Marketing in Middle East and Africa 2016 … from farms in boxes to walking a marathon for water

December 3, 2015

What are best new ideas for brands and marketing in 2016? … How can you apply the ideas to your own business?

From the Atmosphere Bar, 555m high at the top of the world’s largest building, the Burj Khalifa you can sip an African Sunrise cocktail and watch the sun set over a fast changing continent. Below you see the melting pot in the desert sands of Dubai rising again after the bankrupt years of economic crisis. The UAE government last week heard of Festival of Creativity, seeing to inspire local businesses and government agencies to raise their game, to find fast and disruptive ways of innovating, in the hope that at least a few will be ready to showcase local pride at the Dubai 2020 World Expo. There is certainly no lack of ambition. In a project I did for the UAE stock exchange we thought creatively about how to attract more businesses to the region, and to incentivise local entrepreneurs. Innovation is on the agenda of every business, thinking of ways to be different, and leap frog the conventions.

Similarly in Africa, there is a story of innovation. Ethiopia is ow the world’s fastest growing county, with compound growth in GDP of 9.7% over the next 3 years. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast are not far behind. Cities like Nairobi have become digital hubs with a community of tech entrepreneurs motivating each other to greatness. Companies like Safaricom, Africa’s largest mobile phone operator demonstrate the creative thinking. First we saw mobile phones become the de rigour possession of all African tribesmen, but then its use started to proliferate in many ways. SMS text messaging become the most common way to transfer money, and then to pay for goods in general, formalising it as a currency called M-Pesa. Safari com has now become the largest finance company across Africa, and through Daktari which is a mobile-health app with Skype consultations, the latest healthcare provider too.


Here are some great marketing examples from Middle East and Africa, real innovations that had significant impact in their local markets, and with relevant adaption, could be great for your business and market too:

Dubai Museum of Future Innovation, UAE

UAE wants to become the world’s innovative nation by 2021. To showcase its arrival, it will be hosting the World Expo 2020 in Dubai. The nation is focused on building a fund, a platform and a reputation for attracting and growing innovative companies in UAE. The museum was announced in 2015 and plans to open  within a year, is one symbol of this vision. It will use rapid prototyping and foresight to create real examples of change. The museum is the first of its kind, and represents a leading example of entrepreneurial governments embracing change and creating futuristic visions for a better world. It will also be the permanent home for the world’s greatest innovations, which will work to stimulate and incubate imaginative solutions to the challenges of future cities, connecting researchers, designers, inventors and financiers under one roof to empower the creative mindsets to test, fund and market their ideas for futuristic prototypes ans service

Farm from a Box, Ethiopia

Farm from a Box provides communities with the tools required to feed themselves and build a strong livelihood. Built from a modified shipping container, each unit contains a complete ecosystem of technologies required to enhance agricultural productivity – from renewable power and irrigation, to training and IT.  Powered by renewable energy, Farm from a Box is ideal for any application that requires a comprehensive system that enables sustained local food production, without need for an existing grid.  This kit can easily be used to provide local, organic food for a school or community group. It can help jumpstart food production and stabilize a community after a disaster. It can act as an alternative to standard food aid, providing the means for struggling communities to grow their own food source without dependence on outside relief.

Keepod, Kenya

“5 billion people, 70% of the world’s population, are still without access to personal computing.  Be a part of the team who set out to bridge the digital divide. Your contribution to this campaign will help provide personal computing that will empower existing projects in the fields of education, HIV prevention, agriculture and human rights in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, Kenya. The Keepod Unite Mathare project is the first implementation of Keepod Unite. The direct impact of our project is going to increase the effectiveness of existing humanitarian activities and create new opportunities for the people living in Mathare. The venture succeeded in crowdfunding through Indiegogo

Kulula Airlines, South Africa

When South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma married for the sixth time, the quick-thinking Kulula Airlines offered free flights to the fourth wife in big families, the country’s new number of official first ladies. People loved the joke, and jibe. It was typical of Kulula, a small low-cost airline owned by Comair. On one flight to Port Elizabeth from Cape Town, just before landing, an announcement said “Welcome to Zimbabwe” which was met by silence followed by laughter. On another flight, the pilot after a rather hard landing asked if any passengers would like to have a go landing the plane instead.

