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Africans put their trust in global brands

After recovering to a seven-year high of 17% and challenging the dominance of non-African brands in Africa in 2022, and despite optimism with the progress of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and other progressive Africa-focused initiatives, African brands’ share of this year’s Top 100 rankings declined by 20% as stalwart African brand MTN dropped out of the Top 10 and Dangote headed towards exiting the Top 30.

Our main table below displays the ranking of Africa’s 100 most-admired brands. See our methodology section for information on how we compile the tables. 

All African brands, except Zambia’s Trade Kings, the highest African mover and new at #38, lost ground. Fifteen percent of the Top 100 brands are new entrants, led by Proctor and Gamble’s oral hygiene brand, Oral B (#34), the highest non-African brand. Zambia’s leading manufacturer of detergent powders, pastes, laundry bars and fabric conditioners, Trade Kings (#38), is the leading African brand. 

Europe, led by Adidas at #2, has grown its share of the most-admired brands in Africa to 37%, ahead of North America at 32% led by Nike, the #1 brand for the 6th consecutive year, and Asia, which retains its 17% share led by Samsung, the #3 brand for the 3rd consecutive year. Nike (#1), Adidas (#2), Samsung (#3), Coca-Cola (#4) and Apple (#5) all retained their Top 5 dominance in Africa. Upstart South African brand Drip (#65 in 2022), Kenya’s Tusker beer and South African multinational group Tiger brands (#64 in 2022) led the African exodus from the Top 100. 

The preeminent African standard bearers have lost ground. However, MTN, remains the #1 most-admired African brand in the Top 100 brands recalled spontaneously, and Dangote retakes the lead as the #1 most-admired brand when respondents are prompted to recall an African brand specifically.

Ethiopian Airlines, which flies the African flag across 114 international destinations in 77 countries, remains the lone most-admired aviation brand in the Top 100 most-admired brands. South Africa (4) and Nigeria (4) lead the share of the African countries of origin among the 14 African brands in the Top 100. 

Ghanaian beverage brand Kasapreko Drinks’ Alomo Bitters moved to #100, significantly down from #34 in 2022, due probably to invisibility and inaccessibility in the post-Covid economy, and wraps up the top 100 most-admired brands in Africa.

Where respondents are specifically prompted to recall African brands, entrepreneurial new brands established in the last decade or so, such as South Africa’s Bathu (#6) and Drip (#15) return for the second year in a row. Culture-based luxury apparel brand MaXhosa (#10) which is growing its footprint with new store openings and showcases in global fashion platforms, makes a bold entry in the rankings.

The rankings of the most-admired African brands remain dominated by perennially ranked transformational brands: Dangote, MTN, DStv, Ethiopian Airlines and Safaricom/Mpesa – which raced up the rankings from #20 to #4 as it continues to grow beyond its dominant Kenya base with the launch in the high-opportunity Ethiopian market.

The top three categories remain:

  • Consumer/Non-cyclicals with a share of 20%, led by Nestlé (#16), Unilever (#20) and Dangote (#27);
  • Electronics/Computers (17%), led by Samsung (#3), Apple (#5) and Tecno (#9);
  • Luxury (11%) with Gucci (#6), Louis Vuitton (#17) and Christian Dior (#28). 

Pride not translating to profits

Clearly, while by all accounts there’s a growing pride among Africans, the pride hasn’t necessarily translated to brand preferences. Dangote retains its lead as the brand that best symbolises African pride, ahead of Ethiopian Airlines and MTN in Africa; and Coca-Cola, Orange and Adidas, the Top 3 non-African brands. 

Doing well by doing good

The 2023 Brand Africa survey sought to establish the brand most-admired for doing good for society, people and the environment. Unicef (originally called the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) emerged as the #1 NGO. Coca-Cola was the #1 non-African and MTN the #1 African brand. 

South African brands, led by MTN, account for 50% of the African brands most admired for doing good, with Dangote (#2) leading from Nigeria and Tanzania’s Azam rounding out the Top 3.

A return to traditional banking?

The financial service brand rankings indicate a return to the traditional and established financial services providers. New technologies and an entrepreneurial young African population makes the industry the most dynamic category in the continent. 

But while Africa is reported to be home to the second-largest number of crypto-currency holders in the world, traditional financial institutions continue to dominate. This is despite the early proliferation by non-traditional players not saddled with legacy issues in a digital world, and is perhaps reflective of the traditional banks increasing their focus, investments and re-positioning themselves for the digital world. 

