Edelman moves into Africa with Baird's acquisition

JOHANNESBURG: Edelman is planning to enter the African market through the proposed acquisition of South Africa-based communications consultancy Baird's Renaissance.

JOHANNESBURG: Edelman is planning to enter the African market through the proposed acquisition of South Africa-based communications consultancy Baird's Renaissance.

Edelman did not disclose the price of the acquisition, which is expected to close in the next month, subject to regulatory approval.

Baird's Renaissance has been an Edelman affiliate for more than 20 years. It will be renamed Edelman South Africa.

Founder and chairman Francois Baird will become chair of Edelman Africa, reporting to David Brain, president and CEO of Edelman Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Africa. Baird will be based in Washington DC and Johannesburg and will serve as chair of the board of Edelman South Africa and co-chair of Baird's CMC management consultancy.

Tod Donhauser, EVP and head of the technology policy group in Washington, will relocate to Johannesburg to become MD of Edelman South Africa.

Peter Mageza, deputy chairman of the board at Baird's CMC, will become vice chairman of Edelman South Africa.

Baird's Renaissance has 20 full-time staffers and ten consultants. Its client list spans the government, financial, telecommunications, health, tourism, energy, and mining sectors and includes KFC, Levi Strauss, and South Africa's Department of Health.

“For Edelman, this is an instance of being able to benefit from a 20-year partnership at a moment when clients are looking for more engagement in Africa,” said Matt Harrington global COO of Edelman. “[Clients] do not consider it an episodic moment, but want to be building customers, consumers, and long-standing relations in the continent in a more meaningful way.”

He added that the acquisition enables Edelman to have a “very seamless integration” and a “fast start” for its brand in Africa. 

Last December, Edelman shifted its global structure to respond to increasing communications work in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It moved oversight of the firm's Africa and Middle Eastern markets from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region under Brain.

“We have been involved in the African continent for many years and a promising wave has been building for a long time. The only logical thing for us was to throw our lot in with a company we admire,” said Brain. “Africa doesn't play catch-up, and it is going to jump right into the most sophisticated technology from nowhere and catch a lot of companies unaware.”

Other firms have also cited Africa in their growth plans for coming years. In January, Hill+Knowlton Strategies said it is planning to open six offices on the continent. Its strategy includes offices in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa.

This story was updated on May 6 with quotes from Harrington and Brain.

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