If we don’t own our story, Africa will lose its sovereignty
Since 2007, APO Group, a media relations consultancy and press release distribution service in Africa and the Middle East, formerly known as the Africa Press Organisation (APO), has carved out a unique niche for itself. The founder of the group, Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, talks about the importance of the African media in telling Africa’s story, which is in danger of being hijacked by foreign media organisations.
Although many media groups in Africa have been suffering from dwindling advertising revenues and
Pompigne-Mognard expects a 40% year-on-year growth over the next four consecutive years. This is proof, he says, of the interest Africa generates among the business community at large and a desire by multinationals to capture an ever-greater market share of the African opportunity.
Today, 85% of APO’s clients are foreign companies, international institutions or multinationals looking to expand their work and business on the continent. “There are over 400 American companies and 350 German companies in South Africa alone,” he says. The demographic and macro-economic factors point to sustained growth, he adds.
“Growth is from a low base and the market is large and rapidly rising. these two factors
He also points to the art market to validate his thesis. Africa today represents 0.2% of the global contemporary art market. African GDP as a percentage of the
It was following discussions with the former President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, that he also
“What does concern me
“If African people are watching more African news on international news channels such as the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera than their own local media, then we have a problem,” he says. “We have a real problem in terms of sovereignty. We also have a problem because the African journalists will have no other choice, in 10 years’ time, than to work for international media.”
While he is pleased that
And right now that is the trend that he is seeing, with a diminishing share of advertising revenue going to local media houses, making their situation that more precarious. “And once you relinquish the news story to others,” he argues,” you are effectively relinquishing some of your sovereignty and that poses a great danger, both nationally and continentally.”
He has no issues with multinationals or others operating on the continent. On the contrary, he says, his business depends on them, and “when they enter African markets they create a demand for many ancillary services, rented office space, advertising and communication, jobs etc”.
But the current situation is a grave one. And as any PR or communications firm knows, it can only prosper with a thriving and diverse media industry. Although there has been a rapid increase in the use of digital platforms tailored to social media, PompigneMognard believes these new platforms on their own cannot tell the proper African story or change the narrative.
“In any case, even on these platforms, these new entities are dwarfed by the larger
Media groups such as OkayAfrica, or even personalities such as Julie Gichuru or Jeff Koinange have managed to acquire a large following and are able to use social media to reach out to a global audience and put a different narrative out there.
Social media has also been used effectively to campaign against IP theft. We saw this in the world of fashion where campaigns were successfully launched against global brands using African patterns and styles and claiming them to be their own. Zara retracted some designs for
Louis Vuitton was also accused of copying the Basotho blanket. But he is not sure that individuals have the same legitimacy as media houses as such when it comes to owning the African narrative.
A real threat
“Despite the power of these platforms,” he adds, “I am worried that the best African talent, when it comes to journalism will be condemned to work for the BBC or CNN. “And the day the Nigerian people are learning about what is happening in their country from an international media house, then the continent will no longer be in control of its destiny.”
Who should be leading the charge on this? Should we be creating a fund or
“My company is talking to a global image provider as they are looking at ways to acquire African related content. They know that there is a demand and their stock is very limited. At APO Group, we offer our clients the possibility to integrate multimedia content (photos and/or videos) into their press release.
This service was a great success in 2018, with the number of press releases accompanied by videos or photos increasing by 35%. “We need to influence our storytelling through the right choice of images. And that can only happen through the provision of images that truly represent the African story.” NA