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How global media expansion in Africa spells doom for local players

Nicolas Pompigne

Since its inception in 2007, APO Group has quickly become the most influential and reputable media relations consulting firm in Africa and the Middle East through its pioneering press release distribution and innovative monitoring solutions.

Its global advisory services allows organizations all over the world to harness the potential of media by developing strategic communications plans that help to build positive connections with key audiences.

His clients include companies like Facebook, Uber, Marriott, Hilton, GE, Orange, DHL, Philips, Coca-Cola, Standard Chartered Bank, Siemens, Canon, PwC, EY, McKinsey & Company, Accor Hotels, flydubai, DP World, just to name a few.

At the same time, the company’s Advisory Division also serves clients like Aliko Dangote, the International Criminal Court, Microsoft, Samsung, Total, Merck, Société Générale, L’Oréal, Ernst & Young, Orange, Government of Dubai, Greenpeace, Rotary, Al Jazeera, Western Union, Heineken, and Ericsson.

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Pompigne-Mognard worked as the European correspondent for Gabonews, a Gabonese online publication when he realized how difficult it was to get Africa-related press releases, press briefings and official statements issued by European institutions, NGOs, embassies and governments.

“As a journalist, I needed to receive all this information in order to stay on top of everything that was happening between Europe and Africa at a diplomatic, economic or even cultural level. To access press releases, I had to subscribe to all the mailing lists,” he says.

But Pompigne-Mognard soon realized he was spending hours and days trying to reach the relevant people so they could send him their press releases. Soon he realized that if receiving press releases issued by these organizations was difficult for him, it was extremely problematic for any journalist to get Africa-related press release content.

First, he says, the inability of African journalists to access this information just re-enforced their dependence on Western media and press agencies. Secondly, most of the press releases issued by African governments and institutions never reached the international media community at all.

Pompigne-Mognard says this was the period when international institutions like the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were having serious discussions about the role of African media in the promotion of good governance.

Months later, with an initial investment of €10,000, APO was signing strategic agreements with Bloomberg, Reuters and other international players to guarantee the worldwide distribution of thousands of Africa-related press releases in a standardized, internationally-recognized News ML format for the first time.

Need to study media trends in Africa

It is with this kind of foresight that he wants Africans to study and understand the current media trends on the continent. Besides the business woes that the international media might inflict on the African media, he also sees a problem of sovereignty.

“I am explaining to journalism students that there is no such a thing as “international media,” these are national media with an international coverage,” he says.

“When you say they are “international” you put a spoon of objectivity in it; that they are international and they are for the good of everybody but they are essentially national in outlook.”

“When you think about the worst case scenario, it is really bad and it has the potential of re-establishment of a form of colonialism via the international media. Africa is the next big thing in terms of population.”

“What happens when 50% of the population learns about what is happening in their country through the international media?” “What happens to a Ugandan teenager when they learn about what’s happening in Morocco or Nigeria through CNN?”

“The more I think about this and the more I interact with people, the more I am convinced that the current situation threatens to have a setback of the gains made on the continent.”

But is it all a lost cause?

May be not.

Pompigne-Mognard says in some of the engagements he has had with media managers on the continent, he has been told some of their programmes are quite popular with their audiences and the common thread with all these programmes is that they are “authentically” African.

“May be we are making a mistake by copying the international media,” he says, “We need to find our unique selling point or what makes us different and concentrate on that.”

 

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