Message from the IPRA President: One Africa at APRA Botswana May 2018


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At the moment of writing, the APRA Botswana conference has taken off in Gaborone, the country’s capital city. IPRA is one of the key endorsers of APRA Botswana 2018. Under the energetic leadership of the president of the African Public Relations Association, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, the annual summit, tantalizingly promoted as the Safari Conference, will address the crucial question of how to change and adapt an existing narrative. The conference’s theme Re-PResenting Africa focuses of the thorny issue of ethics in the public relations practice in Africa. I say thorny not because of Africa but because ethics in PR has become a much-debated topic since the rise of fake news, fake media, and alternative facts.

 

The only way is ethics

APRA Botswana takes this topic very serious as is witnessed by the online survey, How Ethical Are We? An African Survey On Ethics and Reputation, which was undertaken in the weeks ahead of the conference. In the view of president Yomi Badejo-Okusanya questions such as: “How ethical are we?” or “Do we even care about our reputation?” are central to initiate a thorough orientation and discussion among the African PR community.

 

The aim is ambitious: to lay an ethical foundation for the African communication community, and for wider communities within the African continent. Too much of the narrative is currently determined by the world outside Africa. An external narrative can prove to be ambiguous. Holding an online survey among communication practitioners is laudable. I am sure that the outcome, to be announced during the conference, will be helpful in the creation of an African ethical narrative.

 

In our profession, changing a narrative is perhaps one of the hardest tasks that can be asked of communication professionals. It involves a complex set of factors, of which language is a key component. Storytelling is another hurdle since stories may be based on old beliefs and can be engrained in the psyche regardless of the facts.

 

The facts, the facts

This brings me back to facts. Every effort to change a narrative for the better must be cognizant of the facts. If both the prevailing ethics and established facts seems to stand in the way of changing the narrative, then this conflict must be faced. Which is why I applaud the central theme of APRA Botswana 2018 and hope it will herald the changes that the African communications community seeks.

 

Bart de Vries

President 2016 – 2018

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