by Lynne Gordon (@lynne_gordon) In emerging markets around the world, and in South Africa, global megabrands are rolling out a footprint of worldwide brand-building. From Apple to Nike, international giants gather traction as consumers gain greater access and affinity for brands that cement their global citizenship. But, increasingly, there are signs of a phenomenon that brings us back to home — the rise of the African brand, rooted in its uniquely African identity and thriving in the growing sense of what it is to be African.

Representing what makes us proud of our role on the continent we call home, these brands showcase the Sho’t Left — African by design, closer to home, and uniquely our own.

Africa rising

In a context of global economic slowdown, Africa remains awash with potential. GDP growth rates continue to put forward Africa as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Rising household spending, urbanisation and greater access to technology all point to growth for the continent. Alongside this, growing African interconnectedness, a search for truly African role models and a budding sense of Pan-African identity are all driving an emergent pride in being part of the continent.

Whereas a decade ago, all that was cool and modern originated from far-flung shores, McKinsey’s African consumer report in 2015 reveals only 12% agreement among South Africans that international brands are preferable to local brands — a marked shift towards an appreciation of brands created closer to home. The path is set towards a new era rooted in affinity for the Sho’t Left — taxi lingo for a nearby destination — bringing the richness of Africa sharply into focus.

As an African identity grows and thrives, brands will need to consider their role in an African future. And as Africans become wealthier and spending capacity grows, the demand for African brands — or global brands embracing African insights — will grow. Perhaps “Sho’t Left!” is set to become the rallying cry of a new generation of consumers adding to their repertoire of global products new iconic brands from their own African backyard.

Thriving in a Afropolitan future

So as the call “Sho’t Left!” goes out, what are the ingredients of brands that could be set for success?

Sho’t Left is proudly African

On a continent that favours the bold, African brands win with proud displays of what make us unique. They are loud and colourful. They tell African stories. Their identity reflects our own, in all our diversity and richness, proud to be part of the fabric of Africa.

African fashion houses are gaining increased attention on the global stage, precisely because they are uniquely and boldly African — offering the world something it has not yet fully experienced, and cannot replicate. African design is becoming fashionable because it’s genuinely African, and offers the world something they haven’t yet fully experienced. African design is becoming fashionable because it’s genuinely African, and offers the rest of world something it hasn’t yet fully experienced.

Sho’t Left is creative

Guinness “Made of Black” may well be remembered as the original anthem of the African brand. Although part of Diageo’s global brand portfolio, Guinness looks, feels and acts African in every respect. The campaign, which continues to evolve since its launch in 2014, showcases Africa’s unique creativity. The brand has also partnered meaningfully with local artists, designers and musicians across Africa to provide a platform for their work.

African brands of the future will continue to recognise, celebrate and enable African creativity, and share it with the world.

Sho’t Left shows world-class ingenuity

We’re a continent abounding with initiative and entrepreneurial spirit; Africa is open for business and ready to grab opportunity with both hands. African brands have grown in almost every sector by providing cheaper, smarter offerings that challenge global megabrands for market leadership. But the African brands set to thrive into the future are no copycats — they’re uniquely African solutions to the needs and opportunities experienced close to home.

Jumia, an online retail business started in Nigeria, launched in 2012 with an aspiration to replicate Amazon’s model in Africa, but quickly realised that gaps in financing, logistics and electronic payments would require a unique solution. Shifting to cash-on-delivery, its own logistics fleet, and a fully mobile-first platform, it is now Nigeria’s leading online retailer; has a footprint in 12 African markets; and reports double-digit growth monthly.

Sho’t Left has African scale and local flexibility

MTN is Africa’s most-admired brand, recognised for revolutionising mobile connectivity in Africa, with subscribers in 21 countries on the continent. Made in Africa, the telecoms giant is headquartered out of SA, but is proudly local in every market, with unique advertising and offerings to meet local needs. Bidco Africa, a consumer goods company with its roots in Kenya, operates 48 brands in 17 countries in Africa, challenging global giants such as Unilever with its local approach. Its business is agile and uber-local — it advertises in 7 local languages in Kenya alone.

And it’s not only brands “born in Africa” that will compete effectively. Also in the top three most-admired brands in the Brand Africa Top 100 is Coca-Cola, a global brand with leadership status built upon deep African insights and a high degree of local flexibility to activate the brand meaningfully upon the ground. Leveraging global scale but allowing local flexibility, it’ll continue to compete for leadership status in Africa’s future.

Citizens of Africa

Africa is going places. Today’s progressive youth, already embracing an Afropolitan mindset in politics, fashion and music, are tomorrow’s mainstream consumers — and will bring with them a desire for brands that express their identity as citizens of Africa. To the brands brave enough to be part of inventing this African future: Viva the Sho’t Left, viva!


Lynne GordonLynne Gordon (@lynne_gordon) is the managing director at strategic marketing consultancy Added Value. She learned marketing on the job and is fascinated by the streets of South Africa, where small entrepreneurs — untrained as marketers — apply the art and science of branding to their businesses.

Her monthly MarkLives column, “Homegrown”, explores everyday businesses and the lessons corporate marketers can learn from the streets of Mzansi. Share your own observations, photos and examples of marketing from SA’s roadside with @lynne_gordon on Twitter.

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