There has been very little media progress in recent years in Namibia, other than pay TV services gaining momentum with the advent of G-TV. TV has risen to the fore, with local companies like Trustco signing deals with CNBC. Again, few changes have been made in print media, with a few local magazines and lesser-known newspapers closing down.
The Namibian population is mostly concentrated in the rural areas while the urban population consists mainly of LSM 6-7, with access to most media channels. Local broadcaster NBC is the most popular channel among the locals, with satellite channels receiving fair viewing similarly across the board. In Namibia, marketers will discover that a large part of the population still does not have access to TV.
Private radio stations enjoy a high listenership, driven by the majority of the population being soccer mad. We’ve discovered that electronic media is mainly used as a recreational tool for friends to connect. Stores and storefront advertising have the highest recall among consumers at points of purchase.
Advertising on trucks seems to have a high recall as well, as so many consumers view these ads while in transit in and around the city.
In closing, conducting media business in Africa is not about running full steam ahead, but more about building solid learnings, infrastructures and relationships. These fundamentals are always time-consuming in a new region but will certainly serve you in the long run. Taking shortcuts will only come back to bite you in the proverbial rear end.
There is definitely more of a positive spotlight on Africa today. It’s no longer Darkest Africa – we believe that perhaps ‘Colourful Africa’ is a more apt description!
PHOTO: etv’s Robyn Kriel operating in Africa
* Celia Collins is deputy managing director of the Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG).
This story was first published in The Media magazine, March 2012 edition.