The digital transformation wave in Africa is reshaping communications, marketing and public relations, with solutions led by young people poised to drive change.
By Bonface Orucho
Public relations in Africa is undergoing a transformation, driven by shifting dynamics in technology, as highlighted in a groundbreaking report by BHM Research Intelligence, a Nigeria-based PR and communications firm.
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According to the report, digital communications have become the key channels for reaching target audiences with public relations and communications messages.
Over 3000 communicators and business executives participated in the study, which used group discussions, interviews, essay contributions, surveys, and secondary sourcing to gather data.
Among the findings, a significant majority of respondents (72% of over 500 practitioners across 29 countries) consider social media, emails, and websites to be the most effective communication channels available today.
This is a substantial increase from 2021, when the figure stood at 64%.
The growth of digital communications platforms can be attributed to increased internet availability and access to smart devices.
The report highlights that practitioners still value traditional media in communication systems, with 84% of respondents stating that good relationships with journalists are essential to their work.
The rise of the digital ecosystem has presented opportunities to counter prevailing challenges in Africa, including the misconceptions of Africa as a homogeneous entity and misleading news reports on poverty levels and conflicts.
Despite the developments, the report acknowledges certain gaps in the PR and communication sector today.
According to the study, 14% of respondents indicated gaps in strategic thinking skills, 12% noted deficiencies in data visualisation and storytelling, 14% recognised gaps in evaluation and measurement, and 11% highlighted gaps in copywriting and editing.
The researchers emphasise the need for continuous training through formal education or industry-approved training institutions to address these gaps effectively.
The immense opportunities presented by the digital ecosystem are emphasised as lead factors that will drive the sector to alleviate these gaps.
Further, while facing challenges occasioned by economic and geopolitical gaps, Africa is positioning itself better to overcome them in communications.
Paul Mwirigi, the Managing Director of Capital One Group, a Ugandan PR firm, notes that Africa’s integration into the global economy has attracted global firms to the continent, as evidenced by increased foreign direct investment, private equity, and venture capital inflows.
“Africa is emerging as the next global market arena,” he said in an essay statement in the report.
With the African Continental Free Trade Area and increased continent-level integration efforts, public relations communications will play a vital role in driving positive change.
The researchers suggest conveying messages on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors will be crucial in attracting future investors.
In an encouraging sign, 65% of respondents indicated that African firms already prioritise ESG factors in their growth strategies, indicating a rising trend toward ethical practices in African governments.
The report also highlights the potential reduction in corruption due to increased accountability facilitated by social media.
“Africa is the Final Frontier for global investment… corruption will reduce because social media has made African governments more accountable,” the research outlines
The report also emphasises the crucial role of Africa’s youthful population in driving industry success. Respondents in the study identified several technologies as key disruptive trends that will reshape PR and communication practices, most of which will be youth-driven.
Among the technologies highlighted were artificial intelligence, social networks, information analysis, data science, and Blockchain. These innovations have the potential to bridge critical gaps within the sector.
According to Seynabou Dia Sall, CEO of Global Mind Consulting, young people can leverage storytelling to grow their influence within the communications ecosystem.
“Behind the idea of storytelling lies the broader notion of our shared narrative and how young people from all over Africa can be involved in shaping it,” she states.
Most practitioners believe the PR and communications industry in Africa will experience remarkable growth, with its continental value estimated at US$10 billion by 2025.
–bird story agency