China sees the future in Africa (and it’s not alone)

Earlier this year, The Los Angeles Times ran a fascinating series on China and Africa and I only just got around to reading it.

I recommend at least reading Part I.

China is funding a massive railroad project connecting Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, to the port city of Djibouti where most of the country’s exports have previously traveled by way of roads in disrepair.

Clearly, China is not doing this for philanthropic reasons. It need resources. But China has a long game in mind as well — selling products to the locals (which is has been doing quite successfully for a number of years).

Some fascinating takeaways from the article:

By 2034, Africa is expected to have 1.1 billion workers, the world’s largest working-age population, according to economic forecasts. By 2025, the continent’s consumers will be spending $2 trillion a year.

And:

Zhang was proud of his Ethiopian investments. The new rail will knock shipping prices from $5,000 per container to $3,000, he said. And for the cost of one Chinese worker, Zhang can hire five Ethiopians. He plans to employ 50,000 within eight years.

“Ethiopia is like China was 40 years ago,” he said. “Even though this place is pretty tough, we think within five or 10 years, its economic development will be pretty good.”

China has not proven yet that it can build global brands. But it has proven itself adapt at building cheap white-label products. It sees in Africa an emerging base of middle-class consumers, a familiar growth pattern. That’s not to say China doesn’t face cultural and political challenges, but that as other Western countries have pulled back in Africa, China has found itself welcomed with open arms.

The CEOs of Google, Microsoft and Facebook have all visited Nigeria over the past year and have announced investments around training developers, supporting new businesses and increasing Internet penetration.

What The Google CEO’s Visit To Nigeria Means For Africa

So the question for any global company should be: What’s your Africa strategy? 

Nissan: The best global automotive website of 2017

For the 2017 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 14 automotive websites:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Tesla
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

Historically, automotive websites have been strong on languages but weak on global consistency and global navigation. And while most automotive websites continue to struggle on these fronts, I was pleased to see Nissan’s new global website design, a big reason why Nissan emerged number one for the first time.

BMW was the leader last year, with support for 41 languages and average global consistency. But Nissan’s new web design is more consistent and generally exhibits greater depth of localization. While many automakers do exhibit some degree of global consistency within a region, such as within Europe, it’s rare to see global consistency across regions. Shown below are Nissan’s Germany and Brazil home pages:

You’ll find few automotive websites that support consistency to this degree between these two distinct markets.

Nissan added a language last year and is now is tied with Honda for the lead in languages, at an impressive 46 languages. Nissan also stands apart in its support for local-language social feeds. For instance, here is an excerpt from the Spain home page:

 

When it comes to global navigation, sadly, no automotive website stands apart. Nissan, like many companies, incorrectly relies on flags. But it does do a very good job of supporting country codes.

What’s the best global website among American-based automotive companies? That would be Chevrolet. While many GB brands are, globally speaking, a mess, Chevrolet does exhibit a number of global best practices. It also does a good job of supporting Spanish for the US market:

Tesla was a new addition to the Report Card this year. And while the website does support strong global consistency, it lags in languages and in global navigation — also relying heavily on flags. Here’s the global gateway:

Hyundai finished last in our ranking this year, with low scores across the board, with the exception of global reach (languages). Note that Hyundai supports an impressive 43 languages, which goes to show that languages alone do not make for a successful global website.

Automotive companies are highly decentralized organizations with independent web teams and budgets, which often results in websites that share few design elements across country/region websites. But Nissan has taken a promising step forward, one that I believe other automakers are sure to follow.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card. It includes more than 25 pages of automotive website profiles.

Think Outside the Country

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my newest book: Think Outside the Country: A Guide to Going Global and Succeeding in the Translation Economy.

This book is the result of the past decade spent working with marketing and web teams around the world. I’ve long wanted to have something I could pass along that would demystify the process of product or website globalization and provide insights into languages, cultures and countries. Such as Brazil:

Too often people get overwhelmed by the complexity of it all, not to mention bewildering lingo and acronyms such as FIGS (French, Italian, German Spanish) and L10n (localization). What I always tell people is that you don’t have to speak a half-dozen languages to succeed in this field, but you do have to know what questions to ask. Hopefully this book will help.

The book is now available through Amazon or by request from any local bookstore. You can learn more here.

PS: If you’d like to order multiple copies for your teams, quantity discounts are available. Simply contact me using this form.