By OMAWUNMI OGBE – GLG COMMUNICATIONS
The communications landscape in Africa is changing and even more so in 2020. Women currently dominate PR across the globe, and this has been a growing trend in the last decade. From America to Europe and Africa, there are more women than men in PR and Marketing. According to data from a 2014 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (US), women make up 63 percent of public relations specialists and 59 percent of all PR managers. Other estimates such as a study from PR Daily suggest that the female percentage is closer to 73, or even 85 percent.
It’s Still a Boy’s Club
Although women dominate PR and Marketing, it is contrasting to note that the majority of the top positions are occupied by men. For example, from 1963 till date, the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) has produced 13 presidents and all have been men. The current president of the African Public Relations Association (AFPRA) is also a man, and this is most likely represented across the continent. Why is it that an industry that attracts more women than men still finds it challenging for women to rise to the top? A quick look at some of the biggest PR & Marketing firms or the corporate communications departments of some of the biggest organizations in Africa will confirm this.
Even though she agrees that a great number of the major PR and advertising agencies in Nigeria are run by men, CEO of Glam Brand Agency, Bola Balogun does not see it as a challenge. According to her, “doing business in Nigeria is a challenge in itself and both women and men face these challenges”. She however believes that Nigeria is one the best places for a woman to thrive in business, and thinks it is a “fantastic environment to do PR, especially now with all of the interest the country is getting from top international organizations.”
Director of Strategy at Wax Print Media Ghana, Muhammida El Muhajir echoes Balogun’s sentiments. She believes that the communications industry is thriving for women; however, “some clients underestimate your talent and expertise as a woman. They can second guess your suggestions without any justification” she said. “I also find that there are times that clients want to actually pay you less or expect that you should be satisfied with what they offer even if it is below your standard rate.” Muhajir speaks of challenges women in PR & Marketing face.
Cannibalism is the biggest challenge women face in the industry, says MD of Deefrent Ltd, Adebola Olomo who runs a PR & Marketing agency in Nigeria and Ireland. She explains that “because of the way the market is designed, a lot of men don’t think that they can show their weaknesses to the women.” Stating that in the situation whereby the man has an “ask” or a reward for awarding a contract like a scratch my back, I scratch yours scenario, they would rather give it to the man who they feel can keep their secrets or won’t see them as weak for asking for kickbacks. They see the men as their counterparts and comrades at arms but not the women. In her words, “Until we start to see a lot of women become decision-makers and those women support other women, we might have to continue fighting for our place.”
It’s Getting Nichier
As communications evolve in Africa, niches have become more popular amongst PR & marketing professionals and from all indications, it will only get nichier. In contrast to the broader solution services provided by older agencies, contemporary professionals are more focused on providing niche services and driving thought leadership in their chosen areas. A major determinant of the area of specialization is demand. Bola Balogun’s Glam Brand Agency now focuses mostly on beauty PR because of the demand. “Beauty has become such a big deal with a lot of the international brands coming to Africa and that has become a big part of our business” she says. With brands like the L’Oreal Group – Lancome, Maybelline, Yves Saint Lauren and more in their kitty, Glam Brand Agency is arguably Nigeria’s number one in the beauty PR space as they are behind the PR and strategy of all the major beauty brands entering Nigeria and some of Ghana.
Diane Apoti, founder of Nairobi based PR consultancy, Diane Apoti PR, says the vacuum in the industry inspired her niche. Years back in a previous interview, Apoti shared that after she did a campaign titled “100 Days of African Fashion and featured clothes from 100 different brands across the continent, it exposed a vacuum in the industry” noting that there was no agency focused entirely on fashion publicity and marketing at that time.
Communications Manager for Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration (GGC) Mina Okuru’s niche area was inspired by her passion for research and strategy, stakeholder engagement and crisis management. “I’m very passionate about them because I feel they are almost always kept at the back burner until something happens and I want to change perceptions about how people use strategic communications in the achievement of corporate goals.” She says.
With a clientele that includes Dangote Group, Lagos state, Frist Bank Nigeria, The Experience Lagos and more; Adebola Olomo’s agency focuses on corporate organizations, the public sector and events. Her niche was informed by the opportunities she got when she just started out. After building expertise in these areas, she got more referrals for jobs in these categories.
