Africa still largely lags regions such as Europe or North America in terms of social media or internet penetration among its population. However, things are improving. In recent years, these platforms have become more readily accessible, thanks in part to a broader rollout of more affordable broadband internet services and relatively cheaper mobile data services.
As of 2021, analytics by Statista showed that 45 percent of North Africa’s population used social media, while Southern Africa was at 41 percent. In East Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda have the highest numbers of social media users, with 11 million, 5.4 million and 3.4 million active users respectively. In Central Africa, only about eight percent of the people use social media, which is the lowest rate across Africa.
As social media platforms become a major part of life for the majority of the continent’s citizens, those in leadership positions, whether in politics, business or non-profit sectors, have quickly adopted these platforms not just for canvassing support for their ideas or agendas but more so as channels through which they can proactively account to their constituencies.
A majority of those in political leadership, whether state presidents or prime ministers and even royalty, in regions where they still exist, have set up pages and handles across platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn for the primary purpose of regularly updating citizens on their government’s activities and agenda. This includes showcasing delivery on political campaign promises such as recruitment of more teachers and health workers or making good on commitments around a reformed national legislative framework.
The active presence of political leaders on social media platforms has given wider and immediate access to ordinary citizens to directly engage with their national leaders on matters close to their hearts or of importance to their communities. A cursory look at conversation threads points usually to two-way engagement, itself a break from the past where engagement with political leaders was mostly one-way and top down. Thanks to social media, citizens of African nations can now even directly challenge their political leaders on a range of issues, from unfulfilled election promises to poor service delivery in their communities.
Business leaders have equally not been left behind even though they may not have to directly account for the day-to-day activities of their businesses or organisations to the public. Many, particularly those in the services industries, are taking a more proactive approach in engaging their target audiences via social media platforms mostly to demonstrate walking the talk on their organisations’ purpose, mission or objectives. From telecoms giant MTN’s Ralph Mupita to insurer Discovery’s Adrian Gore, Africa’s top business leaders are proactively accounting for the activities of their respective businesses through direct and two-way engagement with audiences on chosen social media platforms, mostly LinkedIn and Twitter.
As access and usage of social media platforms continues to deepen on the continent, it is expected that more and more leaders - in politics, business, non-profit sectors - will continue to adopt digital platforms to proactively account to their bases, constituencies or target audiences. The current picture is pretty impressive and it should only get better in times ahead.
Data compiled by Africa No Filter between 2020-2021 showing the top 10 most followed African leaders on Twitter
- Egyptian President, Abdelfattah Elsisi - 5.5 million
- Kenyan President William Ruto - 4.4 million
- Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari - 4 million
- Rwandese President Paul Kagame - 2.5 million
- Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni - 2.4 million
- Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo - 2.1 million
- Senegal’s Macky Sall - 1.8 million
- Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Ali - 1.1 million
- Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu - 904,000
Aprio ARM recently supported AB InBev’s Zambian Breweries subsidiary when it officially announced a major new investment commitment in Zambia.
In late June 2022, Zambian Breweries unveiled plans to invest US$80 million towards the construction of a new brewery in Lusaka, which will see the leading Zambian brewer double its production capacity.
The plant upgrade, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023, is expected to create more direct and indirect jobs, expand the company’s agriculture out-grower schemes, offer further procurement opportunities for local suppliers and service providers, and contribute additional tax revenue to government. This investment is in addition to the company’s long-standing contribution to the Zambian economy over many years, with just under US$400 million spent on capital investment programmes in the last decade.
The US$80 million investment is part of Zambian Breweries’ strategy of creating and sharing value and will unlock innovative opportunities within the beer category, see a reduced reliance on imports, as well as open export options.
Working with the local Zambian Breweries and the AB InBev Africa Zone Corporate Affairs teams, Aprio ARM developed a comprehensive media engagement plan for the official announcement of the significant new investment commitment.
The plan included media interviews for Zambian Breweries’ Country Director, Michelle Kilpin, with leading South African and pan African media houses. Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema shared one of the media interviews on his personal Facebook page, which has over 1.4 million ‘followers’, welcoming and lauding the investment as critical to overall national economic growth.
Zambian Breweries’ Country Director, Michelle Kilpin commented, after the successful media announcement of the investment commitment: “This has been a super outcome with significant media outreach – the result of a strong plan and great teamwork!”
Aprio ARM services African markets primarily outside South Africa and has extensive working knowledge and experience across all of the continent’s regions in East Africa, West Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa and Indian Ocean African countries.
Botswana is in many ways, an exceptional nation. It is Africa’s oldest democracy, one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, and one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. It is the likely birthplace of modern humans, and home to rolling grasslands and savannah, an imposing desert and, surprisingly, rich waterways. It is also home to an increasing number of exceptional businesses.
