When Can Black People Emerge From ‘Emerging Markets’?

I’m exhausted and saddened by what happens on a daily basis in Corporate South Africa. I’m one of the few brownies who work in corporate South Africa and some of the things I hear and see leave me deflated.

TIA. This is Africa. An acronym I feel usually rears its head to describe something negative that happens on a consistent basis in Africa. Unfortunately, “TIA” does not get the positive consideration when some big brands try to sell their high-end products to a market that can barely afford a loaf of bread. Usually, this gets disguised under the pretence of aspiration. I’m a brown professional and pride myself in the work I do because I put my heart and soul into it and stand up for my work. I’ve been pulled into boardroom brainstorms many times, not because I’m an expert who belongs in the room, but to play the role of a personified B.E.E box and share an opinion that will be diluted and sprayed across campaign executions that end up not resonating with me in the end.

I become invisible when I sit in status meetings and hear how my people are being lumped into ‘emerging markets’ which seems to be a never-ending corporate buzz phrase, despite black people being very complex and unique in behavior, product purchases, and the reasons behind them. My ears bleed at hearing heads of departments suggest higher grade written call-to-actions for campaigns aimed at lower black target audiences when they are oblivious to the fact that illiteracy is real and is not a unicorn. If these brands have the big budgets, why not invest in conducting research to get authentic opinions from a sample of the target audience? Budgets are made available for full page colour ads and massive billboards but budgets are tight when they have to ask umjita on his experience when it comes to grooming or what the best mechanic would be for him to enter a competition on social media.

Yes, I’m a brownie in the corporate world but it is not ENOUGH to ask for my opinion and assume all black people think the same because believe it or not, we are NOT the same. Brands, campaigns, ideas, and products need to be marketed with empathy in mind and move beyond comfort zones because LSM groupings live beyond bullet points on ring-bound trend reports because “This is Africa”.

Writen by: Mbali Zondo