Postcard from Botswana

The APRA conference held recently in Botswana was a melting pot of ideas, commitments, discussions, leadership and creativity.    Bridget von Holdt, ICCO President for Africa gives her view.


Ethics remains #1

Robyn de Villiers, Vice President of APRA began with a workshop on ethics and reputation management.  The results from a recent survey undertaken by APRA showed that companies and communicators were thinking about ethics from a personal, organisational and government point of view.

“There isn’t a low level of ethics in Africa at all. There are always things we have to be looking at when working in Africa, we have global standards to adhere to with multi-national companies, but I’ve been working in Africa for a long time and ‘dodgy dealings’ are not the norm. Often misunderstandings arise due to miscommunication, so context is always important about how things are done,” said Robyn.

Robyn has been working in Africa for 25 years, and travelled to over 38 countries. “I love working in Africa, and in 25 years, I can’t think of a single bad experience. Every single place I’ve been to has been inspiring, eager to know more about the PR global environment, engage with other countries and execute an excellent level of public relations.


This was followed by a presentation by CEO of ICCO Francis Ingham talking on the Helsinki Declaration which was a direct result of the Bell Pottinger saga.   The audience commended PRCA, and Francis for the role played to bring ethics to the fore.


“RePRsending Africa” research and road ahead

This is the first survey of its kind conducted amongst consultants and practitioners who operate on the African continent.  Interestingly, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was highlighted as Africa’s most reputable and ethical individual, while Gift of the Givers and Botswana were recognised as the most admired organisation and country on the continent.  These are just some of the top level results from the research conducted by Reputation Matters for African Public Relations Association (APRA) on African ethics and reputation. According to Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, President of APRA, “We need to start celebrating Africa as Africans, and to take the narrative back, leaders need to walk the talk and talk the walk if there is any chance for development and economic growth.”

Of the 12 countries represented in the survey, 71% of respondents reside in South Africa with Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Namibia and Angola also being represented.

The research revealed that respondents scored 89% for ethics and reputation management on a personal level. Organisations received 84% for ethics and 85% for reputation management, while African countries received 35% for ethics and 34% for reputation management which illustrates big opportunities for growth.

Respondents sighted Botswana as setting the example as the most reputable and ethical country in Africa. The research proved overwhelmingly that ethics and reputation are interwoven and one cannot exist without the other. Respondents felt that behaviour and core values such as honesty, transparency and credibility are the most important elements of a reputation. On an organisational level, respondents felt that their brand’s reputation is actively managed, communicated and prioritised by their leaders. Organisations should focus on getting the internal building blocks in place before engaging in external communication.


Time to tell Africa’s story

Talking to the practitioners from the different countries, I am of the belief that Africa is the next wave – the market is wide open for new ventures, business opportunities and growth markets.   Entering this market is about having something to give, to share – rather than just taking.  This is an exciting time for Africa.  The population is young, there are new innovations – a market waiting to be discovered.

While that are great discrepancies from an economic level, the world is looking for good markets as markets in other parts of the world are stagnating. I do think Africa is the next wave, the place to move to if you are looking to open up a new consumer market, even to find young people with potential.

Africa needs to tell their story.  And the world needs to listen and act.

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