Tapping East Africa’s digital economy

March 18, 2016

Since the admission of South Sudan as a state member of the East African Community, technology industry in the region is excited with the increased prospects now that there are more than 150 million citizens in Africa’s most successful economic bloc. In the days gone, technology was the multiplier that gave corporate firms that potential edge when it came to businesses. However, according to research in my possession,that edge came at a steep price that few firms could afford.Fortunately, to the Internet and major developments in mobile technology and personal devices, businesses in East African countries are unilaterally exposed to more or less the same levels of opportunities. What’s even more significant is that much of it is cross-border, so the EAC market size is enormous and of an unprecedented scale.With technology shifting from a highly capital expenditure to operational expenditure base, regional businesses are now able to deploy their products on solutions never before accessible.What this mean for the traditional brick and mortar businesses is that those who fail to streamline processes and focus closely on their marketing efforts run a high risk of becoming irrelevant to the modern digital consumers in the region. We all know that marketing is a very strong tool, and coupled with the Internet, brings in a whole new ballgame to business. The ability to reach that wider audience has indeed been enhanced, but the principals of digital marketing has also morphed to such an extent that old methodologies no longer hold water.

To get a sense of the pulse of the East African consumer today, it is vital for corporates to know exactly how effective their digital marketing campaigns are running. Aside from that, business must have strategic knowledge if their overall strategy runs parallel with their actual marketing activities.In a familiar case that I have handled in the past within the East African region, one of the most critical tools in digital consumer marketing today is Cell Broadcast Services also known as Location Based Services.The tool challenges businesses to reach out to the right customers at the right time, right place and the right moment. That moment reaches a critical point when there is strong reception to a particular product or service.Nowadays everything is geared towards analytics and allowing smart digital marketing platforms to businesses. What East African companies need to really do is to prove the real value of their marketing and analysis. If there’s a problem with that, they’re probably doing something wrong.Unfortunately, exactly because of their size, some enterprises have found themselves paralysed or sluggish due to their own complexity of digital ecosystems and platforms. They find themselves in a complex situation, unable to evolve rapidly enough to keep up and react to the fast changing digital environment.This is where digital marketing companies come in to help companies rapidly scale up their digital initiatives and fine tune their marketing strategies.

Such companies have the experience and skills necessary in order to combine the best ingredients to really make your marketing palatable.It could be a combination of SEO, content, paid adverting, social media efforts, traffic conversion strategies to mention but a few.Each of them has become a vital part of the mix to help attract, convert, close, and retain customers.What companies should look for is a team made up of experts in a variety of relevant fields, ranging from data experts to strategic visionaries. And since the Internet has made business borderless, they should bring with them the necessary expertise to run globally competitive digital marketing campaigns.And what companies should demand when employing such services is results. Build in Key Performance Indicators to gauge the success of campaigns, and avoid relying on guess work and estimates.Companies should also learn up the various digital marketing tools available to them. More than anything else, East African businesses need to appreciate that successful, high performance campaigns are built on the foundation of a strong digital strategy.Such strategies, in turn, should be aligned to the overall business objective that ultimately deliver return on investments and shareholder value.

Contador Harrison