Managing a PR campaign across Africa

Celtel is a pan-African telecommunications company that was founded in 1998 and is now in 14 countries and was bought by MTC in Kuwait for US $3.4 billion. It was founded by Mo Ibrahim who has just launched the world’s biggest prize fund (bigger than Nobel) to encourage democracy and entrepreneurship throughout Africa.

Africa has so many languages that the official languages of the PR and advertising campaigns are English and French, but they are increasingly starting to use more and more local languages.

When Celtel acquired Vmobile of Nigeria it was acquiring a company beset by problems (not least of which who owned it). It was a key acquisition for Celtel because Nigeria is Africa’s biggest mobile market. This meant Celtel faced internal and external PR challenges and managed to rebrand Vmobile to Celtel within 100 days of acquisition. A TV advert celebrated the diversity of Nigerian culture with Embrace Nigeria.

In September 2006 Celtel launched One Network covering 100 million people in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is the world’s first borderless mobile phone company. Once again the campaign focused on embracing diversity and culture throughout east Africa with the Embrace East Africa campaign.

Both TV adverts were launched to the media before being aired to the public.

One of the successes of the campaign was that it showed that Celtel in Africa was actually leading the world in technology.

Celtel also has a substantial corporate social responsibility programme based on ‘Build. Our Nation’ which donates books to schools throughout Africa. It also sponsors music and cultural events which link in with the theme of its TV ads on embracing diversity and similarity.

Presentation by Mwambu Wanendeya, Group Marketing and Communications Manager, Celtel International B.V.

The most impressive thing about Mwambu’s presentation was that it showed the sophistication of both the PR and marketing programme and the technology. It is a refreshing change to the constant media depiction of Africa as a simply a recipient of aid from the wealthy west and shows that given the opportunity Africa can compete.