Since its first democratic elections in 1966, Botswana has transformed itself into a thriving upper-middle-income country. Until the turn of the last century economic growth was astonishing, averaging over 9 per cent per year, and it remains impressive today, with growth forecast at 4.3 per cent in 2022. As a result, Botswana’s population enjoys one of the highest GDPs per capita in sub-Saharan Africa. This growth, is, increasingly, inclusive. According to Mastercard's Index of Women Entrepreneurs, Botswana has the world’s highest percentage of female business owners.
Botswana’s economy, for decades dependent almost exclusively on diamonds, is gradually starting to diversify. This diversification is thanks in part to a concerted government effort to wean the country off diamonds, and to build an educational system that will support Botswana’s evolution as a leader in innovation, research, and scientific development.
Botswana invests 21 per cent of its budget in education and has increased its adult literacy rate from 69 per cent in 1991 to 83 per cent in 2008. More recently it has set up hubs in six sectors including agriculture, diamonds, innovation, transport, health and education, in order to establish centres of excellence and enhance the capacity of its workforce. As a result of this investment and focus on academic development, Botswana has one of the highest researcher densities in sub-Saharan Africa.
Today, Botswana is home to fast-growing financial services, telecommunication, retail, creative and tourism industries. Mining other than diamonds has also grown, with exciting prospects for access to several scarce mineral resources reported.
A transparent, predictable policy landscape, independent judiciary, and business-friendly regulations mean that international companies are increasingly looking to invest in the country. They are attracted by Botswana’s rich human and natural capital, its political stability and enviable sovereign credit rating, its reasonable taxation regime and excellent transport infrastructure, amongst other reasons.
Botswana companies, buoyed by local success and opportunities abroad, are also increasingly looking to expand. Choppies Enterprises Limited, the grocery and general merchandise retailer, is exemplary in this regard, having successfully opened stores and logistics networks in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya. As Botswana continues to diversify and integrate with regional and overseas markets, more multinational businesses will inevitably follow.
Laying a firm foundation for international expansion, with a corresponding strategic approach to reputation management and stakeholder relations, can help prospective multinationals avoid many of the pitfalls that have stopped promising companies in the past.
To expand across a continent, partnerships need to be forged across a disparate set of geographies and operating conditions. There is also the expectation that multinationals will support local employment, industries and value chains. This requires specialised communications competencies in terms of working with governments, regulators, media and communities.
Introducing Aprio ARM Botswana
As a leading corporate communication firm originating in South Africa but increasingly involved in opportunities across the continent, Aprio is excited by the potential and promise of Botswana and its companies. We have recently opened Aprio ARM Botswana, which has a dedicated office in Gaborone and look forward to providing strategic counsel, communication support, and ensuring that your reputational and communications objectives are achieved seamlessly and effectively at continental scale.
Aprio supports BioNTech’s Africa vaccine initiative media engagement
Through Aprio’s relationship with one of the world’s leading strategic communications and public affairs firms, Aprio ARM has supported global immunotherapy company BioNTech with its African vaccine production initiative.
In February 2022, BioNTech unveiled plans to establish turnkey mRNA manufacturing facilities based on a container solution on the African continent, called “BioNTainer”, announced at an event attended by the presidents of Ghana, Rwanda and Senegal in Marburg, Germany.
Each BioNTainer will be equipped to manufacture a range of mRNA-based vaccines targeted to the needs of the African Union member states, and the first is expected to arrive in Africa in the second half of 2022. BioNTech expects to ship BioNTainers to Rwanda, Senegal and potentially South Africa in close coordination with the respective country.
As part of BioNTech’s media engagement for the Africa vaccine initiative, Aprio ARM developed a per country (Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa) media engagement plans for the official announcement of this important initiative.
In the lead up to the event, Aprio ARM further deployed a robust real-time media (traditional and social) monitoring programme, providing the client with up-to-date daily media sentiment before, during and after the official event.
Client feedback on the work done: “Good to see some strong coverage of the announcement today. Thanks for your team’s work on coverage over the last week – it’s been so comprehensive!”
Aprio ARM services African markets primarily outside South Africa and has extensive working knowledge and experience across East Africa, West Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa and Indian Ocean African countries.
Botswana continues to rank highly in terms of ease of doing business. The country’s macro-economic policy maintains a low, stable and predictable level of inflation, making it a regionally and globally competitive economy, attracting foreign investors and providing value to commercial enterprises.
Furthermore, the country has, over the years, developed significant skills in mining, construction, financial services, and tourism. Botswana continues to diversify its economy and benefits from talented and skilled individuals in key economic sectors.
If you’re looking to consolidate or expand your business in Botswana, Aprio ARM Botswana will ensure that your reputational and communications objectives are achieved seamlessly and effectively, nationally and beyond.
Whatever your sector – from mining, telecommunication, manufacturing, energy, health, technology, engineering through to financial services – we can help you safeguard your reputation and engage key stakeholders in a challenging socio-economic environment where there is no such thing as a low-risk industry.
