The President, African Public Relations Association, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, has reiterated the need for institutions in Africa to embrace public relations so as to help drive positive narratives and dispel the negative stereotypes about the continent to create better opportunities for its people.
Mr. Okusanya made the statement in his opening remarks at the 2021 APRA Conference, themed “One Africa: March to Economic Integration and the Role of Public Relations in Covid-19 Era”, held virtually on May 25 and was attended by several esteemed speakers and guests across various industries, including President, African Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina; Secretary General, Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), H. E. Wamkele Mene; Executive Head of Marketing & Communications, Africa Region, Standard Bank, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, among others.
The conference facilitated the discourse on how public relations can catalyze the growth of the African Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), projected by experts to be the world’s largest single market, once fully operational.
Okusanya went on to speak on the consequentiality of Africans taking charge of their narratives rather than leaving it to foreigners to tell the stories, stating that in light of Africa’s current situation and its trajectory toward socio-economic development, there couldn’t be a better time to begin doing this.
“For far too long, our story has been told by outsiders in traditional media or through today’s digital media. Retaking the control of this narrative will help us counter negative stereotypes that often impede our development. Africa is a force in the world and there is no better way to leverage this force than to tell its own story in diverse ways across boundaries. It is true that we are not where we want to be, but Africa is definitely on the rise and will continue to be.
“However, if we truly want to change Africa’s narrative, African institutions must embrace more of public relations. Public relations must move higher in your pecking order from a ‘can have’ to a must-have”, he stated.
He further spoke on the purpose of public relations as a tool to galvanize better engagement and long-term development for Africa, elucidating the rudiments of the practice whilst emphasizing the need for AfCTA to support APRA so as to adopt and integrate PR tools for long-term success.
“Public relations is not just about looking, sounding or feeling good. It goes far beyond that. Rather, it is a strategic management tool designed to deliberately and consistently analyze and predict trends, as well as stakeholders and through that, foster better understanding and engagement.
“I call on the African Development Bank to support APRA in its quest to sell ‘positive Africa’ through partnership of some of our initiatives. To roll out effectively, you need strategic communications and APRA is once again reiterating our offer to assist you in designing an effective strategy across the continent, leveraging on the skills and force of our members in every country and beyond”, he added.
President, African Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina in his keynote address also emphasized the need to curate positive narratives for Africa, citing this as an intrinsic avenue to actualize Agenda 2063 of the Africa Union.
“There are great stories to be told about Africa, our beloved continent. We need you as partners in public relations and the media to help curate and disseminate Africa’s success stories. This is the path towards the actualization of the Africa we want as set out in agenda 2063 of the African Union.
“Your role is critical, and I’m proud to say the African Development Bank itself produces news stories and press releases about Africa’s progresses in creating better opportunities for its people”, he stated.
Akinwunmi went on to announce plans of the African Development Bank to partner with the African Public Relations Association (APRA) in promulgating positive African stories of progress, resilience and steadfastness as a people to propel the continent to the forefront of global competitiveness.
“The African Development Bank will initiate a new strategic partnership with the African Public Relations Association so that you can help to weave stories of resilience of a continent, progressing against all odds, together, determined, resolute, undeterred and spurred on by the sound of our progress. Let us create narratives that inspire and propel Africa. Africa’s future is bright. Let’s spread the good news”, he concluded.
The APRA Conference 2021 marks the very first virtual edition of the association’s annual conference and is set to hold from May 25 – 27. The event was initially scheduled to hold physically in Tanzania but had to be cancelled and held virtually, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other notable speakers at this year’s edition include, Kerry Sheehan, Senior Communication Advisor, United Kingdom Government Communication Service; Philippe Borremans, President International Public Relations Association (IPRA); Paul Holmes, Founder PRovoke Media; Wynne Musabayana, Head of Communication African Union Commission (AUC); Carol Watson, Chief Inclusion Officer, BCW; Kamal Taibi, Founder Strateus Group and Jordan Rittenberry, Chairman, Chairman Middle East and Africa Edelman, among others.