If like me you ever look at global affairs and think for a moment you might be able to run the world better than most of the world’s leaders combined you will understand why I felt compelled to write this. Being in Public Relations quite often means that I am asked what I do or what PR means or if I can work for free. Which makes me relate to the Continent of Africa so much; with media outlets constantly asking Africa what it’s doing for itself, what everything means and if all its resources can be extracted for free. I jest (only a little) but in all seriousness I wanted to review a few key issues that I think a good quality publicist could help the continent tackle. Being of Nigerian descent, born in London I have been able to see things from a unique perspective here are a few reasons why I think Africa needs a PR Campaign:
Let the world know that Africa is NOT a country. A simple enough fact and yet it is proving to be so difficult for some people to acknowledge or even understand that there are 54 countries within the continent of Africa. Each country is different from the other, even neighbouring countries speak different languages (The Berlin Conference probably has something to do with that). Seriously though, it is time for charities, films, media outlets and anyone with simple logic to stop referring to Africa as if it is a country. It is huge, as the map below suggests and each country within it deserves to be acknowledge for their unique traits. We need to start recognising the vast scope that the continent has to offer and the limitless PR opportunities beyond the one dimensional “Africa is a country” rhetoric that has become the standard.
|Source: The Economist|
Africa’s Leaders need a makeover. I’ve mentioned this on a few occasions but it is time for African Leaders to have a shake up. It is honestly becoming a huge disappointment to see the same types of leaders doing the same things and limiting the progress of the nations that they are set to represent. Leaders are the “CEOs” of their nations, and every great publicist knows how important it is for a CEO to be the key brand ambassador for an overall PR campaign. The leaders of so many nations are just not doing a great job. As a British Nigerian I am constantly in a state of bemusement, how else does one deal with a President who decides to spend time as a health tourist in London rather than Abuja? At the root of it all African Leaders must hold each other accountable, something that former South African president Thebo Mbeki addressed at the High Level II event in 2014.
Africans need to tell their own stories. There is an immense amount of journalistic, photographic and content creation talent across the African continent and the media relations aspect of PR can address this. The continent needs to publicise the variety of talent in order to tell its own stories and change the overall narrative to the world and across the continent and its diaspora. There are photographers in Kenya, bloggers in Ghana, Instagrammers in Angola, YouTubers in Nigeria, Journalists in South Africa, Podcasters in Rwanda doing so much that doesn’t need Western approval which should be highlighted and celebrated. Do we respect African based media outlets as much as we respect Western media? Are we ensuring that fake news is limited and actual journalism across the continent is paid for and highlighted? Are the images of Africa and its many beautiful nations a balanced and fair reflection of the continent as it should be represented? Does African media help to maintain the rhetoric of need and helplessness or alternatively exoticism and excess that the Western media seems to wish to perpetrate? It would also help if more journalists from the African diaspora were given access to opportunities in the West, at the moment the under representation of Black and Minority Ethnic journalists in the UK would still make it difficult for “Africa’s Publicist” to pitch a story that doesn’t fit into certain narratives. It would also help if we could ensure journalists from across Africa could tell stories, press freedom is a serious problem across some African nations and still needs to be addressed. Overall we must understand the intention behind the stories that we tell, the intention should be about truth at its core. Of course Africa is more than just poverty, wars and hardships but those things exist, denying that serves no purpose other than to allow those problematic leaders who overstay their welcome to persist in pushing false propaganda. Wealth and beauty exists too but so does elitism and income disparities. Quite often we spend so much time trying to showcase only the good in an attempt to appeal to the Western gaze that we forget that it is important to highlight the bad so that they can be fixed.
Africans as brand ambassadors. Ultimately Africans from across the continent, from the diverse range of nations with their rich heritage and histories must not be silenced. They are brand ambassadors for the continent, helping to shift perspectives and improve Pan-African relations and global relations as a whole. As individuals either living on the continent or within the diaspora, Africans can lead the way in how we improve the perception of the continent. There are still communications challenges and PR barriers which mean that negative views of Africa remain within the continent itself but with hard work and effort we can make a difference.
There are some great collective initiatives within the PR community, the primary one being #PRChatAfrica. Here are some of the chats the collective has had with regards to “PRing Africa”
— Babes WePetition (@Neli_Ngqulana) August 17, 2017
This tweet from Neli speaks volumes, are we happy about how the image of Africa is reflected internally and externally? There is still a long way to go before we can say “YES!” with confidence. Until then we do they work and keep moving forward until a PR campaign for Africa has done the job.