The importance of supporting the advancement of Africa’s critical infrastructure
Hudson Sandler Partner and Chairman of HS Africa, Chris Genasi recently moderated an Africa Communicators Exchange webinar with expert panellists discussing the different ways communicators can contribute to progressing the advancement of infrastructure in Africa.
Africa still faces serious infrastructure gaps – World Bank has found that the poor state of infrastructure reduces national public growth by 2% every year, and cuts business productivity by as much as 40%. But what role can communicators play in advancing the critical infrastructure that is needed to enable the continent’s agricultural and digital revolutions?
Joining the discussion were experts Lilian Nganda and Andrew Murray-Watson.
Lilian joins us from A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world’s leading provider of integrated logistics solutions that connect, protect and simplify supply chains in Africa where she is Regional Customer Communications Manager, Africa. Andrew Murray-Watson is Head of UK Media at British International Investment plc, the UK’s development finance institution involved in investing major infrastructure projects across the continent.
During the session, the panellists emphasised the importance of cross-channel communications and answered questions from the audience about COP27, storytelling, and measuring impact.
Finding the right angle when talking about Africa
As communicators know well, finding the right angle to tell a story is essential. But when it comes to the discussing infrastructure development across Africa, it important to consider the audience you are communicating to.
Andrew spoke about the education piece within broader communications to the ultimate stakeholders for BII, UK taxpayers and the British government. His key messaging must be informative so that stakeholders appreciate how investments in infrastructure will pay off. Andrew shared some of how he does it with us: he outlines how it forms part of the wider climate finance debate, and that BII will be talking more about adaptation and resilience in the run up to COP27; how some markets in Africa will be able to leapfrog certain aspects of infrastructure; how fintech in the African context will be vital as it is a solution which allows people to “skip” traditional banks but become financially included; and how the role of technology in monitoring and maintaining infrastructure investments will be also be essential.
The importance of engaging and educating key audiences was echoed by Lilian as she highlighted past experience in turning a crisis to a positive story. The key challenge was to cut through the politics which media were previously focusing on and inform them about the value of the project. Lilian spoke about the power of stories about Africa being told by Africans and how partnership will be the key to unlocking the opportunities which lie ahead. Lilian also shared her favourite positive storytelling experience which stemmed from when MAERSK recognised that many businesses in Africa which were struggling to sell perishable goods, particularly fresh flowers. MAERSK developed a product that would support its customers selling flowers to the UK by sea, enabling the flower to survive the journey. The story focused on the positive impact for communities to be able to fulfil orders, the growth in the number of their customers shipping flowers by sea, and the positive environmental impact of this product as emissions caused by transporting goods via planes is significantly greater than by sea.
Making Africa’s voice heard at the first Africa-based COP
Both Lilian and Andrew agreed that companies should look at learnings from COP26. They emphasised the importance of laying groundwork in the lead up and aftermath of the event and making sure journalists were aware of where/who to go to for insights on a particular sector. Going back to the importance and efficacy of cross-channel communications, Lilian highlighted the effectiveness of using your own digital channels to distribute the story. Leveraging a company’s leaderships’ networks can be very useful to spread a message amongst key audiences.
Watch the video below for further insights from our panellists on amplifying the African infrastructure story: