Doing Influencer Marketing Right in Africa

It’s a Saturday night, and you’re scrolling through Instagram with the subconscious thought of purchasing some workout gear as you plan to start exercising in the coming week. Then you stumble upon a post made by one of the famous Instagram personalities you follow. You marvel as she adorns workout gear from a brand she swears by. This makes you click on the affiliate link in their bio, where you decide to purchase two outfits from the brand to try out. This right here is what we refer to as Influencer Marketing.

Individuals who have built a robust and dedicated following to recommend and endorse brands to their community are influencers. Social media influencers in Africa play a pivotal role in this direction. These influencers reach over 60 million people on the continent and are the fastest-growing channel for customer acquisition. However, influencer marketing can be an expensive and risky investment. For example, Davido, Nigeria’s top influencer with 21 million followers and Africa’s second, charges $128,300 per sponsored Instagram post. Macro-influencers ( those with over 500,000 followers) like Davido demand high fees based on temporary terms and conditions that force clients to adopt a  short-term mindset to brand management. Choosing which influencer to use can also be tricky, as personal mistakes or lousy publicity can automatically impact the brand. Sponsored content can also become overwhelming and intrusive for users if overdone.  Influencers may also be inauthentic or even fraudulent as the proliferation of applications for purchasing followers increases.

Many businesses in Africa suffer low returns on investment from influencer marketing because they do not understand how the continent’s influencers work. Three common myths hinder the ability to understand Africa’s influencers. The first myth is that macro-influencers have the most decisive influence on consumers’ purchase decisions. The second is that macro-influencers (especially celebrity endorsers) enable high brand loyalty among consumers, and the third is that macro-influencers power customer lifetime value in Africa. Findings from a recent study of Uchenna Uzo show that the reality is different.

First, nano- influencers in Africa are more potent than macro-influencers because they have a higher impact on purchase decision making. The study finds that Africa’s top three nano-influencers by rank are family members, friends, and trusted colleagues at work. According to an interview respondent: “My family and friends are my number one purchase influencers because they are most honest about brands. A brand ambassador is paid to push brands even when they don’t use those brands”. The continent’s nano-influencers exert significant power because customers trust them more than macro-influencers.

Second, insights from our study reveal that nano-influencers command higher brand loyalty for businesses than macro-influencers do. The political correctness of macro-influencers in Africa who are paid to preach rather than practice hinders their ability to build brand trust and credibility. Third, the short-term mindset associated with prioritising macro-influencers over nano-influencers in Africa erodes customer lifetime value in the long run. Aspirations power customer lifetime value in Africa. While macro-influencers tend to mirror the long-term aspirational values of customers, there is a higher risk of erosion in customer lifetime value when these influencers adopt behaviours that contradict those values.

Businesses invest significantly in macro-influencers when nano-influencers offer cheaper and potentially higher benefits. Investments in influencer marketing can lead to exponential growth or colossal brand erosion. Succeeding in Africa requires developing the right influencer marketing strategy tailored to the needs of your business and target customer. Influencer marketing success in Africa doesn’t happen by chance but by precise, deliberate, and intentional strategies. Here are five principles that make influencer marketing work for your brand:

Determine your strategic goals:

Any good strategy begins with goals.  Where do you want to play? While the apparent goal may be to increase sales, influencer marketing can do more than that. Ask yourself, are you trying to go viral, or are you trying to build credibility for your brand? Is the goal to build brand awareness, attract a new market or facilitate lead generation? You can achieve several objectives with influencer marketing; hence, the trick is to understand how influencer marketing can fit into your overall marketing strategy. While your influencer campaign is ongoing, you should have predetermined dates to review your results, the influencers you’re using and refine your plan if need be.

Understand the Influencer Landscape and choose a platform:

The influencer landscape can be broad, so it is essential to understand it before entering it. There are macro-influencers (people with a huge following), micro-influencers (people with smaller but generally much more engaging followers) and nano-influencers ( ordinary people like friends, family, peers, etc.). In general, the bigger their following, the more it’d cost to do business with them. Some top African influencers include Elsa Majimbo from Kenya, who has had partnerships with brands like Valentino and Beyonce’s Ivy Park; Don Jazzy from Nigeria, who has secured partnerships with banks, sport betting companies etc.; Boity Thulo from South Africa who’s an influencer for brands like Moet and Chandon, Tamer Hosny from Egypt who’s an influencer for phone companies, and so much more.

Understanding the influencer landscape involves selecting the right mix of macro, micro or nano influencers for your brands.  The mixture will depend on the type of business, industry, product/ service, and regulatory environment. For example, if you are a clothing company, you want to look for influencers with very engaged communities that create fashion and lifestyle content. You’d also like to determine the platform your target audience is mainly on and research the best influencers who deliver content on those platforms. Management consultants, religious leaders, community chiefs, and journalists are increasingly becoming trusted purchase influencers in Africa.

Focus on the right metrics:

There is no doubt that measuring the impact of influencer marketing on purchase decision making is a challenging task. However, there are pitfalls to avoid. Organisations fixate on measuring customer acquisition rates. These metrics can be misleading because they do not isolate other factors contributing to purchase decisions. Consider measuring the quality and frequency of influencer impact and the percentage influence on purchase behaviour. You also want to be careful not to get scammed by ‘fakes’ who have bought their community. A way to identify this is to check if their next matches the engagement rate-it should be at least a 1.5-3% likes to follower ratio. Also, check to ensure the comments are not spammy. Focusing on the right metrics can make all the difference.

Influencer Outreach- Connect with Influencers

There are different ways of finding the influencers you want to work with, but you may want to start by looking at who your competitors are using. This process should lead you to decide on the type of influence you would like to see. Ask yourself whether the influencers should focus on endorsing, creating content, gatekeeping or educating. You can also use tools to search for influencers depending on the platform you’ve chosen. InfluenceGrid helps you find TikTok influencers; some Twitter Analytics Tools help you find on Twitter, and Awario enables you to discover influencers on various platforms. You can also use some of your brand’s followers to find influencers. Search through your brand followers and see if you can discover any influencers there. This is a good way of finding people already targeting your audience.

Monitor Ethical Behaviours of Influencers

Influencers who behave unethically can erode your brand in the short and long term. Do not underestimate the role of ethical behaviour in building brand trust and loyalty. It is up to you to define the moral values that your influencers must embrace and monitor compliance. You may also find it helpful to develop a code of conduct to guide and monitor influencer behaviour. Overall, the right influencer marketing strategy can deliver superior returns and become a differentiator for your business. It is time for companies on the continent to rethink their approach to influencer marketing.


Khadeejat Soyemi, Planning and Strategy, Noah’s Ark Communications Limited

Uchenna Uzo, Academic Director, LBS Africa Retail Academy

Ekeno Eyo, Chief Operating Officer, Noah’s Ark Communications Limited.

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Khadeejat Soyemi, Uchenna Uzo, and Ekeno Eyo

Khadeejat Soyemi, Uchenna Uzo, and Ekeno Eyo

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Get To Know Uchenna Uzo

Uchenna Uzo

Dr Uchenna Uzo joined LBS in February 2002. He received his B.Sc and M.Sc in Sociology from the University of Lagos, and his Masters of Research in Management as well as Ph.D. in Management from the IESE Business School, Barcelona.

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