The first time I visited Ghana’s capital, Accra, was in 2014 and it was an impressive experience. From the airport to the hotel, I met people who treated their country’s guests with dignity.
When it was time to hit the street market of Accra, I exercised caution because I was about to experience the discomfort that accompanies shopping in a typical African market where you must sweat it out under the sun, guard your wallet, and watch out for other types of social menace. My brain was very alert throughout my visit at the famous Makola Market. Within minutes, this unpleasant experience was replaced with one of pleasure as I entered the modern Accra Mall. The ambiance was relaxing and consumers were treated with respect.
The success of entrepreneurs in this economic system will be determined by how good they are at selling what consumers want, which includes respecting the dignity of people.
Customers crave a welcoming smile, honesty, respect, convenience and high-quality. Offering what matters to customers, but which is not always easy to find, will be where African entrepreneurs find success.
In Africa, there is a scarcity of love being expressed towards citizens. This is evident in the continent’s poor infrastructure, hunger, poor healthcare facilities, and lack of empathy from politicians. This is why Africans are longing for anything that represents dignity.
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This is one opportunity that entrepreneurs cannot ignore. Despite challenges, the retail business is growing in Africa. Malls are always busy, not necessarily because the products are cheaper, but because many Africans, for the first time, are shopping in a dignified atmosphere. The demand for foreign goods is simply a result of customers craving self-esteem.
In Nigeria alone, the growth of modern shopping malls is fast and expected to double with new malls springing up every month across the country. The same is said of Nairobi that has the largest square meter shopping malls in sub-Saharan Africa. What is driving this investment? One reason could be the replacement of the humiliating market experience with malls that are clean and comfortable. The foundation of this business model is love for customers, driven by the need to restore dignity to the day-to-day shopping experience.
If you visit Lagos, Nigeria, at the moment, one of the things you will notice is the massive investment in infrastructure. This will enhance human dignity and promote business. A typical example is the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme in Lagos that is threatening the age-old yellow buses, popularly referred to as Danfo. In the BRT buses, customers are treated to air conditioning and comfortable seats. In a Danfo bus, you have to endure stifling heat and stinging insults from bus conductors.
Lagos public bus users will naturally flow to where the dignity of the consumer is respected at a competitive price. Similarly, an entrepreneur can either attract or repel people to their business. When you care about your customer, you will see increased patronage and profits grow.
In my years of reading and relating with other entrepreneurs, I have found that most strategies and models are vulnerable to disruption and prone to failure; but the love strategy never fails. Business disruptors are usually entrepreneurs who try to improve current systems. Since the law of service says that your reward in life is directly proportional to the value that you give to others, these people are able to attract commensurate value which sets them apart.
The reality is that a business that attracts consumers and investors alike is one that focuses on meeting the needs of people on a consistent basis. These needs go beyond the obvious to include comfort, dignity, respect, care and, ultimately, love. – Written by Victor Mamora