African chat commerce finds its ever-louder and clearer voice

By our News Team | 2023

While China and the Far East lead the chat commerce revolution, Africa is – remarkably – ahead of the Western world in its development.

Chat – or conversational – commerce is finding fertile ground across Africa, South America and Asia. Messaging apps, chatbots, voice assistants and chat apps are being used by large and small companies alike to streamline and support the customer experience.

Irrespective of the digital platform used, chat commerce is being deployed by businesses operating across such diverse sectors as healthcare, banking, e-commerce, travel, insurance, logistics, retail and hospitality.

Chat Commerce

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Currently, the Far East and China dominate global spend in this space, with Juniper Research noting that “total spend over chatbot messaging apps in China will surpass US$21-billion by 2026”. 

However, on a demographically young continent like Africa – where mobile penetration is growing rapidly in key markets such as Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya and Ethiopia according to mobile insights researcher GSMA Intelligence – the potential for mobile customer engagement solutions is particularly exciting. 

Sydney Eneremadu, a conversational designer and MD of both ‘The European Chatbot & Conversational AI’ and ‘African Chatbot & Conversational AI’ summits, believes Africa’s mobile credentials position the continent favourably for chat commerce. 

Talking to Strategic Marketing for Africa magazine ahead of the Africa Chatbot event in Johannesburg in June 2023, Eneremadu says: “Conversational commerce presents a unique opportunity for businesses to invest in, or expand, their chat solutions in order to meet the expanding demands in Africa.” 

Africa’s mobile boom transcends generations

This optimistic outlook is echoed by Werner Lindemann, Senior Vice President Enterprise Sales: Growth Markets at Clickatell, a leading chat commerce company with offices in South Africa, Nigeria, the USA and Canada. 

Lindemann stresses that Africa’s mobile boom transcends the younger generations. So much so, that he talks instead of a cross-generational ‘Gen C’ phenomenon of connected Africans who are “used to working on mobile phones, engaging with brands on their mobile phones on a daily basis. It actually spans generational theories. It’s about people who are connected”.

Gen C is typically described as a psychographic group, defined not by their age but by their behaviour, values, attitudes and digital lifestyle.

This widespread technology adoption has, explains Lindemann, profoundly changed consumer behaviour and how brands connect. As a result, key African markets such as South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt are ‘streets ahead’ when it comes to mobile-first consumer engagement. 

While China definitely leads the chat commerce pack, Lindemann says there are parallels between the Asian and African stories. So much so, that he determines Africa is “probably 18 months or two years ahead of what’s happening in the westernised world”.

Read more about Chat Commerce in the latest issue (Issue 1 2023) of Strategic Marketing for Africa, the in-depth quarterly magazine of the African Marketing Confederation (AMC). You can download a free copy of the Digital Edition here