Africa: Global Consumer Themes, New Technologies Create Vast Opportunities for Africans

Africa: Global Consumer Themes, New Technologies Create Vast Opportunities for Africans

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Many consumers are moving to online shopping. This has created opportunities for many people to engage in trade online as it doesn’t involve cumbersome processes and sitting at a given location.

Major global consumer themes are taking shape and becoming relevant in Africa, Uganda inclusive. Combined with new technologies, this presents Africans with an opportunity to participate – as producers and suppliers of consumer products – in the world’s developing consumer market.

Health and wellness

For too long, Africa has been viewed as an exciting new market for a narrow range of globally produced and marketed consumer products. Today, however, the full range of global consumer themes – including health and wellness, convenience, indulgence, low/no calories and food protection – are now also major themes in Africa. This not only presents global marketers with a wider market, but also, “provides Africans with an opportunity to participate in the global consumer sector – as producers and suppliers – of new and innovative products that speak to global consumer trends,” says Mr Brendan Grundlingh, executive, consumer client coverage Standard Bank.

With health and wellness emerging as strong consumer theme in Africa over the last five years, food providers that previously provided a few products now have an opportunity to develop an assorted range of healthy food products.

With people living longer, for example, there is also a greater focus on, “early life and medical nutrition, healthier water and plant based beverages, sustainable foods, zero net carbon food production technologies, trusted origin and sustainable agriculture,” adds Mr Grundlingh.

Mr Shaban Sserunkuma, the director of programmes at Consumer Education Trust (CONSENT), concurs with Mr Grundlingh, saying: Consumers are getting more health conscious globally. The result is that opportunities have emerged for businesses that deal in health-focused products and services.

Uganda’s chance

But how can Uganda cash in on this? Uganda has a chance to combine the fine natural environment with health and relaxation for the many who wish to settle and get ‘healing’ from nature.

“We can also advance our herbal industry and the natural foods – most of them natural and free of any chemicals and genetic modifications. These, however, are niche markets that are particular on quality and standards,” Mr Fred Muhumuza, an economist and lecturer at Makerere University says.

As Africans adapt and combine technologies to service both local and global consumer opportunities, a world of new consumer products, service and support opportunities are emerging on the continent.


There is huge opportunity, for example, for existing digital and new speech technology to utilise algorithms around discounting a basic basket of goods – targeting lower income households in Africa, for example. Innovation in e-commerce focussed on digitally acquired consumer insights combining new distribution models, including, perhaps, delivery of goods or even medicines via drone to remote locations, is also presenting huge opportunity in Africa’s direct-to-consumer space.

Mr Muhumuza believes convenience is pegged to technology and Uganda can be part of the global value chain.

“We could participate in outsourcing business where Ugandan can manage call centres and global distribution networks from here. But quality, reliability, work ethics, and support systems undermine our chances. Many IT support operations for the world run in India/Asia,” says Mr Muhumuza.

Some Ugandans have picked these chances, for instance, support for YAKA and Water payments for convenience and efficiency.

Mr Sserunkuma adds that e-commerce provides a host of opportunities as the Internet is increasingly becoming a marketing platform, enabling vendors of goods and services to directly sell to consumers in real time and more conveniently.

“Many consumers are moving to online shopping. This has created opportunities for people to engage in trade online as it doesn’t involve cumbersome processes and sitting at a given location,” Mr Sserunkuma explains.

New products

The fact that global consumer trends are increasingly favouring the niche and the local over the global and the general presents Africa with further opportunity. While this is part of a broader trend towards sustainability and social and economic justice in production and consumption, it has meant that increasingly – and in Africa too – larger multinationals that previously dominated the personal care sector, for example, are either losing out to smaller local players, “or are being forced to buy out and incorporate the offerings of local champions into their brands,” says Mr Grundlingh. As such, looking ahead in Africa there is scope for smaller niche players – at home with ethnic and cultural diversity, for example – to win market share from larger multinational companies by using, “the smart, the small, and the local, to scale products though innovation – or bring new technologies to delivery and service,” he explains.

Africa’s large, growing and increasingly urbanised millennial population has a high expectation of integrity from brands, products and services. This is also likely to drive rapid change, and innovation, in how Africa’s consumer sector understands and meets holistic wellness themes in food and lifestyle.

Food and nutrition

Food production and supply innovation also play well to Africa’s strong medical consumer themes. The bulk of Africa’s heath challenges are related, directly or indirectly, to food and nutrition. Globally, obesity kills three times more people than malnutrition.

“The nexus between food and health, combined with disruptive technologies, presents broad opportunity for Africa to adapt, evolve and service new consumer themes – and markets – in these areas,” says Mr Grundlingh.

Mr Muhumuza advises Uganda to invest in food and nutrition that meets international standards.

“Otherwise, our food exports will be regional where people subscribe to the same standard,” Mr cautions.

The most exciting aspect of this evolution is that beyond the continent’s rapidly evolving domestic consumer landscape, “Africa is, today, evidencing a strong ability to absorb consumer themes from the rest of the world, adapt these locally, and export new consumer combinations to the rest of the world,” says Mr Grundlingh. “This is likely to make Africa an important global player in the world’s consumer landscape, not only as a recipient market – but also as a global originator, producer and exporter of consumer products and services.”

Opportunities are there but as they say, “Opportunities can only go by that name for those who are ready. Uganda is not and may end up on the receiving end by those who are ready,” Mr Muhumuza warns.

Other opportunities

The world is increasingly getting interconnected through smartphones and other communication gadgets. This has spawned opportunities for businesses of selling, servicing and maintaining of gadgets.

Long distance or virtual education and the knowledge economy and society are emerging through global consumer preferences.