Although Africa faces similar challenges when it comes to lead generation as many other emerging markets, there are also several challenges that are far more pronounced in the region, that require solutions that are specific to the continent.

Africa’s infrastructure is underdeveloped, it’s retail landscape is both fragmented and often informal, market research is somewhere between non-existent and totally unreliable, skills are in short supply, and government regulation changes from day to day.

“Getting good data on Africa is a difficult and onerous task. Not only is it hard to get accurate data in the first place, keeping it fresh and up-to-date is a mammoth task,” says Louise Robinson, MD of CG Consulting. “There’s a dearth of information and insights on the continent’s spectrum of consumers and its sales environment.

“This is why businesses hoping to get a foothold in this market, are turning to lead generation specialists to provide them with accurate sales leads.”

She adds that this is one of the reasons good African databases are so expensive.

“Companies providing data about African businesses have to ensure that the details are correct on a regular basis. This often entails phoning numerous different numbers for the same person, checking that the contact people are still relevant, and that takes a great deal of time.”

She says to remember that any business entering a new market, particularly one with so many barriers to success, will face a slew of challenges, including structures, systems, regulations and cultures that vary from region to region.

“It is a daunting task for any business, and they should not fall into the trap of trying a Western approach.”

This is a waste of time, which will result in little to no increase in traction or sales, forcing the business to start from scratch. “The environment is so different in Africa. Businesses who are used to driving demand through a Western approach to sales and marketing will have to seriously rethink their strategies, if they hope to succeed in the African market, and reach these unique customers.”

According to Robinson, there are also a range of issues that marketers in developing economies must tackle.

“Think about soaring production costs, and infrastructure and logistical systems that are so inadequate, they cannot hope to meet the demands placed on them. Red tape and bureaucracy are also a major stumbling block to success, as is the dearth of developed media systems.”

Moreover, consumers are unpredictable. “I mentioned earlier that retail is largely informal on the continent, which affects consumption patterns. Many African consumers buy from informal street vendors, purchasing in inconsistent and variable patterns than their Western counterparts. Cash is also king on the continent, with credit cards being barely used at all.”

However, she says there is light at the end of the tunnel. “Irrespective of the issues Africa faces, there are tremendous prospects for growth and a variety of untapped markets. The burgeoning middle class will bring improvement to sales and opportunities, and businesses hoping to succeed need to tap in to these consumers now.”

In addition, she says that the business environment in Africa is growing in leaps and bounds, and companies trying to reach African organisations will encounter many of the same problems consumer-facing businesses have in reaching the right people.

“African companies operate in a very specific way, and organisations looking to do business with them need to use the right approach – and get to the right people – in order to do business with them.”

She says working with a lead generation partner, such as CG Consulting, which offers bespoke databases in specific sectors in Africa, is the best way for a business to succeed. “A good lead generation partner will help you access informal markets and get the date you need to effectively target your products and services.”