Against a backdrop of civil war, national debts and HIV/AIDS
gripping Africa south of the Sahara, it's surprising to report that no
less an authority than Howard Paster, CEO of Hill & Knowlton, has
proclaimed Africa the next big thing for PR. Healthcare, certainly, is
tipped to be a key growth sector for PR agencies in the region.
Lucien Vallun, MD of Johannesburg-based Fleishman-Hillard Vallun
Wilkins, says there is a new seriousness in the approach to tackling the
"In the past, there has been a confrontational relationship between the
major pharmaceuticals and government on AIDS and the international
patents issue. A period of rapprochement has been entered. It is a more
constructive environment, and we'll see a lot more communications coming
out of that."
The catalyst for much of the change has been South Africa's transfer to
majority rule in 1994, which brought a variety of foreign multinationals
back to the market, as well as PR groups such as GCI, Brunswick and
Citigate challenging the supremacy of local companies like Arcay, TWS
Attracting foreign investment remains a priority for the ANC government,
with a raft of privatizations planned over the next five years.
Legislation on transparency in corporate governance is also due to come
into play in the first quarter of 2002 and will have a marked impact.
"The emphasis on IR and reputation management will be significant,"
The country has avoided much of the fallout from the global "dot-bomb."
Text 100's general manager in Johannesburg, Samantha Watt, says:
"Clients may have cut back on retainers slightly but not completely."
Majors such as Cisco Systems still view it as a growth area. "South
Africa is an early adopter in terms of technology," she adds.
The country is also a logical gateway to the rest of the continent. Text
100 has only managed ad hoc work in other African countries until now
but is putting its muscle behind the development of a regional network,
winning projects in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
There remains a "digital divide" between South Africa and much of the
rest of the continent, however. The Sahara splits Africa into north and
south, with sub-Saharan Africa divided broadly into French and
English-speaking nations. Nigeria, the largest economy outside South
Africa, has developed into a west African PR hub during the last decade,
with Ghana and the Ivory Coast increasingly attractive to outside
investors. But MS&L in Johannesburg remains the only agency to have a
presence throughout regional Africa.
In the east, Kenya has been traditionally strong in PR, with Nairobi a
useful base for campaigns in Uganda and Tanzania. Agencies such as IMC
and Communications Concept offer niche services, but the region's
largest agency, Church Orr, is developing bases in other countries. But
national networks are developing at a snail's pace.
"PR as a discipline has rapidly evolved in South Africa but in (the rest
of) Africa it's still pretty much just a media release-type thing," MS&L
managing director Nicholas Motsatse says. "PR goes hand in hand with how
sophisticated the media is in a country and, traditionally, media has
been state-owned and state-dominated. Developing media also requires
huge investment, especially when you don't have many advertisers."
In the north, countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have
historically aligned themselves with the Middle East and Gulf states
rather than the rest of Africa. Arabic language, culture and Islam bind
the region - home to 250 million consumers - and the 25 members of the
Middle East PR Association, formed in June, have an estimated combined
fee income of $20 million, which MEPRA predicts will grow at 20
Jock Wilson is regional director for Middle East and North Africa for
Promoseven PR, a Weber Shandwick affiliate based in Dubai, the United
Arab Emirates capital that forms the hub of PR in the Gulf states.
"Community relationships are at the forefront," says Wilson.
The economy of the Gulf states remains oil-based, although Bahrain's
move away from oil dependence to exploit aluminum reserves has given it
status as financial capital of the region.
Moves toward deregulation and privatization are providing PR
opportunities, with even Saudi Arabia freeing itself up for foreign
investment prior to its proposed entry to the World Trade Organization.
"Saudi is our fastest-growing office in the past 12 months," says David
Baker, Gulf Hill & Knowlton UAE country manager. The agency formed a
technology group three years ago and clients such as Epson, IBM and
Philips form a significant chunk of the agency's business. "But PR is
still misunderstood in the Gulf," Baker adds.
Despite this, local business - vital for the continued development of PR
in the region - is increasing. Baker says the proportion of local to
international PR work was five percent to 95 percent even two years
Now the figure is more 25 to 75. "There is an uptake in regionally based
companies and government departments using PR as a communications tool,"
While it is too early to say how the international rehabilitation of
Libya will affect demand for PR there, another North African country,
Egypt, is on the wish list of many international agencies. It has a
thriving telecoms network, multinationals are demanding government
relations programs and healthcare education is growing, generating
business for agencies such as Spot On and Pro PR.
Meanwhile, Israel - despite its commercial isolation on political
grounds from most of its neighbors - has been one of PR's international
success stories as a thriving arena for technology companies. On the
dot-com wave, in February 2000 Gitam Porter Novelli established a
technology division, which now accounts for half the agency's clients.
Hi-tech business remains strong, insists international consultant Joanne
But the dot-bomb has altered the business landscape, according to Josh
Schuman, head of Ruder Finn Israel's tech group. "A lot of the hi-tech
companies that had been bringing in venture capital now couldn't afford
to hire PR. Local PR firms have had to cut staff dramatically."
Violence between Palestinian and Israeli forces during the past eight
months has not made life more difficult than usual, however, insists
"Security problems are part and parcel. Our business suffered more from
Nasdaq problems and the bust of Internet companies." Schuman agrees:
"The global economic situation is far more influential than anything
going on in Israel."
Even at the height of its success, while international accountants and
advertising agencies have bought companies in Israel as a way into the
market, PR groups have been more reticent, preferring in the main to use
affiliates. During the height of the dot-com boom there were serious
inquiries, Schuman says, but that moment has passed.
With the top two groups, Ruder Finn and Porter Novelli, boasting a
combined fee income just under $4 million - and with local
agencies such as hi-tech specialist Koteret - Israel remains a
significant PR market and steady growth during the 1990s has given it
the base to recover from the rigors of this year. Hi-tech work,
corporate reputation and public affairs are all set to grow.
The prevalence of parochial issues and cultural differences means there
is no substitute for a local PR presence in Africa and the Middle
Cold facts remain, however. Chief among these is that Africa must
achieve economic growth of five percent per year simply in order to
prevent poverty rising. And quite apart from its human cost, the spread
of AIDS threatens to rob the south of the continent of millions of
GLOBAL AGENCIES OPERATING IN AFRICA/MIDDLE EAST
RANK AGENCY NAME INCOME (dollars) % LOCATION
2000 1999 2000 1999 CHANGE
1 - Hill & Knowlton 2,405,000 - - ME
2 4 Ruder Finn 1,929,000 1,230,000 57 ME
3 2 Porter Novelli
International 1,827,000 2,426,000 25 ME
4 - Text 100 1,450,946 - - SA
5 8 Euro RSCG Corporate
Comms 1,306,000 111,000 1,077 ME
6 6 Ogilvy Public Relations
Worldwide 1,100,000 714,000 54 ME
7 5 Fleishman-Hillard 926,000 882,000 5 SA
8 1 Manning, Selvage & Lee 763,000 3,846,240 80 ME/SA
9 3 Incepta Citigate 271,765 1,561,208 83 ME
10 7 GCI Group/APCO
Associates - 583,000 100 ME
SOURCE: Council of PR Firms Notes: This is a list of global public
relations firms. It does not include local independents.