JOSIAH KIMANZI was immediate past president of PAMRO but now consults for the Consumer Experience (CE) business for GfK in East and West Africa. He spoke to Research Intelligence Magazine.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE IN GFK?
Currently I am consulting for the Consumer Experience (CE) business for GfK in East and West Africa. As you know, GfK is one of the leading Global research companies, founded and headquartered in Germany. It is actually a great opportunity because now I get to accelerate consumer business across East Africa, which includes Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. I’m also in charge of building the business in Nigeria, our primary market of focus. We are also present in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and the Francophone market along with Ethiopia. So that’s what I am currently doing. Our business is comprised of two divisions, Consumer Experiences and Consumer Choices which deal with sell out from retail. So we are able to look at retail trends of white goods like Television, Electronics, Major Domestic Appliances and Smartphones that enable us to see the trends as to who is buying which phones, tablets and related electronic devices. In the East African markets, we undertake retail tracking for categories like cement, lubricants and paints including census studies. It is amazing when you connect retail and consumer information to help clients win. We have our main hub in South Africa headed by Ben Ballensiefen, MD for the region. In Nigeria, we have Kenneth Doghudje as the MD and Chris Maina for Kenya. I co-ordinate both East and West Africa with tremendous support from our SA hub to drive One GfK.
We are quite versatile when it comes to your research products but the key is organize ourselves around client opportunities to win including market dynamics, opportunities and market impact as our key levers for client growth. For each lever, we have spectacular solutions to address each client need. We have CATI competencies in Nigeria (with close to 30,000 interviews done so far) as well as a fully functional Field force that does the POS retail tracking and consumer surveys.
So, GfK basically stands for Growth From Knowledge and we have done research studies in 36 African markets in 2016. Just to give you an idea of what we have been doing in the last 5 years includes qualitative work like IDIs, Ethnographies and as well as pricing studies. This cascades across various sectors like consumer electronics, health care, automotive, fmcg and telecoms. We manage a pan African telecom brand and a multi-national beverage drink brand that straddles Africa that including segmentation, innovation, sensory tasting and pricing research. We have also recently concluded a study for a major fmcg in Nigeria.
GfK has been around for over 80 years having been founded in 1925. We have 13,000 passionate experts across the world and are thought leaders in various sectors covering over 100 countries enabling clients to enrich consumer lives through strategic insights.
Our data capture includes an ability to see real time field work, where interviewers are and track them via GPS to build more credibility on the data collection process. We have also have an intense data control and validation process. GfK is a corporate member of Esomar, SAMRA, PAMRO, ARION, MSK, MSRA and MRS.
HOW DO YOU WANT TO DRIVE THIS BUSINESS IN THE REGION?
Africa is actually the place where every business is looking for growth, and it is not just growth, it is double-digit growth. I am aware in Nigeria we are facing challenges although the economy is bouncing back from the recession. In terms of growth, recession is still double-digit which is not ideal but the opportunity and promise in Nigeria remains immense.
Nigeria’s fundamentals which include a growing population heading to 190 million in a few years and an atmosphere that is conducive for business. Our usual challenges are infrastructural which we are hoping that will be fixed, for example electricity supply.
Markets like Ethiopia for instance, have 102 million people and now East Africa’s largest economy, surpassing Kenya last year. However, Kenya’s remain a strategic economy (with 48 million people) with Tanzania’s economy coming up with 55 million people. When you include Uganda, the population for these four markets amount close to 247 million people and a combined GDP of US Dollars 215 Billion based on World Bank, 2016 data.
Kenya has just come up very peaceful election and now we are actually waiting for determination of who won. The current annulment of the election has put Kenya on a new pedestal with respect to the rule of law and independence of the Supreme Court.
Back to Nigeria, we hope that the issue with the currency is fixed because there are numerous exchange rates that are not very conducive for business. However, these are just some occupational hazards and market nuances to deal with.
However, Africa remains the land of promise and potential. Recently, Jack Ma was in Kenya with 38 Chinese billionaires to understand the e-commerce potentials and drive more entrepreneurship in Kenya and Rwanda. Jack Ma, Alibaba.com proprietor sees a lot of potential in terms of growth within the online space and I am sure he will make his way to Lagos soon. The billionaires not only came to witness the beauty of Kenya but to scope for investment opportunities. So I still maintain that the future is bright, and that is why, we are here to invest and trying to see how we can drive client growth through our spectacular solutions.
