Africa could reach much greater levels of prosperity and development through deeper trade integration. Many economic experts have detailed strategies to achieve more robust intra-African trade, one of the most practical being to encourage the continent’s consumers to “buy local” – that is, to buy products and services created in their own or neighbouring countries.
In 2017, official statistics put intra-African trade at 13% of the content’s total trade. This was noted as “abysmally low”, and higher trade volumes are essential if African nations are to experience shared macro-economic benefits such as exposure to bigger markets, new opportunities and a larger pool of capital for businesses. Consumers should be able to look forward to buying from a wider variety of products and services at relatively lower costs.
To encourage consumers to buy local (or buy African) more often, it may be worth pointing out that this practice helps address multiple economic problems: research shows that there is a direct link between what consumers spend money on and employment, local economic development and prosperity. For example, an economic impact study conducted by the Pan African Research Services in 2012 found that an investment of just R1 in local manufacturing resulted in a R1.13 increase in gross domestic product, an increase of R0.13 in export receipts and R0.35 in fiscal revenue.
So, if choosing to buy African products in Africa supports entrepreneurs (while encouraging the development of more), creates employment opportunities and stimulates economies, why don’t more people do it? The answer is that many people don’t realise the impact of their purchasing choices, and that foreign goods come with their own set of appeals.
Many foreign-made products have the draw card of a good reputation; people trust what they’re buying. Also, international brands signal wealth and status, especially in countries with high poverty levels. Exclusivity is another lure; the harder something is to obtain – the more expensive or unique, the people want it. It’s no surprise that limited-edition versions of a product create a strong desire to own it, especially among the middle class and the wealthy.
Though international brands will always be popular on the continent, recent research suggests that Africans don’t need much convincing to buy from their own. A 2017 mobile-based GeoPoll survey that focused on spending habits and economic perceptions in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa showed that the majority of respondents in all countries preferred buying local: 58% in Kenya, 47% in Nigeria and 63% in South Africa.