Global health organisations that struggle to reach lower-income Africans should look to consumer products companies for inspiration, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group.

The analysis notes that treatments for nearly all health conditions in Africa, from malaria and HIV to diarrhoea and tropical diseases, "have had problems with uptake and impact". Three major factors are typically to blame, the authors claim, namely limited awareness of a disease, poor access and a lack of affordability because of clinic fees, product pricing or the cost of transportation.

However as Lori Spivey, BCG principal and co-author of the report, notes, consumer products companies "face similar obstacles yet many have been able to reach low-income African consumers and win their loyalty and hard-earned dollars."

The report notes the need to "understand the many Africas [as] on this diverse continent, there is no single solution for every market". It also calls on healthcare companies to "harness the power of brands" and "creatively expand distribution and access".

Regarding the latter point, BCG notes that "the best consumer companies ensure that their products are where their customers shop, from the traditional market stall or small spaza (convenience) shop to the modern retailer".

The report concludes by noting that the situation "is far more complex than selling candy bars or smartphones", but by learning from consumer companies, health organisations "can better reach their target populations, build awareness and demand for needed interventions, and ensure that treatments are used properly, for better outcomes overall".