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‘Poor marketing hampers African startups’

Kenya , 17 Feb 2014

‘Poor marketing hampers African startups’

Poor marketing strategies are holding back African startups from experiencing further growth, experts have said at the just-concluded Mobile East Africa 2014 event last week.

With over 50 countries on the continent, 30 million square kilometers of land and a population of over 1 billion people, marketing experts speaking at the event asked why African startups ‘struggle’ to make their voices heard.

“We have so many brilliant innovations by innovators in Africa. However, most these solutions remain solutions to the ‘elite’ few who have access to internet and such forums as these (technology conferences.) I think it’s time we overhauled our marketing strategies and customise them for our target population,” said Nduta Maina, lead digital strategist for consulting firm Aim Group.

Maina said that African startups ‘struggle’ to get their message across to their key target markets.

Responding to this, David Mark, chief technical officer (CTO) at mobile money crowdfunding system M-Changa said that African startups are still grappling with poor cash flows: an integral part of carrying out marketing campaigns on their products.

“Mainstream media like TV and radio and billboards are very expensive mediums of advertising for many startups,” said Mark.

“Unfortunately these three remain the most effective forms of advertising for our target population, implying that most startups are locked out of reach to mass markets.”

Mark said that this leaves them with no alternative but to stick to cheaper advertising such as Facebook, Google groups and online adverts, which is not as effective as “having a flashy billboard downtown to get everyone’s attention while in traffic.”

Speaking to ITWeb Africa, Kevin Njoki, a software engineer at East African document management solutions firm COSEKE, said that African startups do not give marketing strategies the attention it deserves.

“Most of us focus on developing our products and putting them ‘out there’ to make money, instead of first understanding our target market, and crafting our solutions to fit the exact market needs,” Njoki told ITWeb Africa.

“I think it’s time we became professional in how we approach software solutions development, by engaging marketing research professionals in helping us understand the best marketing strategies to employ in making sure our products get to the end user,” Njoki added.

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