UK: Migrant Africans Are Poor Marketers…The Reasons…The Solution (part 1)

By Kayode Olatuyi – We Migrant Africans have a lot of catching up to do, either in business or in employment. Whereas many reasons have been adduced for our difficulties – racism et al, the biggest of these challenges is that Migrant Africans are poor (self) marketers! And unless we appreciate and work assiduously to redress this, reaching the top in business or achieving corporate success will remain a tantalising illusion.

Every race may have its own share of this problem. It will be correct to say that Africans are the Ivy League of this group. Poor Marketing is the black person’s Achilles heel and the repercussion among Migrant Africans (MA) is so evident.

Official statistics in the UK show that Migrant Africans are more likely to be engaged in entrepreneurial pursuits. At the best of times, failure rate among MA owned businesses is higher than the national average. Of those that manage to survive the first five years, less than 5% achieve any appreciable growth in turnover. In all cases marketing has been found to be  biggest cause.

Of those in employment, progression is slower because of our poor understanding of workplace survival strategies otherwise known as ‘office politics’ (of which self marketing is a big part of). It has been said that for every one promotion among MA, many others are stifled and languishing in the middle of nowhere. It is no wonder that corporate upward mobility is slow among MA, although their level of educational may be high.

By nature, MA are known to work hard and are highly enthusiastic – great qualities for business and career success; unfortunately these attributes do not translate to success in enterprise, employment or in romantic relationships for that matter.

What is responsible for Africans’ poor marketing skills?

Avoidance of Sensationalism:

MA do not believe in sensationalism. Marketing thrives on creating sensation out of every event. But MA are not used to this. In the west, the more sensational or controversial you make your marketing campaigns the more attention is generates. And out of this massive attention a market is created. Unfortunately, to Africans, controversy is to be avoided at all cost – a goal which we achieve with accurate precision with its attendant repercussions.

Dislike for Gossip

Yes, MAs are poor gossipers. Yet, gossip sells and it is a core element of marketing. To Africans’ gossip is illicit and immoral and by that fact to be avoided. This is not to say that MA do not gossip, we do, but in the ‘dark’. In the West, it is done openly and so skillfully courted. For example, a few years ago, Edwina Currie published her autobiography on the back of self revelation of her affair with former Prime Minister – John Major. The affair had been kept secret until then. Her book sold by the truckload. In Africa, her book would have been avoided and condemned to obscurity.

To MA, there is ‘good’ news and there is ‘bad’ news. But elsewhere, ‘news is news’. In those other places, a huge industry (of publicists) has been created to manage the ‘so called’ bad news.

What further proof do we need to show MA’s dislike of gossip, than to note that in Africa the best selling newspapers are mainstream newspapers – the ones which report serious news – The Guardian (Nigeria), Daily Star (Kenya), The Statesman (Ghana) etc. This is contrary to the UK for example where The Sun and News of the World reign supreme.

Cultural and Religious beliefs:

MA were raised with the mindset that says, ‘it is immoral to blow your own trumpet’. They have the orientation to not ‘be brash’ even if the task is one you can competently do. Any attempt to disregard this golden rule was met with community ridicule. The ‘wise’ thing to do therefore was to abide and be praised for being ‘humble’. Many have complied with this rule with devastating effect.

The saying is true that ‘old habits die hard’, these internalised concepts have been further strengthened by religious doctrines. MA pride themselves as the moral arbiters and the conscience of a depraved world. According to these beliefs, sensationalism, gossip and self belief and therefore a no-go area.

Religion teaches that it is vain to talk (glowingly) about the self. MA are now in a position where they have unknowingly signed off their ability to accurately and adequately market themselves.

Plain Product/Service Presentation
Controlled by these internal and subconscious notions, it is as if MA’s subscribed to the ‘functional’ packaging of their products and services. This is a huge contradiction for MA’s, because they are usually personally well presented. Glitz seems to be the watchword in the West, but among MAs it’s about functionality. Not enough attention is paid to presenting their offer, contrary to detailed attention and expense that others from elsewhere pay to theirs.

It is therefore not a surprise that MA’s are unable to present their offer with confidence to markets that are beyond them. Perhaps there other reasons why Migrant Africans are particularly poor at marketing themselves, but the above are the key ones that require urgent redress.

How can Migrant Africans become better marketers? I will be addressing this in the part 2 of this article – coming your way next week…

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