JOHANNESBURG—Weber Shandwick is to merge with sibling firm McCann PR in South Africa, in a bid to strengthen its capabilities in the country.

The merger with McCann PR will give Weber Shandwick a headcount of around 20 in the market. Clients include Nestle, GM and MasterCard.

"A big part of this is getting resources like production for content development," said Weber Shandwick chairman Jack Leslie. The firm previously employed eight people in South Africa, after launching its African operations in earnest three years ago.

The move comes as the agency also takes charge of the domestic Brand South Africa assignment, which retains ad agency McCann for creative duties. The lucrative assignment, which aims to elevate the country's reputation, is handled by H+K Strategies internationally.

Leslie sees the South Africa expansion as part of a broader effort to tap into regional growth. "The interest now is remarkable," he said. "That means we really need to have a strong African offering. South Africa and Nigeria are two of the engines; obviously, you can’t be serious here without a very serious operation in South Africa."

The firm's African expansion is being overseen by EMEA corporate comms EVP Jim Donaldson in London, in conjunction with Africa MD Jill Hamilton. Like many of its peers, Weber Shandwick's African network is a mix of hired staff and affiliate operations, with Nigeria and Kenya expected to be its next investment targets.

In South Africa, the firm will be led by MD Linda Weaver, who previously headed McCann PR.