Africa’s growing number of young consumers seeking trustworthy brands

By our News Team | 2023

Digital innovations by businesses on the continent will fail unless they are accompanied by high levels of customer trust, study finds.

Brands targeting African consumers must blend digital innovation with customer trust if they are to be successful, according to a study conducted by Mastercard in conjunction with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. The latter is the independent commercial research unit within the famous Harvard Business Review magazine.

The briefing paper, entitled ‘Balancing Digital Innovation and Customer Trust in the Middle East and Africa’, is published this week and explores the continent’s current business landscape through the lens of an increasingly young population.

Consumer Trust

Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

Among other things, it highlights that trust as an important lever for customer loyalty, business sustainability and innovation.

Around 60% of Africa’s population is younger than 25, and their embrace of a digital world that is purpose-driven and built on connection bodes well for businesses in a region that prioritises innovation. However, with economic activity increasing online, security and privacy are emerging as foundational not just for trust, but also for innovation.

The briefing paper reveals that over 70% of businesses in Africa recognise that service reliability and availability are paramount. 

Innovation requires flexibility and commitment

But less than half (42%) realise the importance of data security and privacy to customers, especially as digital tools and experiences become more common. To safeguard the trust of consumers and earn a license to innovate in the future, businesses need to recognise that innovation requires flexibility and commitment.

According to the researchers, consumers in the region are also quicker than their global peers to punish businesses for adverse events by withdrawing their trust and their spending – which raises the stakes for companies. 

In addition, consumers in Africa have underlined the importance of strong values, with 80% saying they prioritised buying from businesses that act on causes they care about, a far higher proportion than the global average of 63%. This includes the environment, supporting small businesses, women’s economic empowerment, disaster relief, and humanitarian aid.

“Africa has seen extraordinary digital transformation over the past decade, and with each new milestone in digital inclusion, Africa’s young digital natives and early adopters present companies with an opportunity to reconsider their innovation priorities in line with the elements their consumers value,” says Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President for Market Development in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Mastercard.

“Trust is essential for innovation; it is the currency that underpins it. When consumers can trust businesses, it gives businesses the space and security to innovate, and that innovation can unlock prosperity across Africa for all Africans.”