Africa's Dark Horse - Unlocking the Full Potential of SMEs with Technology

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the world economy, accounting for most business across nearly every region. In Africa, SMEs provide an estimated 80% of jobs for the continent, with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 44 million micro, small and medium enterprises. These numbers show that the investment potential of the African continent can and will only be unlocked by promoting the SME sector. This reality is underpinned by the fact that Africa’s population is predicted to double in just over 25 years, creating unprecedented market potential.

However, for these enterprises to grow, create more jobs, and generate more growth they must first overcome a series of obstacles related to their small scale: most payment gateways are not designed to allow the African SME to trade online as they require business owners to be in possession of credit or debit cards, most SMEs also lack access to capital and face technological gaps that stop them from realizing their full potential.

According to published business studies, one of the biggest reasons SMEs fail to grow after their launch is primarily due to a lack of a proper marketing strategy.

This is usually due to:

- Lack of resources to carry out a good marketing plan to increase visibility and generate quality leads (i.e budget/plan/time).

- Inability to maintain consistent execution of marketing activities.

- Uncertainty on the right ways to market the business due to a lack of access to market insights.

- Overly complex technological platforms and algorithms that can only be decoded and utilized by corporations.

With this in mind, there are fortunately accessible, easy-to-use marketing solutions for SMEs to take advantage of that can help these enterprises grow to their full potential and gain entry into insights that have long been a sole preserve of larger businesses with access to means.

Two such solutions that are proving extremely vital to the growth of SMEs are the use of consistent audience insights and programmatic advertising.

Audience Insights

Imagine that your business was given a potential customer list complete with information about where they are located, why they like your product/service and the best way to reach them digitally. This information would not only be incredibly powerful but would go a long way in optimizing organizational resources that would bring in more revenue for your business.

Audience insights utilizes data analytics to identify clients and their sentiments and help answer the following questions: Who are they? What are their interests? How do they see the world? What drives them? What are their online habits?

This information helps businesses create strategic marketing campaigns that are tailor-made for specific and targeted audiences.

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic advertising is essentially a tool that provides businesses with new ways to promote their products, reach their target audiences, and achieve their performance benchmarks through the use of technology and algorithms. In other words, it helps your company drive purchases, quote requests, visits, and more. The goal of programmatic advertising is to increase efficiency and transparency for both the advertiser and the publisher.

Benefits of Programmatic Advertising for SMEs

When it comes to advertising, digital forms of advertising such as programmatic advertising is a much better trade-off than traditional forms of advertising due to the fact that digital advertising is less costly, drives more revenue to businesses, increases direct engagement with customers and allows businesses to increase their reach to a global audience.

Additional benefits of programmatic advertising include:

- Real-time data and insights that help track where an ad is shown and how much engagement it receives which is valuable information for businesses to have when considering what areas to reinvest in.

- Ability to create marketing campaigns in a short amount of time and easily manage the entire campaign cycle to see how many people the campaign has impacted, what regions are engaging the most, and how many repeat customers the campaign is able to generate.

- Advertisers pay only for relevant impressions meaning that businesses can assign a minimum number of impressions or a minimum budget, which makes digital advertising flexible.

The result?

Consumers will be able to relate to the advertising content more and feel that their needs and wants are being tailored to, thus providing them with a uniquely positive consumer experience.

In addition, due to the significant job opportunities created in Africa by SMEs, bridging the gap between these enterprises and their access to a wider network of consumers with technology will help African nations meet some of the goals of SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth created to improve the socio-economic welfare of societies including:

- Achieving higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high value added and labor-intensive sectors.

- Promoting development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.

Andrew Ngigi

CEO, Africonverse