Aprio ARM Botswana team
Our local team is led by Country Managing Partner, Ulla Setswalo, who has garnered years of experience and leadership in the media and strategic communications field across both Botswana and in the broader African region. She has previously undertaken consultancy work for Plato Institute in Greece. In recognising the need for integration and redefining corporate communication among the African countries, Ulla has a strong belief that it is time for Africans to efficiently take the lead in changing the narrative of the communications agenda for clients with a shared purpose.
Extended Africa regional team
Webster Malido, Johannesburg, South Africa, profile (from Aprio ARM website)
Julian Gwillim, Johannesburg, South Africa (from Aprio ARM website)
Visit www.aprioarm.co.bw for more information
In 2020, as the world was ravaged by the coronavirus, investment into financial technology (fintech) companies in emerging markets decreased as funders sheltered against a volatile, risky environment.
Except that’s not the whole story. True, funding in Latin American and Indian fintech companies declined, but investment in African fintech actually soared, according to research by Briter Bridges and BFA Global. Africa saw fintech funding, including mergers and acquisitions, grow to $1.35 billion in 2020 from $1 billion in 2019.
The trend reflects the increasing potential for growth in the continent. Africa has a growing population of 1.3 billion people, rising smartphone ownership and falling data costs. Several African nations have made digital transformation a priority, with a parallel investment in telecom and data infrastructure. Fintech investors also see opportunity among its large unbanked population – only 40% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa had a bank account in 2017.
Most investments on the continent flowed to Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, according to the Briter Bridges report, which surveyed 177 start-ups and 33 impact investors across emerging markets. South Africa led the way with $112m in investments, followed by Nigeria, which raised $74m, Kenya at $62m and Egypt at $51m.
The Briter Bridges research also breaks down investment by product category, and shows that in Africa, payment solutions receive the bulk of funding, followed by credit, insurance, financial infrastructure and neobanks.
Payment platforms have seen the most visible success in Africa, and there is huge remaining potential to formalise payment systems and reach the unbanked and underbanked. The benefits of financial inclusion to the unbanked and underbanked are significant, and could kickstart an era of more secure, more productive economic activity across the continent.
For many venture capitalists, Africa represents a blank canvas; a new frontier waiting to be conquered. This idea of the continent as a single potential market has been supported by the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which looks set to usher in a wave of multinational fintechs looking to take advantage of more uniform trading conditions.
The reality is far more complicated, and far more interesting. Success in Africa still requires expert knowledge of its disparate markets, effective stakeholder engagement, local capacitation and a strategic reputation management strategy.
The potential of fintech, as well as its primary challenge, lies in its ability to scale. This has as much to do with marketing, reputation enhancement, partnerships, stakeholder relations and brand building as it does with the underlying product. In an increasingly competitive market, a fintech’s ability to differentiate itself and establish a public persona strong enough to carry it across a continent is an advantage as powerful as an innovative product. Companies can stand or fall based on their ability to develop and maintain a coherent, attractive brand proposition.
Laying a firm foundation for continental expansion, with a corresponding strategic approach to reputation management and stakeholder relations, can help prospective multinationals avoid many of the pitfalls that have stopped promising companies in the past.
To expand across a continent, partnerships need to be forged across a disparate set of geographies and operating conditions. There is also the expectation that multinationals will support local employment, industries and value chains. This requires communications competencies in terms of working with governments, regulators and communities.
Fintech moves quickly, and partners are on the lookout for newsmakers and growth. Make sure your successes are broadcast where potential collaborators can see them. In this regard, localised and centralised communications strategies need to take place concurrently. Knowledge of media landscapes and contexts within individual countries is crucial, as is an ability to tie individual stories together to craft compelling, organisation-wide narratives.
There is tremendous potential in Africa, and it is more accessible than ever for companies looking to expand. But as always, it rewards those who take a considered, strategic approach, and who keep the integrity of their brand and reputation top of mind.
Aprio is delighted to announce the official launch of Aprio: Africa Regional Markets (ARM).
The new division will be led by managing partner and shareholder, Webster Malido, who has extensive working knowledge and experience across all of the continent’s regions – East Africa covering Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda; West Africa covering Ghana and Nigeria; North Africa covering Egypt; Southern Africa covering Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and in the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles.
Webster is a highly skilled corporate communications executive with deep experience in the financial services sector and an extensive wealth of knowledge of African markets. He most recently served as Head of Communication for Absa Regional Operations (the Absa Group’s businesses outside South Africa) where he oversaw the communication workstream in the successful rollout of the Absa brand in previously Barclays-branded African regions. Prior to that, he served as Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs at Barclays Bank Zambia (now Absa Bank Zambia) where he was a member of the country’s executive management committee.
Before moving into corporate communications, Webster worked as a business and political journalist and was editor at The Post newspaper in his home country of Zambia. At the time, The Post was the leading national daily. He was a non-executive director on the board of the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper between 2012 and 2015. Webster holds a Bachelor of Mass Communication degree from the University of Zambia and is currently completing his MSc International Business Administration with the University of London.