Postcard from South Africa, where communicators are busting misconceptions

On a recent international business trip, I was quite surprised to find the usual misconceptions about South Africa — and Africa as a whole — still exist. Some people still refer to Africa as a single country, where its citizens speak "African." Many were surprised to hear that Nigeria, not South Africa, is Africa’s largest economy.

In South Africa today, you’ll find an economy that, while still dependent on mining and manufacturing, is developing into a services-based financial system.

The thorny issues of political uncertainty, a fluctuating currency, and a challenging business environment are being met head-on by a group of resilient and tenacious individuals who are anything but complacent when it comes to developing world-class communications strategies.

In this context, businesses are trying to do more with shrinking comms budgets, compelling the PR industry to be innovative and agile, with the winners being those who build their strategies on relationships, people, and the stories that emerge from these interactions.

South Africa has leapfrogged multiple legacy technologies to be ranked, along with the rest of Africa, as the world’s second-most-connected region by mobile subscriptions. Smartphone penetration is mushrooming, which means comms strategies and campaigns need to be tailored to an increasingly mature, upwardly mobile, and largely millennial population. Attention spans are short and everyone is shouting to have their voices heard.

We’re used to the noise. South Africans are accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle, with everything being in perpetual motion. But this momentum is not always a good thing. Some brands are moving backward. Communicators need to be able to tell the stories that propel brands forward. We’re all in this together.

In South Africa, you’ll find a melting pot of cultures, languages, and ideas that make up what many people describe as the "Rainbow Nation." We speak one or more of 11 official languages out of more than 2,000 languages spoken on our continent. What worked in a developed nation will likely not work here. And what worked here will likely not work elsewhere in Africa.

"Every act of communication is an act of translation." In Africa, truer words could not be spoken. Africa is shaping its own narrative and telling its own story.

If you’re considering investing in this diverse and multicultural continent, be prepared to invest time and resources into building relationships — an absolute imperative in this trust-based economy.

Expect the journey to be exciting, dynamic, but most of all, richly rewarding.

SOUTH AFRICA
POPULATION: 54,300,704
CURRENCY: Rand
CAPITAL: Pretoria
MAJOR LANGUAGE: Zulu
GDP: $736.3 billion
GDP PER CAPITA: $13,200
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 26.8%

MEDIA
NEWSPAPERS
Sunday Times, Daily Sun, Rapport, Sunday Sun, Sunday World, City Press, Isolezwe, Ilanga, The Sowetan
TV
SABC, eNCA, UBN TV, Kruiskyk TV, Cape Town TV (CTV), Nongoma TV, kykNET Musiek, News24

RADIO
Rainbow Gospel Radio, Metro FM, Jacaranda FM, 94.5 Kfm, Kaya FM 95.9, Talk Radio 702

INFLUENTIAL COMPANIES
Telkom Mobile, Absa Group, Adcock Ingram, Afrihost, De Beers, First Rand, Illovo Sugar, MWEB, Nedbank, Shoprite
PR AGENCIES
Media Services International, Publicis Africa Group, C3 Communications, WorldCom Public Relations Group, PR Worx

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