LONDON, July 24—The largest U.S. public relations firms began expanding into Europe in the 60s, the Asia-Pacific region in the late 70s and early 80s, and Latin America over the past decade. Now, they are turning their attention to the final frontier: Africa. Weber Shandwick Worldwide has formed what may be the industry’s first dedicated Africa practice to serve the agency’s clients across the 53-nation continent.
The move follows a couple of acquisitions suggesting that interest in Africa could be heating up. Two years ago, Fleishman-Hillard acquired Vallun Wilkins of South Africa—the continent’s most developed market—and earlier this year Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide opened an office in Kenya, representing a regional car dealership and a major hotel.
Weber Shandwick already manages a communications network for Coca-Cola across Africa and advises Nestle and AES Corporation as well as the governments of Tunisia and Nigeria.
The Africa practice will be chaired by Lord McNally, vice chairman of Weber Shandwick U.K, and managed by Marcus Courage, head of international government affairs, and Marcus Smith, director of corporate affairs. It will be led out of London, with hubs in key markets including Morocco, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Cote d’Ivoire.
According to Smith, “The growth of democracy in Africa has stimulated economic development in a number of African nations, thereby creating new markets for multinational corporations. As a result, leading multinationals are increasingly seeking public relations assistance in order to reach new consumers and the public and private sectors. 
“At the same time, leaders of the new African economies want to present their nations’ progress and mitigate perceptions of Africa as a continent plagued by infectious diseases, internecine warfare and natural disasters.”