In the last few days, we have had the privilege to engage with several of India’s leading CEOs on a topic that is becoming a priority for many of them: how to win in Africa, the world’s next big growth market.

They are right in paying keen attention to Africa. It is home to more fast-growing economies than any other region, hundreds of successful big companies, and an urbanizing consumer market whose spending power is even greater than that of India. In an ageing world, Africa is the exception: Half of its people is under 20, and its population is projected to double to 2.5 billion by 2050. Fuelling this dynamism, Africa is adopting technology at a furious pace.

Yet, Africa remains a challenging place to do business. Infrastructure is patchy, markets are fragmented, and regulations are complex. And although incomes are rising, poverty remains widespread. For some Western firms, these obstacles are just too daunting. But this represents an opportunity for companies from India and other emerging economies. With their experience in building profitable enterprises in their home markets, they are more likely to have the imagination to see Africa’s unmet needs as opportunities for growth, and the long-term commitment to build businesses of meaningful scale. McKinsey & Company’s research into firms that have succeeded in Africa shows that those are the two essential requirements for success on the continent.

Consider the story of Tolaram Africa, a company with Asian origins that is now one of Africa’s most successful consumer-goods players. Tolaram introduced Indomie instant noodles in Nigeria in 1988. At the time, four out of five Nigerians lived on less than $2 a day. But the company saw an opportunity to feed a nation with an affordable and convenient product, and, in doing so, created a new category. The vast majority of Nigerians had never eaten—or even seen—noodles. Many thought they were being sold worms. Yet the new offering immediately found a big market.

As Deepak Singhal, CEO, Dufil Prima Foods Plc, a joint venture between Salim Group and Tolaram Corp. Pte, said: “We created a food that was relevant for Nigeria. And in 10 to 15 years, we became a household name."

Another example is beer maker SABMiller, which started as South Africa’s national champion before expanding continent-wide. From 2007 to 2016, the brewer saw its African sales outside South Africa climb from $280 million to $1 billion. By 2016, SABMiller had brewing operations in around 40 of Africa’s 54 countries.

Mark Bowman, managing director of SABMiller’s Africa region, said: “Most global firms saw Africa as unattractive, so we had limited competition." SABMiller knew otherwise. When consumers can start spending a portion of their earnings on non-essentials, one of the first luxuries they turn to is an upgrade from home brews to commercial brands.

To capitalize on that opportunity, SABMiller adopted a bold long-term strategy for Africa. One element was an aggressive programme of brewery building across the continent. With its equipment-supplier partners, SABMiller developed a standardized “brewery in a box" that it could quickly assemble. A second element was to hone its marketing insights: using the brand-positioning approach it had developed globally, SABMiller created a diverse portfolio of African brands tailored to local markets. In Nigeria, for example, SABMiller developed a new brand, Hero. It designed the label with a rising sun, a favourite symbol of the Igbo people, an ethnic group native to Nigeria. Hero turned out to be one its most successful brands ever.

Western multinationals have followed in the footsteps of these trailblazers. For example, US food company Kellogg has invested nearly $1 billion in Tolaram’s distribution and food-manufacturing businesses. SABMiller was acquired by Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev for $103 billion in 2016. In large part it was SABMiller’s success across the African continent that justified that eye-watering price tag.

These are just two success stories from McKinsey’s new book Africa’s Business Revolution: How To Succeed In The World’s Next Big Growth Market. In it, we highlight the “big five" African growth trends: a fast-growing population, large-scale industrialization, big push to close infrastructure gaps, continued resource abundance and rapid technology adoption. We distil the insights from over 3,000 McKinsey consulting engagements across Africa, and hone case studies from interviews with dozens of successful CEOs, entrepreneurs and development leaders. We show that to turn the African growth opportunity into gold, companies must be ready to shape and execute targeted strategies that reinvent products, services, markets and business models for local needs.

We believe Indian companies have a head-start in translating those growth trends into profitable, sustainable enterprises. From deep experience in their home market, they know how to overcome the challenges that limit markets and make life harder for ordinary people.

Africa should be high on the agenda of Indian companies targeting global growth. Their innovations and investments can create both outsize returns and real social impact.

Gautam Kumra & Acha Leke are, respectively, managing director of McKinsey & Co, India, and chair of McKinsey’s Africa practice

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