Africa is the youngest continent in the world. In fact, according to the UN, 70% of sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 30. Take this in comparison to the European Union, where less than 35% of citizens are under 30, the sheer number of young people across the continent offers an opportunity for huge growth.
And according to the World Economic Forum, the continent of Africa will constitute 42% of global youth by 2030. Clearly, the enormous amount of young people across the continent, who will be looking for both education and work opportunities, simply cannot be ignored by business schools.
If there is one continental market guaranteed to be an opportunity for growth for top business schools around the globe, it is Africa. And though many business schools have already foreseen this global dynamic shift, and begun both marketing in and increasing student intake from the region, for many business schools navigating the media landscape on the continent this is likely to be new territory.
It is predicted there are almost 500,000 sub-Saharan Africans studying abroad, many of whom choosing countries such as the United States, France, the UK, Germany, Portugal and so on. The key to targeting the increasing number of African students looking to travel abroad is to understand this very important insight – there is no one size fits all policy.
Just like any other continent, there is not one approach, or one message, or one media outlet to target that will universally be read or even understood. Africa is, of course, built up of 54 separate countries, approximately anywhere between 1000-2000 unique languages and over a billion people – it’s important to understand nuances, cultures and contexts where possible.
So, what easy steps can we take to ensure that when getting started in targeting this region for media coverage, we are being as effective as possible?
Target your regions
It is simply just not possible to target the whole of the continent - each country has its own very specific media outlets, often read just by those in that country. The best start to a media campaign in Africa is to choose which countries you want to target first.
This could be based off where you see students coming from, or where you see potential growth, but it could also be based off key measures i.e. for North American or British business schools, it’s highly likely that students will come to your school if they speak the same language as your country. Therefore, for those English-speaking countries, it may make sense to target countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda for instance.
Whilst for French-speaking business schools, a campaign targeting countries like Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Algeria and Tunisia, for instance, is likely a good idea not only because students won’t have to learn a new language when travelling to your country, but also a media campaign is much easier when you are conducting it in your first language too.
By narrowing down your target regions, your campaign is much more likely to be effective and really reach the people you want it to, instead of having a scatter gun approach to PR.
Tailor your message – make it relevant
It is vitally important to tailor your message to your target audience too. A journalist in Tanzania isn’t going to be interested in the study experience of a graduate who’s from Egypt for instance. Journalists want to write stories that are relevant to their publication, and relevant to their target audience too. Ensuring that the stories you’re pitching have a regional angle to them, and are directly relevant to specific country you are targeting, is a must – after all you wouldn’t pitch to an Italian media outlet the success story of a student from Sweden.
The best way to keep your messages and content relevant for each target market as a business school is find unique student success stories from participants from that country. The alumnus could talk about their background and life in the country before moving to study, and how the experience at your school changed their careers. Alternatively, any research projects or initiatives focused on the region are relevant, any insight the Dean can give to potential of students from that region too, or perhaps even if a faculty member is travelling to the region, these are all key ways coverage can be secured.
Do your research
The start of any good PR campaign should really be focused on research. You simply cannot launch a campaign without researching the publications you want to target first, and the messages you want to target them with. In the context of Africa, once you’ve targeted your country regions for your campaign, you need to identify the way people get their news in that country.
The majority of young people get their news via online sources throughout Europe and North America, however this isn’t always the case in Africa. You need to research into which countries are heavily reliant on radio, which on newspapers, and which on social networking. For instance, only 36% of Africans, as of 2022, have internet access. Therefore, it is likely that your campaign may be multimedia focused, looking to target a number of types of media.
Another example would be looking at the nuances of these media outlets too. For example, in countries like Senegal and Somalia, TikTok is banned, therefore it is highly likely a media campaign targeted at Gen Z through social media is not effective in these regions. Whilst something to bear in mind in Algeria for instance is that press freedom is very low in the country, and there are tight measures on what journalists are able to say. Knowing these little nuances of each country is important at the start of your campaign, so that you get maximum value from your messaging.
With the continent of Africa being such a potential region for growth for business schools, and students alike, it would be a complete missed opportunity not to target a number of countries with media campaigns. From experience, there are bustling media scenes in the likes of South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt and Cote D’Ivoire, all of whom are willing to take success stories of their own citizens, and keen for any relevant news to their region.
As always, consider context and culture, do your research, and chose your regions and content wisely, and you should be seeing more and more talented African participants to your business school programmes.
Peter achieves prominence for clients across a breadth and depth of significant publications, from trade specific media like International Finance Magazine and QS TopMBA, to national and international goliaths such as Handelsblatt, Le Monde, US News and World Report, and the Financial Times. He also writes under his own name for key publications such as HRZone, Medium and Data Driven Investor.