Corporate communications on the continent

Corporate communications on the continent

Members of the Portland Africa Network offer tips and insights to companies on communicating in Africa.

  • Addis Alemayehou, 251 Communications, Addis Ababa
  • Stephen Laufer, GokoLaufer MSP, Johannesburg
  • José Pedro Luís, Cunha Vaz & Associados, Maputo
  • Nn’emeka Maduegbuna, Corporate & Financial, Lagos
  • Kojo Yankah, Yankah & Associates, Accra

Remember that Africa is a continent of many different countries….
Companies trying to break in to the region frequently misinterpret the landscape just because we speak English and look familiar to some other countries. However, South Africa is a country with very particular sensibilities that must be embraced and responded to. It is essential that corporates understand the social complexities. You cannot simply have a carbon copy of how you are positioned in New York, Frankfurt or London. (South Africa)
A number of companies still erroneously think that all African countries are the same. However, what sparks the interests of the media and the man in the streets is different in Nigeria than in Ghana, or indeed elsewhere. (Nigeria)
A few multinational companies have been particularly successful in Ghana because they have done extensive ‘cultural immersion’ of their programmes by doing more community relations, local and grassroots involvement, and direct communication to communities. (Ghana)
If companies are looking to roll out a major investment or a strategic plan, it is crucial to have a communications strategy and team that is specific to Ethiopia. Brands that have succeeded have their brand linked to sport, music and other cultural activities. (Ethiopia)
In general, social media has had less of an impact than other digital communciations – websites for example.  However, some journalists are using Twitter as a medium to talk to one another and reach consensus on story angles.  Business Day has been taking themselves in to the digital arena in a major way and this has changed the news space considerably.  (South Africa)

Understand the evolving communciations landscape…

Media coverage still tends to still focus on policy issues and political stories rather than focusing on the dynamics of business in Ethiopia, key challenges and insights into sectors. (Ethiopia)

Outside the urban areas, direct contact and word of mouth is the main media. When a company wants to communicate to the whole country or to a specific population outside an urban area, it is vital to design a strategy to reach your target audience directly. (Mozambique)

Johannesburg has the biggest collection of foreign correspondents on the continent but the media has suffered waves of cost cutting in recent years. This has led to a shortage of specialist journalists, so now they are forced to make assumptions and report about business subjects and areas that they do not fully understand.  (South Africa)

Business media is evolving. Every major newspaper boasts of a broad business desk that covers diverse areas. (Nigeria)

Have a strategy to harness the growing power of social media…

Ethiopia still has a relatively low internet penetration and there is, in general, limited successful use by the local corporate world. Very few CEOs have yet to establish themselves on Twitter. (Ethiopia)

In Ghana, social media is growing as a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Facebook and Twitter are very popular, and for businesses, LinkedIn and Twitter are the key platforms. (Ghana)

There is a growing number of internet and social media users in Mozambique, mainly in the urban areas. Almost every bank and telecommunications company use some kind of social media work tool, although some lack the strategy to manage it. (Mozambique)

The impact of social media is growing in Nigeria. More and more corporate bodies are stepping up their presence in the social media space. The telecommunications companies and banking and financial institutions are the major players. Although the social media audience remains predominately relatively young, we are seeing niches develop in politics, sports, entertainment and IT. (Nigeria)
Top Tips:

  • Make sure your communications strategy includes a cultural focus
  • Do lots of market research
  • Get to know the local media and media relations sphere quickly


  • Select and build a good in-house corporate communications team
  • Choose a versatile and credible corporate communications consultancy
  • Emphasise thought leadership and the quality of your products and services


  • Get to know Ethiopia and the local culture – ‘cut and paste’ models never work
  • The economy is government-driven – make sure you understand current policies
  • Hire locally and develop talent rather than relying on imported talent

South Africa

  • Stop:  listen, to get a sense of where the country and the decision makers are going
  • Think: understand the country’s history
  • Proceed: fashion your identity and message around that knowledge


  • Seek the support of a trustworthy consultant
  • Book a meeting in the Investment Promotion Centre
  • Follow the local news – this is essential to understanding the country
Back to publications