Johan Jacobs on Africa: The Sleeping Giant Awakes

Analyst firms should be rated by their understanding of Africa, writes Johan Jacobs, a former Gartner and META Group analyst.

I read a recent comment from Walter Isaacson, CEO at Aspen Institute where his #BigIdeas2015 is “The Coming Micropayment Disruption”. Interesting perspective but this is not new as we have been doing this in Africa for many years and are now already dealing with the unBanked. Elsewhere I read that one of the biggest ‘unity’ steps by the Europeans has been a single currency and another big step is removing trade barriers (within the union). This has all happened in the last 20 years. The USA, Canada and Mexico created NAFTA – a ‘supposed’ free trade agreement signed a mere 15 years ago yet 50 years ago the Africa countries of: Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa agreed on a single currency system that exists to this day ( and at the same time they also agreed on an EU style true free trade agreement that also included Botswana and also exists to this day. I can bore you with a lot of facts about Africa but there are five facts that are not so boring:



Analysing the $1 Trillion invested in Africa in the last 12 months one would see that it is mostly by non-African companies and countries with several $ Billion of these investments going towards Technology related investments. These investments exclude the spend of Africa companies on Tech and non-Tech related items in their own countries.


So now the BIG question – Why do none of the top six Analyst firms write much about Africa?


1)      Is it because there is not a market or audeince for Africa related material? – I guess not as the $1T investments would say otherwise

2)      Is it because Africa is perhaps seen as not having enough skills for non-Africa companies to use in their expansion initiatives? – I guess not as the Middle Class of Africa will soon be bigger than the Middle Class of India

3)      Is it because there is no Communications infrastructure? – I guess not as there are more phones in Africa than people in the US and mobile data and web usage is growing faster than anywhere else in the world.

4)      Is it perhaps because there is no innovation in Africa? – I guess not as Africa is the leader for web and mobile Finance

5)      Is it perhaps because Africa is insignificant and geographically too small to be concerned with? – I guess not as Africa is geographically bigger than the USA, China, India, Eastern Europe, France,  Spain, Germany and UK combined.


So what is the reason that none of the top six Analyst firms write much about Africa? – Maybe they do because they write volumes about EMEA and after all Africa is part of EMEA. The only problem is that the “A” on its own is bigger in size, has more mobile and financial growth, is attracting more investments and the economy is growing faster than the “EME” combined. Maybe the Big six Analyst firms are weary of doing business in Africa but that can’t be true either because these same Analyst firms do business in India, South America and China.


So why are the top six Analyst firms not writing much about Africa – It can’t be ignorance … right … they are after all the leading advisory firms in the world. The only reason that I could think of why the Analyst firms are mostly ignoring happenings in Africa is because they don’t understand Africa and its opportunities and what is happening on the continent. Within the top six Analyst firms Gartner probably has the biggest presence but the presence is in the form of a Distributor, not Gartner Inc. and  there is not a single Gartner analyst on the African continent. Forrester has an office in South Africa and may even have a local Analyst but they don’t write much about the continent either. IDC has offices in Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa and some Analyst in Africa but the other top Analyst firms are conspicuous by their absence in presence and coverage of Africa.


In closing – As the leading firm in the World that rate Vendors, lets take the Gartner Magic Quadrant as a rating standard. The MQ has two main Axis – The Ability to Execute and the Completeness of Vision. Mostly the Gartner Magic Quadrants then break these axis down along the following lines:


Completeness of Vision:

  • Market Understanding; Market Strategy; Sales Strategy; Offering (Product) Strategy; Business Model; Vertical / Industry Strategy; Innovation;Geographic Strategy

Ability to Execute

  • Product or Service; Overall Viability; Strategy and Organization; Sales Execution / Pricing; Market Responsiveness and Track Record;Marketing Execution; Customer Experience; Operations


If one were to rate the Top six Analyst firms using Africa as the primary focus and criteria then most of them would be abysmal in their ranking and highly likely fall in the bottom left quadrant. The first Analyst firm that make a concerted effort in establishing and growing presence i.t.o. physicality and  coverage of Africa and become part of the Africa Awakening should see a significant revenue stream.


Bottom Line – Africa is awakening and there are $ Trillions being spent in investment and growth on the continent. Maybe it is time to separate the “A” from EMEA and rate Analyst firms on the Vision and Execution of coverage of Africa. After all – many of their clients are already in Africa so why are they not….

Duncan Chapple

Duncan Chapple is the preeminent consultant on optimising international analyst relations and the value created by analyst firms. As the head of CCgroup's analyst relations team, Chapple directs programs that increase the value of relationships with industry analysts and sourcing advisors.