Africa’s New Generation of Innovators

In Africa’s New Generation of Innovators from the January 2017 issue of The Harvard Business Review, the authors discuss the yet unfulfilled promise of breakaway growth in Africa. They note the retrenchment of some multinational corporations from the African continent citing corruption, lack of infrastructure, and skill shortages as to blame. The authors cite the distinction between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ investment, noting that in emerging markets innovators who develop products that consumers want to pull into their lives are successful. They cite the Taloram Company in Nigeria which controls 92% of inputs including 13 manufacturing plants, and 1000 vehicles while making $1 billion dollars in revenue annually and returning $100 million in taxes to the Nigerian government selling 4.5 billion packages of noodles for twenty cents apiece. The recipe to success described comes not from targeting the small and stagnant middle class in Africa, but by creating markets and focusing on self-reliance in defiance of gaps in infrastructure.  The authors describe the need to look for ‘nonconsumption:’ the need that is there but is not being met. They identify emotional markers such as frustration in response to unmet needs, consumers creating work-arounds, consumers bending laws, and identifying abundant or slack resources as key signals of an existing opportunity. Finally, the authors note that no formal program exists for identifying these opportunities, which is an opportunity in and of itself.  

Check out the article.