Saturday, September 8, 2012

3 Kenyan Companies in Africa’s Ten Most Innovative Companies

By Mfonobong Nsehe

Forbes recently released its annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies; however, Africa was conspicuously missing in the list.   
The lack of representation in the list and a subsequent ‘Ten Most Innovative Companies in America’ by Forbes writer Samantha Sharf, motivated Forbes’ contributor Mfonobong Nsehe to do a list for Africa.

Here is the list that has three Kenyan companies at the top:

Safaricom – Kenya  
Industry: Telecommunications
East Africa’s largest mobile telecommunications provider easily ranks as the most innovative company in sub-Saharan Africa. Reason: M-Pesa, Africa’s first SMS-based money transfer service. In 2007, Safaricom launched M-Pesa (M for mobile and Pesa- a Swahili word for money) which lets users deposit, transfer and withdraw funds via text message. A subscriber who wants to send money across simply visits a registered M-Pesa agent with the money and the phone number of the recipient. For a fee of a little over $1, the agent sets up a virtual account for the subscriber, credits the account with the money, and then sends the amount to the recipient’s account. A subscriber can send money even to a recipient on a different mobile network, who can cash it at any M-Pesa agent simply by presenting an ID and entering a secret code. Safaricom also pioneered a service that offers subscribers airtime on credit, introduced the payment of utility bills through the M-Pesa platform and runs a robust customer loyalty award programme.

Nando’s – South Africa
Industry: Food & Beverages
Since opening its first restaurant in 1987, Nandos has expanded to over a thousand locations in 30 countries on five continents. Its success secrets may well lie in its marketing: Nando’s’ numerous provocative yet witty commercials, such as an ad featuring a dimwitted busty blonde and another which depicted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe reflecting on happy moments he enjoyed with fallen dictators such as Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein have made Nando’s’ flagship flame-grilled Peri-Peri chicken a hit among Africa’s  young and hip. Nando’s meals are premised on traditional Mozambiquan-Portuguese dietary patterns and spices such as the ‘Pili Pili’. The company also manufactures a range of sauces that are sold in Nando’s restaurants and in supermarkets.
In 2010, Advertising Age magazine named Nando’s as one of the world’s top 30 hottest marketing brands. Nando’s also promises to allow anyone to eat free for life if they can prove they have been to all the Nando’s restaurants.

Nation Media Group – Kenya
Industry: Media & Entertainment 
East Africa’s largest media group is subtly transforming itself into an internet and financial services powerhouse. Between 2009 and now, the Nation Media group has launched N-Soko, a classifieds site which competes with Craigslist in Kenya, Twende Twende- Kenya’s first online travel site and Nation Hela, an international money transfer service which allows Kenyans in the Diaspora remit money to their families at home online.
The group’s flagship publication, Daily Nation is the highest-circulating newspaper in the East and Central African region. Daily circulation: 210,000. Its Business Daily newspaper is East Africa’s most popular business journal and its Television and radio stations consistently rank among the most popular among African viewers and listeners.

MTN – South Africa
Industry: Telecommunications
In 2011, Africa’s largest mobile telecoms operator introduced its Mobile-Money Insurance solution, Mi-Life insurance that provides money in the event of death of the subscriber or the next of kin. The Premium payment for insurance is deducted from the subscriber’s MTNMobile Money wallet once per month. The service is available to the network’s subscribers in Ghana. MTN also wins innovation points for its MTN InternetOnTV, a device that allows users to browse the web from their TV at 3G speeds and MTN Traveller, a mobile App that allows mobile users to browse for, and book accommodation and car rental services using their phones.

Econet – Zimbabwe
Industry: Telecommunications
Zimbabwe’s dominant mobile telecommunications company boasts lucrative operations in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Burundi, and Rwanda and even owns a 3G license in New Zealand. Now, Econet is looking to build Africa’s largest solar power company. Last November Econet launched the Econet Power Station- a revolutionary solar power device that will allow individuals and families across Africa to light up their homes, charge their mobile phones, and generally utilize energy at a relatively inexpensive cost compared to current solar energy devices currently available in Africa. In addition, Econet Wireless in South Africa recently introduced Carry Me Home- a death and repatriation insurance policy exclusively for Econet Call Home customers.

Iroko TV – Nigeria
Industry: Media & Entertainment
Iroko TV did not invent Nollywood- Nigeria’s immensely popular movie industry, but the Nigerian-based company helped revolutionize and glamorize it. Iroko TV, which has been dubbed the ‘Netflix of Africa’, is the world’s largest digital distributor of African movies. Leveraging on an on-demand TV platform, Nollywood Lovers around the world can watch the latest Nigerian movies by paying a fee of only $5 a month. IrokoTV typically buys the digital rights to the movies from Producers and currently has a catalogue of over 5,000 films and over 500,000 registered users.

Woolworths – South Africa
Industry: Retail
One of South Africa’s largest retailers, Woolworths sells everything from food and clothing to homeware and electronics. The retail giant is also an emerging player in South Africa’s financial services scene. Through a joint venture with Absa Bank, Woolworths offers financial services such as loans, debit cards, and home insurance solutions to its customers. Woolworths also manufactures its own brand of everything from sliced bread to grape juices and ice cream.

Pick n Pay – South Africa
Industry: Retail  
South Africa’s pre-eminent fast moving consumer goods retailer has a portfolio of 450 stores in South Africa, Zambia, Mauritius and Mozambique and a staff strength of 45,000 people.
Pick n Pay was among the earliest retail outlets in sub-Saharan Africa to include financial services in its service offerings. Among other things, select Pick n Pay outlets offer credit facilities on large purchases (like appliances), free of deposit. Pick n Pay also has a thriving ticket resale service, a travel comparison site and lets customers play the lottery online. Also, in 2010, the South African retail giant became the first to offer customers wine bottled in the eco-friendly PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate).

East African Breweries Ltd – Kenya
Industry: Food & Beverages
East African Breweries is Kenya’s largest brewer. The Company produces, markets, distributes and sells an extensive portfolio of alcoholic beverages including its flagship beer brand, Tusker Beer and spirits such as Baileys, Smirnoff and Black Label. The Company also produces and distributes soft drinks such as Alvaro and Malta Guinness in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Famous Brands – South Africa
Industry: Food & Beverages
Famous Brands is Africa’s leading quick service and casual restaurant company. Famous Brands develops, operates, and franchises restaurants that prepare, package and sell a menu of priced food items. Some of the restaurants under Famous Brands’ wings include Debonairs Pizza, Wimpy, Steers, and FishAways. As of the 2010, the company’s global footprint stood at 1,764 franchised restaurants spread across South Africa, 17 African countries and the United Kingdom.

Any suggestions on the list can be channeled to Mfonobong Nsehe’s email mnsehe (at)
Follow him on Twitter @EmperorDIV

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