Retailers are missing out on a key demographic and trillions of dollars by not catering more to Third World countries, according to Nobel Prize-winning diplomat Kofi Annan. “People at the bottom control trillions of dollars,” Annan said in a keynote address at the National Retail Federation convention in New York. “Companies often produce for the middle and upper classes, but the base also has needs.”
The Third World is “waiting for retail,” Annan said, noting that six of the 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa.
“I often see people in Nigeria and South Africa buying and wearing things they don’t need,” Annan said. “I ask ‘why would you wear this here? Why would you buy it?’ and they answer it’s because they saw it on television.”
Companies entering these countries should work with small farmers and businesses in the region to best-reach the consumers, Annan said.
“You don’t walk into a situation and act like you know better than the natives,” Annan said. “You listen to them.”
Annan also commented on the ethical standards big corporations should have when manufacturing overseas.
“I always tell big companies that they shouldn’t need a law to offer fair wages or ensure that operations don’t pollute drinking water,” Annan said. “But I don’t ultimately blame the companies, I blame the officials who let it happen.”
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