Over the past year or so I have been working with a number of companies looking to expand their business into Africa. This is probably one of the most exciting areas of business growth because of the uniques challenges and breadth of work involved. The return, without a doubt, is great for any business who can gain a strong foothold in the next few years.

One of the biggest challenges I have seen has been the lack of infrastructure in Africa to support existing westernised business systems and processes. An example of this is if you would like to distribute in Africa, you will need to build the road to your customer in many cases.

I have also noticed that the digital engagement in Africa, especially in mobile is growing stronger and stinger everyday. In February this year I spoke at a conference win Nigeria and received one of the best twitter responses I have ever received. More people followed , engaged in conversation, retweeted and promoted my presentation on twitter than any South African conference I had spoken at. This fascinates me and suggests that a keenness and desire to adopt mobile digital technologies could mean that Africans will be ready for digital distribution way before we think.

So often a market takes time to mature into one ready to purchase online. It takes a consumer time to trust the reliability of a digital product and the company providing it. I believe that Africa will be ready far sooner than its western counterparts.

This has already been explored in mobile banking but could be explored in many other business avenues. I would suggest that anyone entering Africa needs to dig deep into their organisational strategy and rethink their business models to build on a digital business framework. They need to re-imagine their business, services, customers and products in order to really meet new market opportunities in Africa.

Applying the right strategy and product/service with the correct digital infrastructure could mean your business becomes a major part of the economic growth that Africa will experience over the next 20 years.

In our experience mobile has opened the door to real personal engagement with customers, align this with a social strategy and these customers will take your company to the rest of Africa. The key will be ensuring you provide the right value, to the right people, with the right communication and delivery channels.

Such an exciting opportunity awaits any business looking to take this challenge on. I would love to hear any thoughts around the role of digital, social and mobile in Africa. Please comment below.

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