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Export to Africa – Pitch to Consumer Segments


Meet the Importers

If you want to export to Africa you have to know where to meet importers.  There are many internet forums and directories on which you can offer your goods to buyers from all over the world, but African buyers rarely frequent those.   There are some forums specifically dedicated to offering products to African importers, such as LinkedIn’s Africa Export Import Business and  That is where you want to be.

Those are the best forums, but most exporters do not write quality product pitches.  Most of the product listings and descriptions on these Africa oriented forums could easily be cut and pasted to the more generic international forums.  They are merely descriptions of the available products.  Very few, if any, of the listings give the prospective importer a clear idea of what segment of the African market would be most interested in the product.

Export to Africa – Export to People

Manufacturers and suppliers desiring to export to Africa will stand a much better chance of penetrating that market if they demonstrate a knowledge of needs of prospective buyers and their consumers.  Simply stating, “We have quality CD players” will not get much attention.  Stating that your product is suited to the “middle class” and “urban people” won’t grab them either.

A recent report, The Diverse People of Africa (March 2012) from Nielsen, a global leader in researching and reporting on consumer background and behavior, gives us some useful clues to describing segments of African consumers.  While Nielsen researchers do point out obvious diversity between African countries and ethnic groups, the bulk of their report describes and differentiates seven types of consumers that can be found in most African countries.

One would expect to see groupings of consumers along income levels.  Many statistical studies have pointed out the existence of a rapidly bulging, African middle class that is distinguishing itself from the wealthy and poverty stricken segments of the population.  The Nielsen report recognizes those designations, but goes further by describing the mindsets and motivations of seven categories of African consumers.  They label these categories with some very useful tags.  The first tier, composed primarily of the wealthy and upper middle class Africans, are labeled Trendy Aspirants (21%) and Progressive Affluents (7%).  In the second tier are the majority of the middle class designated Balanced Seniors (17%) and Struggling Traditionals (10%).  A final tier contains the Evolving Juniors (24%),  Wannabe Bachelors (11%) and Female Conservatives (10%) who come from the bottom of the middle class and the poor.

Export to Africa With Power Words

When an African importer reads the trade listings you want to grab his attention.  You may only have a couple of seconds to do that.  Frame your pitch or listing around the Nielsen report’s tags and their cognates.  A listing or ad like, “A Nairobi or Lagos office worker will have the same high quality listening on our inexpensive MP3 players that his boss enjoys on a pricier model,” is much better than “we have MP3 players at bargain prices.”   African importers understand that there is a market segment that is evolving and aspiring to possess products that are presently out of their reach.  A pitch targeting that market will catch the attention of the importer.

You, the entrepreneur desiring to export to Africa, need more than quality product and an understanding of the logistics of international trade.  You need to acquire an understanding of the African market place and how to get the attention of African buyers.  Over time, you can learn this on your own.  Or, you can consult with Africa Mentor who has spent decades understanding the emotions and motivations of various segments of African society.