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Proud and Passionate. Meet the consumers of North Africa
By our News Team | 2023
While culture and history still permeate the North African consumer experience, it is also a region undergoing a dramatic evolution.
Two out of every 10 Africans hail from North Africa. Yet, African marketing research and commentary often focuses on sub-Saharan Africa, while classifying North Africans among their Middle Eastern neighbours. This leaves a notable knowledge gap when it comes to African marketers targeting this unique and vibrant market.
There is good reason for this growing interest in the North African consumer. In early 2022, the likes of Euromonitor International began highlighting how consumers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region were expected to increase their spending by 40% over the year, “making it crucial to be sensitive to consumers’ needs and wants to place their brands top of mind”.
Young people at a medina (old quarter) jewellery shop in Marrakesh, Morocco. Photo by Ali Eminov from Flickr
Euromonitor consultant Amna Abbas wrote that dynamic changes were taking place across MENA.
“Consumers want to invest in products and services that benefit their life goals and are open to connecting through the internet, especially with government encouragement. Business adaptability, and the ability to meet this demand in [the] ‘new normal’ and beyond will continue to prove crucial for company growth,” she noted in an article which grouped the likes of Morocco and Egypt alongside Middle Eastern giants Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
As the more recent North Africa Life research report by Kantar further emphasises, there is significant scope for building greater connections with the rest of Africa. This is because, as Dina El Sehrawy, Kantar’s Head: Qualitative Middle East Insight Division, explains: “It’s the place where the north meets the south. North Africa has always been strategically important and a crossroads.”
Sahara Desert has created a natural cultural barrier
While North Africa is geographically part of the African continent, the region is naturally separated from sub-Saharan Africa by the Sahara Desert, a barrier which has seen North Africans culturally align to the north of the continent and beyond.
As such, North Africans today still “identify as Arabs and Muslims first and foremost”, explains Mohamed Hayek, Kantar’s Associate Director: Qualitative Insights. “This unites and differentiates them and makes them a unique people in this region.”
In exploring these cultural affiliations, the researchers approached consumers in Algeria, Morocco and Egypt to gauge their connection to the rest of Africa. Only 45% of Algerians and 59% of Egyptians felt strongly rooted to their African culture, with Morocco proving the outlier at 76%.
“This is partly thanks to stronger ties with the other countries of West Africa, thanks to sharing the Atlantic Ocean coast,” notes Hayek.
But, while culture and history still permeate the North African consumer experience, it is also a region undergoing a dramatic evolution; the primary drivers of which are women and youth.
“Half of North Africans are young, ambitious and dynamic,” says El Sehrawy, pointing to the fact that 50% of North Africans are under 25 years of age, a figure which is expected to rise to 62% of the total population by 2050.
Siham Malek, MD of Morocco-based Integrate, a Kantar affiliate, adds that with these numbers the youth in North Africa have the “power to make or break the society”. This digitally-empowered generation is certainly aligned to the global youth experience, but also has notable particularities due to their environmental, social and cultural backgrounds.
Read more about North African Consumer Trends 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.
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