On 26 May 2020 The Star newspaper reported on the recently published Brand Africa 100 Best Brands 2020 report. The heading used was “Africa not creating more competitive brands to meet needs of its growing consumers – survey”. If that headline didn't get African companies thinking, this sub-heading surely did: “Africans aspire to global brands but consume local brands”.

The Brand Africa 100 Best Brands report is in its 10th year and it works on the basis of surveys conducted across the continent. The point of the exercise is to establish which brands are most admired in Africa. Here are some of the standout features of the 2020 report:

African brands are doing badly

Of the 100 most admired brands in Africa only 13 are African. This is an all-time low apparently, with the representation of African brands in the top 100 having dropped by one third since 2010. Of the 13 African brands that are admired in Africa six are from Nigeria, five from South Africa, and one each from Kenya and Ethiopia. Amongst these brands are household names like MTN (South Africa), Dangote (Nigeria) and Safaricom (Kenya).

Foreign brands are doing rather well

For the third year in a row the most admired brand in Africa is Nike. The report says that the brand is “buoyed by partnerships with record-breaking African athletes such as Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, the sub-two-hour runner, and also by global collaborations such as the one with South African designer Poppy Karabo, and Nigeria's music sensation Wizzkid.” The report suggests that Nike's sponsorship of the shirts of the Nigerian and South African national football teams is also significant.

Individual brands, some of which you may not even have heard of, worth mentioning include:

  • Chinese brand Tecno, that has gone from number 30 to number five, is described as “a dominant performance from one of China's premier global brands that's not even sold in China.”
  • Indonesian brand Indomie, ranked at number 34, gets a special mention because it has managed to turn instant noodles in to a staple food in Nigeria, controlling 74% of the market.
  • Dutch brand Vlisco, a wax fabric designer, is singled out for moving up 50 places to number 45, is “arguably the most dominant brand representing African fashion.”
  • French dairy brand Danone that has moved up 30 places from number 60 to number 30.
  • Alibaba and Amazon, which are new entries, suggest an increasing adoption of e-commerce.

Some foreign brands are identified by consumers as being African

Interestingly, Coca Cola, ranked number 4, is regarded by many Africans as an African brand. The report suggests that this may be because the brand has been on the continent for over 100 years. It also suggests that “through innovative distribution and engaging localised campaign strategies tailored to African markets” Coca Cola has “achieved ubiquity and a certain Africanness.” Another example cited is Guinness, a beer which is apparently consumed by more people in Africa than in Ireland.

The report suggests that what these brands have in common is “deep local insights, localised marketing and outsize marketing budgets... they have managed to create intimate and infectious relationships with the African consumer.” What they do essentially is “think locally and act globally.”

Africans don't always support their own brands

Major African brands like Dangote (Nigeria), Safaricom (Kenya) and MTN (South Africa) are not the most admired brands in their home countries. In only three African countries is a local brand the most admired brand ie Zimbabwe (Econet), Zambia (Trade Kings) and Tanzania (media and consumer goods brand Azam).

Specific areas

The report says that financial services is one area where African brands like GTBank do shine. It says this: “The industry is dominated by African giants. International brands do feature in some cases but these are payment companies Paypal, Western Union and Visa. We expect to see mobile money and other disruptors muscle their way up the rankings.”

When it comes to media, however, the list is dominated by international brands ie BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, something that, according to the report, “begs the question how much of our narrative do we control.” When it comes to non-traditional media, major players like Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, Google and Instagram are making inroads.


Thebe Ikalafeng, founder and chairperson of Brand Africa, ends the report as follows: “It is concerning that... despite the vibrant entrepreneurial environment, Africa is not creating more competitive brands to meet the needs of its growing consumer market...African brands have an important role in helping to build the image, competitiveness and transforming the continent's promise into a real change.” 

The lessons for African brand owners are:

  • tap into Africa's love of sport,
  • sponsor local celebrities,
  • tailor marketing campaigns for the African market,
  • pay attention to localised marketing, and build meaningful relationships with consumers
  • in the words of the report, “think locally, act globally”

Originally published by ENSafrica, July 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.