Buyouts and consolidation of IT firms set to hurt Kenya’s PR agencies


yumobileWhen a new IT firm sets up operations in Kenya, we all rejoice. It means jobs – both formal and informal – as well as taxes to the government.

Apart from direct and indirect jobs created, the other industry that is always keen to see new IT firms get into the country is the PR industry. For if the new entrant is an established and ambitious firm with a vision to become a key player in the sector, sooner or later it hires a PR firm to take care of its media and overall communication issues so that it projects an excellent image as well as reputation to the public.

Let us begin by looking at the large telecoms. When Safaricom set up here in 1999, it did not take long before the firm contracted Gina Din Corporate Communications to handle its PR. Airtel Kenya has since setting operations here been handled by ZK Advertising and Scanad with Orange’s external communications and media relations being handled by Ogilvy as well as Gina Din. Essar Telecom’s yuMobile has been handled by BluePrint (an Ogilvy affiliate) and SilverBullet, part of the Young&Rubicam stable.

That is why the recent announcement that yuMobile is set to be sold piecemeal to Safaricom and Airtel Kenya has definitely left a sour taste in the mouths of those who are keen on PR industry issues. The sale means that yuMobile’s current PR agency – SilverBullet – will be an account less when the deal is finally concluded.

Going further back, I’m sure many still remember that Kenya Data Networks (KDN) was for long handled by Corporate Talk before Liquid Telecom came knocking. After the conclusion of the buyout, Corporate Talk lost the account.

Over a year since the rebranding, Liquid Telecom is yet to appoint a PR agency, with some not-very-pleasant rumours doing the rounds that the firm’s top management ( 2 senior male staff members) have decided to instead register a PR outfit then outsource (or single source, depends on how you look at it) the communications function to this new outfit. This will eventually mean loss of this account to the country’s PR industry.

The other local IT firm that has been bought and is yet to appoint a PR agency is Access Kenya whose acquisition by South Africa’s Dimension Data has finally been concluded. Access Kenya never had an external PR firm handling its communications matters while Dimension Data was for long handled locally by Africa Practise. That’s why now the deal has successfully gone through, you can be sure that many of the country’s major PR outfits will be keen to pitch for the Access Kenya business once the firm gives an indication that it needs such services.

Then there is the case of Microsoft and Nokia. From April this year, Microsoft is set to take over the Nokia brand. Now locally, Mirosoft is currently handled by Tell-Em PR while Nokia (devices) together with Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) are handled by H+K Strategies.

This takeover of the Nokia brand by Microsoft will definitely see the former’s account move from H+K to Tel-Em, with H+K only being left with NSN, the infrastructure side of the Finnish firm that was not sold to Microsoft. In a nutshell, SilverBullet and H+K are set to lose PR accounts due to acquisitions and consolidation. We are waiting to see how the Orange Kenya story turns out…