Posted by: beninmwangi | April 29, 2007

G. Kofi Annan on Advertisers Ignoring Africa.

A few minutes ago I came across a post on Kofi’s blog entitled, “African’s Aren’t Affluent Enough” this post challenged me personally to do more to help “update” public perceptions of Africa.

Here is an excerpt:

“…I was speaking to an acquaintance last week and she told me a story about trying to get advertisers for her magazine. She had contacted a large Africa-based corporation to see if they would be interested in taking up an ad in her publication. After getting the runaround, the ad agency, which was handling the ad placements for the corporation, told her, “We only place ads in publications with an affluent readership…”

I have to admit the first time I read this post, my initial reaction was anger at the company who chose to reject the magazine’s ad proposal. Incidentally, my gut feeling is that I may know the magazine that Kofi is talking about and if it is so, the magazine that Kofi mentions is very well put together. This makes the idea of a flat-handed rejection even more upsetting. However, after re-thinking it my feeling is simply that we bloggers, writers, journalists, business people, and etc. must do a better job at publicizing the facts about Africa. So, yes, while this story illustrates how close minded some companies can be; it also reinforces the necessity of appealing to specific needs of companies or people that we make presentations too (i.e. the what’s in it for me factor). If we are trying to pitch Africa and yet are unable to answer this question, then unfortunately the outcome might be the same as the one that Kofi describes.

If the magazine caters to a Diaspora based African audience, perhaps the facts that follow might be help illustrate that the magazine does cater to an affluent audience:

  • Foreign Direct Investment flows into the African continent are US$ 300b and 15 % of that or US$45b is the remittance from Africans abroad( in the Diaspora).
  • Over 30% of the Diaspora remitters are sending over $300.00 to to their respective countries in Africa each month.
  • Or perhaps mention of the education levels of African migrants living in the States or in Europe. Schaumberg Center for Research in Black Culture says of African immigrants in America:

    “…Besides their “migration experience,” the most significant characteristic of the African immigrants is that they are the most educated group in the nation…”

    At any rate, I think that this post by Annansi Chronicles is writing at it’s best and applaud Mr. Annan for telling the story of this publisher and prospective advertiser. My message to the publisher is if at first you don’t succeed try, try again! My advice would be to continue learning your market and honing your message so that it aptly communicates that you are the solution to your prospects problems.

    Anyhow, that’s my take on it, do you have any comments or suggestion-let us know!



    1. Mwangi,
      There’s no place for emotions when it comes to business. At least they did not get an outright no for an answer.

      If I were the publisher, I would gather data of the readership and try again. By padding their request with facts may be they can win over the company.

      Just like other publishers, they have to compete for a share of the marketing budget. Even the NY Times does not wait for advertisers to approach them. They have to fight for the dollars.

    2. Ssembonge:

      Thank’s for voicing your thoughts. However, I am puzzled:

      There’s no place for emotions when it comes to business.

      What caused you to say that? What did you think I was trying to say?

      It sounds like maybe I need to clarify. First, by no means am I saying that I am perfect or that the publisher is not good at selling. Everyone at sales will get rejections or get the even tougher to rebuttal “indefinite” response. Believe me I have had plenty. In sales, they say that every no gets you closer to a yes. So thats why I said if at first you don’t suceed try, try again.

      Futhermore I have found that customers, especially corporate customers or payers, don’t like a presentation that causes them to think too much. They need something that clearly spells out the benefits of saying yes. Additionally, sometimes a client likes to get a bit of competitive reinforcement to push them over the edge of indecisiveness, i.e. their competitor is already advertising with me and are already receiving “x, y, & z” benefits. Or “x” 100’s or 1000’s of advertisers can’t be wrong can they? Prior to credit, those types of arguments worked for me in buz 2 consumer and buz. 2 buz sales. But “the close” will not work without a strong “middle” or “body” to the presentation; which, as you and I have both pointed out contains the facts and figures.

      In addition to the facts and figures someimes a good body includes a “story” not as in a falsification but a connecting theme that becomes larger than life.

      Finally, emotions and business don’t go together only in theory. But when we make a sale to a company or convince a company to pay large sums of monies, are we ultimately convincing a machine or is there a human being on the other side of that presentation with fears, feelings, motivations and etc? I would say that in analyzing the sales process, although it is difficult for a recent buyer to admit it, the decision to buy is probably 75% to 95% based upon emotion. When I was actively selling, I utililized something given to me in a training- a powerful technique called circular leverage. This technique is based upon the premise that the single biggest motivator causing a buyer to purchase is fear.

