customer-centered innovation – the rising opportunity

While many will take this as a no-brainer when it comes to developing innovations, I  will like to pay particular interest to the role that this somewhat usual process may take in developing products/services in the African continent. I would be wrong to say that the entire continent suffer from the same problems – in a continent of 54 countries, the number of pain points and needs are as diverse as the culture and behaviour of the typical customer in the continent.

How then does this play out in innovation?

It is clear that the best innovations will come out of satisfying a “Job to be done” or a pain point or an identified need in the market. This, I would say, is in large proportions in many countries in Africa. Telecommunications and the technologies that come with it have experienced a more than impressive adoption in Africa (in Kenya, 74% of smartphone users actually use mobile money services provided by M-Pesa). This technological boom has no doubt left some gaps/need in the business landscape which constitute a pain point for the user or business along the value chain. Or maybe I should say it has revealed and created some needs in the market. (more on this in a later post).

Customer journey maps are simple tools that are used for empathy or immersion into the customer’s world. It works in very simple ways – especially when you combine thinking about the customers typical lifestyle otherwise called “a-day-in-the-life-of…”. By understanding the typical nature of a potential user, and the typical steps that the user may go through on a daily basis with or without the product/innovation, it is easy to isolate the pain points and develop ways to create innovations that satisfy this customer need.


While this is best used in a workshop setting – hands on and applied around a particular context or theme – I do believe that it could be one of the best and simplest tools to uncover relevant innovations within the consumer space and provide the necessary validation. Clearly, due to the value and landscape that telecommunications technologies have created in many african countries, it is rightly the best time to develop human-centered innovations that understands (through immersion) the needed products and services to solve everyday problems being faced by Africans.

I will explore this opportunity in my subsequent posts.

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