Kulula is one of the 100 case studies in Gamechangers

Lornah Sportswear, Kenya

Lornah Kiplagat was a World Champion road runner. In her native Kenya, that is nothing special, as the roads and dust trails are covered in Olympic medalists and record holders, yet Kiplagat stood out for her bold and brave running style. She gained the name Simba, which is lion in Swahili, and that became the emblem of her sportswear brand. The fabrics of sourced from across the world, and adorned with African style prints, and designed with cuts that are ultra-performance but ultra-fashion  too. Her small team of runners who run the brand in each market, have a passion for running African style – natural, unlimited and incredibly successful.

Mellow Cabs, South Africa

Mellowcabs are eco-friendly electric vehicles, manufactured in South Africa from recycled materials. The cabs are powered by electric motor with zero emissions. They also include solar panels, regenerative braking, hydrogen fuel cells, human powered charging, illuminated body panels, and on-board tablet computers (so fairly hi tech, I’d say!). They also gain income from selling advertising space on, and in the vehicles. And they offer free rides creating job opportunities for many south Africans.

Shikun and Binui, Israel

Look at the page facing the sun light. And see how you can benefit from it … The Israel-based power company turned to a more emotional, artistic way to engage people in the potential of solar power. A rather boring pencil sketch suddenly turns into a work of art when held up to the sun.

Stop the Shop, Lebanon

Sakker El Dekkene (Stop The Shop) was launched to encourage the Lebanese to report corruption and quantify incidents involving corrupt practices in Lebanon with the ultimate aim of raising the public debate and exert pressure on politicians to respond. The design scheme aimed to showcase how the entire country is for sale, with a quasi-homage to the illegal & street vendors found in the country.

UN Share the Meal, Syria

If you own a smartphone you can now help nourish refugee children who have been forced to flee their homes during Syria’s prolonged conflict. A new app launched by the UN World Food Programme (WFP)  enables smartphone users to help provide vulnerable children in refugee camps in Jordan with vital nutrition. With just a simple tap on their phones, users of ShareTheMeal can choose how much they want to contribute. Developers said that a donation of $0.50 can provide one child with enough nutrition for a day. The concept is to allow people around the world to digitally “share” their meals while having dinner or lunch in a fast and easy way.

Vlisco, Ghana

Vlisco is a global movement of consumers, storytellers, fashionistas, designers and bloggers united by the belief that every Vlisco product is connected to a story. Every product has a name: Vlisco fabrics are named not by Vlisco itself, but by consumers. However, not every fabric has a name (or we don’t know it yet). Because people don’t talk about numbers when it comes to fashion and clothing, we believe that the naming tradition will live on. Every name is connected to a story: Vlisco fabrics often have a meaning attached to them. Vlisco Stories facilitates the sharing of knowledge, feelings, emotions and experiences around Vlisco fabrics and the naming tradition.

Walk for Water, Gambia

Meet Siabatou, a woman from Gambia who must walk long distances every day to get clean water for her family. Like her, many women in Gambia must walk the length of a marathon to reach clean water. Water For Africa is an organization that builds boreholes, a sustainable water source, in villages all over Gambia so that these women no longer have to walk for water. With each donation we can help shorten the distance for every woman in Gambia.

Around the World in 80 Marketing Ideas

This is part of a larger project to find the best marketing ideas from around the world, real and practical solutions which work in one place – and (with relevant adaption) could work in your market too … Copy Adapt Paste! They were sourced through my personal travel experiences (I visited around 50 countries in 2015 as a keynote speaker and expert consultant), through a crowdsourcing program and with the help of two expert treasure hunters Anouk Pappers and Maarten Shaeffer. You can download all 80 marketing ideas in the presentation below:

Read more about

  • Kaleidoscope 2016 … the 7 big ideas that will shape customers and markets, drive brands and innovation
  • Marketing in Europe in 2016 … from healthy chocolate to digital cosmetics and millennial vlogging
  • Marketing in Asia Pacific in 2016 … from flying shrimp to Aussie farmers and intelligent chopsticks
  • Marketing in The Americas in 2016 … from cool carrots to cardboard 3D headsets and superhero supplies

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