WHAT WILL BE THE CHALLENGES AROUND THE REGIONS THAT YOU COVER?
First of all, I think at times Africa misses out of the opportunities and the vision to be one. So some of the challenges include trade barriers, other challenges include issues to do with security, and currency instabilities.
Now, if you sum up Africa as a whole, from my resource point of view, from a population perspective, resource or even business potential, Africa is much larger by far than any other continents but we have not been able to tap into that.
Taxation remains high in some of our operating markets. This is one of the inhibitors for progress across Africa but certain clients are willing to take the risk and have a first mover advantage. For example, one of our clients is investing heavily doing pan-African study which actually shows you that they actually see the potential and promise of Africa and want to tap into that as much as they can.
Remittances are issue as well, either remitting money out of any country and restrictions as well in terms of currency movements but I strongly believe that Africa is sitting on a precipice of such a huge growth, that if we can get our act together, if we can forget about national and economic barriers, if we can reduce tariffs across markets, then Africa will catapult into a new economic front. It is a pleasure now that when coming to Nigeria, you get a visa on arrival and that in itself is one way of trying to make sure that business is thriving in Nigeria and Kenya. Imagine a situation where business is accelerated by improved access to markets across the African continent.
YOU WERE THE PAST PRESIDENT OFPAMRO, WHAT WERE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS?
PAMRO has wonderful memories for me, well; I started up as the Vice-President for 3 years and deputized for the then President, Jennifer Daniels, MD for Telmar. PAMRO is a very organized and structured institution. It is an acronym for Pan African Media Research Organization.
Therefore, I served my term for 3 years as President and I then passed the mantle on to Mr. Joe Otin in Tanzania, in 2015. One of the major achievements, which we did of course, is to grow our base in terms of scope and coverage across Africa to include Francophone, Lucaphone and the Maghreb along with the Anglophone markets. We got an incredible membership drive with the highest number of delegates (201 delegates) in the Tanzania conference in Dar es Salaam in 2015. We normally have 150 delegates. Interestingly, in 2014, we faced serious challenges because we could not go to Accra in Ghana as agreed because of the Ebola outbreak. Surprisingly, our Ghanian hosts, whom we had paid in advance, refunded the entire amount. These are the kind of stories that Africa should be talking about. Zimbabwe in 2016 was equally exciting.
It is interesting to note that at the 2017 PAMRO Board meeting, it was agreed that Nigeria will be hosting the 2018 PAMRO conference. This is 9 years after Lagos hosted the last conference.
PAMRO has also come up with a Harmonized questionnaire, which has been tested and rolled out, to all media users and practitioners across Africa. We also came up with PAMRO SES (Social Economic Segmentation) that was developed by Neil Higgs at TNS. I am indeed grateful and have a lot of respect for my former employers, TNS RMS led by Adeola Tejumola, Aggrey Maposa and the industry legend, Uncle Kareem Tejumola. I am very proud of what I did in PAMRO, the one organization where competing agencies converge for the good of Africa.
WHERE DO YOU SEE RESEARCH IN AFRICA IN THE NEAREST FUTURE?
In Nigeria, the value of the research market is about fifty million dollars based on the latest ESOMAR figures. From a global point of view, Africa accounts for a very small percentage of the research fund. The future for Africa in terms of growth is the ability to leapfrog because we have technologies like MPESA and MVisa that enable financial transactions across mobile devices and becoming a necessity in life.
The future of research remains bright. We just heard a very interesting conversation with one of our clients who told us that research and insights is now becoming the gatekeeper when it comes to critical business decisions, and that exactly is what you want, you want decisions not based on gut feel but based on insights.
We have also seen for example the growth of individual businesses from client former research partners going to start their own and expanding the field, as we grow we need to help clients in terms of their decision making process. This will form the basis for insight-based decision making.
One other thing is that life styles are changing in Nigeria. However, our core remains the same, the embracing African spirit and amazing aspirations among our consumers. We have recently conducted an interesting study known as Consumer Life that highlights emerging trends and their impact across categories. It is imperative to the currency issues and build confidence among businesses. Clients need to embrace a culture of using research to help them formulate winning business decisions. That is why GfK is in town, to help clients Grow From Knowledge. Thank you.