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Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think

Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think

4.4 7
by Vijay Mahajan

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With more than 900 million consumers, the continent of Africa is one of the world’s fastest growing markets. In Africa Rising, renowned global business consultant Vijay Mahajan reveals this remarkable marketplace as a continent with massive needs and surprising buying power.


Crossing thousands of miles across the continent, he


With more than 900 million consumers, the continent of Africa is one of the world’s fastest growing markets. In Africa Rising, renowned global business consultant Vijay Mahajan reveals this remarkable marketplace as a continent with massive needs and surprising buying power.


Crossing thousands of miles across the continent, he shares the lessons that Africa’s businesses have learned about succeeding on the continent...shows how global companies are succeeding despite Africa’s unique political, economic, and resource challenges...introduces local entrepreneurs and foreign investors who are building a remarkable spectrum of profitable and sustainable business opportunities even in the most challenging locations...reveals how India and China are staking out huge positions throughout Africa...and shows the power of the diaspora in driving investment and development.


  • Recognize that Africa is richer than you think
    Africa is richer than India on the basis of gross national income (GNI) per capita, and a dozen African countries have a higher GNI per capita than China.
  • Aim for Africa Two
    Opportunities exist in all parts of the market, particularly the 400 million people in the middle of the market.
  • Find opportunities to organize the market
    From retailing to cell phones to banking, companies are succeeding by building infrastructure.
  • Develop strategies for the most youthful market in the world
    Companies are recognizing opportunities from diapers to music to medicine in a market growing younger every day.
  • Understand that Africa is not a “media dark” continent
    From Nollywood to satellite to broadband, media is exploding on the continent.
  • Recognize the hidden strength of the African diaspora
    The African diaspora brings resources and knowledge to African development and expands the African opportunity beyond the continent.
  • Build Ubuntu markets
    Create profitable businesses, sustainable growth, and social organizations by meeting basic human needs.


Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Africa, like many emerging markets, has been long overlooked, but is poised for explosive growth and opportunity, says author Mahajan (The 86 Percent Solution) in this must-read for investors, executives and anyone with an interest in global business. He argues that Africa "is richer than you think" and presents "as big an opportunity as China and India." The author describes a burgeoning middle class, referred to as "Africa Two," and illustrates how successful companies are organizing the marketplace, creating infrastructure, advertising, and even customizing packaging. In a continent where many countries lack basic resources and transportation, Mahajan admits it would be easy for investors or corporations to discount prospects for profitability, but he describes how creative entrepreneurs have identified these problems as opportunities: the Coca-Cola Company uses trucks, bicycles and handcarts to transport its product into rural villages and is building its own ice plant to keep drinks cool during power outages. This compelling and captivating overview of the market with its colorful anecdotes provides a tremendous insight into Africa's wealth, which Mahajan calls a "different type of oil and diamonds."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Mahajan (McCombs Sch. of Business, Univ. of Texas, Austin) here revisits The 86 Percent Solution: How To Succeed in the Biggest Marketing Opportunity of the 21st Century, a book he coauthored with Kamini Banga, advocating that there is a ripe market in the 86 percent of the earth's population located in the Third World, a demographic largely ignored by modern companies. Now he specifically addresses Africa, noting that there are 900 million potential consumers who fall into two broad groups. The "Black Diamond" group consists of 500 million Africans who are newly at or near a middle-class income. The other group is made up of the destitute who, the author points out, must still buy staples like rice, soap, and cooking oil. The first group is ready for traditional consumer purchases such as televisions, refrigerators, and automobiles. The second is primed to have small profits leveraged through modern organization and distribution methods. The author concludes that Africa today is where China and India, now attractive markets, were 20 years ago. Unfortunately, Mahajan relies primarily on anecdotal evidence, asking the reader to accept inductive leaps that aren't clearly supported by the text. Possibly appropriate for institutions with large undergraduate marketing programs.
—Robert Perret

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Read an Excerpt

Preface Preface: Consumer Safari

I have to admit that until a few years ago, I was guilty of overlooking Africa. My book on emerging markets, The 86% Solution, included only a few African examples. As a professor of marketing at the University of Texas, I have extensive experience working with companies in Latin America. I have traveled and lectured extensively in Asia and the Middle East. Like most scholars in the developed world, however, I saw Africa more as a charity case than a market opportunity. I was wrong, and this book is here to set the record straight.

