Mobile research is the best method for insights into Africa

on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @ 10:15

Matthew Angus, Research Director of KLA, a South African based research agency, talks to us about how mobile-based research methods are gaining traction as the best way to get timely, and cost-effective insights out of African markets.


After a disastrous fifty years since independence, a sea change is taking place across the African continent.  Since the end of the Cold War most of Africa has been making progress in development, governance, law and order and stability at a pace that ranges from painstaking to unbelievable.  

There have been some birthing pains as dictators tottered and fell, archaic systems were challenged and overhauled and the political economy of the whole region has shifted and realigned, but the Africa of today is a safer, more stable, prosperous and democratic region than it has been in 100 years.  And in the tough times that the world has been going through lately, the attention is increasingly turning to Africa as one of the few places left where significant growth can be achieved.

Key considerations of carrying out research in Africa 

One of the first things to bear in mind when planning research in Africa is that there is no universal approach or solution.  There are 54 countries in Africa, and the almost 1 billion people that call this continent home have more diversity of language, culture, politics, lifestyle and religion than anywhere else on earth.  

A solution that works perfectly in Ghana, for example, could fail completely in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, despite the fact that on arrival in either country the locals will greet you with the same “Akwaaba!”  In Nigeria alone there are well over 400 spoken languages, 3 major religions and some of the world’s richest and poorest people.  Having said that, there are some key truths that apply more often than not across most of the continent.

Firstly, a lot of the conventional secondary sources of market knowledge are virtually useless.  This is because as much as 50% of the continent’s economic activity takes place on an informal basis and is thus “off the record”.  

In addition, the pace of change in Africa is such that information that is a couple of months old is completely out of date, especially in categories such as mobile telecommunications.  If you want to understand an African market properly, primary research is pretty much compulsory.  In addition, in a time of such rapid change, it is often more productive to focus on the insights surrounding the data than the data itself.

Secondly, although there typical African experience is one of poverty, do not make assumptions on that basis.  As a European or American the idea of getting by on less than $1.25 per day seems completely unworkable, but this is Africa.  Through community-oriented living, innovative methods of production and consumption and a strong culture of problem-solving, Africans typically make ends meet where many others would have starved to death.  In fact, many of the most impactful and successful innovations in Africa have been those that saved time, not money.

Thirdly, conventional market research is usually very expensive and often difficult.  Africa is the least researched and the most poorly understood region on earth, and with infrastructure and logistics often underdeveloped the costs of transport and shipping, venues and accommodation can be prohibitive.  

Mobile and the Internet have revolutionised Africa

afrika-mobileBut all is not lost, because mobile technology and the Internet have revolutionised Africa in ways that few outside the continent would understand, enabling communication and commerce where it was often virtually impossible before.  Mobile-based research methods are gaining traction and are increasingly recognised as the best way to get timely and cost-effective insights out of African markets.


KLA is South Africa’s top qualitative market research agency, which in recent years has embarked on both a pan-African expansion and a technological innovation drive.  As a result they are now offering online and mobile-based quantitative and qualitative solutions across the entire African continent, in addition to more traditional research techniques. Their key focus is on strategic insights and turning raw information into valuable knowledge for clients. 

Fore more information visit their website or contact

Join our Newsletter