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Unleashing AfCFTA’s Economic Promise: The Strategic Role of Public Relations

IDAfrica

The recent Public Relations Society of Kenya Annual Summit which was held from November 27th to December 1st, 2023 at the Diamonds Leisure Beach & Golf Resort in Diani, Kenya, held a spotlight on Leveraging Public Relations to unlock the potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), shedding light on how strategic communication can shape perceptions and foster cross-border collaborations.

On the panel were Njideka Akabogu, Regional Manager and Lead Adviser at ID Africa, Nelson Karanja, Director of Strategic Communications and Engagement, FSD Africa, Maureen Mambo, Ag Director, Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency and Veronica Abuede, Coordinator, African Public Relations Association.

A critical aspect highlighted during the discussions was the role of storytelling across PR channels in humanising the impact of AfCFTA. Speakers emphasised the necessity of reaching diverse audiences to educate them about AfCFTA’s benefits and opportunities. “The success of AfCFTA relies on accessibility. We must educate the public, media, corporations, governments, and policymakers about its potential,” highlighted Njideka Akabogu, Regional Manager and Lead Adviser at ID Africa – a BHM Holdings company. By sharing success stories and adopting a pro-Africa approach, the aim is to break down borders and create a more unified continent.

Addressing concerns about misconceptions and miscommunication surrounding AfCFTA, Akabogu went on to stress the need for a strategic repositioning of the PR profession. “We’re more than just press releases and media coverage. To bring true value, we need to be embedded in decision-making processes.” There’s a call for PR professionals to be regarded as subject matter experts, offering insights that governments and businesses can rely on. The emphasis was on proactive involvement rather than reactive engagement, highlighting the need for early integration into projects to offer holistic perspectives and pre-empt potential issues.

The dialogue also extended to utilising the creative economy to unlock AfCFTA’s potential. Drawing from the success of the African music industry and films, speakers highlighted the power of collaboration and creativity in changing global perceptions of the continent. “Our talent and creativity are our greatest assets. Collaborating to showcase these can transform not just individual countries but our entire continent.”

The success of contemporary Nigerian pop musicians and the global recognition of the country’s film industry stands as compelling evidence of Africa’s potential. Despite prior hurdles like piracy, funding constraints, and talent development issues, Nigeria’s entertainment sector has shown remarkable progress over the past decade. Stakeholders now report significant resolutions to these challenges, reflecting the industry’s resilience. This positive transformation resonates with the summit’s focus on proactive engagement and strategic communication, underlining the industry’s global acclaim. Nigeria’s entertainment achievements underscore the potency of collaboration and strategic communication, symbolising Africa’s unity and growth prospects.

As discussions concluded at the PRSK Summit, emphasising unity and collective action for the benefit of Africa’s current and future generations, it’s crucial to recognize Africa’s demographic strength. With an estimated population of 1.4 billion as of 2023, accounting for 18.2% of the world population according to the International Monetary Fund, the continent’s potential becomes even more evident. Embracing the opportunities presented by initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can not only impact individual countries but also contribute to the prosperity of the entire continent.

“Africa must work for us; it’s our only home. Brain drain is a challenge we face and according to findings from the Africa PR and Communications Report with over 3,000 respondents, the emigration intent of Africa’s communications professionals was as high as 90% who were willing to leave the country. But, collectively making AfCFTA work will benefit us all and can impact this,” Akabogu said, highlighting the importance of embracing the continent’s potential for the sake of current and future generations.

The PRSK Summit gathered over 500 PR and communication professionals from over five African countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. It aimed to address emerging trends and challenges while exchanging best practices in the field. Under the theme “Retrospect, Reimagine, Reposition – Adopting Agile PR Practices in a Disrupted World,” this year’s summit underscored PRSK’s commitment to fostering professional development and ethical standards within the PR and Communication Management industry.

Njideka Akabogu’s recent induction into the Public Relations Society of Kenya aligns with ID Africa’s recent expansion into Kenya, a pivotal step in its Pan-African strategy. With a background in Information Science from Abia State University and over eight years of experience in media and communications, Njideka has contributed significantly to various international brands, demonstrating her expertise and commitment to the field.

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