AFRICA, EAST AND WEST: PARADIGMS, PARALLELS AND PERSPECTIVES
Cadbury Nigeria 2005 Award for Excellence Lecture (excerpts) by
Lampe Omoyele, Marketing Director, Cadbury East and Central Africa.
Global World, Local Realities
One year has passed by since I left Nigeria, the hub of West Africa, for that of East Africa, Kenya.
It would not be out of context therefore, to open this gathering with the Kenyan expression for ‘Hello’, and so I greet you all: Jambo!
This happens to be the title of the song that was played as we settled down for this event. It is in the nature of the global world in which we live that a number of us are familiar with the song. It is for similar reason that one of the most popular songs in Kenya today is ‘My African Queen’ by the Nigerian Innocent Tu-Face Idibia.
The Jambo song is a greeting that contains words in Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya that I often heard in my first few days in Nairobi, the capital city.
Habari? How are you?
Mzuri Sana: very fine.
Hakuna Matata: no worries.
One popular word that is not in the lyrics is Karibu: ‘Welcome’; I would like to say Karibuni, welcome all, and say that I consider it a privilege and honour to present the 2005 Award for Excellence lecture, which happens to be the 10th in the series, in the 40th Anniversary year of our Company.
Africa, East versus West.
What key paradigms and parallels exist in Customs, Community, Consumers, Customers, Competition and Corporate life?
What perspectives can we glean from the paradigms and parallels?
As we begin this discourse, I would like to offer the geographic context that the topic covers. ‘East’ connotes the geographic area of responsibility of Cadbury East and Central Africa, which, perhaps more appropriately, should be Cadbury East and Southern Africa in view of the countries covered. However, we shall leave that to cartographers.
A significant portion of this paper shall take context from Kenya where Cadbury East and Central Africa operates from and covers 17 countries stretching from Eritrea and Ethiopia in the North, through the core East African nations of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, down to Mozambique and Angola in the South, and further East to the exotic Indian Ocean Islands of Mauritius and Madagascar.
These 17 countries have a population of over 300 million. Their numbers are slightly more than the 250 million people of the 17 countries in West Africa.
The countries of East and Central Africa cover a wider land mass and thus have a lower population density.
Whereas there are two dominant official languages in West Africa namely, English and French, there are four in East and Central Africa: Kiswahili, English, Portuguese and French.
The East and Central African Community is a collage of races: Negroid, European, Asian, and Arab. This is especially so of Kenya. Indeed, the national motto of Kenya, ‘Harambee’ which means ‘pulling together’ has Indian origin. Colonial and settler history and tourists provides the context for this collage of races.
The presence of the headquarters of two United Nations agencies, UNEP and UN-Habitat, adds further colour to this rainbow.(I estimate that on the streets of Nairobi, every 1 car in 15 has diplomatic license) Nevertheless, in the language difference between East and West lies a parallel. A bridge between West and East. A bridge called the Bantu.
The Bantu: Common Heritage
The Bantu, for students of history, refers to about 400 different ethnic groups in Africa.
The Bantu have origins around the Benue-Cross rivers area in South-Eastern Nigeria. The “coverage area” of the Bantu, to use the language of GSM, spreads down through East Africa to Southern Africa. Linguists tell us that the Bantu are united by a common language family that belongs to the Niger-Congo group, the Bantu languages, spoken in most of the countries of ECA.
Examples of Bantu languages are Kiswahili, Luganda (spoken mainly in Uganda), Shona, Ndebele, Zulu and Swazi (spoken in Southern Africa) and Ngumba (spoken in Cameroun).
We should not be surprised if Yoruba and Igbo are added to this list in view of some parallels; for example, the Swahili word for ‘sorry’ is ‘pole’, not very dissimilar from ‘pele’; and the Swahili word for elder or chief is ‘Mzee’, which is also not very dissimilar to the Igbo word ‘Eze’.
Bantu words in popular culture include music forms/instruments such as Samba, Banjo, Rumba, Bongos and Conga. There is the word Zombie, popularized in Nigeria by the inimitable Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (who, by the way, is popular in Kenya); there is also the word Jumbo, a slightly garbled version of the word ‘Jambo’, which today is synonymous with ‘large’ or ‘huge’ taking origin from the original owner of the name, an African Elephant that lived between 1861 and 1885.
The Power of Language
If the foregoing sounds like an echo from the Tower of Babel, it highlights the power of language. Because Kiswahili is the national language of Kenya, the general assumption is that the next dark-skinned person speaks it. I, therefore, have had to learn basic conversational words quickly.
