Africa may be victim of its own economic growth
Mar 19th 2012, 14:10
Sayer is CEO of Continental Outdoor, president of FEPE International (a global association of outdoor advertisers) and trustee of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA).
Analysts predict that Africa’s population growth – which is set to reach the two-billion mark in less than 30 years – will coincide with robust economic growth and a rising middle class. The emergence of a strong consumer base is of course, brilliant news for advertisers, but at a closer look, is it?
Firstly, there is little doubt that economic opportunities abound in Africa. Continental Outdoor Media has and will continue to invest on the continent through its branches in Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Tanzania, Mauritius, Namibia, Uganda, Botswana, Malawi and Madagascar, with fledgling plans for further expansion.
But the disconnect between the governments and outdoor advertising companies proves to be the greatest barrier to leveraging the opportunities present by a burgeoning consumer base and a truly thriving outdoor advertising environment. It is not an uncommon site to drive past many of the billboards we have erected only to see huge red crosses emblazoned over the faces. Even though we have adhered to strict social and environmental codes and paid advertising rights, somehow we get tarred with the same brush as the many illegally-erected billboards that clutter mushrooming urban areas. The issue is the lack of regulatory enforcement: by-laws, correct zoning and the rooting out of corruption.
While African governments can shoulder some of the responsibility for a seemingly out of control advertising environment, I would argue that outdoor advertisers hold the key to creating an ideal business setting. Outdoor advertising associations, comprising (ideally) each and every outdoor advertising company operating in that country would result in a self-regulated industry collectively advocating for its long-term sustainability and buoyancy. An agreed upon code of practice and constitution would entrust the outdoor advertising industry to the respective government, environmental lobbyists and communities. Continental Outdoor Media, in its efforts to establish outdoor advertising associations across the continent, is well aware of the hard work involved, but has committed to make fast headway in creating a recognisable African outdoor advertising industry.
There is much riding on the continent’s yet-to-be-formed outdoor advertising associations. A rigorous outdoor advertising industry results in truly taking advantage of what Africa has to offer. It is well known that Africa’s population has embraced technology – particularly telecommunications - with vigour. There are more cellular phone subscriptions than there are people – and analysts expect that by 2015, 800-million will own a cellphone.
Continental Outdoor Media is particularly excited about the prospects in Mozambique, which has had significant investment in its mining, telecoms and banking sectors, Moreover, this once-profoundly poor country, thrived during the recession, showing a 7.2% GDP growth last year. We are also looking into Nigeria – which is the globe’s tenth-largest mobile market. Socio-economic prosperity has never looked brighter. On a broader scale, much of Africa’s agricultural potential is dormant and with the development of agribusiness, comes the development of infrastructure. Continental Outdoor Media is also excited about the rapid progression of the financial services sector, and in particular, retail banking. Our research indicates that much new growth will come from this expansion, and will according to Standard Bank economist Simon Freemantle “establish a formal identity of millions of market participants.”
Again, these opportunities must be viewed with a willingness to ‘do business correctly’: self-regulation and a united business front. Continental Outdoor Media sticks with Rudyard Kipling’s philosophy: “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” Click here for more information on Continental Outdoor Media
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