BCW expands PR training and internship programme across Africa

Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) Africa, an African communications agency, and its Kenya-based partner, Engage Communications, has launched the virtual version of its internship programme, BCW Africa Starting Blocks, continent-wide.

Robyn de Villiers, Chair and CEO, BCW Africa, says: “2020 has given us all the opportunity to pause and reflect, to repurpose and improve on things we have done successfully in the past and to innovate to ensure we deliver on an even-better future. The expansion of the BCW Africa Starting Blocks programme across the continent is part of our ongoing commitment to our Africa network partners and to the up-and-coming talent the continent offers. According to the World Bank, Africa has the largest return on education of any continent, with each additional year of schooling raising earnings by 11% for boys and 14% for girls. We are delighted to be able to make a contribution to furthering the educations of students of the communications profession through BCW Africa Starting Blocks, and we look forward to this initiative growing from strength to strength in the coming years.”

BCW Africa has run Starting Blocks in South Africa for more than 20 years, for final year public relations students from local universities to provide them with practical, on-the-job training combined with a theory programme spanning critical elements of public relations. The programme has been built on a long-standing partnership with South African universities which has ensured that it answers their requirements for final year students who need to complete an internship in order to graduate.

Dr Rene Benecke, Senior lecturer and Work-Integrated Learning Coordinator, University of Johannesburg, says: “Building relationships and partnerships take time. The new Starting Blocks programme offered by BCW has taken years to mature into its current form. The long-term partnership between the Department of Strategic Communication at UJ and BCW has enabled many young people to reach their dreams of becoming public relations practitioners. Their training at BCW complemented their theoretical knowledge and today many hold senior positions in the industry. I know that the new Starting Blocks programme will create many similar opportunities for young people throughout Africa. We are proud to be part of this new programme and wish Robyn, her team and all the young practitioners all the best.”

To date, 60 interns have graduated from the Starting Blocks programme in South Africa, many of whom now hold senior agency and corporate positions at global and local organisations, including Ipelegeng (Ipi) Thibedi, CEO of Weber Shandwick’s African operations, Frederic Cornet, Managing Partner, Instinctif Partners Africa, Tintswalo Shikwambane, MAX Project Director at WomanCare Global and Ed Jardim, Group Communications and Investor Executive at Murray & Roberts.

The first Starting Blocks virtual programme commenced on October 1, 2020, with 45 participants hailing from 10 countries across the continent – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritius, Eswatini, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco and South Africa.

The programme covers lectures and practical exercises, and teamwork and feedback sessions.  All practical work is based on a case-study which will allow the interns to see progress using one case through all the different elements they learn.  There will also be “critical conversations” with leaders from the industry who will be our invited guests. These interactive sessions will allow our participants to pose their questions to experts in their fields, who will also share best practice examples and their top tips with the learners.

“The virtual internship programme allows us to use our vast, unmatched African network and in-country partnerships to its full potential by leveraging expertise from across our African and global network to upskill African PR leaders of the future on topics ranging from reputation management and communications strategy development to crisis management and digital communication,” adds de Villiers.

Faculty members from BCW Africa, who are leaders in their fields and are committed to advancing the communications industry across the continent, include:

  • Robyn de Villiers, BCW Africa Chair & CEO, and APRA VP and Training Chair
  • Yomi Badejo Okusanya, CMC Connect BCW MD for Nigeria and APRA President
  • Desiree Gomes, Engage BCW Managing Partner (Kenya) and Vice Chair, Association of Public Relations and Communication Management Firms in Kenya (APReCom)
  • Bridget von Holdt, BCW Africa Business Director and ICCO Regional President, Africa

BCW Africa is an African agency with a global parent and a 30-year heritage of partnership with clients, staff and its extended team. Johannesburg-based BCW has an unparalleled reach across Africa through BCW Africa, its network of affiliates across the continent, and international best practice, expertise and a global footprint through BCW globally. The African network, which covers over 50+ African countries, is based on partnerships which span more than two decades with local agencies highly regarded in their markets.

BCW one of the world’s largest full-service global communications agencies, is in the business of moving people on behalf of clients. BCW delivers digitally and data-driven creative content and integrated communications programs grounded in earned media and scaled across all channels for clients in the B2B, consumer, corporate, crisis management, CSR, healthcare, public affairs and technology sectors. BCW is a part of WPP.

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