54 countries in one continent and a vast land of opportunity. 

Africa is considered to be the fastest growing market but can we really treat it as one market? With 54 countries across a continent large enough to house UK, Australia, USA, China, India and many more we need to think about how to approach this vast opportunity. 

The current population of Africa, 19 October 2021 according to the United Nation sis 1,382,111,434. This covers the poorest Burundi to the richest, Nigeria. Looking at opportunities in Africa may not be a quick google search but it is a fast-growing economic area that needs cultivating and assessing thoroughly.  


The challenges of this vast opportunity are manifold from the transportation issues and associated costs to carry goods across this huge landscape, to the less easy to manage corruption and pilferage. However, this is a sweeping generalisation. Some countries are managing to enhance their governmental processes by building better monitoring and security systems at sea and airports. The classifications from WTO of 1, 2 and 3rd world divide the continent again but also start to provide researchers ideas about how to find new markets, and where niche products can be found or sold. The middle class in Africa, currently at 34% of the population has risen 100% in less than 20 years. This is leading to forecast growth by the World Bank that by 2060 there will be a middle-class of 42% or 1.1billion of the predicted population. 

The UK does produce high quality and design goods that would appeal to this burgeoning middle class market. Any SME starting to build a brand and reputation as being part of the African journey will be laying the foundations of a great step in their businesses export plans. Of course, these export plans need to account for the many differing trade agreements and cumulative trading blocs.  However, costing duties and security into the process of launching into a new export market will be part of developing a presence and sustainable revenue stream. It will also bring a new dimension to your business as you absorb this colourful and vibrant continents energy into your working plans. 


The high-income countries in Africa, (GDP) offer a great starting point for smaller businesses as they have infrastructure and higher levels of governance, therefore, provide confidence for someone starting out in this as a new market. Seychelles, Mauritius, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Botswana are the top 5 countries followed by South Africa, Namibia, Egypt, Eswatini and Tunisia. Nigeria sits at 18th in this list which is surprising but as with all larger countries, the rich poor divide begins to become more relevant. 

The top 10 imports to Africa are as follows: Automobiles – very little manufacturing so this may provide opportunities for secondhand markets; Computers and IT products; related spare parts to the aforementioned markets; Clothing and Fashion Accessories; Pharmaceuticals; Mobile phones – the past 5 years the annual rate of mobile phones users has increased by around 65%; Stationery – this has increased due to the thriving education market; foodstuffs – this is quite vague but relates back to the comments made about the growing middle-class; Electronics; Machinery and engineering products and finally, Chemicals.

Finding the right market does remain a hard nut to crack especially when you realise that the data they collect in these markets is at best unorganised and may prove difficult to use in any comparisons across more bureaucratic markets.

The main issue is not how big the opportunities might be in Africa but where to start. This is where good old-fashioned research comes into its own, ask an expert. That’s why the Society of Independent International Trade and Customs Experts exists to help take some of the pain from the leg work needed to make important decisions on global trade. 


FREE WEBINAR: Learn how to sell internationally

Do you want to learn the secrets of selling internationally from export experts with over 30 years of experience helping businesses expand globally? Then

SIITACE Summit: Context and impact of current affairs on SMEs trying to trade internationally

6th December 2022The National Football Museum, ManchesterUrbis Building, Cathedral Gardens, Todd Street, Manchester, M4 3BG   Come and join us at the NFM in

The UK’s Future Independent Customs Regime – A SIITACE Summary

The 2025 UK Border Strategy sets out the government’s vision for the UK border to be the most effective in the world. Central to