Advertising Week Africa a platform for Africans to tell their own story

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Advertising Week, one of the world’s biggest advertising events, is coming to Africa for the first time. Advertising Week Africa, being held in Johannesburg from 11th to 14th May 2020, touts itself as a global platform on which Africans can tell their stories.

Meetings Africa 2020 played host to the Advertising Week Africa panel discussion at the Sandton Convention Centre on 26th February 2020. This year’s Meetings Africa, held from 25th to 26th February, celebrates 15 years of Advancing Africa Together and continues to grow as the continent’s premier business events conference. The event theme, “Shared economies”, looks at collaborative African growth with speakers delving into continent’s value proposition within the global economy.

Speaking on the panel, South African Tourism Chief Marketing Officer, Themba Khumalo, believes the platform will give Africa an opportunity to be part of the global conversation. “We have to be part of global platforms that have an annual circuit of events. So for me a platform like this allows us to get on the global agenda and the global conversation. It is a grace and a blessing to be part of this platform. Let’s use it to amplify our story.”

Khumalo said a clear message is needed for Africa’s stories to be compelling to the world. “We need to begin to engage on what the actual message is for this continent. Why should people visit or invest in this continent? Why should they care of the creative power of this continent?”

Solving real challenges

At the 2020 Design Indaba in Cape Town, South African Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona, launched the Department of Audacious Projects, aimed at “bringing to life the most insane and outlandish ideas to grow tourism”. Khumalo described it as the largest crowdsourcing platform that can solve the country’s tourism, and socio-economic, problems. “Creativity in my mind is not about making great adverts or content but how we deploy creativity to solve real challenges on the continent and earn our way onto the global platform and make a difference in the world.”

Khumalo said that Africa gets a disproportionately low percentage of global travel, a sign that it is in dire need of a coherent message that can be relayed to the rest of the world. “We are under-indexed in harvesting our true share of what we should get from the rest of the world. For Africa to succeed, the economy needs to grow or else the challenges will continue to prevail. We need to produce stuff the world wants to buy and sell the product that brings money in.

He added that Africans should start telling positive stories about the continent and veer away from the crude perceptions the rest of the world has of it. “We must not boost up the calamity. Africa is good. It is love, it is brotherhood and sisterhood – show Africa in its most positive light.”

From consumers to producers – controlling the narrative

Mathe Mosito-Okaba, CEO of the Association for Communications and Advertising, said that meetings at Advertising Week Africa should have a pro-Africa rhetoric that showcases the continent as a major global player. “With Advertising Week Africa, we are saying we can have a global conversation, we are equal. We cannot just be consumers; we have to be producing our own stuff. The global industry is very ready and passionate about Africa and our stories. We do not want to tell it in somebody else’s voice but in our voice. We then control the story.”

One major challenge that advertising faces is budget cuts from clients. Mosito-Okaba said the issue means advertising and marketing agencies are letting go of more creative employees which would lead to squeezed margins that disable the industry’s growth.

Tosin Lanipekun, Executive Director of Advertising Week, said Advertising Week Africa is about bringing together talent from the continent including partners, brands, associations, policymaker and government. “What we are doing is recognising that our best asset is people and especially young people. Africa has the largest complement of youth in the world.”

He said Africa must create its own platforms and build them from the ground up. “We have found ourselves in a peculiar place where we are having small conversations. There is a lot of entrepreneurial activity going on. Now is the time to tell our own stories.”

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