Which West African nation has a space programme, billions of barrels of offshore oil and a middle income economy?
If your first thought was Nigeria, you’d be forgiven for jumping to conclusions. After all, Nigeria has long held the crown as the business capital of West Africa, with an enviable position in the ‘Next Eleven’ economies earmarked for explosive growth.
However, nestled in Nigeria’s formidable shadow, a smaller country is gradually gaining ground on its bigger brother, nurturing its own ambitions for wealth, prosperity and extra-terrestrial exploration. This country’s burgeoning middle class has a strong sense of its own identity and is ready to embrace international brands: yet too few companies have taken the trouble to get to know West Africa’s brightest business gem – Ghana.
Forward-looking, entrepreneurial and dynamic, Ghana outshines Nigeria on a number of counts – with six peaceful elections under its belt, one of Africa’s most mature economies and one of the lowest corruption rates on the continent. It may have a population a sixth of the size of Nigeria, but its safe streets and increasingly affluent middle class have prompted businesses such as Nestlé and Herbalife to choose Accra, rather than Lagos, as their springboard to the wider West African region.
The moment is right to start targeting Ghanaian consumers. Thanks to broad-based economic growth, wealth has been trickling down to even the poorest consumers, and The African Development Bank now estimates that nearly one in five Ghanaians, or 4.6 million people, is either lower or upper middle class by its definition, with a per capita daily consumption of between $4 and $20.
So for brands just waking up to the potential of one of Africa’s oldest independent nations, the question is: what makes Ghanaians tick? After all, this is the country that shunned smoking as the rest of the world lit up, and where global fast food giants have so far failed to lure customers away from a traditional home-cooked meal. Ghana has a history of going its own way, and businesses should therefore be wary of ‘importing’ strategies from Nigeria and other parts of the continent.
Ghanaians prefer home-cooked meals to fast food
Unfortunately this is a common occurrence. All too often marketing campaigns are generic or intended for Nigeria, and then rolled out in Ghana as an afterthought. Tailored campaigns – especially those using local languages – are far and few between, providing a golden opportunity for brands prepared to take a more targeted approach.
Mobile companies have done better than most in giving their marketing a local flavour – recognising the potential of a market where nearly half of mobile users go on the internet with their mobile according to TNS Mobile Life study.
For example, Vodafone Ghana – one of the country’s leading networks – is running a campaign until the end of the year called #DoMoreGh, encouraging Ghanaians to share their dreams and aspirations via social media and showcasing the results via a dedicated .gh microsite.
Meanwhile other global companies have also recognised that a ‘Ghanaian accent’ can give them a competitive edge. Guinness featured several well-known Ghanaian musicians in a recent ad and Coca-Cola has used the local dance Azonto and musician Okyiame Kwame to give its marketing a local flavour (view video). However, many others could be doing more to weave Ghanaian culture into their communications.
Ghana’s richest consumers are no better catered for than their middle-class counterparts. The country’s growing number of super-wealthy – those responsible for a glut of luxury cars on Ghana’s roads – tend to buy imported goods, or are forced to travel to Dubai or Europe to shop. Savvy luxury brands prepared to make a targeted investment in Accra will find a ready market waiting.
Accra: Ghana’s buzzing and dynamic capital city
However, whilst catering for local tastes is crucial, brands should be bold about bringing new products to market in Ghana. Whilst undoubtedly a conservative country, Ghanaians are open to embracing something different: just ask the instant noodle manufacturers, who have recently wrestled a sizable share of the food market from Ghana’s traditional dishes, rice and fufu.
Evidence for Africa as the next frontier for global business is mounting relentlessly. Six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies between 2001 and 2010 were African, and foreign direct investment has grown by 50% since 2005. Ghana provides the perfect starting point for brands looking to share in this growth, requiring only a little homework by companies in order for them to benefit from its stable business environment and exceptional prospects.
Those that do will find there’s a reason why Ghana is known as ‘The Gateway to Africa’.