Global enterprises have their sights set on Africa. The facts are clear: Africa is the next frontier for worldwide commercial growth. It’s a trillion-dollar market. Ten of the world’s 15 fastest-growing economies are in Africa.
And that growth will happen online: 350 million people are active online today—a figure that is growing daily as more and more people get internet access through smartphones.
The big dogs are already chasing Africa: Facebook, Microsoft, and Google are all investing in the continent’s infrastructure to help people take advantage of the internet and thus, connect more with their products (data centers and connectivity initiatives, digital skills training, and the like). They are globalizing their content for Africa’s so-called 'long-tail languages’. And so should you.
But if you are like many businesses, you are struggling to figure out how to enter African markets. Guesswork is a dangerous way to run a business.
There are lots of tricky hurdles. Here are just a few ways in which a Globalization Services Provider (GSP) can help.
Choosing which country to target
There are many factors at play when you decide whether to enter a new country. Market potential. Competition. Economic growth. Infrastructure (like connectivity). Economic, political, and legal systems. Globalization barriers like religion.
Market research is required—a LOT of it. A GSP will already know the success factors for entering each potential market, and will likely have experience with other global clients who have already paved the way. If they don’t intimately know the country you are looking at, they will have the in-country expertise required to find out.
On top of that, you just can’t enter all 53 African countries at once. (Not all have the same growth potential anyway.) A GSP can advise you on how to prioritize: choosing one or some over others, and leveraging learnings into next efforts.
If you want to go global, you have to go local, and to start, you must translate. As is true worldwide, African consumers are three times as likely to buy a product if the information is in their own language.
But Africa is a linguistic symphony: there are nearly 2,000 languages, 500 alone in Nigeria. Top languages include Amharic, Hausa, Swahili, and Afrikaans—but there are dozens of languages in use daily by millions of people in both business and in homes. And worse, there are many languages for one market, and many markets for one language.
Also, linguistics are especially complicated in Africa, where there are no clearly developed linguistic standards, there are lots of flavors of a language, and there is constant linguistic change.
Choosing languages depends on which country you’re considering, the target demographic, and a number of other in-country factors.
How do you sort all this out? Your GSP will have knowledge of the geo-linguistic landscape and be able to advise.
Creating a digital marketing strategy
Given the rise in internet connectivity and smartphone usage, communications will soon be all digital, all the time in Africa. Online marketing is the key to market entry, ongoing sales, and customer loyalty. A global digital marketing strategy includes social media, SEO, PPC, Conversion Rate Optimization—all of which differ from country to country.
What social media channels are used in each country by each target demographic? How do users in that region search—what are their online behaviors and what keywords do they use? These answers and the work around them will make sure your in-country marketing is as effective as it can be.
Building a translation approach (tiered content)
With potentially millions of words of product and support content, you can’t get it all translated at once. Budget and time restrictions always prevail. How do you maximize your budget and get as much content out there as you can? To start, it’s important to recognize that not all content is equal. Maybe all you need is the gist, or you just want to get materials published quickly in order to capture market share—this can be true for things like FAQs. Other assets need to be perfect, as in your homepage, taglines or slogans.
A GSP can help you prioritize your content and map the translation approach to the content type.
Building a resourcing model
It’s extremely tricky to source linguists, reviewers, and other globalization professionals in Africa. Challenges abound. To start, there is a shortage of qualified resources: these markets have very small numbers of professional linguists with bilingual competence and translation skills. A GSP will have the HR engine to look broadly for resources in places such as professional organizations and universities, navigate labor laws, and manage HR considerations once the professionals are onboarded. A GSP can also provide the tools and process training that linguists and other globalization resources need to do their work.
Managing multiple vendors
When you go global, vendors can include regional translation providers, marketing agencies, market research firms, digital media shops, and other specialist businesses that support the globalization process. Plus, think about time zone differences, language barriers, and technology issues that could impede your ability to effectively manage all these players. Consolidating all this work under one vendor experienced in African globalization will save time, money, and headache.
As Google says, the next billion consumers are in Africa. It’s a race to enter that market before your competitors. Yet it’s a complicated landscape with many things to sort out and consider. You’d be wise to carefully plan your expansion strategy, and a GSP can help.
Want more? Check out our thoughts here on the localization motivations and challenges in Africa.
And check out our Live Hangout on the challenges of entering Africa and India.