By Elyse Estrada, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Aleph Group, Inc.
The dream of every entrepreneur is to have a global customer base. After all, nothing shows you’ve made it like people all around the world buying your products or digital services. Until recently, getting to that point was reserved for a select few who manage to expand outward after saturating their home markets.
Today, thanks to ecommerce and digital marketing in particular, even entrepreneurs in niche fields can build a global customer base. Whether they’re building an online fashion empire or selling handcrafted designer decor, an entrepreneur in Accra or Lagos can compete on a global scale with their counterparts in Paris or New York.
To ensure that they have the best chance of doing so, however, it’s critical that they market themselves on the most relevant online platforms with the highest reach of potential consumers.
The growth potential of emerging markets
This growth opportunity is especially true for entrepreneurs targeting emerging markets with rapidly growing online populations. Nigeria, for example, is set to add 35 million new internet users by 2026, according to Statista. In Ghana, meanwhile, World Bank figures indicate that 58% of the population is online, with the number of internet users having grown more than six percent between 2020 and 2021.
Not only does this opportunity for growth exist from industry momentum, it also exists from demographic dynamics. Both of these markets have incredibly young populations. In Ghana, the median age is 21 and in Nigeria, it’s a shade over 18. As populations in the rest of the world age out, it’s to these often underserved markets that businesses around the world will look to for growth.
This young population is increasingly becoming tech-savvy and connected. They want and expect the same kinds of consumer experiences they see their counterparts in other parts of the globe having. This means that with the right messages on the right platforms, businesses can reach these consumers and make sales, no matter where they might be based.
But these young people are also looking to develop their digital skills so they can seek careers in the high-growth industries that promise economic advancement. In Nigeria, for example, the Digital Development Program Trust Fund estimates that 35% to 45% of jobs will require some level of digital skill.
These same young people are also entrepreneurial and have a growing pool of successful entrepreneurs from across the region and continents to draw inspiration from. Outside of the tech unicorns like Flutterwave, Jumia, and Wave there are local entrepreneurs in fields as diverse as fashion, healthcare, and decor who have proven that with more equal access to the digital marketing ecosystem, it’s possible to expand regionally and internationally, ultimately building businesses that thrive at a bigger scale and enrich the rest of the world through their products and services.
Building the right skills through access to digital media education
In order for that to happen at scale, they also need the requisite skills to market themselves online in whatever markets they want to reach. At the very least, those entrepreneurs should have easy access to people with those skills.
It’s important to note here, that these aren’t just fundamental digital marketing skills, but ones that relate to the specifics of marketing on the world’s leading digital advertising platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat, and Spotify where people across the globe spend most of their time online. With the right types of messages, these platforms are the most effective places to reach new customers across a broad range of markets.
This is something that we’re passionate about at Aleph Group and is the reason we launched our Digital Ad Expert programme, which aims to educate, certify and connect thousands of Africans with the digital skills needed to succeed in a rapidly digitising economy. While it’s entirely possible that someone with the right degree of determination and curiosity could develop those skills on their own, it’s critical that more and more resources are accessible to build them up at scale.
This is crucial to ensuring that markets such as Ghana and Nigeria aren’t just growth targets for international companies, but incubators for a new generation of entrepreneurs capable of competing on a global level themselves.
Turning small businesses into international players
Fortunately, there is a strong base of small businesses across the region with untapped potential. With the requisite skills, those businesses will be ready to take the next step and globalise their customer base.
In Nigeria, for example, SMEs contribute 48% of national GDP, account for 96% of businesses and 84% of employment. And in Ghana, it’s estimated that more than 90% of the country’s businesses are SMEs, employing 60% of the labour force and accounting for 70% of the country’s GDP. If even just a small fraction of those SMEs are able to build international customer bases they’ll unlock and drive economic growth in these growing countries, bringing momentum for the next wave of entrepreneurs.
Thanks to currently available digital marketing tools and increasing access to digital marketing skills, that’s entirely achievable too.