Social Media Shaping Business Models in Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa – Social media in Africa is on the rise and will increasingly shape business models making it imperative for business not to ignore this medium.

“By 2016, it is estimated that there will be one billion mobile phones in Africa. This will happen at a compound annual growth rate of well over 30% that will have a $35 billion stimulus on the economy in Africa. With mobile Internet usage in Africa among the highest in the world, significant opportunities exist here to use social media in business,” said Mark Casey, director of the technology, media and telecoms industry at Deloitte at the Africa Frontiers Forum, held in Johannesburg recently.

Experts said that social media usage in Africa as in other developing parts of the world is different and needed to be thoroughly understood in order to be effective.

“Social media is doing something different in Africa as opposed to the rest of the developed world. There, most people use the Internet to find things, check e-mail, and do social media. In developing countries, we find that people use the Internet primarily for engaging in social media activities and to be entertained,” said Brett St Clair, head of new products in sub-Saharan Africa at Google SA.

Salim Amin, chairman of A24 media said that social media provides another platform for people to engage with one another. However, he cautioned that if companies do not produce a good product, the platform becomes irrelevant, as people will choose not to engage with them.

“But this does not mean people are just looking for companies with Web sites. In this new age, they are expecting to have continuous interaction and engagement from brands. This raises the question of how a company measures its return on investment in social media,” he said.

Jeremy Sampson, chairman of Interbrand Sampson said that social media is changing lives and companies are using it to do business are certainties irrespective of calculating the direct value. Sampson said social media can adjust people’s thinking about what products to buy, where to go on holiday, and what movies to watch.

“We have found that if people read three negative reviews, they will not buy a product. It is even more sobering to think that most companies in Africa still do not have a proper social media strategy,” said Sampson.

St Clair added that brands need to focus their strategies on short-term gains. He said companies need to iterate faster and change according to the needs of their clients much faster.

“Consumers are arming themselves with data. The companies that understand the feedback from their customers in real-time, and who know as much as possible about them, will have the critical advantage,” he said.

And it is in the collection of this customer data and how to use it effectively that raises the issue of how private people’s information is on the Internet.

“People need to realise that privacy is dead. It simply does not exist anymore. It is scary what big companies know about us and what we are doing online. The marketers of tomorrow will be statisticians. They will be the ones who will crunch the data and build profiles of users to be better able to sell to them on a more individual level,” said Anastasiou.

Sampson pointed out that the key to successful brand building is not about digital marketing.

“Digital brand building is to ensure meaningful relationships with consumers and being aware of what is important to them at any given point in time,” said Sampson.

Looking at how social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are growing across the continent, it is clear that companies can no longer afford not to view social media as a potential business platform.

“What is even more exciting is that African problems will be solved with African solutions in the social media market. The growth of mobile devices will contribute to the empowerment of people from all walks of life with companies finding innovative ways to educate, manage their business and engage with potential customers,” said Casey.

Rectal Microbicides Open New Frontier in Turning HIV Tide

By Chief K. Masimba Biriwasha | OpEd

Microbicide research has gained momentum in recent years with focus largely on products to prevent HIV during vaginal sex. However, there is a growing momentum to develop rectal microbicides for women, men, and transgender individuals around the world who engage in anal intercourse.

Microbicides are products designed to prevent or reduce the sexual transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections when applied inside the vagina or rectum. Most vaginal microbicides are being tested as gels or rings, while rectal microbicides are primarily being tested as gels.

Rectal microbicides are products – that could take the form of gels or lubricants – being developed and tested to reduce a person’s risk of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections from anal sex. In spite of the public health need for rectal microbicide research, there is serious institutional, socio-cultural and political stigma around the issue.

According to estimates, the risk of becoming infected with HIV through anal sex is 10 to 20 times greater than vaginal sex because the rectal lining, the mucosa, is thinner and much more fragile than the lining of the vagina.  Because the rectal lining is only one-cell thick, the virus can more easily reach immune cells to infect.

Although the rate of new infections is stabilizing in many countries around the world, HIV continues to disproportionately affect racial minorities and men who have sex with men. It is estimated that five to ten percent of the world’s population engages in anal sex.

Globally, men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population. Unprotected anal sex is the primary driver of the HIV epidemic among this population.

For decades, the primary approach to HIV prevention for anal sex has been consistent and correct use of male condoms. Male condoms are an extremely effective method to prevent HIV, but many people are unable or reluctant to use them.

Rectal microbicides are products – that could take the form of gels or lubricants – being developed and tested to reduce a person’s risk of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections from anal sex.

If proven effective, rectal microbicides could protect against HIV in people who are unable or reluctant to use condoms. Unlike condoms, they could provide an alternative way to reduce risk that is not controlled by one’s sexual partner and possibly enhance sexual pleasure, helping to motivate consistent use.

