Millennial influence has gone global. In addition to disrupting everything from how Americans work to how they buy groceries, this demographic is having an impact overseas, a big impact. Take Africa, for example: Millennials now comprise 37 percent of that continent’s population, making Africa the most youthful continent on the planet
As more and more young people join Africa’s workforce, they’re increasingly influencing production and consumption patterns in the region. That means that millions of people between their late teens and age 35 are experiencing a rapid rise in disposable income, making this cohort a key factor for any companies’ investment and organizational strategies for expanding into Africa.
Millennials demand a new approach to organizational structures. Young professionals reject the old top-down food chains that many corporations continue to support. And staff turnover within this age group is expected to be the highest in emerging and frontier markets, between 2016 and 2020. So, companies need to get creative in how they entice their best people to stay.
Instead of operating standard hierarchical organizations, then, businesses should be evolving toward more horizontal, interactive models.
Designing for the millennial future
Millennial influence will prove crucial in the next several years, as young professionals represent both the future of work and the future of commerce in Africa. Investors who hope to leverage the millennial dividend should implement the following strategies:
1. Adopt employee-centric systems. Africa’s business landscape is bursting with enterprise and innovation, and that energy has inspired fresh engagement among young employees. They’re not content to be passive drones in a firm. They want to be involved in the disruptive technologies that are reshaping Africa’s investment landscape and economies.
Traditional management strategies are ineffective in such an environment. Instead, firms must implement collaborative approaches. Systems that foment unfettered employee engagement and the exchange of ideas will prove pivotal to addressing the challenges of Africa’s emerging and frontier markets.
2. Monitor consumer engagement through analytics. Horizontal structures enable companies to communicate more effectively with their audiences. Big data analytics and social media engagement provide unprecedented insights into what customers think and feel about different brands.
Companies such as Zendesk and Kenya Power already use analytics to monitor customer interactions and satisfaction levels. Data analytics will be essential to making sense of consumer behaviors in Africa and maintaining relevance in a competitive field.
3. Build a hands-on C-suite. Executives can’t enclose themselves in their ivory towers — detached from the day-to-day goings-on at their companies — and still expect employees to remain loyal.
Business leaders must follow Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore’s example and become more involved across their departments. Horizontal structures make for more agile companies, and agility will be a must-have attribute for companies to responding to millennials’ demands as employees and consumers.
Africa’s young adult population will shape the continent’s future. The emerging and frontier markets there will develop quickly, and investors who want to take advantage of these opportunities can’t ignore millennial influence.
As technology accelerates the FinTech, mobile banking and ecommerce industries, companies must be prepared to meet rapidly shifting consumer demands. Millennial employees will be best equipped to serve these markets, so investors should begin wooing this age group now to establish a strong foundation for the future.