The continued rise of WhatsApp as a marketing tool in Africa

By our News Team | 2022

It started as a messaging app for connecting families, friends and social groups. Now WhatsApp is an effective marketing tool in Africa.

It has been more than 10 years since WhatsApp made its debut in Africa. Since then, it has evolved from a simple messaging service into a mainstream business marketing tool for businesses of all sizes, ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises through to corporate giants and multi-national retailers.  

The highest global levels of WhatsApp penetration are today to be found in sub-Saharan Africa (GlobalWebIndex, 2020), where it has come to be used by everything from coffee shops to insurance companies and supermarkets.

App-based Marketing

Photograph via Strategic Marketing for Africa magazine

Ongoing Covid woes have served to accelerate the use of WhatsApp in business as people have come to realise that technology is the answer to the barriers presented by social distancing requirements, lockdowns, border closures and an increasing reluctance by consumers to be in crowded public places.

WhatsApp was described as “absolutely dominant” by a 2018 Quartz Africa media report, and that has manifestly not changed since. GlobalWebIndex 2020, lists WhatsApp’s penetration of various countries as 97% in Kenya, 96% in South Africa and 95% in Nigeria. In other words, from a marketers’ perspective, it is near-ubiquitous in many African countries.

A mobile store-counter

Sidney Ogodo, head of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, attributes its dominant position to its ease of use, ease of understanding and simplicity of downloading. He notes that “every step is user-friendly”. 

It is this factor which has allowed many African businesses to make WhatsApp their digital store-counter; a place to discuss products and coordinate sales. This translates WhatsApp users into potential customers as they are able to see catalogues of what’s available without having to click on any external link, he explains.

Gillian Rusike, Secretary-General of AMC and head of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe, says of the Zimbabwe market: “WhatsApp for Business is gaining a lot of traction among Zimbabwean companies for its quick turnaround of enquiries, making payments or resolving issues. 

Chawa Mphande, a marketer based in Blantyre, Malawi, says: “WhatsApp is being used widely in Malawi by small businesses and big corporates alike, including banks. Many business groups have been formed on WhatsApp, for instance for buying and trading items and the marketing of those items – every type of product from agricultural to electronic equipment. 

To read more of this article go to page 28 of the latest digital edition of Strategic Marketing for Africa, the official publication of the African Marketing Confederation (AMC) here: https://africanmarketingconfederation.org/publications-2/