Rectal microbicides could offer both primary protection in the absence of condoms and back-up protection if a condom breaks or slips off during anal intercourse. Such an alternative is essential if we are to address the full spectrum of prevalent sexual practices and the basic human need for accessible, user-controlled HIV and STD prevention tools

Rectal microbicides research is in the early phase of clinical development due in part to scientific challenges related to the biology of the rectum, and cultural reluctance to address anal sex.

Most critically testing the safety and acceptability of microbicides designed specifically for rectal use is key to ensuring their effectiveness in preventing HIV infection among people who engage in anal sex.

Researchers need to first be sure rectal microbicides are safe and then conduct additional studies to find out whether they are effective against HIV.

JCI Zimbabwe to honour ten Outstanding Young Zimbabweans

Harare, Zimbabwe – Junior Chamber International’s Zimbabwean chapter (JCI-Zimbabwe) will on 30 July host a gala to celebrate ten outstanding young Zimbabweans aged between 18 and 40 at the 7 Arts Theatre in Harare.

According to JCI Zimbabwe president, Patson Mahachi, the aim of the event is to honour young people who are creating positive change in the country in business, environmental activism, personal development, cultural activities, community service, child and women’s rights activism among others.

“The theme of the 2011 gala is “Celebrating Success”. We are expecting many young people to come through and join us in celebrating fellow young active citizens creating positive change,” said Mahatchi.

Founded in 1967 in the then Rhodesia, JCI Zimbabwe currently has more than 220 members across the country. Its mission is to provide development opportunities that empower young people to create change in their communities.

JCI Zimbabwe National Public Relations Director said that the ten finalists will compete at international level with nominees from over 100 countries around the world. He added that Afro-jazz musician, Victor Kunonga is expected to perform at the event.

“Victor is a symbol of success as shown by the number of accolades he has collected. We find him befitting to lead the line-up of young artists that have agreed to come and celebrate positive change with us. His music has good doses of inspiration,” he said.

“It is a great honour to come and share the evening with great achievers. We hope that this will be a good opportunity to showcase ourselves as alternative role models and be recognised as good ambassadors for positive change,” said Kunonga.

Four Zimbabwean have made it into the top 10 nominees in the world to date, including, Charlene Hewat, founder of Environment Africa in 1995, Strive Masiyiwa, founder of Econet Wireless in 1999, Advocate Sabelo Sibanda founder of the School of African Awareness in 2005, and Betty Makoni, founder of Girl Child Network in 2007.

Are Social Network Followers A Mere Fallacy?

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Because social networks are largely fickle, it’s very difficult to tell how much influence you have on people that like or follow your postings.

Having loads of followers on Twitter or Facebook or any other social network does not automatically translate to high levels of influence, according to a new research titled, “Measuring User In?uence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy.”

Just like individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations across the world have jumped onto the social media bandwagon all with the aim of influencing in an already information overloaded universe. According to the study, influence is not gained spontaneously or accidentally, but through concerted effort such as limiting tweets to a single topic.

This is poignant: what this means is that rapid updating of content on social networks does not always translate to influence. Often times such postings go unnoticed and make little to no impact. Posting links after links is as spammy as sending emails after emails for link exchange. Social media is about engagement, just like we do in real life.

Another thought is that social media ought to be fun, and thereby evolve organically. However when you wan to add value or when your intention is to seek to influence than you have to be aware of the challenges associated with using social media.

The conversational or content-driven strategies in Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are not enough in creating influence. According to the research, there are three interpersonal ways that Twitter can be used to influence, and these include: a) users interact by following updates of people who post interesting; b) users can pass along interesting pieces of information to their followers, an action known as retweeting; and c) users can respond to (or comment on) other people’s

The research states that in order to gain and maintain influence, users need to keep great personal involvement. As social media guru, Brian Solis notes, the path to engagement is strenuous, uncharted, and anything but easy.

“Everything begins with understanding the magnitude of the gap and what it is that people want, are missing or could benefit from in order to bring both ends toward the middle. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t build a customer-centric organization if we do not know what it is people value,” says Solis.

” Social media are your keys to unlocking the 5I’s of engagement to develop more informed and meaningful programs: 1. Intelligence – Learn about needs, wants, values, challenges; 2. Insight – Find the “aha’s” to identify gaps; 3. Ideation – Inspire new ideas for engagement, communication, new products/services, change; 4. Interaction – Engage…don’t just publish, bring your mission to life; 5. Influence – Influence behavior and in the process, become an influencer,” he adds.

According to Solis, social media doesn’t have to be void of “fun”; it must offer value and usefulness to be successful.

Why Social Media Matters?

Social media has indeed transformed the way we communicate. But, in Africa, we still need a critical mass of people that can make the medium work to represent our own voices. Check out the video-blog below for some quick tips. Its really cool: