LAGOS — The first  Africa PR & Communications Report reveals that brain drain is a critical challenge threatening the advancement of PR and communications practice in Africa, with concerns over the emigration African PR practitioners dominating issues relating to talent recruitment, development and retention.

The Africa PR & Communications Report, developed by Nigeria-based agency BHM’s Research Intelligence arm in partnership with industry bodies, is based on focus group discussions, interviews, surveys, and essay contributions from over 500 industry practitioners in 29 countries across North, Southern, East, Central and West Africa.

Nearly all PR practitioners (90%) believe that more professionals are willing to leave the African country in which they operate while 80% are convinced that even entry-level staff are already considering their exit from their countries. A lack of access to tools and resources, training and development and poor compensation are cited as critical factors driving the exodus of professionals and young talent in the industry.

BHM founder and Africa PR & Communications Report committee chair Ayeni Adekunle said a report on the challenges facing the industry on the continent was “long overdue” and added: “It is not particularly strange that more young African talents are seeking relocation to countries with advanced economies, but it is a wake-up call for the PR industry to reflect on how it provides talents with the necessary tools and environment to thrive.”

Committee advisor and BHM director Stephen Waddington, the MD of consultancy Wadds Inc,said: “Respondents have pointed us in the directions we must take to fill the skills gap regarding capacity building, training and welfare support. Unsurprisingly, practitioners highlighted the opportunity to increase their salary by at least half by moving to a similar position in any country of their choice.”

The report finds that optimism around the training and recruitment of practitioners is frail, with 70% of respondents strongly disagreeing that there is an improved industry commitment to investing in resources necessary to upskill and hire new talents. A further 75% are convinced that the PR and communications industry is suffering from the drastic plunge in talent availability.

A dearth in the availability of qualified and experienced talents is widely believed by 81% of respondents to be responsible for excessive workload or job demands for practitioners who remain with PR agencies in Africa, leaving them exposed to physical and mental exhaustion, decreased productivity, and increased stress and anxiety.

Inadequate earnings perhaps represent the most appealing factor for PR practitioners seeking relocation out of the continent. In countries such as Nigeria and Ghana 17% of industry professionals earn less than $200 USD per month while a third (32%) earn between $200 and $1,000 monthly, especially in Rwanda and Kenya. In Botswana, DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, 24% earned above $1,000 but below $10,000 as monthly income.

Overall, 73% of industry professionals in the survey earn less than $10,000 per month, with only 8.5% per cent of practitioners earning a monthly income of more than $10,000.

However, industry professionals in Africa are confident there could be a turnaround in achieving favourable salary benchmarks within the industry, as they believe more quality work and private investment will precipitate significant change.

Adekunle said: “This report allows us to critically examine the gap needed to be filled for PR practitioners in Africa to feel fulfilled and properly motivated. It is necessary to prioritise continuous training and development among young talents and encourage more private investments that can lead to favourable compensation benchmarks for the industry. Overall, the report will help us to effectively manage complexities in the practice, especially in relation to economic, societal, and international challenges.”

Other key findings on talent recruitment, retention and compensation include:

  • There is a call to action for employers to encourage on-the-job training and exposure for deficient skill sets to be acquired: 21% of practitioners believe media and social media relations are essential skills that are in short supply.
  • 62% of practitioners agree that there is a significant financial loss associated with losing trained employees.
  • Practitioners are facing a skills gap as the industry evolves into new specialisations. The largest gaps identified in the report are in strategic thinking and planning (14%), data visualisation and storytelling (12%), research, evaluation and measurement (14%) and copywriting and editing (11%).
  • Male practitioners have more opportunities to aspire for and occupy leadership positions than women if promotion is based on years of experience alone: 17% of male practitioners have more than 10 years’ experience, compared to 10% of women.
  • 66% agree that there are gaps regarding diversity and inclusion.

The Africa PR and Communications report was compiled in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), CIPR International, the Association of Advertising Agencies Of Nigeria (AAAN), the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), Africa Communications Week (ACW), the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), Women In PR Ghana, Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants and Wadds Inc.

Partner associations also include the African Public Relations Association (APRA), Associaçã de Profissionais de Relaçoes Públicas de Moçambique (APRPM), Global Mind Consulting, Nigerian Women in PR, Uganda Marketers Society, Rwanda Communications Network, Uganda Advertising Association, Central University Ghana, BHM UK, BHM, ID Africa and Plaqad.Inc.