Elizabeth Osho head strategist at So.Me Solutions, corroborates Olomo’s point stating that they were naturally drawn to their niche after running successful campaigns in it. “We use influencers which have become our forte. Creating and executing special events, the personal touch/networking is also something we have the knack for” she explains.
Whether they are starting their own firms or earning their place at the top offices, African women are taking the bull by the horn and creating space for themselves in PR and Marketing. Understanding that no list is perfect, it is important to add that this list does not speak for all the PR and Marketing women in Africa. Rather, it represents a good chunk of the whole – women who have been in the industry for many years to early players making their mark, covering small, medium-sized and large-sized organizations.
Africa’s Leading Women in PR & Marketing in no Particular Order
MOLIEHI MOLEKOA (SOUTH AFRICA)
Managing Director, Magna Carta
Moliehi Molekoa works as the Managing Director at Magna Carta, responsible for overall performance of the business and also manages the firm’s Africa network and building capacity within the agency partners in 18 countries.
With a career spanning almost 2 decades, Molekoa has worked on several global accounts including The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Standard Bank, World Economic Forum, Africa Progress Panel, African Leadership Network, Vodacom Foundation, Samsung Africa, Microsoft and many more. In the years she’s been in charge of the Africa division, Magna Carta agency has been named African Consultancy of the Year 2016 & 2013 by the Holmes Report.
BOLANLE BALOGUN (NIGERIA)
CEO, Glam Brand Agency
Bolanle Balogun’s company, Glam Brand Agency provides brand strategy and Public Relations solutions and also works to assist brand entrance into the Nigerian market. She specializes in premium, luxury and niche brands within the fashion, beauty and lifestyle industry.
Balogun is also the creator and producer of Glam Report TV and founded Glam Networks – a fashion and lifestyle television production behind top shows which aired on MNet. She has executed projects for Herrera Confidential signature fragrances, Hairfinity products, Maybelline New York, Emmaus Beauty, and most recently Lancôme Paris: My Shade My Power Campaign.
NKIRU OLUMIDE-OJO (NIGERIA)
Head, Regional Marketing & Communications at Standard Bank Group, South Africa
Nkiru Olumide-Ojo has two decades of experience in Strategic Marketing and Corporate Communications Management, working with multinational and national brands in Nigeria and some African Markets. Her work experience spans across various sectors including Financial Services, Aviation, Telecommunication and the Oil and Gas sectors.
An expert reputation and crisis communication manager; Olumide-Ojo currently works as Executive Head, Regional Marketing and Communications at Standard Bank Group South Africa. She holds board level experience having sat on the boards of Stanbic IBTC Trustees Limited and CMC Connect Burtson Masteller.
ESTHER A. N. COBBAH (GHANA)
Founder & CEO, Stratcomm
Esther Cobbah is an award-winning communications consultant and qualified Gestalt facilitator. Cobbah is the founder and CEO of Strategic Communications Africa Ltd (Stratcomm Africa), a communication and reputation management agency based in Ghana, which has served more than 150 local and international clients. With over 30 years’ experience in the communication field, she currently serves as a board member of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA). With a keen understanding of the value of effective communication processes for national development, Cobbah has a track record of providing effective communications strategies to promote innovation and enhance public awareness. In 2016, Stratcomm was awarded the IPRA United Nations Award for Public Relations and Sustainable Development at the IPRA Golden Globe Awards for PR Excellence.
DIANA OPOTI (KENYA)
Founder, Diana Opoti PR
Following an increase from fashion companies, Diana Opoti rebranded her media consultancy Artemis Media into Diana Opoti PR, recognized as Kenya’s first PR consultancy focusing exclusively on services for the fashion industry.
Over the years, Opoti has proven to be a champion of the Kenya’s fashion design market and one of Africa’s most formidable fashion connectors. Based in Nairobi Kenya, her company focuses on brand strategy, publicity and campaign development and management for emerging fashion brands in Kenya, as well as for fashion brands looking to enter the country. From product reviews to driving fashion campaigns and recruiting on behalf of fashion brands, Opoti’s work goes beyond traditional PR.
TOKUNBO GEORGE TAYLOR (NIGERIA)
MD, Hill+Knowlton Strategies Nigeria
Referred to in some spaces as the amazon of PR in Nigeria, Tokunbo George Taylor is presently the Managing Director of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Nigeria, a global public relations company headquartered in New York. George Taylor started her impressive PR journey after her NYSC in 1994 working as the PR Manager at Multichoice and MNET.
