User Experience Design in Africa: Starting From The Bottom

E-business Africa MapWith a faster growing GDP, Africa is also described by the specialists as the future of the market of new technologies. Hi tech brands like Apple, Google or Samsung have modified the daily life and practices of people around the world.

A new field to learn how consumers get in touch with thousands of innovation made by company has burned: “User experience.” This part of human and technology research allows business managers to think “Userfirt “before the launching of any innovation in the market. This process continues to be the success story of Internet companies.

Because the E-business is starting in Africa, with this article we want to describe the state of the user experience design in the Africa market.

This article starts the profiling of E-Business in Africa or how designates the E-business in Africa through the diversity and complexity of the traditions.

When you think environment cultural center, you have to refer to the theory of Geert Hofstede on the cultural dimensions. Much used in the strategic marketing, this model has been adapted in this context to allow the actors of the E-business to make a profit in a market with strong cultural values.

Overview of the market of E-Business

In a general way, the E-business has taken its flight, and in each country on the continent there are actors who are trying to offer products that are closer to the local culture.

In South Africa the market of E-business is increasingly segmented because of the presence of many and big actors in the market. Some actors are trying to propose solutions which are aimed to a well precise segment as for example a website or pregnant women and the babies.

While it is true that Ebay and Amazon models are used as reference for the start-up in the online business,   in a markets with strong cultural values such as Africa, the E-business need to be adapted to the cultural environment.

The “think faster” Internet start-up logic must leave the place to process which will define the profiles, the space, and the actions to make a profit.

User experience shopping process for consumer living in Europe

Before addressing the topic of cultural dimensions, it is important to focus on the difference of mental behavior between an individual living in the European continent and   an individual living in the sub-Saharan African continent. The following diagrams show the different life cycles of the shopping of clothes between people living in Europe and in Africa.


The orange bubble represents the part of the process which is making money for E-shopping website site.

The shopping process in Europe is a model based on a society with the following characteristics:

  • – Quickness
  • – Research of efficacy
  • – Very connected to Internet
  • – Wide dissemination of devices (smartphone, computers)
  • – Factors of mobility to the stores (climatic, closing time for shops, many people).

Below the African model. The blue bullets represent the elements common to all individual. The African model becomes different with the introduction of values (cultural, educational, social practices)

The importance of the theory of Hostfede is located at the level of the development of a business in a market with strong cultural values. Here’s how to develop E-business in Africa by exploiting the cultural dimension of the market in which it is located.




Africa E-business market: Profiles INDIVIDUALISM VERSUS COLLECTIVISM (IDV)

According to Geert Hofstede  the high side of the Individualism versus Collectivism dimension can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families only.

Its opposite, Collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. A society’s position on this dimension is reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we.”

The culture of individualism corresponds to the ability of consumers to be able to quickly become familiar with the tools of E-commerce. Example of the E-shopping in the south -Africa adapted to specific segments (kids, pregnancy, fashion, Hi-Tech).

In the Nigerian market the Individualism is reflected through the shopping for well-known brand for the fashion category. This is because the proximity to the fashion trend from the United-States and England in Europe.

On the other hand, Fashion experience in countries with strong cultural and great ethnic diversity is sometimes different .Online shopping in Ethiopia   and Ghana valorizes the traditional textile made; this is a collective experience by taking the art of the traditions of a community to design a value good to this community.

The traditional textile has a high reach in the structure of  events (bereavement, wedding religious and traditional celebrations ) in some part of the continent; reasons why it is important to differentiate the  fashion category to have one fashion category referring to the individualism profiles and another fashion category to the collectivism profile.


The masculinity versus Feminity culture represents a society where people are focused on achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material reward for success. Society at large is more competitive. Its opposite, femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. Society at large is more consensus-oriented.

Tao-Bao in China is a mixture of online marketplace, trends, social network, and brief allow consumers live a shopping experience overall. Is the logic Tao-Bao applied in the European and African markets? In many countries in Africa the social context, family values and customary have a degree of high importance.

According to the statistics of Geert Hofstede, the more part of the countries of West Africa have a feminity culture; which implies a community vision and solidarity. Example of Facebook group for online shopping created in the Ivory Coast. “Black-market 225” and “Djassa virtuel” dominate the online shopping market in Ivory Coast with a single presence on social network. Why?

Because the founders of pages transpose simple way the ergonomics of user experience of local markets to shopping online. All the elements of the traditional market to be found, such as, the local language, the meeting between the seller and the buyer, the trends .Users can regain the spirit of community and traditional in their daily lives.

Has the opposite of the Nigerian market which can be identified as a “ Masculine”market .The face of the online shopping experience in Nigeria (Konga, Dealdey  is more geared toward the North American culture. The emergence of a social class with high revenue, the cultural boom of movies and music (Nolywood), promotes the Masculinity culture for online uses”.

Africa E-Business market and The POWER DISTANCE (PDI) influence

This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. The fundamental issue here is how a society handles inequalities among people.

People in societies exhibiting a large degree of power distance accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. In societies with low power distance, people strive to equalize the distribution of power and demand justification for inequalities of power.

For economic, social, and political reasons, the power distance of the African country is high .a lots of user experience cultural centered countries are born of this gap. We can cite for example the development of cultures like “Urban fashion “, urban language “, “and Urban art”.  These profiles which are very young in the majority and followers of new technologies represent a huge market for the industry of E-Commerce in Africa.

Profiling Indulgence versus Restraint (IVR)

« Indulgence stands for a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human drives related to enjoying life and having fun.  Restraint stands for a society that suppresses gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms »

In countries with high ethnic diversity, linguistic and religious of central Africa, the E-business  can be located in a system of values overindulgent .the marketing activities (advertising) are in the majority of the promotional campaigns with competition games, promo Events. Local businesses and consumer profiles are formatted in this strategy.

The “call to action” in the online shopping context becomes operational if it incorporates a strategic marketing   for distribution of gifts, good of reductions, ticketing event videography.

In the other hand, in the hierarchical societies at the level of social standards (customs, religions), the strategy of digital marketing is dictated by the commitment of profiles to these standards.

In Morocco and Egypt, in the period of Muslim celebrations (Ramadan, the feast of the tabaski) the E-shopping website offers special deals. It may be mentioned in the same direction the collections fashion special feast of independence designated by stylists Nigerians and widely disseminated in the local sites Konga, Kaymu or Dealdey.

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