Cracking the African code: 5 top tips for doing business on the continent

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Home to six of the world’s fastest growing economies, Africa is fast becoming a go-to destination for businesses looking to establish a global footprint.

Fuelled by the exponential rise of accessible mobile and broadband in recent years, the continent is quickly establishing itself as a technological hotspot, with countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa offering up a wealth of opportunities for IT companies with expansion in mind.

Yet in spite of the continent’s undeniable prospects, many businesses have failed to make headway in Africa, stymied by its myriad complexities and nuances, and unable to tailor their PR efforts effectively to meet the needs of each individual market.

The African media landscape is a minefield for companies without the requisite know-how, complicated in its simplicity and impervious to globally-mandated PR strategies. Yet, for those willing to dedicate time and effort to curating their African publicity efforts, the rewards can be substantial.

Here are 5 key tips to bear in mind before you bring your business to Africa:

Think local

Africa is a land of diverse contrasts and disparities, and consequently cannot ever be approached in uniform fashion. Each of the continent’s emerging markets boasts vastly different sensibilities, complexities and cultural norms, all of which need to be carefully factored into any publicity campaign if it’s to be effective.

By using local PR agencies with an innate understanding of each country’s complex media landscape, you’ll be far better able to curate your messaging appropriately, taking into account local vernacular and tonality. Not only will homegrown talent be better equipped to communicate your campaign effectively, but they’ll also be able to put you in touch with local influencers who can further assist in building your brand’s African footprint.

Throw out the rule book

For many enterprises accustomed to a certain way of doing things, Africa can be a confusing and frustrating place. In the majority of markets, media consumption habits differ significantly from those seen in more developed countries, and it’s often difficult to acquire accurate readership figures or audience ratings as a result.

Equally, it’s important to bear in mind the concept of ‘African time’. Whilst some might be accustomed to rapid turnarounds and semi-instantaneous media blitzes, things move a little slower in Africa. As a result, it’s important that you adjust your expectations accordingly, approaching your PR campaigns with the degree of adaptability that the continent demands.

Build relationships

For the most part, African cultures are built on the concept of community, with inter-personal relationships responsible for driving the vast majority of commerce in these markets. In light of this, your success in Africa isn’t always linked to the value of the news you have to share, but rather to the strength of your relationships with those covering it.

If you want to make a real impact in Africa, you need to provide local information, show face and give generously of your time, demonstrating your commitment to the country in question and establishing trust with key members of the press.

Attach yourself to the news agenda

In Africa, business and politics are closely intertwined, and local news is the order of the day. If you want to grab the headlines in African markets, you’d be well advised to ride on the backs of existing ones, offering up relevant and valuable commentary on the stories that have people talking.

This process, fondly known as ‘news-jacking’, has become extremely popular in many African markets, enabling enterprises to seamlessly edge their way into the public conscience, and establish themselves as trusted and respected thought leaders.

Move to mobile

Once known as the dark continent, Africa is now a hyper-connected and innovative place, with the vast majority of its consumers easily able to access information and communicate using their smartphones.

By and large, Africa has bypassed landline connectivity entirely in favour of mobile, which has helped to shape a series of digitally sophisticated markets, governed for the most part by online news outlets and social media platforms.

As such, businesses looking to communicate effectively in Africa would do well to customise their campaigns for mobile use, leveraging popular digital platforms and online influencers to broaden impact and bolster accessibility.

See our infographic for 8 key tips to bear in mind before you consider doing PR in Africa.

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