Localization: Targeting Africa

Consumer goods markets in African countries are rapidly expanding due to numerous factors: population growth and urbanization, emergence of a middle class and shrinking poverty levels, youthful demography, vast natural resources and inward investment, improved business and trade environment, and expanded use of technology. For exporters to Africa, the good news is strong, but challenges remain from such issues as segmented markets, cheap local competition, flawed distribution channels, and untrained workers.*

African Languages

Projected 2020 consumer spending** predicts the highest growth in South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, Angola and Senegal. But when looking for your next target market, the viability of your efforts is a complex issue. In the World Bank’s 2014 “ease of doing business” index, for instance, the only countries included in that top ten from the top nine projected consumer markets listed above are Ghana and Zambia (see below).

Localization for Africa may be tricky, but pay off in the long-run. While English and French are common throughout the continent, the range of consumer languages is vast, as you can see in the AllAfrica’s “ease of doing business” list below.*** This list, drawn from World Bank analyses, is based on the overall effect of each country’s government regulations on doing business there.

1. Mauritius  (19th of 189 globally)
No official language. French and English spoken, Creole as mother tongue.

2. Rwanda  (32nd)
Official languages: French, English, Kinyardwanda (which is the most widely spoken and is the language of government). English used in schools. Swahili spoken by many.

3. South Africa  (41st)
Eleven official languages. Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa most widely spoken, with English used in commerce and science.

4. Tunisia  (51st)
Official language: Arabic. Used in daily life: Tunisian Arabic of Derja. French often used in press, business and education.

5. Botswana  (56th)
Official language: English. Many speak Setswana. Afrikaans and three other languages also spoken there.

6. Ghana  (67th)
English is official language, spoken by 90%. Also Akan and Twi by 75%, with Niger-Congo languages also spoken.

7. Seychelles  (80th)
Official: English, French and Seychellois Creole (based on French).

8. Zambia  (83rd)
Official language: English. Seventy-three different languages in the country, but Nyanja is the main one.

9. Morocco  (87th)
Official languages: Berber and Arabic (with dialects called Darija). French often used for governmental and international matters.

10. Namibia  (98th)
Official language: English. Half of population speaks Oshiwambo as first language, but the most understood language is Afrikaans, with other minority languages.

J. McShulskis

*African Development Bank Group, afdb.org
**Euromonitor Africa Consumer Spending, euromonitor.com
***Allafrica.com from World Bank data: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IC.BUS.EASE.XQ

2 thoughts on “Localization: Targeting Africa

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