If you search innovation or technology in Africa, you will find a lot of Fintech, Solar, education and health care innovations that are creating a buzz and getting noticed across the continent. Entertainment innovations are of course also popular and receive a hype. But, what about African business solutions? I don’t know about you, but when I search nothing usually jumps out at me, which is curious as the African business world (excuse the generalisation) has a unique culture. Like different cultures throughout the world, there are different ways of operating in Africa, and in the diverse Africa countries.

I found this out the hard way in Kenya, when I realised pretty quickly that my loud humorous (I like to think its humorous anyway!) entrances into meetings that I was used to in Ghana, simply did not work in the Kenyan setting. There are a plethora of other differences in the African business setting, but of course, some things stay the same across the continent and the world. So, there should be nothing standing in the way of African entrepreneurs creating business solutions that are effective across the world.

My day job is working for a campaigning agency in Zurich, and I know all too well some of the difficulties companies face meeting the needs of their target group. Market research is a long drawn out process, in which teams invest a lot of time to create ideas and then ask their target group if they like the ideas. From the data collected, the team has to come to a decision as to which route to take, but this decision is still based on their own initial ideas. Not ideal and not an exact science! We ask the target group themselves to create the ideas in a Target Community Lab™, saving time, money and enabling us to create individualised campaigns or products for our partners.

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A South African startup, Ovatoyou, has created another innovative solution to getting inside the minds of the target group. Building on other survey tools, their app, which is available on IOS, Android and any HTML device, enables the standard multiple choice answers, as well as qualitative responses. The possibility for respondents to give qualitative responses to open ended questions is invaluable for marketers. All of a sudden, the target group is no longer elusive and becomes far more accessible to marketers. As in a Target Community Lab™, it is possible to get directly inside the mind and personality of the target group and know exactly what they feel about a brand, a product or an idea. In many cases respondents only get a binary option – Like or don’t like, or a rating to express their opinions.

With a plethora of information built around each respondent, such as income bracket, location, age, as well as the information from each survey, which could even include fashion preferences, or in one example, samples of their Christmas tables, the marketer can get a realistic, authentic view of its target group when planning it’s campaigns. Respondents can even upload photos, or sketches to answers to get their opinion across clearer. Companies in general can also use this information in order to tailor products and services to their target audience.  E-commerce, mystery shopping programmes, designers, buyers, marketers, sales people, and many others can all benefit from such insight.ovatoyou 2.png

So how do they get people to take part in their surveys? By offering incentives for taking part in surveys, such as airtime, cash, or prizes, ovatoyou have been able to sign up over 14,000 people in South Africa to the service. They offer ordinary people to give their opinion and share their thoughts on brands, products and many other issues. This gives an element of ownership to those taking part in a survey, which is further incentive to take part.

Ovatoyou is an example of a business solution that has been created in South Africa, for South African businesses, but can have an impact across Africa and the world. They are planning on moving into other African markets, which is exciting. Understanding the needs, wants and personality of a huge potential African market is of massive value to companies both inside and outside the continent. Their opinions and thoughts can change the way businesses, and even charities and aid agencies approach them. (For example the survey above was regarding abuse of women in South Africa) No more need for guess work!

If you know of any innovations in Africa, an innovation that is changing lives, or you also want to be a guest blogger, get in contact with us on Twitter @inventiveAfrica or via email. Please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.

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