It is particularly surprising to me that I failed to recognize the story in Africa because I remember when India was discussed in the same way. As Ramachandra Guha recently wrote in a book review in the Financial Times, “Western writers of the 1960s warned their readers that India was a losing proposition, the laboratory, as it were, of failed experiments in democracy and nation-building.”1 He could be writing about Africa today. In fact, one of the reasons I started writing about opportunities in emerging markets was because of a conversation I had with a colleague for a panel considering how we could stop the developing world from “begging.” As the son of an entrepreneur, I found this shocking and insulting. I knew that entrepreneurship is alive and well in India. But when I told colleagues a decade or two ago that India would be an important global market, they were incredulous. They are incredulous no longer.

I have experienced the transformations in India firsthand. I was born in Jammu City in the state of Jammu and Kashmir a few months after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated and India became a republic. I became part of a generation that Salman Rushdie called “Midnight’s Children,” referring to those who lived through the transformational time after the independence of India at midnight on August 15, 1947. In 2002, I had the opportunity to return to India as dean of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. I saw how a country that had been written off as a charity case was now seen as a powerful emerging market.

Now I see the same view of Africa. Despite all the attention it has received for its social, medical, humanitarian, and political challenges, it is still undervalued as a consumer market. I set out to rectify my own lack of knowledge about the continent and to understand the market opportunity it presents—in all its rich complexity and wealth. I traveled thousands of miles across Africa and met with or interviewed leaders of major African companies, smaller entrepreneurs, and Asian and Western firms with long experience on the continent. I have had the opportunity to meet some truly extraordinary and creative business leaders. I feel blessed for the opportunity to do this in the autumn of my life. I learned important lessons from these many teachers, which I share in this book.

As I was finishing this book, President George Bush announced in February 2008 the launch of five funds through the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, totaling $875 million, for investment in Africa. On the eve of his trip to Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia, he stated a conclusion that I had reached in my own journeys through Africa in the preceding years. “This new era is rooted in a powerful truth: Africa’s most valuable resource is not its oil, it’s not its diamonds, it is the talent and creativity of its people.” The true wealth of Africa is its more than 900 million consumers, and its countless entrepreneurs and business leaders who are already demonstrating the wealth of the continent by building successful enterprises. If you look beyond the headlines, these individuals are propelling the rise of Africa. They are building businesses, economies, and societies. They are the hidden natural resource that may present greater opportunities than oil or minerals in the long run.

I am not a political scholar. I am not an economist. I am a marketing professor, so my focus is on the market opportunity. There will soon be a billion consumers on the continent of Africa, and this is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. Every day, they need to eat. They need shelter. They want education for their children. They would like to have soaps to wash their clothes. They desire cell phones, metal roofs for their homes, televisions, music, computers, movies, bicycles, cosmetics, medicines, cars, and loans to start businesses. They celebrate marriages, births, and religious holidays and commemorate death.

I have sought to learn as much as I possibly could about the African market—what it offers, how it is structured, and its potential. Others have looked at Africa through a political lens, some have engaged in economic analysis, some have examined its complex history, and others have looked at medical or social challenges. A few have even started telling the stories of specific African businesses. But my focus is on understanding the continent through the perspective of the consumer. What is the African market? What opportunities does it offer? How are companies recognizing and realizing the opportunities in Africa’s rising?

Many tourists come to Africa every year to see the big game there—the elephants, lions, and rhinos. But I came for a different type of big game. I was seeking out the successful enterprises that are identifying and capitalizing on the market opportunities, and seeking lessons from those that are not so successful, too.

In Nairobi, Maserame Mouyeme

of The Coca-Cola Company told me how important it is “to walk the market.” Then, in Harare, I first heard the term “consumer safari” in a meeting with Unilever executives. This is what they call their initiatives to spend a day with consumers in their homes to understand how they use products. Years after I started on this journey, I now had a term to describe the quest I was on. I was on a consumer safari. The market landscape that is Africa is every bit as marvelous and surprising as its geographic landscape. It presents as big an opportunity as China and India. On the following pages, I invite you to come along on this safari. I think it will change your view of Africa, as it has changed mine, and perhaps your view of where the future global market opportunities—and future wealth—can be found.

Vijay Mahajan University of Texas at Austin March 2008

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Vijay Mahajan, former dean of the Indian School of Business, holds the John P. Harbin Centennial Chair in Business at McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and received several lifetime achievement awards including the American Marketing Association (AMA) Charles Coolidge Parlin Award for visionary leadership in scientific marketing and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Indian Institute of Technology (Kanpur). The AMA has also instituted the Vijay Mahajan Award for career contributions to marketing strategy. Mahajan’s ten books include The 86 Percent Solution (Wharton School Publishing), which received the 2007 Book of the Year Award from the American Marketing Association.

