Brand Africa, a high-level business forum organized in the wake of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, recently published its ranking of the most admired brands in the Continent. In the consumer electronics category, South Korean market leader Samsung has become one of the most admired brands, and this recognition has more to do with corporate citizenship and outreach than with great products.
After growing its brand value by 13 percent in 2016, Samsung is now the top overall brand in eight African nations. Although the Asian electronics giant had a rough 2016 in other markets due to the exploding Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, the company’s efforts in terms of providing technology solutions to improve education, healthcare and internet access in remote areas are certainly paying off in terms of brand image.
Samsung’s Positive Image in Africa
In 2011, Samsung started its African social responsibility campaign in earnest with a series of Smart Schools and Digital Libraries in rural areas. This was a modest effort that eventually grew into Samsung Digital Villages, which can be found in Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, and South Africa; these solar-powered villages provide internet access, education and remote healthcare solutions to residents of remote areas.
An even more ambitious project is the Samsung Solar Powered Internet School (SPIS), which is being coordinated with the Hope for Children initiative and the Ministry of Education in Kenya. This pilot project has been developing over the last few years in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, and South Africa. The goal is to benefit 2.5 million students by 2020.
Samsung Products in Africa
Feature phones are part of a market segment that Samsung has yet to conquer in Africa. Nokia used to rule this segment with low-tech handsets that lacked the advanced functionality of Galaxy Notes; however, they were durable and reliable devices able to withstand heat, humidity, dust, and impacts.
Many Africans need handsets that may seem rudimentary among consumers in Asia, Europe and the Americas; forget about touchscreens and voice recognition, a rugged cellphone in rural Africa needs long battery life, text messaging, voice calls, a basic browser, camera, FM radio, calculator, and the ability to connect to the M-Pesa network in certain countries. Samsung’s Galaxy Pocket and Galaxy Star smartphones are in this niche; however, brands such as Huawei and Techno are stealing considerable market share with more affordable feature phones.
One segment where Samsung exceeds is in refrigerators, which are durable, reliable and reasonably priced. Another leading segment for Samsung is air conditioning units, particularly in South Africa. Once again, this is an area where Samsung plays it smart as it sponsors vocational training for young people who want to work as air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. In South Africa and Ghana, Samsung encourages women to become technicians and provides tuition assistance to young girls who want to study engineering.
In the end, Samsung succeeds in Africa because it has found the right partners. In a press release by the company, the director of Samsung Electronics Africa quoted a traditional African adage about how quick safaris are undertaken by those who travel alone; those who want to go far take their time and choose safari companions to help them reach good goals.