At the start of the year, Black Enterprise went global. We traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, for Social Media Week . While there, we had a chance to speak with many entrepreneurs and small business owners including Claudine Moore founder of C. Moore Media. Moore, who happens to be British, is an international public relations powerhouse with clients spanning continents including the U.S. and Africa. Moore spoke with Black Enterprise on how she entered the African PR market and shares her advice on how to do proper business on the continent!
Photo credit: Efe Lopez
What intrigued you about the African business market? What did you see unfolding in the professional landscape that others might have overlooked?
My parents are passionate pan-Africanist and from a very early age, I was told that despite being born in Britain to Caribbean parents, as a black person I was first and foremost African. That stuck and as a teenager I really wanted to connect with kids my age on the continent so I placed an ad in a popular music magazine at the time requesting pen pals (showing my age! Lol) and for years wrote to friends I made in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland. Fast forward 20 years and being an avid reader of the business press, I began to see articles about economic development across the continent and the stagnation in other markets including the U.S. I believe in focusing on where the ball is going not where it is, so growth across Africa meant opportunities and that is what I saw.
Venturing into Nigeria as a PR professional has been pretty exciting for you; you’ve created PR strategies for a number of U.S. and global companies. What is key for business professionals to understand before opening shop in Nigeria?
The key thing to understand is that it is not going to be easy and you should not expect quick returns or immediate success. Nigeria is a notoriously tough place to do business and the physical and social infrastructure is the primary cause of this. It is also a very expensive place to do business, for example, rentals for prime office space in Lagos (Ikoyi) is up to $90 per square feet above those in midtown Manhattan in New York where rents are closer to $76 per square feet per annum. You should also have patience and be flexible.
You’re not Nigerian, not even African, please share what move you made that got your foot in the door and how did the overall experience pan out?
As mentioned, I do consider myself African albeit a British-born African with West Indian parentage and African heritage but that is probably for another article. I was the keynote speaker at the annual Nigerian Institute of Public Relations conference in 2011. After that, I travel back and forth to the country and secured clients and projects along the way, including my consulting firm being named the official Agency of Record for Arik Air West and Central Africa’s biggest airline. Within three years, I was leading the global marketing and corporate communications for one of Africa’s biggest leaders and I have also worked on initiatives with the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Africa Progress Panel. So I would say it has been overwhelmingly positive but also challenging along the way. The African business space is not for the fainthearted, and if you are not resilient or do not have a thick skin quite simply… forget it.
Was there any resistance to you not being a native Nigerian doing business in the country?
Lagos is one of Africa’s most sophisticated and cosmopolitan cities and foreigners are commonplace. Nevertheless, there was/is some resistance, but this is negligible and not a huge amount. I think it is human nature to be a bit wary of outsiders so I understand this. Tribalism still takes place albeit to a lesser degree than before and as an outsider, you can sometimes bypass all of that.
You’ve worked with African mogul Tony Elumelu and his foundation, which develops entrepreneurs in Africa as well as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Because of this, you’ve had to directly work with the U.S. government. How important is having government connections in the international public relations space?
Depends on the type of PR that you do. In public affairs, it is a huge plus, dare I say a must. This is also the case in corporate communications but to a lesser extent. If you do not already own the relationships, be an excellent networker and relationship builder. A key part of PR is relationships.