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Opinion

Creating International Growth Opportunities for Tomorrow’s Unicorns

Stephen A. Newton
Stephen A. Newton

By Stephen A. Newton, Managing Director at Aleph, Africa

It’s become increasingly impossible to deny that we live in an increasingly global world. Today, nearly 65% of world -wide consumers are connected to the internet. Africa having around 570 million internet users, combined with various technological advancements, is driving a wave of change in how entrepreneurs and businesses operate.

Decades of innovation – culminating in the launch and widespread adoption of social media; the availability of high-speed internet globally; and the rapid integration of generative artificial intelligence; have created new channels for local entrepreneurs and advertisers to grow their businesses. Entrepreneurs, who were once confined to trading within their local community, or best, their single market, can now leverage technology to access opportunities available through global, cross-border trade.

The nature of cross-border trade is already having a seismic effect on emerging economies. According to the World Bank, the digital economy contributes more than 15% of the annual gross domestic product (GDP) globally, and in the past decade has been growing at two and a half times faster than physical world GDP. In several African countries, the digital economy is becoming a main driver of growth, accounting for more than 5% of GDP. Helping to ease the pains associated with cross-border payments, Aleph has built and is now offering its own service, Aleph Payments. Aleph Payments, has managed over $2bn worth of total cross border credit and payments across multiple international markets. Building on Aleph’s near 20 years of experience as a trusted operator, Aleph Payments provides an end-to-end, cross-border credit underwriting and payments solution that supports global expansion.

For ambitious entrepreneurs looking at the wealth of opportunities available on the distant horizon through digital, it’s seemingly never been easier to do business. Businesses can engage customers through tailored advertising on social media platforms and through internet searches, 24 hours a day and seven days a week while using data and analytics to better understand their customers. However, the open and ‘always on’ nature of today’s trading environment means that it’s also hyper-competitive for businesses. Businesses need to excel in more than one aspect of their marketing mix: price, promotion, place, or product, and have the constant threat of being trumped by a larger, well-resourced player.

For some, the idea of launching your own digital business can come with complexities – a case of not knowing where – or how – to start. For those who take the plunge, resilience, overcoming the everyday challenges of managing and growing a business and keeping up to date with the latest trends in advertising is key.

Creating a business and accessing international growth opportunities through digital channels shouldn’t be difficult. We believe more needs to be done to help businesses participate in the digital economy and unlock significant economic value.

That’s why we’ve unveiled Aleph – a strong, single brand that brings together the technologies, local teams, and global reach of brands including Ad Dynamo, Connect Ads, Httpool and IMS. Simply, Aleph is an ecosystem of global digital experts and technology-driven solutions that enable the growth of digital marketing. We connect thousands of advertisers with billions of consumers and create markets for local businesses to grow. Designed with digital marketing at its core, Aleph has evolved to focus on [four key pillars] that address the challenges facing businesses—and consumers—at various stages of their growth journey or understanding of digital marketing.

At a foundational level, Aleph’s Digital Ad Expert offers a free skills-based education platform that gives each student the skills they need to manage digital advertising campaigns and unlock growth. It provides resources, courses, and networking opportunities, and has certified more than 75,000 people from 140+ countries in short courses. Nigeria leads the way in Sub-Saharan Africa with an impressive 149,018 registered participants in the Digital Ad Expert program, followed by Kenya with 24,709 registrants, Ghana with 23,999 registrants, and South Africa with 9,419 registrants. As a platform, it gives consumers around the world the tools they need to drive growth for businesses – or better still, capture growth opportunities through digital marketing for their own business. That’s why we were delighted to join UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition, and specifically support UNESCO’s Global Skills Academy, an initiative that aims to help ten million young people build skills for employability and resilience by 2029.

That’s where Aleph Express comes in – Aleph’s proprietary platform that enables micro, small and medium-sized to create and maintain a free ecommerce website, create a product catalogue, set discounts and coupons, local delivery options and record and process orders. Like Digital Ad Expert for commerce, it gives entrepreneurs all the tools needed to launch their own online store. It’s currently available in Nigeria but is highly scalable and will be rolled out more widely in the future.

Once at scale, Aleph’s core digital marketing business can then help businesses tell their story to the wider world. Through our existing partnerships with the world’s largest platforms, we create meaningful opportunities for brands to engage with consumers in an authentic way, while at a significant scale – often in multiple countries simultaneously. Our local teams across all continents support and provide insights to advertisers to equip them with the latest know-how to make the most of their media investments.

As the world evolves and the ways that businesses operate change, there is a level of responsibility for larger businesses to move with the times and do what they can to support smaller, ambitious, and possibly high-growth businesses. And, in today’s global world, that means breaking down barriers in place of international growth opportunities.

By doing this, we will help a new wave of small businesses flourish, create new jobs and economic value, and possibly uncover the next global unicorns in the process. From our perspective, there’s nothing to lose in helping businesses access global commerce.

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