Reigniting Africa through leading disruptive innovation in communications

Interest from communication professionals, scholars and thought leaders on impacting current African narratives is commendable, as communications looks to reclaim its role in the continent’s socio-economic development.

Against the backdrop of Africa Month, platforms like the second edition of the Africa Communications Week are significant towards changing Africa’s narrative.

This is done amid a digital revolution, in the form of computing and internet, which can be counted as major disruptive innovations within a communications context.

The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are also evidently upon us, bringing with it a threat to the human role in communications and its related functions, whilst also changing job specifications in the industry.

As Africa is grappling with the question on whether it can lead disruptive innovation in communications, the changes which technology has brought, in terms of how messages are packaged and disseminated, by implication through the required skills set for the industry, cannot be overemphasised.

Staging my own digital revolution

My digital revolution, which began with the utilisation of a manual typewriter whilst still at high school at Dr MJ Madiba in the then Northern Province, evolved into using an electric typewriter during Ms van A’s Word Processing for Journalists lectures at the erstwhile Technikon Northern Gauteng (TNG).

This was also the time of utilising floppy and stiffy disks through Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) in Mark de Vos’ computer laboratory. Manually splicing reels for radio news gathering as part of practical’s in Albi Modise’s broadcast journalism lectures was also a common occurrence.

How can one forget processing black and white pictures on film rolls in the “dark room” as part of Likopo Matli and Lizette Odendaal’s photojournalism lessons?

When I started out as an intern in the then Northern Province Communication Services and for some part of my communications career, I was exposed to the transmission of communication material like media releases through fax machines among others. Mobile phones were also a rare commodity.

Catching the digital media revolution included embracing social media as part of the mix towards the achievement of an organisation’s strategic objectives. Recent experiences have seen me appreciate some of Twitter’s virtual communities like #AfricaTweetChat and #PRChatAfrica. These platforms continue bringing African communicators together and are an enabler to information sharing and benchmarking best practice.

What’s next?

Reskilling becomes more important for communicators, if one is to adapt to the changing work and business environment.

The global #ACW2019 edition will be held across Africa in Johannesburg, Casablanca, Dakar, Lome, Lubumbashi, Libreville, Ouagadougou, Ndjamena, Niamey, Accra, Kigali, Lagos, Cape Town, Addis Ababa, Freetown, Monrovia, and Dar es Salaam under the theme: Can Africa lead disruptive innovation in communications?

Africa is talking and with these ongoing conversations, one is emboldened to say that the continent is ready to lead disruptive innovation in communications.

@MaleselaB is a public relations strategist and President of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (@1PRISA). He writes in his personal capacity.

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