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"Got Millet?" - Marketing for the African farmer


In her TED talk, 2018 Tutu Fellow Zoë Karl-Waithaka explains that marketing impacts the livelihoods of farmers in ways that are unexpected.  She takes a look at campaigns promoting agricultural products like milk and avocados. Perhaps 'Got Millet' - to borrow from the campaign promoting milk - can help farmers by creating a greater market for the product.

She says marketing campaigns like "Got milk?" to "avocados from Mexico," influence what people eat more than one might realize. But despite the known power of food marketing, Zoe says farmers in Africa are more likely to receive funding for seed and fertilizer than they are for advertising geniuses.

Zoë is a Partner at the Nairobi office of the global company, Boston Consulting Group and has worked in agricultural development, along with her more than 10 years of experience in large-scale transformation.  In this piece, she outlines three ways that industry, governments, NGOs and others can help African farmers improve their livelihoods -- and positively impact society, the economy and the environment.  She begins her talk by pointing out that American hipsters pay $15 to get avocados mashed at their table when in the not too distant past, avos were known as 'alligator pears' and it took Superbowl ads of NFL players to promote them.  California avocado farmers were behind the campaign and the end result was they changed what people eat and will demand.

In Africa, too often farmers will say "I have a product, but no market in which to sell it"; or, "I have a market, but it's too small".  

In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture makes up 20% of GDP, about 60% of employment, and many of the people in agriculture are smallholders, living on less than two hectares of land with incomes that put them at or below the poverty line. For decades, the development community has been trying to change this, primarily with a supply side-focus of working with farmers, giving them access to seeds and fertilizers, showing them how to improve their productivity.  Billions of dollars have been spent on this. But many African farmers are still poor. To move the needle, what's needed is in addition to this help is marketing.

She uses the Got Milk? campaign as an example: Funded by American dairy farmers, US companies work together as an industry to promote milk drinking. It led to subsidized milk in school lunches and created a category of consumers. This model was successfully emulated by Kenya in the 1980s under former president Moi, dubbed Nyayo Milk in which many Kenyan children went to school and received packets of milk. So it became a lot more a part of the local diet. As they grew up, they continued to consume it. Today, Kenya has the highest rate of consumption of dairy in East Africa and a much more developed dairy industry than its regional neighbors.

Zoe argues that while Africa is still relatively early in its development trajectory versus other markets, it has the opportunity to use marketing and a demand-led approach to boost economic growth, reduce diet-related diseases, and adapt to the challenges of climate change.

Watch the entire talk at TED.



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Thursday, 23 March 2023

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About AFLI




The African Leadership Institute (AFLI) is unique among leadership initiatives in that it focuses on building the capacity and capability of visionary and strategic leadership across the continent. Developing exceptional leaders representing all spheres of society, the Institute’s flagship programme is the prestigious Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship. Offering a multifaceted learning experience and run in partnership with Oxford University, it is awarded annually to 20-25 carefully chosen candidates, nominated from across Africa. Alumni of the African Leadership Institute form a dynamic network of Fellows passionately committed to the continent’s transformation, bridging the divide between nations and ensuring that Africa is set centre-stage in global affairs.