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Address By Mr. Yomi Badejo Okusanya, Secretary General, African Public Relations Association At The Identity Unveiling For APRA Calabar 2016

By Niyi Abiola
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It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this gathering which marks the identity unveiling of the forthcoming 28th Edition of the African Public Relations Association (APRA) Annual Conference scheduled to hold at the Calabar International Convention Centre, Calabar, Nigeria, between May 24 &27, 2016.

The African Public Relations Association (APRA) is the central and most significant interaction platform for the practice of public relations in Africa. It was founded in 1975 as the Federation of African Public Relations Associations (FAPRA) in Nairobi, Kenya. The association was later re-registered in Nigeria as the African Public Relations Association (APRA) in 2008. APRA is a non-governmental, non-political, and non-profit making professional association, established to foster unity via interaction and exchange of ideas amongst public relations practitioners in Africa as a whole, and through communication, promote social, political and economic integration on the continent.

The remarkable cultural diversity boasted by the African continent holds much promise for the effective engagement of the untapped creative potential that is inherent in the continent. With the highest amount of countries in the world and accounting for around 15% of the world's population, Africa is estimated to have over 2000 different ethnic groups, which form the demography of the continent. More so, between 2000 and 3000 languages are spoken in Africa, making for a rich and varied socio-cultural landscape.

In addition, the fact that 200 million people in Africa are aged between 15 and 24, further contributes to the prospects of innovative and entrepreneurial strategies that will significantly boost the creative and cultural industries of the continent (Experience Africa).

KEY INTERVENTION AREAS
Based on the above, APRA has fashioned five key intervention areas. They are;

  • Promoting the economic integration of Africa;
  • Promoting its infrastructural development and technological advancement;
  • Promoting good governance;
  • Promoting social welfare (Education/Health Care/Poverty Reduction);
  • Promoting tourism, leisure & entertainment.

GOALS OF APRA
To drive this narrative and frame vision and reputation of the continent, APRA has the following goals:

  • To be the clearing house for public relations information in Africa;
  • To promote African Unity and cooperation especially as a consultant body to the African Union and its various agencies;
  • To set the standard of public relations practice through its code of ethics;
  • To affiliate with all other similar international professional bodies
  • To publish bulletins and journals on public relations in Africa.

Specifically, the current administration has aimed for the following achievements:

  • Strengthen Membership
  • Strengthen financial base
  • Strengthen organizational base (structure)
  • Strengthen continental relevance/position
  • Strengthen practice (Capacity Building)

AND THE JOURNEY SO FAR
Our success in truth has been varied. While we were able to meet some of our goals, a number are left outstanding. A significant achievement of our administration is initiating the relationship with the African Union Commission, to the extent that our 2013 conference was staged as part of the 50th anniversary of the continental organisation. We have kept the flag of the association flying and maintained a reasonable level of visibility for it. We have also been able to bring in more national associations to join us in our quest. Our challenges as expected include the very limited resources to prosecute our aims. Traveling across Africa to preach the gospel of public relations has also presented its own obstacles especially flight connections and entry visa requirements. We would also like our practice to be more engaging across the various sectors of Africa. The impact of public relations is yet to be fully felt and appreciated across spectrums. One of our key desires is to also deepen the practice in line with global standards. We are well aware of these numerous challenges and in spite of them; we intend to continue pursuing our noble goals

THE 28TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Over the years, APRA has held her flagship event; the annual conference. In the 40-year existence of the association, 27 editions have been held across various countries on the continent. Such locations include Lagos, Abuja, Accra, Kumasi, Nairobi, Mombassa, Addis Ababa, Mauritius, Abijan, Yaounde, Dakar, Johannesburg, Kampala, Banjul but to mention a few. The annual conference is the largest gathering of public relations practitioners on the continent and it has repeatedly attracted participation from Europe, North America and as far as Asia. The annual conference has always provided us with the opportunity to review and measure the progress of practice vis a viz global practice. It has also helped in building a strong fraternity of public relations professionals on the continent. Over the years, we have had the privilege of hosting outstanding speakers both from within and outside the profession. Increasingly, the conferences have been sought after as a ‘must host’ for many countries who wish to use it as a platform for energizing practice. It is against this backdrop that we are proud to formally announce the venue of the 28th annual conference of APRA which is Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria between May 24 & 28, 2016 under the theme ‘Leapfrogging Africa: The Role of Communication’. This theme in itself is self explanatory. But for reason of emphasis, let me add that the key to the challenges of Africa lies in communication. When we look at the issues of economic emancipation, infrastructural deficit, improved governance, citizens’ engagement etc, communication has a most significant role to play and it is against this backdrop that we have chosen to discuss and proffer solutions.

WHY CALABAR?
Calabar, also referred to as "Canaan City", is the capital of Cross River State, Southern Nigeria. Administratively, the city is divided into Calabar Municipal and Calabar South LGAs. It has an area of 406 square kilometres (157 sq mi) and had a population of 371,022 as at the 2006 census.

The beautiful city was the home for the first social club in Nigeria, The Africa Club, and it hosted the first competitive football, cricket and field hockey games in Nigeria. Among the city's firsts were the first Roman Catholic Mass (held at 19 Bocco Street, Calabar – 1903) and the oldest secondary school (Hope Waddell Training Institution – 1895) in eastern Nigeria. Remarkably, the school produced the first President of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe. Unknown to many, Calabar was the first capital of the Nigerian Nation.

Calabar boasts of an international museum, a botanical garden, a Free Trade Zone/Port, an international airport & seaport, an integrated sports complex, a cultural centre, one of the most prominent universities in the country – the University of Calabar, a Slave Trade History Park and several historical and cultural landmarks. It also has several standard hotels, resorts and amusement parks. The former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor lived in the old colonial palace in the city, under an agreement that led to the end of his country's civil war, before fleeing extradition to Liberia in March 2006 (Wikipeadia).

