Successfully marketing a brand across such a diverse continent such as Africa – with over 50 countries, hundreds of languages and various cultures – is no easy task.

This is according to Sumesh Rahavendra, former Head of Marketing for DHL Express sub-Saharan Africa. Rahavendra says that South African business owners expanding into Africa need to be aware that in addition to the various challenges relating to language and trade barriers, they need to carefully consider cultural differences, pricing strategies and the political environment when adapting strategies for marketing goods and products on the continent.

He offers these three tips to South African business owners looking to expand and market their products and services in Africa:



It is important for brands to market their offerings in a way that connects with local consumers. Although large corporates may have global brand marketing guidelines, the staff based in Africa should adapt these guidelines in a way that works best for the local market.

The communication strategy for each country in Africa should be different. While radio commercials might work in South Africa and Nigeria, print advertising could be best for Cote d’Ivoire, billboards might have the biggest impact on Lesotho.

Business owners need to research and explore local best practices and consult experienced partners in the country to know what works in each country.



Advertising is expensive, but effective when used correctly. When advertising in any form of media, it’s important to do it regularly, in the right media for your business and to be consistent in your message. Focus on a small selection of media and aim to advertise there regularly to maintain a good awareness of your products or services.

The marketing and media environment is very crowded and, for this reason, it’s important to be consistent in both promotional message and look and feel. If you’re an SME, it’s advisable to invest some money in designing a distinct logo, impactful packaging, and a good basic range of marketing materials and signage.



It is unbelievable how quickly social media and smartphone penetration in Africa has given consumers access to information and various online channels. It is all about ensuring that modern technology is utilised to reach the target audience and making sure that relevant content is created to stimulate engagement with the online community. Businesses should continuously try new things and fine-tune their approach.