African markets have far more technological sophistication and much higher expectations than most observers give them credit for. Research done by McKinsey Quarterly in October 2012 shows that African consumers are optimistic about the future, demand quality from their goods and services and are actively using social media.
McKinsey Quarterly interviewed over 13 000 African consumers in 10 major African cities. Its findings revealed three main insights that will affect companies in the coming decades.

Firstly, Africans are extremely optimistic about their future: 84% of respondents say that they will be better off in two years.

Secondly, African consumers are more tech savvy than previously thought. Over 50% of respondents had accessed in the Internet in four weeks preceding the survey. This is on a par with Brazil and China. And finally, African consumers are brand conscious and equate cheap goods with a lack of quality.

Altech ISIS GM, Anton van Heerden, says that changing customer expectations mean a changing approach to addressing customer experience management.

“Modern customers want to actively participate in the relationship that they have and the service that they receive. They are also demanding a quality experience that surpasses previous expectations. This is nothing new in a developed market – but it is something that needs to be properly considered in the African context.”

He also says that the consumer market is being impacted by the arrival of the millennial generation as a purchasing force.

“Africa is set to account for 40% of the world’s population growth rate by 2040. Millennials are different from previous generations as they will be the single biggest generation that mankind has ever seen and they are, with very little exception, technically savvy and perceptive – and Africa is no exception to this trend.

“In a world where they have been constantly bombarded with information they have shorter attention spans and are therefore not as loyal as previous generations. For millennial African consumers, it’s not just about interacting with a brand in a way that they are comfortable with.

“It’s more than that. It’s allowing them to feel a part of the process and they are helping shape and build the customer. It is not a one way discussion, it is a collaborative effort.”

Van Heerden says McKinsey’s report implies several things about the future of Internet traffic across the continent.

“Internet usage in Africa is being driven by access to Internet enabled mobile devices and social media is the prime driver of traffic. Social media on the mobile will be the portal for other Internet services such as online shopping,” he concludes.