For example, when I go and buy fuel and the attendant begins a conversation in Kiswahili, rather than confess that my Kiswahili is poor, or more accurately, close to non-existent, I use body language to interpret what he is saying. I seem to be doing well thus far, as I have not yet bought diesel in my petrol-run car!
In Genesis chapter 11 of the Bible, the Almighty highlights the power that speaking the same language gives people to achieve the seemingly impossible. We can interpret this both literally and figuratively. Language creates emotional connection. If ‘information is power’, language is the conduit of that power. How are we using the power of language to connect with our consumers to build our brands? Are we tapping into the power of language, as people working in a global company? Beyond English and our indigenous language, which other language(s) can we speak?
Customs and Community
According to Nigeria High Commission, Kenya sources, there are about 1000 Nigerians legitimately resident in Kenya; a similar number pass through the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi every week on Kenya Airways flights to Dubai.
Many of the Nigerians resident in Kenya work with United Nations Organisations and other International Non-Governmental Organisations, whilst others run diverse businesses.
I am the only non-Kenyan in Cadbury East and Central Africa’s Nairobi office and the only Nigerian in the entire Company.
The reputation of Nigeria and Nigerians is a key challenge for our citizens working internationally. Strong negative perceptions about our country have developed in East Africa, as it is in other parts of the globe, and Nigerians are seen as loud, abrasive and dubious.
Even so, there is grudging respect, even admiration, for the achievements of our country internationally and for the brilliance and fashion sense of our people. One of the most respected retired magistrates in Kenya is a Nigerian; Tuface Idibia is the musician of record today as was Femi Kuti in recent years; and the agbada, iro and gele are seen as trendy.
My recommendation for the Nigerian working internationally is to be and do the opposite of the stereotype! This entails being confident but not confrontational; being assertive, not abrasive; being scrupulous, not dubious.
There is the story of the Kenyan wife who resisted her husband’s plea for a fourth child on the basis that she had heard that one in every four Africans is a Nigerian!
On my first visit to Mozambique, the immigration officer went into panic when she realized I was a Nigerian and sought permission to let me into the country despite the fact that I already had a visa.
A Nigerian travelling to East Africa needs to know that the custom of the East is more informal than in the West, especially comparing Kenya and Nigeria. A 15 year-old calls a 45 year-old by first name.
I had a bit of a culture shock when a brand manager candidate literally breezed into the interview room, said ‘Hi’ with his arm stretched out for a handshake and sat down without being asked to do so.
I am also trying to get accustomed to the Portuguese-influenced Mozambique culture that requires women to be greeted with a kiss on both cheeks, whether you are familiar with them or not.
Ugandan climate and custom bears similarities with South-west Nigeria, except that I am not sure that they share the Ugandan culinary delicacy of fried grasshoppers that you can buy by the roadside.
Tanzanian politeness is legendary; a police officer arrests you with pleas and apologies!
Talking about police men and arrests, I was arrested for five minutes in Kenya within my first week for what I assume was changing lanes abruptly when I realised that I had headed for a wrong direction. I thought in my mind that is standard fare in Lagos! This reflects the higher sense of respect for law and order that exists in Kenya.
The other dimension of this experience is the difference between East and West in motoring. In East Africa, the steering of cars is on the right and people drive cars on the left, the opposite of West Africa. Therein, more than language lay my most pressing challenge in my first few days in East Africa. Like most people, I am sure, in this hall, I had driven left-hand steering cars on the right side of the road most of my life.
Before leaving West Africa, I had been advised not to drive for a month as it could take that long to adjust to driving on what, for me, would be the wrong side of the road. However, as Kenya is very much a do-it-yourself country, a place where one is generally left to take care of personal matters personally, I was left on my own to drive myself within the first four days (this happened without notice as the person assigned to pick me up, just didn’t turn up).
I also had the added task of finding my way around. I am sure a few swear words came my way initially (thankfully, I did not understand them!). And I confess to missing my way a few times.
The Challenge of Change
Challenges catalyse change, and change can be a challenge. I have been driving well since the initial tottering days on the roads of Kenya and I would like to use my new driving experience as a metaphor of change.
It is trite to say that whether we like it or not, change happens, or to borrow from Dr. Spencer Johnson’s seminal parable,the cheese keeps moving. The challenge of change is how we deal with it, or in other words, how we move with the cheese. I seefour main choices: We can choose to take Flight. We can choose to Fight. We can choose to Follow. Or we can choose to Fan the embers of change. The basic assumption of course is that the change is positive.
The Flight or Fight response to change comes from Fright; people are generally afraid of change.