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Africa Rising 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It looks exactly like the warriors den but the nests are smaller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Africa can only improve...America has focused on Africa being backward and totally dependent on them for medicines, etc. I think that American's as a whole are spriling downward due to always feeling superior and just taking and not giving back to the environment or their poor.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
"We know everything about how Africans die, but we know little about how Africans live," said Swedish author and self-proclaimed African-at-heart, Henning Mankell. This is a book about Africa, but its protagonists are not disease-ridden men and women, starving children or raging warlords. Vijay Mahajan paints a picture of a continent overflowing with entrepreneurial spirit and economic opportunity. He excitedly strings together story after story of entrepreneurial gardens planted in what looked like deserts. At the same time, he makes it quite clear that if you expect to make money in Africa simply by copying business models from elsewhere, you might as well forget about it. To succeed, you must take the time to understand how Africans live and, especially, to learn what their daily challenges are, be they economic, political, institutional or existential. Opening the door of opportunity in Africa requires just a little extra portion of creativity. Mahajan covers a lot of ground in this book. His inspiring case studies will teach you lessons about innovation and entrepreneurship that you can apply anywhere in the world. However, while this book might encourage you to plunge into business in Africa, you will have to turn to another source for hands-on advice. For that reason, getAbstract recommends this work to entrepreneurs and strategists who have not yet considered the African market - not those who are ready to go.
velu More than 1 year ago
Professor Mahajan provides an excellent exposition of the emerging opportunities for businesses in the continent of Africa. The research conducted by Professor Mahajan is very thorough and meticulous with many examples and firsthand accounts of the way markets operate in Africa.
The main thesis of the book argues the importance of businesses to create markets in order to tap the large latent demand in Africa. Professor Mahajan clearly articulates that the creation of markets requires firms to innovate their business model i.e., the way revenues are generated and captured as well as the accompanying operational structure. Firms would need to be innovative in their products, pricing, distribution and methods of promotion in order to overcome challenges ranging from emerging infrastructure to the absence of legal frameworks. In short, the book argues that African markets are not `plug and play¿ markets but require firms to think about and to put in the missing pieces of the puzzle. Prof. Mahajan provides interesting examples of how firms such as Hanouti, Novartis and Unilever managed to complete the missing pieces of the puzzle by various initiatives such as offering credit to creating new distribution systems where none existed. The book also provides interesting examples of African ingenuity via innovation and tendency to leapfrog to overtake other markets. For example, one of the most innovative projects was provided by a non-profit organization, Roundabout, which created a playpump that harnesses the energy from a children¿s merry-go-round to pump water for rural Africa. In addition, an example of leapfroging via the provision of infrastructure is demonstrated by the provision of citywide unrestricted Wifi/Wimax in Freetown, Sierra Leone which is only the third city in the world to have such a service after Philadelphia and Taipei.
The book is an eye opener to the growing influence of the opportunities provided by the large future middle class of Africa. Professor Mahajan makes a compelling case for firms not only to create markets but also to nurture the growth of these markets to create profitable businesses whilst contributing to the development of Africa. In addition, what is also clear is the burgeoning confidence of the African people where Professor Mahajan aptly borrows from the popular Hindi movie `Chak de India¿ (You can do it, India!) to illustrate the up and coming `Chak De Africa¿!
This is a book that identifies Africa¿s business and growth potential and illustrates it innovatively and intelligently. It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the shifting economic power in the world and in particular the opportunities in Africa. I recommend it very strongly.
K.Harmon More than 1 year ago
So, is the premise of Dr. Vijay Mahajan's new book "Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think." I recently had a chance to sit down with Dr. Mahajan to discuss his very readable and well research book. Dr. Mahajan's book demonstrates through first-hand country visits, interviews, stories and data that the Africa of the evening news is only a small fraction of the reality of the people that call the African continent home. Africa has a 400 million plus up-and- coming middle class and has one of the most youthful markets in the world. New Africa is young, enterprising and media savvy. And it is changing the way we all do business by building the traditional African market model of Ubuntu (I am because you are) proving that it is possible to build profitable businesses, achieve sustainable growth and advance social progress by focusing on meeting basic human needs.

I found the book very informative and inspiring and I hope you will too. I hope that it will be a useful tool in our quest to better understand the "mother" continent of us all as she begins to take her rightful place in the world.

Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon
Host, "Idea Lounge"
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