Calabar features a tropical monsoon climate with a lengthy wet season spanning ten months and a short dry season covering the remaining two months. The harmattan, which significantly influences weather in West Africa, is noticeably less pronounced in the city. Temperatures are relatively constant throughout the year, with average high temperatures usually ranging from 25 to 28 degrees Celsius. There is also little variance between daytime and nighttime temperature, as temperatures at night are typically only a few degrees lower than the daytime high temperature. Calabar averages just under 3,000 millimetres (120 in) of precipitation annually.

The APRA Calabar 2016 conference will be uniquely different because it promises to be a perfect blend of business and pleasure as delegates will savour Calabar’s unique cuisine, experience its cultural heritage and visit an array of tourism destinations. It will also strengthen the capacity building of members as this particular conference will feature plenary sessions, keynote addresses, workshops, sightseeing, films & musical shows, networking opportunities, exhibition and a Calabar Night.

SPEAKERS
APRA Calabar 2016 will parade an array of renowned speakers, including His Excellency Erastus Mwencha, the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman, Dangote Group, Bart de Vries, the President of International Public Relations Association (IPRA), Maxim Behar, President International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) and five (5) major PR networks namely; Weber Shandwick, Fleishman Hilliard, Hill & Knowton, Grayling and Burson Marsteller.

Other speakers include Robyn de Villiers, Chairman and CEO of Burson Marsteller Africa who has well over 25 years of strategic communications experience advising clients across multiple sectors including privately-owned companies to multinationals, NGO’s and government bodies.

TOPICS
The Conference is expected to draw attendees, speakers and facilitators from all over Africa, Europe, Asia and North America who will deal with such diverse topics as:

PR Function: The Role of The Trusted Advisor, PR & Ethics, Creating Value through Content Creation & Story Telling, Innovate or Die (Creativity in PR), Handling Public Affairs Briefs, Reputation Management for Country Branding: The Future of Tourism in Africa, Managing Employee Relations/Expectations, The Role of Communication in the Attainment of Sustainable Development Goals, How Not to Communicate During Crisis, New Trends in Corporate Media Relations, PR Campaigns that Shook The World as well as the Holmes Report as a case study.

A pre-conference session for consultants will also be held by the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) in collaboration with ICCO on May 24 2016, the sub-theme for that session is “The Business of PR: Managing a Successful Consultancy”.

We are proud to announce that we are expecting over 300 delegates from different parts of Africa. Europe, America and Asia.

APRA CALABAR 2016 AMBASSADOR
Today to perform the formal unveiling of the APRA Calabar 2016 identity is a very accomplished actress and value-promoter, Ms Kate Henshaw. It is indeed a pleasure and privilege to have her here with us despite her unbelievably busy schedule. We have carefully selected her for many reasons which include her firm belief in the Unstoppable Spirit of Africa which resonates with our philosophy and her passion for entertainment in Africa which she has been able to develop into an admirable and exportable craft, hence, her face is well known across the continent. Her responsibility as the representative of the Cross River State Governor in Lagos, her intellect and least of all, her charming beauty are all attributes that we truly admire her for. She has chosen to do this completely free of any charge. We thank her immensely and seek her further support and collaboration.

ENDORSEMENTS AND PARTNERSHIPS
The Conference is endorsed by the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) as well as the African Union, and will be declared open by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari as we are in contact with the Federal Government (the Host Country) and Cross Rivers State Government (the Host State). The former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo will Chair the opening ceremony while Alhaji Aliko Dangote will deliver the Keynote Address.

As host association, we are partnering with the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) to ensure a smooth and enjoyable activity during the conference; this explains the presence of a representative of NIPR who is the Vice Chairman of the local organizing committee of APRA as well as Mrs Margret Obot, Chairperson of NIPR Cross River State Chapter who is in charge of logistics and other requirements for the event.

The conference will be capped by a closing dinner for all delegates and guests present. Also expected to feature prominently at the conference will be the Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency, Dr Benedict Ayade.

PARTICIPANTS
APRA Calabar 2016 is not only for professionals in public relations but also for those in advertising, branding, broadcasting, publishing, film making, print journalism, news media and related fields. It is expected that at the end of the conference, participants will be better equipped for optimal performance and we would have raised the bar of our dear profession.

SAFETY
APRA has gone to great lengths to ensure high-level security for all delegates throughout the conference. We have reached out to relevant security agencies to ward against any unforeseen situation.

APPRECIATION
We thank our friends in the media for your wonderful support over the years and implore you not to rest in your oars, even as the date of our conference draws near.

To our partners Burson Marsteller Africa, IPRA, NIPR, ICCO, M-net Africa, CMC Burson Marsteller, Transcorp Hotel Calabar, Dannic Suites Calabar, Tinapa Lakeside Hotel, Calabar International Convention Centre (CICC), PRCAN, Weber Shandwick, Fleishman Hilliard, Hill & Knowton, Grayling, Burson Marsteller, Media Glitz and our local event organizer here in Nigeria, OKHMA Global LTD, we thank you for your support.

We implore you all to contribute your own quarter to the conference by participating at the event; we expect to see you all at Calabar, let us make APRA Calabar 2016 a conference to be remembered. Accept our sincere appreciation of having you with us today, and we look forward to receiving you at the conference. For further information, please go to www.afapr.org/aboutus.htm

Thank you and God bless Africa.
REFERENCES

  • , accessed March 22, 2016.
  • Falola, Toyin; Amanda Warnock (2007). Encyclopedia of the Middle Passage: Greenwood Milestones in African American History. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 92.
  • , accessed March 22, 2016.