The Emerging Markets of Africa demand Localization for Business Opportunities

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Looking for business development opportunities abroad? Considered Africa? Lots of potential and opportunities but always remember localization!

In a recent article on Enterpreneur South Africa, Alison Jobs shares a number of great tips for companies that are aiming for great success on the African market. If you want to make it in the African business world, it is vital that you sell your solution in the language spoken by the local customers.

Common Sense Advisory did their usual good research into the African market and emerged with the following results:

  • 72.4% of the African consumers says they are more likely to buy a product if the information is in their own language
  • Less than 5% of the Africans speak English as their first language
  • Only 470 million of the 1 billion Africans speak English as a second language
  • English is the predominant official language in South Africa, but is only spoken as a first language by 9.6% of the inhabitants

What does this say to you? Yes – understanding the language is everything. To put Africa into context look at the map below. Africa fits China, America, India and Europe into its borders. Think of the linguistic and cultural diversity in these countries alone and then transpose that onto Africa and you begin to get a sense for the continent.

The front-runners on the African market, such as Vodacom and Nandos, have already learned some valuable localization lessons through trading in Africa. As they have paved the way for new businesses, here are four tips that will help you to conquer the African market in no time!

Take a local language service provider on board

This will greatly increase the speed of your project. In Europe and the Far East, local terms for technology-based words are widely available. This is not true for most African languages, which often haven’t even been documented. By calling in the help of a local translation agency, your company can benefit from the expertise and network of locals.

Make sure the quality of your translations are up to par

Both from a commercial and language preservation point of view, local translators and translations agencies do a great job at documenting and preserving languages. However, you should check whether the translator or agency you have chosen is able to carry out high quality translations. Faulty translations might not give the desired results or even cause offence.

Tailor your products for Africans and let them develop the products as well

When localizing your products, you do not only have to culturally adapt a product for a specific market, but you must also understand the local way of thinking. Pay-as-you-go, was first developed in South Africa, for example, and M-PESA was specifically created by Kenyans for fellow countrymen who lived abroad. Who better understands Africa than Africans?

Start small, but think about the future

When entering a new market, it’s always wise to allow for future growth. Take for example Toshiba; twenty years ago, the company translated in only three languages. Now, as the company translates its products in twenty-four different languages, this number is eight times as high.

In addition to these four great tips, Entrepreneur South Africa also provides a small checklist for companies that wish to localize their products:

  • Think beyond the localising your content; who will answer the support calls coming customers from foreign countries?
  • Think about your customer segment; are you aiming for consumers of businesses? For the latter one, English will probably suffice.
  • Make long-term plans; at the start of foreign expansion, having one bilingualist in your office might be enough, but there may come a time when translation automation (i.e. translation databases) is be needed.
  • Avoid fragmentation; if you provide your translator with a clean English document, you will be rewarded with a better end-product of which all the content has been treated in the same way.
  • Make sure you comply with local regulations; there might be national or regional regulations that affect your text, such as foreign exchange or electric Type Approval.

Are you looking to Africa? If so, why not speak to us? We specialise in African languages including Fula, Swahili, Ewe, Mandinka and many many more. We also provide top quality South African translations thanks to our offices in South Africa and Namibia.

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