Building quality African brands is key to the continent’s growth


Establishing effective trade between Africa and the UK is absolutely essential. With Britain’s future in the EU on a knife edge, looking south towards the African continent for new or old trading partners may appear to be an apt strategy, especially given the majority of Africa’s agricultural exports to the UK are directed through the EU. However, Africa needs to present itself on a more united economic front for this to have more puissance. Various regional economic communities need to be more integrated to create a system that ensures trade policies are effective, balanced, and ethical. These strategies will create better trust in countries seeking to establish trade, promote internally-led infrastructural decisions and may even minimise issues such as corruption.

According to the Telegraph, 60% of the world’s unused cropland is based in Africa. Raw exports and agriculture have the potential to boost Africa’s economy when relevant infrastructural policies are in place. Examples of promise are evident from the development of Ethiopia and Mali’s transport networks which have smoothed the road to securing major agricultural contracts with markets in the EU. Nevertheless, adding value to raw exports by selling a finished product provides more value to the economy, and fosters new collaborations and jobs whilst fundamentally promoting global citizenry.

Exporting more wood is great, but exporting locally-designed and crafted furniture provides a connection between the consumer and the artisan.

Since artisans are the guardians and proponents of culture, adding value to a raw product in this instance not only promotes African trade but also promotes African culture.

With the UK’s population being more diverse than ever and with the current fierce debate on cultural appropriation; promoting African trade is the obvious route to take. Empowering Africans to take ownership of their talent and culture through trade is the best route to enjoy African culture without the ethical guilt.

African products have long been absent from Western markets because African countries tend to rely heavily on raw exports. Initiatives like the GUBA Greenwich Trade Expo 2016 aim to bring about a major shift in events. Success stories off the back of GUBA Expo 2014 include Black Secret, a make-up brand who have since registered and started trading in the UK. Selina Beb, a handbag designer, was able to obtain great exposure from being covered by the BBC. Whilst these initiatives provide a lot of promise, there is still a greater need for engagement.

African products face fierce competition from China, however a key marketing strategy has the strength to overcome this – brand loyalty. Marketing campaigns that actively seek to engage with communities are more likely to be rewarded with increased sales. MTN’s involvement with the music industry in Africa and Tigo’s Shelter 4 Education campaign are testament to the power of brand loyalty.

The perception of local African brands being inferior than others can be overcome through effective branding and marketing strategies.

Social media has also played its part, with ‘Insta-models’ and natural beauty gurus making product recommendations that greatly boost income for traditional trades such as shea butter making.

The African brands I am genuinely most excited to see come to the UK are Kantanka Motors and Bamboo Bikes. Both companies have addressed issues that have a global impact: energy and sustainable technology. Kantanka Motors has developed a line of electric cars that promises to ease the world’s reliance on oil for transport whilst Bamboo Bikes has blended plant-based technology with fashion and fitness. With the world’s largest polluters committing to reducing atmospheric CO2 levels following #COP21, these brands are offering innovative ways of achieving such milestones.

In five years’ time I believe several brands have the potential to dominate the food market, but in particular, Kenya House has shown great promise. It is a rising star in the culinary industry and has become the forefront of authentic Kenyan coffee in the UK