Reflecting on the past three years, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude and excitement. Gratitude for the ability to wake up each morning and do what I love, with a team that’s just as passionate as I am, and excitement, for a future where Africa’s stories are created, owned and told by Africans.
In the wake of the Nobel Prize Awards announcements where we saw Dr Denis Mukwege named as a peace prize winner, it is such a momentous occasion for the people of the DRC to be recognized worldwide for peace. Since the early 90’s, and indeed before, the Congo has been synonymous with war and unrest and a change to that narrative is welcome, one Nobel Peace Prize at a time.
Recently, the Minister of Basic Education in South Africa, Angie Motshekga, announced that in a bid to promote social cohesion and unity between South Africans and Africans from other countries, Kiswahili will be taught in South African classrooms from the year 2020. While this is a very welcome move that stems from the need to curb anti-immigrant sentiment, I propose that we might be getting ahead of ourselves, given the fact that only two of South Africa’s 11 languages are offered as subjects in most private schools. Language, for a polyglot such as myself, is more than just a way to communicate. It holds so much identity, history and culture because our roots are planted in the languages of our ancestors. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with renowned media veteran and wine aficionado, Adetunji Omotola, who gave an interesting example of a Yoruba word that has over 10 different meanings depending on how it’s pronounced. I thought this was a fine example of nuance and why when it comes to communicating on a continental or even national scale, we cannot afford to take a blanket approach.
Doing business in Africa, while very rewarding, does not come without its challenges.
It requires one to fully grasp the cultures, values and needs of the local consumer. My team and I know Africa, and sometimes that means accepting the fact that while we may not be the most conversant with the ways of a certain region, there are other people who are. Therefore, we maintain great working relationships with our affiliate PR firms across Africa. They serve as our eyes and ears on the ground to ensure that any work we put out is relevant, culturally-attuned and timely.
My thoughts move on to Zambia and Kenya, where there are reports of displeasure at the amount of debt the countries are incurring at the hands of China. While many (Western) analysts are concerned that these nations are selling their ‘freedom’, the reality is that in most emerging markets, ideological beliefs and political rights tend to be viewed as illusions, or a misplacement of priorities. In an environment where basic needs such as water, electricity, shelter, education and access to good health care are not as stable as they should be, citizens are so busy trying to provide and carve out a decent living for themselves that there is barely any time left to fight for ‘freedom’ and dare I say, democracy. For people in this demographic, whose immediate physical freedom is not threatened, it is an incredibly privileged thing to even be able to ponder concepts such as these, when they have far more pressing and tangible needs.
It is for reasons such as these, that I hope to accomplish, through my voice, and that of Africa Communications Media Group (ACG), an environment where the benchmark for African success becomes, among other things, recognition from other Africans and where perception audits consider first what Africans think about Africa. The team and I strive to do this by keeping our company values top of mind at any given time. We have the best interests of our clients at heart and do everything we can to best position their stories within the African developmental and conversational landscape. ACG has seen so much growth this year alone and I often look back on how our Johannesburg office has gone from a two-people operation to a fully-fledged team of passionate change makers who are always on the lookout for fresh and innovative ways to tell client stories in a manner that exhibits a keen understanding of the market.
With that said, I’d like to wish a happy 3rd birthday to the first African-female-owned and managed Pan African Strategic Communications and PR firm. In true ACG speak, let’s ‘keep it moving’.