Telecommunications giants and mobile money brands MTN Money, Airtel Money and Orange Money all dropped out of the Top 25. However, Mpesa, at #22, makes an entry independently of Safaricom.

Africa’s oldest banking group, Standard Bank, building on the acquisition of Liberty Holdings and digital partnerships with platforms such as Salesforce, Shyft, Thrive, and OneHub; surged to the #1 most-admired finance brand in Africa. It displaced GTBank, which has dominated the rankings for the past three years but has been reeling from a UK regulatory issue, service challenges and a tough competitive environment. South African (6) and Nigerian (6) brands lead the rankings, accounting for 48% of the Top 25, with the USA (4), led by VISA, at 16%, making up 64% of the Top 25 brands.

Media: a fragmented non-African-led story

DStv is the consumer brand of the Multichoice Group, the lone media brand in the Top 100, which produced more than 6,000 hours of local content in 2022, entertained and informed more than 21m customers in 40 languages, across 50 countries, and reached more than 100m people every day. It retained its dominant ranking as the #1 most-admired media brand in Africa ahead of the BBC and CNN. 

Consistent with previous rankings, non-African media dominate the continent, accounting for 76% of the Top 25 brands, as some African media brands tend to be relevant only in their individual markets. Brands such as TikTok and Disney , which has launched the Disney+ streaming platform in five African countries, have been investing massively in African content creators. The rise of uniquely African entertainment genres such as Amapiano has given platforms such as TikTok a commanding edge in Africa as they open barriers to showcase talent globally. #Amapiano has generated over 5.2bn views on TikTok. DStv (#1) and Canal+ (#8) remain the dominant entertainment content aggregating brands for the anglophone and francophone African markets respectively.

Made for Africa 

For years, the “made in” label was a source of cachet – and a short-hand for the quality, prestige and reputation of products. Non-African brands continue to dominate Africa with offerings that respond to the emotional and functional needs of Africans better than do their African counterparts – through the integration and adoption of local languages, lifestyle and culture into their global products. 

Clearly, the resilience and dominance of non-African brands in the 13-year history of the Brand Africa study seems to indicate that “Made in Africa” doesn’t carry as much sway as “Made for Africa”. 

The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria has declared that “all advertisements, advertising, and marketing communications materials targeted or exposed on the Nigerian advertising space are to use only Nigerian models and voice-over artists.” 

This is an admirable intervention – but does not necessarily create an advantage for local brands which do not have the leverage or investment to compete with established non-African global brands. 

By going beyond their functional category strength to solve social issues – as Orange is doing with its Orange Energy solar kits to alleviate electricity access challenges – non-African brands have entrenched their utility and relevance to Africans. 

In the last seven Africa Cup of Nations (CAF) football championships players wore either Puma, Adidas or Nike branding. The competition was sponsored by either TotalEnergies or Orange in the past 15 years – so it is not difficult to understand the dominance of these brands at the heart of the most accessible and popular sport in Africa. 

Unilever’s brand campaigns are rooted in local insights. Through its brand Knorr, it brought together chefs, food critics and more than 5,000 consumers to mark World Jollof Day – an event celebrating the popular African rice dish beloved in West Africa. 

The strategies of non-African brands are clearly rooted in Nelson Mandela’s advice, “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” 

But the challenge for African brands is surmountable as the leading non-African brands were once local brands in their regions – and brands such as Dangote, MTN and Ethiopian Airlines prove Africa can build resilient brands beyond domicile borders.

Facing forward

In the 60th anniversary year of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner to the African Union (AU), it is concerning that despite the momentum in operationalising the AfCFTA and rising internal pride in the continent albeit against a backdrop of global economic challenges, African consumers have reverted to trusted, mostly non-African brands, rather than giving African brands a chance.

This is an urgent SOS for the rise of purposeful African entrepreneurship, innovation, and “made in Africa”. 

Ghanaian pan-African champion Kwame Nkrumah once urged Africa not to look East or West, but forward. If the continent does not do this, the promise and opportunity of Africa-focused initiatives such as the AfCFTA could paradoxically be a catalyst for the 1.3bn Africans to take their projected $2.1 trillion consumer spending by 2025 (according to consultancy McKinsey & Co) offshore through non-African brands to the detriment of Africa’s development. 

When it comes to building and buying African brands, it is not yet Uhuru.

This article was written by Thebe Ikalafeng with contributions from Kantar’s Karin du Chenne and Geopoll’s Frankline Kibuacha, with Feyi Olubodun, Tshepang Makofane, Thabani Khumalo, Michelle Ncube, Pat Mahlangu and Sharon Mills

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