I was initially fearful of the new driving experience: would I be able to change gears with my left hand? Would I understand the different driving rules and habits? And at the same time find my way around? Would I be safe and not get lost? I had to conquer my fear. I did.To do otherwise by taking flight or fighting would have left me with the option of commuting by Matatu, the Kenyan equivalent of our Danfo mini-bus.
This is a time of change. I suggest that the Flight or Fight response would be negative. Whether each of us thrives or merely survives change is dependent on our level of anticipation and preparedness.
We could survive if we choose the third possible response to change i.e. merely follow the change. Whilst this is a more positive choice than the Flight and Fight choices, it is also reactive.
We would thrive more if we are proactive and Fan the embers of change. The fact that I had anticipated the change and prepared for it helped secure my victory over fear of the new driving experience.
I visualized myself driving safely. I had a roadmap with me to help find my way.
When I lost my way, I sought direction from those who knew.
Echoing Mahatma Ghandi’s popular quote,Be the change you want to see.
The traffic rules and habits in Kenya were not going to change because another Nigerian had arrived Nairobi. I was the one to change.
The more I drove, the more confident I grew with each passing day. If we desire to grow, we must be prepared to change, and exit our comfort zones. Using a driving symbol (or more appropriately, a non-driving symbol), a parking meter reminds us that we lose money standing still.
I now enjoy driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road in Kenya. So can each of us enjoy the rollercoaster ride of change.
The Strength of Self-Motivation
Another difference between Africa, East and West is that the work ethic and lifestyle in East Africa is less adrenalin and testosterone-driven than in West Africa, especially Nigeria. This probably inspired the Hakuna Matata ‘no worries, carefree’ philosophy espoused by Timon and Pumbaa to the young Simba in the animated Disney film, The Lion King.
We could therefore ask the question, how do you stay motivated in changing or seemingly unpleasant conditions?
I subscribe to the belief that what matters is not what happens to you, but how you respond to what happens to you. Experience is not just what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.
I would like to share seven steps, some adapted from the work of Dr. John C. Maxwell, to help us stay motivated and continually raise the bar of performance. The underlying principle of the steps is that the best form of motivation is self-motivation. I followed similar steps two years ago when I moved to head the Cadbury Nigeria confectionery marketing team, and try to do the same now:
First,establish Compelling Purpose.In other words,set goals.
Goal-setting is important. Goals give you ‘Go’. The author Paul Myer has commented, ‘No one ever accomplishes anything of consequence without a goal….Goal setting is the strongest human force for self-motivation’.
Second, Chart Path. Noting that people hardly achieve success accidentally, have a road-map or plan to achieve the goals. As Henry David Thoreau has said, you can only hit what you aim at.
Third, have Cheering Partners.
Fourth, have Creative Passion.To borrow from Nike, even when you do not feel like it, strive to Just do it. Feelings are not necessarily facts, but they can catch up to the facts in time. Self-discipline is crucial. It’s about winning the inner game.
Fifth, developCourageous Persistence,guiding philosophy being that although one tree may not make a forest, one tree can start a forest.
Sixth, have Clear Perspective.Stay focused and keep faith with the compelling purpose regardless of the challenges.
Seventh, Continual Prayer, recognizing that without the grace of the Almighty we can achieve nothing.
Consumers, Customers and 4As
Achieving a step-change in commercial performance requires a deep understanding of the Consumer, she who buys and he who uses; understanding the Customer across trade channels, from distributor, through wholesaler, down to the retailer; and understanding Competition.
Similar motivations drive the consumer in East Africa as in West Africa: affordability, value-for-money, convenience, and self-esteem. The degree of these motivations may vary, but they are common to both corners of the globe.
Although the Kenyan Shilling is twice stronger than the Nigerian Naira on a foreign exchange basis, I find the cost of living in Kenya to be higher than in Nigeria; like the typical Nigerian, I do mental forex calculations when I purchase goods or services.
My heart palpitated when I went for my first hair-cut and was told it was 200Ksh, the equivalent of cN400, 8 times more than it cost me in Nigeria. Petrol in Kenya costs about N140 per Litre.
Affordability is therefore a key determinant of choice for the East African consumer. A middle-class Kenyan would travel one kilometre through traffic to buy fuel at a petrol station selling cheaper by 2 Kenyan shillings per litre (about =N=4).
Price promotions are very popular. Unilever’s Blue Band margarine for example is running a year-long promotion to celebrate its 50 years in Kenya with a 3ksh price-off promotion.
Nestle has recently launched a Drinking Chocolate to challenge the market leader Cadbury Drinking Chocolate at a 3Ksh cheaper price point.
There is an array of sugar confectionery that sells for as low as 50 Kenyan cents (about N1.00).