      If you or anyone is interested in finding out more about how emotions play into business or sales decisions please read here:

      From: The Power to Get in, by Michael Boylan

      “Boylan’s solution is a system he has developed called the Circle of Leverage (abbreviated to COL). He maintains that the access-seeker should keep in mind the Key Engagers of his prospect: fear of loss, insecurities, competitiveness and the desire to be a serious player.”

      Anyhow, thanks a lot for the conversation, Ssembonge.

    3. I have to admit the first time I read this post, my initial reaction was anger at the company who chose to reject the magazine’s ad proposal.

      I have seen one too many people make bad business decisions based on emotions.

      Emotions are usually subjective while businesses are meant to be run objectively.

    4. I’ve been running my own business for some years now, and statements about what the African demographic isn’t still rear its ugly, uninformed head. As you guys mentioned, the stats speak for themselves, however, there is often resistance from those who are unfamiliar with the market, and they make decisions based on the stereotypes they were raised with. Many times, no matter how convincing an argument you make, very few businesses are willing to be the first ones to try what a good amount of their peers haven’t already tried. You would think all the people scrambling to get into China, Brazil, Russia etc. would be more comfortable with perceived risk.

    5. Ssembonge:

      Gotcha. You are a strong thinker. Thanks for the clarification and also for helping to make this a nice discussion.


      You know the more and more I think about it, the more I think that the goal, as far as introducing business people to Africa, should be in reaching the open mided business people. Of course, this takes some trial and error. But essentially its like taking a big cone shaped funnel. You know how the funnel has a very wide opening for entrance, but then the exit is very small? My experiences are guiding me towards seeing the work in this manner. That is to say knowing that if I speak to maybe 10000 or 100000 open minded business people about doing business in Africa, perhaps only 1000 or only 10000 will be receptive. And to me that’s OK, because what if that small group of business people, relative to the total audience, were really serious and in turn helped to generate so many millions and billions of dollars in GDP? That line of thinking allows me to not be distracted by the large numbers of business people that don’t want to hear it. And who knows, some of those folks who make the funny remarks may come around later…

      Anyhow, Kofi-thanks for being the inspiration behind this post. Oh…guess what? I spoke to our mutual friend, Mr. Frederic Tape, tonight-he says hi!

    6. […] for years. As I mentioned in my post about African affluence, and Benin expanded upon in his post on advertisers ignoring Africa, there are many hurdles that come with proving the worth of an Africa-focused product of service, […]

    7. This is an interesting discussion. I did check out Kofi’s posts on these issues and I have to say there it enough we can all seat down and talk about. Let me throw something out there that is a little bit on the untouchable area.

      I find that those (Africans) who started business in Africa tend to do worse in the US while those that started their business experiences in the US are more adept at handling customers in the US and growing into Africa. I think issues such as sales resistance, customer service, professionalism and the like are on the forefront while those who started back home have had to deal with customers who haggle over everything and don’t expect much in customer service. This might be only true with startups and small businesses while established business with systems (read mid to large corporations) should have processes that drive the identity of the company and in essence help overcome the above issues. What do you think? (I should probably write a post on this although I might get crucified).

      As for emotions in business–Sales is all about emotions. The “hard selling car salesman type” who bullies you is steadily being replaced by the customer service dude who helps you “buy”. Customers have become quite sensitive and the situation is further emphasized with ecommerce. You then learn to reach out to the emotional level of a customer since most customers are either purchasing a commodity that any generic product would suffice or you build an emotional connection to them so that you can have them identify and be on your camp (branding).

      I have to agree though that emotions have no place in business decisions.

    8. Joshua:

      Thanks my friend for your visit. Strong points. I would say that like Dr. Einstein’s theory of relativity, that it is all relative-as relates to emotions in business. Also, there are a wide range of emotions that could help business people-such as watchfulness, confidence, pride in work, and etc. There are some well known business people like Oprah and Trump who seem to use emotion to their advantage also..But I see where you are coming from-it illustrates the differnce between what should be and what is…and your point on car sales is text book quality. You are becoming a real living business sage, how amazing!


    9. Joshua, you make a good point about where businesses start and how it translates into customer service and expansion. I hadn’t given it much thought.

      As far as emotions go, many of my products are successful because they appeal to the customer’s emotions. However, I cannot let emotions dictate how I do business. And I think that last part is where we, as business people take a stand. It’s a hard rule to stick to as an African business person though since emotions and community are a much bigger deal in the African community.

      I second your perspective about the funnel approach. I got frustrated a long time ago trying to convince everyone I met about the abundance of opportunities within the African market. The advantage of being an entrpreneur is having vision, but the disadvantage of that vision is not understanding why everyone else doesn’t see how clear it is. Oh well.

    10. Well said Kofi on the vision vs. others perception on where you want to go. I think the best business leaders are those that take their vision and instill it in others. For you are as successful as those that work in your camp. Otherwise, you are just self-employed.

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