Untapped Africans Wield $50B in US Purchasing Power

May 11, 2009

African immigrants comprise a growing group within the US population with $50 billion in consumer purchasing power, but this population segment is different from African Americans and remains largely untapped because it is not completely understood, according to a study by New American Dimensions and commissioned by the US African Chamber of Commerce.

The first-of-its-kind study (pdf) was undertaken to help marketers understand the attitudes, behaviors and habits of the 1.4 million African immigrants living in the US. It reveals that they often see themselves as different from African Americans, or American Blacks. They also have varying viewpoints when it comes to self identification. A large majority (79%) identify themselves more as African than as American:


Moreover, within the African-immigrant market, the research found that there is a unique Islamic market segment that has its own attitudes, beliefs and needs.

Additional findings from the study:

  • Though currently living in the US, African immigrants strive to maintain connections to their friends and family in their native countries, as well as maintain ties to native traditions, including food, music, and entertainment. An overwhelming majority (87%) believe place high importance on staying connected with family and friends in their native country.
  • Immigration challenges routinely faced by African immigrants include culture shock, language barriers, loneliness, difficulty acclimating to the American way of doing things, and lack of respect in the community.
  • The majority of respondents believe Africans are usually portrayed negatively in the US media, but many also believe their own education, skills and talents are valued in the workplace:


  • Less than one-third say they experience racism against them in America.
  • Their children’s educational achievement is the highest-valued goal.
  • Many want to return to Africa eventually.
  • African immigrant shoppers are prone to hunting around for the right price and the right product. More than one-third will generally choose the brand with the lowest price:


  • Younger shoppers are more prone to shopping for products recommended by family and friends.
  • Supermarkets are the most- patronized stores among this demographic group, while discount stores and low-end department stores are the top shopping venues for clothes and accessories.
  • Most African immigrants have their own checking and savings accounts and about two-thirds have credit cards. They also tend to have auto and medical insurance and a few have long-term care insurance.
  • Email and international calls are heavily used for keeping in touch with those back home.
  • Among African immigrants, those in younger demographics are the heaviest visitors to internet social groups.
  • Less than half (49%) give a top ranking to the importance of marrying or dating someone from their own culture.

Media Consumption

African immigrants spend more hours watching English language media than African language media, most probably due to availability of in-language options, the study found. Other findings with regard to African immigrants and media consumption:

  • CNN tops the list of favorite English-language TV channels followed by ABC, Fox and NBC.
  • Yahoo and Facebook are the most favored websites.
  • Most own a personal computer and a DVD player.
  • Younger immigrants are high consumers of English-language movies.
  • Almost all Africans interviewed own cell phones.

Defining Success

In terms of aspirations, African immigrants most often describe “success” in big-picture,? far-reaching terms. Most respondents emphasize the need to give back to their community, and most send money to relatives back home on a regular basis. However, when talking about success, they mean giving on a larger scale, more often in terms of the community-at-large.

“There are more than 1.4 million Africans living in the US and these consumers possess very high educational attainment and incomes,” said David Morse, president and CEO of New American Dimensions. “This is a segment with a powerful sense of identity and pride in being African.”

About the research: The study was conducted by New American Dimensions in conjunction with The African Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Bruce Corrie, The Minneapolis Foundation and Aguilar Productions. Findings are the result of focus groups in Los Angeles, New York City and Minneapolis and a four-market quantitative survey of 393 African immigrant adults in California, Minnesota, Washington, DC and New York. The study is supplemented by a video snapshot of Africans to personify the findings from the research and bring them to life.

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