Welcome Home – Developing Propositions In Expanding Market Space In Africa
During the swearing-in ceremony to the first term of government, the deputy president, Hon, William Ruto made a comment on the tourism market. He said “… the tourist product we have in Kenya, is the best anywhere in the world. It is only in Kenya, out of all the nations of the world, that we have the cradle of mankind; right here in Turkana, where the earliest remains of man, have been discovered. Nations, people, whether they come from Asia, whether they come America, whether they come Europe, when they come to Kenya, because this is where we all began, we can go to the airport and tell them, welcome home; because this is where humanity began”.
At the time, this may have sounded a political nice-to make statement. A review of events and trends over the last years shows this could be one of Kenya’s greatest tag line. A line that would resonate both locally and at international markets. Kenyans are all familiar with the line “Karibu Nyumbani”, be it in the neighborhood, friends visiting each other and so forth. So, at a local level, this is a tagline that just rings bell across neighborhoods.
Why am I dwelling on this issue? As Africa opens, markets will need to develop unique propositions to ensure they are sufficiently differentiated even as the continent seeks a common front. Some of the driving factors towards opening the Africa markets include the launch of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative in early 2018; the easing of visa requirements by various governments; increased penetration of internet services, among others. The most recent is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). All these initiatives are helping to break the barriers that hindered travel, business, education and cultural exchanges across the continent.
During the recent World Government Summit in Dubai, Becky Anderson of CNN asked Maurice Lévy of Publicis Groupe on how to brand a new nation. According to Maurice, this could be complicated with absence of a national history. However, it could also be simpler due to limitless possibilities.
Hence, as African nations open their boundaries, visitors will be looking for unique experiences (can I add, positive one) as they explore the continent. The trajectory of the intra-Africa travel will only be determined once the people start providing feedback. The diversity is wide for a one-fits all approach.
However, on the flip side is the tendency for countries to exploit the known and tried approaches. For instance, a quick look at various national tourism boards shows, tourism marketing initiatives show some common elements. For instance, the collage below shows screenshots from different countries in Africa. Seems one can interchange the names, and will still pass.
Wildlife is a common theme – implying Safari can soon be a common offer, no longer a competitive advantage. Destinations such as Cameroon and even Sudan can place a Safari advert just as player like Kenya or Tanzania would.
Other Africa countries have also taken their communication to international broadcasters, competing for that share of voice with other global destinations. ‘Open to everyone’ comes the line from Equatorial Guinea just before a ‘Malaysia truly Asia’ ad on CNN.
As the countries within the continent open to the new possibilities, the pie will expand, but will also become more competitive. Technology is making it easier and faster to reach both the local and global audience. In other words, local brands and offering will face greater scrutiny, but at the same time have new markets.
It is time therefore to develop unique propositions. The above example on wildlife offering just highlights that need. This will run across other sectors / categories. As we look out for larger intra-Africa markets, lets also consider the competitive aspects that will emerge.
Kenya has the unique offer – the welcome home (karibu nyumbani) would be something to run with. It has a historical element, has a hospitable view, practical at both local and international levels, and is believable. With a proper execution, it is a line one can paint on the runway to welcome global visitors, just as same as neighbors in a local village would welcome each other over a cup of tea. The emerging Africa market space will indeed require a global approach.