Segmenting Africa by colonial history

Effective marketing campaigns begin and end with the customer, and those companies with an intimate understanding of their audiences have an edge over their competitors. This has been proven time and again and it’s a wonder why pan-African business and social associations haven’t tried to develop a country segmentation model based on our colonial history and the resulting culture in a modern age.

If for some reason we decided to do this, then we would begin with the basic numbers. For starters, there are 55 countries in Africa which contain a billion people who speak approximately 2,000 languages. Our borders were mainly drawn up during the Scramble For Africa between 1881 and 1914 and our forefathers were not consulted on the matter but instead were given gold, silver and religion for their land. If, however, they thought that the exchange was not entirely equitable, the treasure and ideology was replaced by the bullet and unhindered violence.

Of the 2,000 languages there are 5 that are dominant and in varying degrees. One is African, one is Middle Eastern and other three are European. Kiswahili, Arabic, English, French and Portuguese are considered the major language groups.

70 percent of the population is Anglophone, 12 percent is Francophone, 10 percent speaks Kiswahili, 10 percent speaks Arabic, 6 percent are Lusophone, and the majority are multilingual. However, when you begin to dissect the countries based on common culture it all boils down to whether they drink afternoon tea or serve baguettes and fromage with their meals.

The main extravagance that the Anglophone population indulges in are the wonderful pastries that they serve at tea time; simply incomparable. Everything else is nut and bolts, bricks and mortar, focusing on the essentials and leaving out unnecessary embellishments and useless ornaments. Sometimes we even leave out the vision and mission in business strategy, and instead go straight into the critical objectives and success factors.

When presenting research findings to the Anglophone lot, one has to focus on the results because they are not interested on your methodology — they got over that question before they selected their research partner, period, and all they want from the statisticians are results and findings.

On the other hand, our companions influenced by continental Europe have an eye for the finer things in life. They dress way better, their interior design is divinely inspired, their food is heavenly, and their speech is decorated with prose to touch hearts and minds, rich with feeling. They don’t do vision, mission and objectives, instead they do philosophy. In our orientation when we joined a French conglomerate, we were told that everyone must have a philosophy which they must declare when they introduce themselves at workshops and seminars.

When presenting research reports to the continental sort, they are more interested in the methodology than the findings. They don’t seem to be too interested in making decisions, rather they avoid having to do that dirty job. They prefer to maintain a vigorous debate on the philosophy because when the chips finally fall, everything will be in place and the decision will make itself – you just have to trust the process.

While you market your conferences and as you develop your recruitment strategies for your pan-African associations, you need to consider what value proposition will be attractive to a universal target audience and you might have to speak different languages to the diverse target groups.


2 thoughts on “Segmenting Africa by colonial history

  1. But can we really speak of a universal target audience in Africa, Joe?
    The mixture of cultural, ancestral and colonial heritage has created such a melting pot, that I of course, witness in Mauritius as well, making Mauritius a microcosm with the macrocosm, that is Africa.


    1. We really can’t talk about a universal target audience in Africa and indeed the segmentation on the continent and in individual nations is complicated. But on a lighter note, many more people on the continent are speaking English and Chinese these days and it makes me think that segmentation may be easier in future.


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