Prior to her lead role at Hill + Knowlton Nigeria, George Taylor had spent some time at OANDO, where she handled the formidable job of being the head of the Corporate Services, Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility divisions.
NELISA NGQULANA (SOUTH AFRICA)
Director, PR Trends ZA
Nelisa is a PR & Communications Strategist with over 15 years’ experience through opportunities in the financial services (with companies such as Old Mutual and Metropolitan Health Group), NGO sector (UNICEF Children’s Radio Foundation), publishing and PR & Media consulting sectors.
She is currently the managing director and founder of PR and communications consultancy, PR Trends ZA. Focusing on reputation and crisis management, PR and social media/tech trends Ngqulana is a regular contributor to some of South Africa’s biggest TV shows and is often interviewed on her social justice campaigns against Gender-Based violence. Her latest venture is Coding Mamas, a tech startup teaching mothers and children to code.
In 2017, her innovation project as part of JAMLAB was one of the 9 winners of the SA Media Investment Programme’s Innovation Challenge.
MUHAMMIDA EL MUHAJIR (GHANA)
Director of Strategy, WaxPrint Media
Muhammida El Muhajir leads the business development, strategy and oversees client management at WaxPrint Media, a digital marketing and public relations agency based in Accra. With roles at the renown William Morris Talent Agency and as the Music Marketing Manager at Nike, El Muhajir spearheaded pioneering campaigns and programs with industry heavyweights including Eminem, Outkast, Alicia Keys, Pharrell Williams, and Mos Def using entertainment as a platform to connect brands with influential consumers worldwide. According to El Muhajir, her experience working with Fortune 500 companies in the US such as Pepsico and Volkswagen as well as her understanding of the local market gives her agency the advantage to create a niche out of working with both international and luxury brands operating in Ghana/Africa. Her agency has companies like Alliance Motors – Jaguar and Land Rover, Remy Martin, Air France, KLM Pernod Ricard, Versace Collection as clients.
CHIZOR MALIZE (Nigeria)
CEO, Brandzone Consulting LLC
With over 20 years of experience in Branding and Communication, Chizor is Malize is the CEO and Managing Partner of Brandzone; a brand consultancy firm which aids organizations in matching their brand strategy with their business goals. Her clients have included Fidelity Bank, Land Rover, Total, Qatar Airways and among many other prestigious brands.
An alumna of the London Business School, Malize has garnered deep and extensive experience in branding and marketing that cuts across diverse areas. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). In 2016, she won Marketing and Brand Personality of the Year and Best Female Brand Personality in 2018. Malize offers Marketing and Branding courses at local and international levels.
NKECHI ALI-BALOGUN (NIGERIA)
CEO, Necci Consulting
Nkechi Ali-Balogun is a hands-on Public Relations Practitioner, author and public speaker. Ali-Balogun, is the CEO & Principal Consultant at Necci Consulting. She is described as a multi-talented industry veteran with over 20 years of experience in both client and services aspects of Public Relations and Training consultancy.
She has served as the Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Lagos State Chapter, and is the first female to win the Most Outstanding Public Relations Practitioner (Female) from The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Lagos. Ali-Balogun coordinates Public Relations roundtable – providing a forum for PR and brand communications executives to interact and discuss the latest trends in the PR Industry.
MINA OKURU (GHANA)
Communications Manager for Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration (GGC).
Mina Okuru is a communications professional with proven experience and in-depth knowledge in corporate communications and public relations with excellent record in Employee Engagement, PR, Media Relations, Political/Public Diplomacy, Reputation and Crises Management. She has worked with firms such as DMA Media in London, Hyderus in Cardiff, the Afrobarometer Network, Embassy of the State of Israel in Ghana and Global Media Alliance all in Ghana. She has also handled clients like Vodafone Ghana, Silverbird Ghana, Samsung West Africa, AGRA, among others. Okuru believes that lack of representation of PR women in leadership, gender pay gap and inadequate mentors especially for young PR professionals are some of the challenges women face in the industry.
BUKKY KARIBI-WHYTE (Nigeria)
CEO, Robert Taylor Media Ltd.
