Market Research AfricaConducting market research is a necessary step for expansion into any new market because it can bring key issues to the surface before large sums of money are in jeopardy. Expanding into African markets is no different, yet there are a few considerations to be aware of when conducting market research in Africa. In this post, we will share expert information on such considerations for conducting survey-based market research in Africa.


Technology Access

Basic mobile phones have become increasingly accessible for all people throughout the world. Rates of mobile phone penetration vary by country, but many African countries have populations that depend on mobile phones as they move through society each day.

Advances in technology development world-wide have allowed many countries to skip over the phase of desktop computers and move straight to mobile. Basic mobile phones are an attractive option for many people in Africa because mobile phones provide basic needs at a fraction of the cost of more elaborate computing hardware. In addition, mobile connectivity has sprung up in places that do not have the infrastructure needed for landlines and broadband internet access.

Although many people in Africa have access to mobile phones, smartphone penetration rates are still gaining momentum. GSMA presented research that shows, as of 2018, only 39% of mobile connections in sub-Saharan Africa are smartphone connections. This is important to keep in mind when choosing the right mode of research for your project.

Market-research-africaLanguage and Wording Considerations

Languages and dialects can vary widely, even within one country or region. Performing secondary research about the area of interest is crucial to understanding what languages and dialects should be used.

Literacy rates of the area should be taken into consideration as well. If literacy rates are low, spoken word surveys administered through may be the best research method.

It is also important to write a questionnaire with simple words and simple sentence structure. Clear, concise wording asks the survey respondent to do less guesswork and increases the accuracy of the resulting data.

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Take note that language barriers may exist between writers and responders—even if their native languages are the same. What may make sense to an American writer may not make sense to an English-speaking African. For example, throughout the years GeoPoll has come to know that wording a question, “In what year were you born?”, provides more accurate age data than the phrase, “How old are you?”.

Cultural Context

One of the most important aspects to consider when planning survey research in Africa is the region’s cultural nuances. Generally speaking, the culture that a survey respondent lives in builds their world view.

A challenge that western market research teams face when targeting new markets is the stark differences in perception per location. Within one country there can be many different communities which each have their own definition of what is acceptable or normal, in addition to local phrases or references. When building a questionnaire or administering a survey, the researcher must be hyper aware of cultural differences or the data collected may be impacted. By utilizing a research provider experienced in the nuances of different markets, such as GeoPoll, you will be able to take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge that provider has on how local context can impact survey administration.

Market Research in AfricaPrivacy Concerns

Certain survey questions may intimidate respondents due to privacy concerns. For example, if there is intense political conflict in an area, respondents may not feel comfortable answering questions about politics, especially if the political conflict is related to violence. Survey participants may perceive the questionnaire as a trick dispatched by a violent political group and decide not to participate. Similar privacy concerns can vary based on the topic, so it is important to thoroughly research the social climate of an area before beginning survey research in the area.

Interview Length and Structure

Survey fatigue is a concern when developing survey questions. Keep the completion time of the survey as low as possible. GeoPoll recommends that from start to finish, the questionnaire should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. A survey longer than 20 questions will likely have a lower completion rate.

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Mobile Data and Airtime Usage

It is important to consider the expense of airtime credit and data plans for survey respondents when conducting mobile-based survey research in Africa, as this can impact who opts-in to your survey. Platforms such as GeoPoll, which have direct connectivity to mobile network operators and utilize shortcodes to administer surveys, allow respondents to take surveys at no cost, but respondents may incur costs when answering questions from other SMS survey companies. This is especially important in areas where airtime credit is expensive, as using credit to respond to survey messages is often undesirable.

Mobile-web or mobile application surveys can also cost the respondent valuable mobile data as they require Internet usage. This can be mitigated by utilizing a system such as GeoPoll which provides compensation for survey completion, as described below.

Whether a person owns a feature phone or a smartphone, they can receive SMS messages and respond to the survey. In other methods of mobile surveying the same may not be true. More complex methods of survey technology, like mobile-web and application-based surveying, may limit the response potential because individuals with basic feature phones would not be able to participate in the survey.

Market Research AfricaCompensation

Compensating respondents for the time it takes them to complete a given survey will demonstrate to the respondent that the company values their time and it may improve the study’s response rates. Mobile airtime credit and mobile money, which are popular throughout Africa with various platforms being used in each country, are two easy and effective ways to incentivize survey completion.

You should also consider the optimal incentive amount, which may vary depending on the country and the type of respondent you are seeking to recruit. GeoPoll has performed research around ideal incentive amounts for different markets and has found that increasing the incentive past a certain amount doesn’t necessarily lead to a higher response rate.

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Building Trust

Ensuring that potential respondents view the company conducting the survey as reputable and trustworthy will improve response rates and data quality. Using the name of the platform conducting surveys is a good way to build trust if it is an established survey provider with a reputation for providing good user experience and paying out the promised incentives.

GeoPoll is an expert in survey-based market research in African countries. We are committed to providing clients with guidance throughout the research process to ensure they get the most out of the research they conduct through GeoPoll. If you are looking at options for conducting research in Africa, especially rural or remote regions of Africa, contact GeoPoll to learn more about how we can help, today.