Like West Africa, 70% of the population in East Africa earn less than a dollar a day ; I would postulate that the poverty level in Kenya is worse due to the higher degree of wealth in the informal economy in Nigeria.
Price mapping is thus an important element of marketing strategy in order to address critical consumer price points, especially at the bottom of the consumer pyramid. We have to hit critical price points for our brands as this could be a determinant of choice at the Point-of-Buying.
Appropriate offers are critical to winning with our consumers; intertwined with affordability is the packaging strategy.
The small pack segment with low unit prices in Kenya is growing across product categories, as it is in Nigeria.
A typical shopping list for an increasingly large number of Kenyans comprises of 5g Royco cubes(2Kshs), Powerboy washing powder(3Ksh), 50g Mallo cooking fat(10Ksh), 100g Blue Band(10Ksh), Fair and Lovely lotion(10Ksh), 50g unbranded sugar(5ksh), 200mg Angelwells Orange juice(10Ksh), pint-sized salt and tea leaves(2ksh), 250g unbranded maize meal(20Ksh).
So for less than 100Ksh, a consumer has the ingredients for breakfast and supper, clean clothes and a face massaged with a trend cosmetic from an international brand name.
East African Breweries, owned by the Diageo Company, introduced beer and spirits in low-priced sachets ostensibly on a corporate social responsibility platform to reduce the intake of the local brew called Kumi Kumi, which is essentially pure ethanol. Kumi Kumi has resulted in the death of hundreds of low-income consumers. The East African Breweries sachets did so well that the Government banned alcohol in sachet for promoting excess consumption of alcohol. Now EABL sells a brand of beer called Senator in 500ml kegs at the price of 20ksh (about N40).
Cadbury in Kenya is about to introduce a 5Ksh (about N10) food drink sachet.
Availability is another key ingredient to winning commercial performance. The Kenyan market is a mix of structured hypermarkets and shopping malls, wholesalers, smaller supermarkets, kiosks and hawkers. It is more top-end than Nigeria, with two dominant retail chains – Uchumi, which is quoted on the Stock exchange and Nakumatt, an Asian-Kenyan family business.
The wholesale trade is dominated by Asian-Kenyans, who do little distribution.
There is a huge opportunity to improve availability at the bottom end of the market, and we have a bicycle team that, together with the core Sales team, currently covers 24,000 retail shops, representing 31% of the retail universe in the country.
The top-end nature of the market creates intense competition for shelf-space, and we should expect this to start soon in Nigeria with the opening of the South African retail chains Shoprite and Game in Lagos.
What is done at the Point-of-buying to stimulate consumer preference and choice would be critical.
From a personal consumer perspective, shopping in these organised outlets can be a pleasant experience.
Creating Awareness for our brands is an important plank of commercial strategy. We use the traditional media of TV, radio, billboards, and press. Advertising is one of Kenya’s fastest growing economic activities; it is worth cKsh7 billion (N14billion) . The top advertisers are found in the telecommunications, food and beverage and population services (read: condoms!) sectors.
There are eight TV stations, 25 radio stations and two dominant national newspapers, so the media is not as fragmented as it is in Nigeria.
However, on per capita basis, it is more expensive to buy media in Kenya: A 30 second radio advert on a national radio station costs almost 200% more than in Nigeria. A full page colour advert in a national newspaper is almost 1000% more expensive, whilst TV advertising is about 400% higher. Media buying is therefore challenging and requires creativity.
In applying the 4As, we clearly need an outside-in approach as opposed to an inside-out approach; in other words, application of the 4Asshould be in the context of the Consumer, Customer and Competition.
Brands and Competition
Competition amongst brands and businesses is not as intense in East and Central Africa compared to West Africa, though in the course of 2005 the level has increased with new product launches and brand re-launches. Analysts and government officials in Kenya see these as signs of economic growth.
Using Kenya as case study, in key categories, there is a dominant player. These brands define the consumer’s day. Brands such as Colgate, Coca Cola, Toyota, Nescafe, Nokia, Ribena, Wrigley and Tusker lager beer.
In closure, I would like to say in the key languages of East and Central Africa: Muito Obrigado, Merci, Asante; and in the major indigenous languages of Nigeria: Ese, Nagode, and Dalu.
I thank you for your very kind attention.
November 16, 2005
“A 30 second radio advert on a national radio station costs almost 200% more than in Nigeria. A full page colour advert in a national newspaper is almost 1000% more expensive, whilst TV advertising is about 400% higher.”
Almost a decade and half ago. One imagines that the media buying scenario in Kenya should be improved by now. And thanks for the lessons in linguistics. (Smile).
:). Jambo! :). Thanks for visiting. .