Exploring the Disruptive Tendencies of African-Nutured Innovations

One of the underlying theories of disruptive innovation is that solutions or products can become disruptive by targeting the non-consumer. According to a 2012 Mckinsey report, the growth of the African economy is fuel mostly by the consumer class in the continent and not resources (contrary to a school of thought). The report also stated that the consumer-facing sectors will grow by 400billion USD by 2020. This leaves us with an interesting insight about the huge conversion of a class of consumers from the previous state of non-consumption into a state of heavy consumption.

Non-consumers are a class of target customers in a market who have been excluded from the use of a particular type of innovation for a number of reasons. There are generally 3 reasons for non-consumption (1.) lack of access to the product/service; (2.) an inability to purchase the product/service and (3.) lack of the needed skills and education to utilise the product and service.

Why then can we say that there is a tendency to nurture disruptive technologies in the continent? Why would this be of paramount importance and worth considering?

The growing population of Africa (fastest growing population in the world) is largely composed of the youth – below the age of 35. This demographic in the population mostly found in the urban areas, are becoming extremely tech savvy. They seek out the latest trends in the market and are budget conscious- despite their need for customised technology. What this means in essence is that they will be drawn towards tech solutions that are new to them (which implies that they were previously non-consumers), appeal to their sense of belonging and affordable. Think about the adoption rate of mobile banking services; which in Tanzania has grown from 6% in 2009 to 44% in just 3 years.

This demographic of consumers – growing in number and savviness, the fuelling of economies by the consumer-facing sectors and the forecasted growth of consumption – imply that previous non-consumers in Africa WILL migrate to becoming consumers.

I will be exploring this tendency further in my next few posts by taking country specific cases to analyse their disruptive tendencies.


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