The CEO & founder of Robert Taylor Media Ltd, Bukky Karibi-Whyte leads a boutique communications and special events company specializing in the areas of Media Relations, Crisis Management and Special Events. Her creative expertise has encompassed SPAR, Estee Lauder, MAC Cosmetics, etc. and some of the biggest names in entertainment including 2Baba, DBanj and many more. She is also founder of tech-startup, Crawl app. Her mother was a PR expert and this caused her to make PR a hobby till she decided to transform it into a business. She started off with corporate America and Canada before venturing on her own. Having started her agency at the age of 25, she has spearheaded its operations for 12 years.
ADEBOLA OLOMO (NIGERIA)
MD, Deefrent Nigeria Ltd & Deefrent Media Agency, Dublin
Adebola Olomo leads Deefrent, an agency that provides marketing and PR solutions for organizations and events in Nigeria and Ireland. Before setting up Deefrent in Nigeria about a decade ago, Olomo made her mark as a communication professional in several organizations including MTN Group South Africa and MTN Nigeria where she won the coveted Star Performance Award in the African region. Some of the organizations who have felt her company’s impact include United Bank for Africa, National Bureau of Statistics, Flour Mills Nigeria, Suttonian Rugby Club Dublin and many more. She is also PR Director, African Professionals Network Ireland (APNI) which has allowed her to work with global brands like Facebook, Citi, Google, Twitter etc. on advancing diversity in the workplace.
JULIETTE MUTHEU (KENYA)
Head of Communications & PR, African Academy of Sciences
Juliette Mutheu is a science communicator who currently leads communications and PR at the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in Nairobi Kenya. She provides strategic leadership in science communication, branding, media engagement and digital engagement. A trained scientist, Mutheu’s niche is science communication and she’s always looking out for African science stories that she can tell so that people understand the important role science plays in development, particularly socio-economic development. She works with African and global policymakers including the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), global partners such as Wellcome, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID, SIDA, Royal Society just to mention a few.
ELIZABETH OSHO (NIGERIA)
Head Strategist, So.Me Solutions
Elizabeth Osho leads a team at So.Me Solutions, a lifestyle communications agency based in Lagos. Osho began her journey in Nigeria as the online manager of Genevieve Magazine where she worked for four years before starting So.Me Solutions in 2016. With an impressive clientele that includes South African Tourism, Unilever, Filmhouse/Filmone and more, Osho says her communications success recipe is networking. She believes that lack of pay transparency, discrimination and bias are some of the challenges women in PR & Marketing face.
BIDEMI ZAKARIYAU (NIGERIA)
Lead PR Consultant, LSF|PR
Since moving back to Nigeria in 2011, Bidemi Zakariyau resolved to make it and she didn’t relent till she did. The 2018 Future Awards Africa Prize Winner for Media Enterprise kicked off her journey in PR while at Law School and stamped it with the establishment of LSF|PR – a full-service PR agency with core competencies in corporate communications, consumer and lifestyle brands.
From starting out with a few minor clients to representing some of Nigeria’s most popular brands including Remy Martin, Darling, Philips and more, Zakariyau’s company has become one of the fastest-growing PR agencies in Nigeria. In 2019, the Holmes Report Global Creative Index listed LSF|PR in its list of top 16 most creative PR agencies in the world.
IJEOMA BALOGUN (NIGERIA)
CEO, Redrick Public Relations
Ijeoma Balogun is the Founder & CEO of Redrick Public Relations, a lifestyle PR agency in Lagos Nigeria, specialising in designing and executing strategic integrated campaigns that support enterprises and start-ups to innovate, accelerate and grow. She is also the founder of Redrick Impact – the CSR arm of Redrick PR, offering communications solutions to Corporate organisations and RedRick Accelerated Workshops – an education-based community impact initiative that partners with experienced facilitators to provide free workshops for participants. Some of the organizations in her portfolio include Mitsubishi, Shea Moisture, Lords Gin. In 2019, she was listed in the Business Category of the annual Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list and is a 2018 Pan African International Merit Award (PAIMA) Recipient.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Omawumi Ogbe is the managing partner at GLG Communications – a creative agency in Lagos working with individual and corporate brands to achieve their communication goals.
Having worked and gained field experiences in varying industries such as PR, Advertising, Broadcasting, Healthcare, Digital Media, Publishing and Projects, Omawumi believes that every human can be all that they desire to be.
She holds a post-graduate degree in Media and Communications from the Pan-Atlantic University Lagos, where she graduated in 2013 as the overall best student of the entire PG school. She is also a coaching icon award-winning Life Coach with studies in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Emotional Intelligence and more.