The challenges of market research in emerging markets: A practitioner perspective from Sub-Saharan Africa

Steven Greenland, Kwamena Kwansah-Aidoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper makes a contribution to the limited body of academic literature on market research in emerging markets, more specifically the less developed countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It should not only assist academics interested in emerging market research challenges, but also practitioners keen to pursue one of the last remaining emerging market frontiers. The research provides a checklist to help ensure research projects are designed to overcome the many challenges encountered. The study may also facilitate the training of research executives, as well as educating clients, by helping them to more fully appreciate the complexities of SSA.

While there is an expanding body of literature on international marketing research, very little looks specifically at SSA. Furthermore, few studies examine the subject from the perspective of the market research industry practitioner. This paper does that, by exploring the challenges of conducting market research with SSA consumers from the practitioner standpoint.

The study adopts a qualitative approach to investigate the experiences of 49 professionals working in the SSA market research industry. The research identifies a complex array of challenges facing those researching African consumers, which relate to the region’s unique micro and macro environmental conditions. The challenges are categorised in terms of political and economic, legislative, environmental, socio-cultural and infrastructure, as well as significant client and research resourcing issues. These are summarised in a conceptual framework that presents a holistic picture of the situation and provides a checklist of the factors that need to be considered during the research process. Overcoming the challenges invariably has significant impact upon research methodology design, project management processes, as well as associated project costs and duration. These issues indicate that companies seeking research suppliers in SSA need to reconceptualise the nature of the client–agency relationship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-22
Number of pages14
JournalMarket and Social Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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