Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with two people that I have a lot of respect for in the interactive marketing space in Africa. First was Rob Stokes, CEO of the well known Quirk marketing firm in South Africa. Later in the week I got to catch up with Joshua Wanyama of Pamoja Media.

Before I get into that though, you should take a look at these numbers.

Africa’s exploding internet growth

Currently, Africa is the second fastest growing internet market after it was passed with the Middle East in terms of connectivity. The growth rate is 1,100% with only 5.6% of Africa’s 975 million people online.

The 10 largest internet markets in Africa are seen below. These 10 countries account for a staggering 86% of the 54.2 million Africans online:

1. Egypt – 10.5 million
2. Nigeria – 10 million
3. Morocco – 6.6 million
4. South Africa – 4.6 million
5. Algeria – 3.5 million
6. Sudan – 3.5 million
7. Kenya – 3 million
8. Tunisia – 2.8 million
9. Zimbabwe – 1.4 million
10. Ghana – 0.9 million

(Research number are from the Internet World Stats)

Education and Charlatans

Quirk is successful, and they’re looking to expand into other parts of Africa. However, one of the hurdles that they face is that there just aren’t that many people who understand why web marketing is needed, and that there is a need for a real strategy behind everything from your website to links to emails. It’s a problem of education in the business sector, and it comes with two problems.

Rob Stokes of Quirk in Nairobi

First, low-bandwidth has caused most internet usage to be lower than normal in Africa. So, a lot of businesses don’t recognize the value of good web marketing, since most of the executives never get online to see their work anyway. For instance, think about the tourism industry in Africa, it is plagued with slow, ugly and hard to find websites. Most of them don’t even realize the business they’re missing out on.

Second, there are any number of people who will tell you that they can do your internet marketing or help with your online strategy and execute upon it. However, that’s simply not true for many claimants. There are likely only a handful of real experts in online marketing in any sub-Saharan African country. In Kenya alone, I can only think of a couple firms or individuals who really know what they’re talking about, and even fewer who can execute upon what they speak.

So, Rob has a challenge in addressing this market in Africa. It’s a big market if it can be cracked, but it takes more than just sales skills, it takes someone with the patience to educate and grow an industry.

Redefining yourself for the market

Joshua Wanyama found himself in a bind. He had just moved back to Kenya after growing a successful web firm in the US. Now he wanted to put Pamoja Media on the map in Africa, and he realized quite quickly that there was a major knowledge-gap in the interactive marketing space. How could he sell the connections that his ad network gave him if the very people he was selling to didn’t have an online strategy at all?

Joshua Wanyama of Pamoja Media

This realization caused him to change his strategic direction of the Kenyan operations to gain a customers. He changed it from being just about his ad network, and added on 5 more areas of expertise that would really give his clients positive returns:

  • Interactive strategy – how to scale a company’s operations and marketing online
  • Creative Development – Interactive ads, landing pages, enewsletters & micro sites
  • Placement – We run ads on the Pamoja Media Network, Yahoo, Google and Facebook network of sites
  • Social Media Marketing – This works for clients seeking long term social engagement with customers. We handle blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and other accounts for such clients
  • Online PR – We also handle online PR for companies seeking to grow their reputations outside of advertising African Market online

It’s a lot of work to sell yourself into new accounts and then keep up with the demands of high profile clients. I know, I’ve been there. I know Joshua, and I know he’ll be successful with this.

What I also know is this, it’s terribly hard to scale a service organization. It takes more people. My hope is that Pamoja Media will be able to gather enough clients in the ad network space so that that remains the core business. This can scale, and it can be done efficiently.