Paul Nnanwobu, CEO,
Random Dynamic Resources
Random Dynamic Resources, based in Lagos, Nigeria, joined CASRO earlier this year. CEO Paul Nnanwobu founded the company in 2006 after working as a field manager for Nielsen (1998-2002) and as Head of Field Services for Research and Marketing Services Nigeria (now part of TNS).
Today Random Dynamic Resources employs 20 full-time staff and has about 500 freelance interviewers and team leaders working in various regions of Nigeria. The company also maintains a team of local field professionals in 20 African countries where it conducts fieldwork.
The firm operates an office in Cameroon to manage central African markets, while East Africa projects are managed through an office in
Random Dynamics Resources has worked with such international partners as Millward Brown, Nielsen, GFK, TNS, and Ask Afrika, while also working directly with many local companies.
|Technical observation study team|
with client from GfK Netherlands.
Recently Paul’s company expanded its scope into media by publishing the bi-monthly Research Intelligence Magazine.
Q. What companies/industries (and from what countries) seem to be most interested in the opinions of African consumers?
Paul: There are many countries and industries currently interested in the opinions of African consumers but leading the way are companies operating in South East Asia (South Korea and China) and Europe, especially the UK. Prominent sectors are mobile telephony, info tech, and FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods).
Q. What is the most effective way for you to collect data? What is the most important trend in data collection right now?
Paul: At the moment the most effective way to collect data in most African markets is PAPI-F2F (Pen and Paper, Face to Face interviews). Approximately 80% of data collected in most African markets are through PAPI. There have been some inroads into mobile phone and internet, but this has presented some challenges due to unreliable and slow internet and telephone connectivity. Online data collection has not gained strong footing. In some countries like Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya, for example, data collected via PAPI can be entered using an online data entry link. There are a few agencies using CATI. Facilities that feature one-way mirrors are still hard to come by. There are only about three that I know of in Nigeria and all are concentrated in Lagos. The use of social network sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to collect data is just beginning to bud and has not gained momentum. Other methods, like video streaming for focus groups, are still in the experimental stage.
Q. What are the biggest challenges in your work?
Paul: The slow pace in being able to use technology to achieve quicker results, and cut project turnaround times. I would love to be at the mainstream of using internet and mobile phones, etc. to collect data. However poor infrastructure development in my country and in many African countries hampers this aspiration. Clients want information at the speed of light these days and researchers must move with this pace if they are to be relevant. Another challenge is insecurity. There are places where we cannot do fieldwork due to communal clashes or ethnic tensions. For example, in my country Nigeria, interviewers are afraid to risk their lives in the northern region. The same is true formanyAfrican countries especially with acts of terrorism being perpetuated in every nook and cranny in Africa. Electricity supply in some countries is not reliable and without steady electricity it is difficult to maintain a steady workflow and meet deadlines. Outages are a regular phenomenon and what happens is businesses tend to create alternative means of power supply (generators) to stay in business. This invariably increases the cost of doing businesses and makes it more expensive for research buyers. This also slows down the use of technology services.
Q. What is the most common misperception that outsiders have of Africa and the potential of its consumer market?
Many people project Africa as a continent where poverty embraces hunger in a dance to death. But this is not true.
Paul: Misconceptions about Africa are often based on stereotypes and prejudice. Many uninformed outsiders never see anything good about this continent, but I think this is gradually changing. The most common misconception about Africa is that nothing really works here. Many people project Africa as a continent where poverty embraces hunger in a dance to death. But this is not true. Yes, we have leadership challenges in most African countries because some of our leaders lack vision and are greedy. However, Africa has given the world the best of human and natural resources. Most of these problems are really systemic and are conditioned by the environment. Corruption is also a function of poor leadership. To be honest with you, Africa is the future world market. First, it is a virgin land and most consumers are very eager to integrate. Take, for example, mobile phones and electronic gadgets. When the first mobile telephone came into Nigeria in 2001, the tele-density jumped from 0.53% to 65% currently. Most mobile phone companies and network operators that invested from outside have made profits that are triple the figures in Europe or Asia. Europe and Asia are saturated, so they are focusing on Africa. The Americans are still skeptical and are afraid to make a leap into Africa. We do not need financial aid anymore. Africa wants partners that will help to bring out its best. Africa has the population that can drive any market. In the market research sector specifically, we have seen tremendous growth both in human capital development and return on investment. Many multinational agencies are coming in. In Nigeria we have international agencies like TNS, GFK, Ipsos, Millward Brown, Nielsen and many others want to come in. The growth has been inspiring.
Q. Do you have an estimate on the current consumer market in Africa in terms of purchasing power and do you see that increasing in the next few years?
Paul: The consumer market is largely dominated by the FMCG companies, (from dairies to alcoholic/non alcoholic/powder beverages etc.), but I can tell you that since the advent of GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), the trend in research has favored the mobile telephony sector. More than 50% of total research projects in most African countries centers on mobile technology. The purchasing power growth has not been speedy per se, due to economic policies and management issues in various countries. However what has happened is some horizontal shift due to the emergence and proliferation of many consumer goods and services. Consumer markets account for more than 65% of traded goods and services in many African countries. Unfortunately a key economic engine that has not been given adequate attention is labor. Africa has a tremendous youth population and that makes labor very cheap. However, unemployment has remained one of the top challenges for many African countries.
Q. What are the most active African nations in terms of market research? Which ones hold the most promise for the future?
Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa control more than 50% of total research projects done in Africa by volume.
Paul: Primarily you have to look at countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa. These five control more than 50% of total research projects done in Africa by volume. Nigeria, for example, drives the economies of the 16 other West African nations. South Africa is more advanced in terms of technology and infrastructure development and controls the Southern African environment. The hub of the East African economy is Kenya. Unfortunately the Central Africa nations, which are principally the Franco-Afrique (French-speaking African countries) have not been as vibrant as other regions. The central African economy needs to open itself to the world. Many projects done in the North African region have a strong alliance with the Middle East. This is quite understandable due to religion and cultural affinity. Other countries where research projects have increased by volume are Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, and Senegal.
Q. What prompted you to start the company?
Paul: First, passion for field research. In our environment, every company wants to do everything and be regarded as a full service agency. Whether that is done properly or not is another thing. We devote 100% of our attention to fieldwork. Fieldwork is the foundation of market research and if you get it wrong from the foundation, everything will fall out of place. We started with a vision to transform the way things are generally done, by providing more personalized service, conducting our work with utmost honesty and eager to foster development of our people.
Doing fieldwork in some African countries can be a great challenge, so for the market research industry in Africa to grow, it needs professionals who have love for what they do and be willing to contribute positively to an emergence of new order. It is not all about making money. It is about training people and helping them discover themselves. It is all about knowing that one is providing a valuable service to humanity, though unworthy but proud to be.
More About Paul Nnanwobu:
Paul has worked in the market research field since 1994 and has participated in many high profile field research projects in more than 19 African countries. Before working in research, he was as a national sales manager for Worldwide Group – a consumer goods manufacturing company in Nigeria which serviced many countries in West Africa. He also worked as at Inlaks Computers, a local subsidiary of Unisys. He holds a post graduate diploma in Journalism from Pan African University.