FORBES recently published its annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies. For some reason, Africa was not represented on the list. So when FORBES writerSamantha Sharf did a story on theTen Most Innovative Companies In America, I decided to make a list of Africa’s most innovative companies.
Admittedly, this is a subjective list, but I believe it to be quite accurate. Here are ten truly African companies, all leading in industries ranging from media and telecommunications to retail and restaurants and food & beverages. These ten companies continually reinvent themselves, setting industry standards and radically changing their sectors. These companies create, then recreate, then innovate. They exploit new ideas, products and services to produce dynamic and lucrative new businesses.
Without further ado, I present to you my personal Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Africa:
East Africa’s largest mobile telecommunications provider easily ranks as the most innovative company in sub-Saharan Africa. Reason: M-Pesa, Africa’s first SMS-based money transfer service. In 2007, Safaricom launched M-Pesa (M for mobile and Pesa- a Swahili word for money) which lets users deposit, transfer and withdraw funds via text message. A subscriber who wants to send money across simply visits a registered M-Pesa agent with the money and the phone number of the recipient. For a fee of a little over $1, the agent sets up a virtual account for the subscriber, credits the account with the money, and then sends the amount to the recipient’s account. A subscriber can send money even to a recipient on a different mobile network, who can cash it at any M-Pesa agent simply by presenting an ID and entering a secret code. Safaricom also pioneered a service which offers subscribers airtime on credit, introduced the payment of utility bills through the M-Pesa platform and also runs a robust customer loyalty award programe.
Nando’s, South Africa
Industry: Food & Beverages
Since opening its first restaurant in 1987, Nandos has expanded to over a thousand locations in 30 countries on five continents. Its success secrets may well lie in its marketing: Nando’s’ numerous provocative yet witty commercials, such as an ad featuring a dimwitted busty blonde and another which depicted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe reflecting on happy moments he enjoyed with fallen dictators such as Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein have made Nando’s’ flagship flame-grilled Peri-Peri chicken a hit among Africa’s young and hip. Nando’s meals are premised on traditional Mozambiquan-Portuguese dietary patterns and spices such as the ‘Pili Pili’. The company also manufactures a range of sauces which are sold in Nando’s restaurants and in supermarkets.
In 2010, Advertising Age magazine named Nando’s as one of the world’s top 30 hottest marketing brands. Nando’s also promises to allow anyone to eat free for life if they can prove they have been to all the Nando’s restaurants.
Nation Media Group, Kenya