Africa Communications Media Group (ACG), the go-to communications consultancy for PR and Media support across sub-Saharan Africa, has announced the acquisition of the company’s majority stake by MARCO, the most awarded agency in the last decade, specialising in brand building and reputation management.
MARCO is expanding its communication capabilities across the African continent as ACG positions itself to service clients globally. MARCO has a strong leadership base in the Maghreb region, which has seen the agency successfully support prolific African clients as well as global clients’ communication needs in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region from its office in Casablanca, Morocco. In addition, MARCO services well over 100 clients from its now 16 offices owned globally.
For seven years, ACG has been the largest African-owned agency handling communication solutions for global clients across the entire continent. Both MARCO and ACG have, over several years, developed a solid network of affiliated and in-country partners covering all parts of Africa. ACG is headquartered in Johannesburg. In addition, the African PR powerhouse has owned offices in Côte d’Ivoire supporting the Francophone market, together with MARCO’s operations in Casablanca, Morocco. Furthermore, ACG has a third office in Nairobi, Kenya, that serves as the regional head office for East Africa. MARCO’s newly-owned sub-Saharan agency has excelled in providing tailor-made communication solutions to prestigious clients such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mercedes Benz, Bloomberg and Ethiopian Airlines.
(TOP: Mimi Kalinda, founder and CEO of ACG and Didier Lagae, founder and CEO of MARCO).
MARCO strongly believes that Africa is a continent on the move with a rich tapestry of cultures, languages and economies. The acquisition facilitates greater expansion to provide communications support to clients across the African continent. The top five economies in sub-Saharan Africa with the highest GDP – Nigeria ($514 billion), South Africa ($330 billion). Kenya ($106 billion), Ethiopia ($100 billion) and Ghana ($74 billion) – offer huge potential for expansion within the communications sector.
Africa is often associated with mineral or fossil fuel production, but new sectors are rapidly emerging.
Media and marketing communications were valued at over $10 billion in 2019. The tourism sector is also set to blossom with projections of 34.8% growth in 2022 that will fuel a strong demand to promote African countries, such as Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, as top tourist destinations. For eight years, MARCO has provided world-class communications support to high-profile clients in the Maghreb region of Africa such as the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). MARCO has also led the international outreach for COP22 held in Marrakesh in 2016 and supported the government of Morocco with a five-year global support programme to encourage investment.
Didier Lagae, founder and CEO of MARCO said: “MARCO has been partnering with Africa Communications Media Group (ACG) for many years now. I have had the immense pleasure of working alongside Mimi Kalinda and the rest of her team, in a variety of campaigns especially for institutional clients related to the European Union. Since we handled all the international communications and outreach for the COP22 held in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 2016, MARCO has been the go-to communication support agency for key institutions and corporations operating on the African continent.
“MARCO’s award-winning work for institutions, such as Invest in Morocco, and private corporations such as Bombardier and Intelcia, has all been led from our operations centre in Casablanca, Morocco. Eight years of a strong base in Morocco has consolidated MARCO’s footprint, especially in the Maghreb region, with an ever-growing number of clients using our expertise, the latest addition being the European Investment Bank (EIB).
“We feel passionate about the opportunities for growth in key markets in Africa and we believe strongly in the African continent as a whole. We anticipated that the moment was right for MARCO to expand its current leadership expertise to sub-Saharan Africa. The acquisition of ACG with their direct presence in three key markets plus an indirect presence in another 40 delivers the expansion that we were looking for. International and locally-based clients now have a clear partner for Africa and that partner is MARCO.”
ACG is spearheaded by founder and CEO, Mimi Kalinda, who hails from the DRC and Rwanda, and was raised in South Africa, London and Brussels. Mimi knows Africa through and through, and she will lead the communications operations in supporting MARCO group clients in the sub-Saharan market. Mimi’s unparalleled experience in pan-African business development efforts comes with a long list of accolades. Mimi is the Rebranding Africa Champion for Africa 2.0 and she was a finalist for International African Woman of the Year at the Women4Africa Awards 2016, as well as a finalist for the Standard Bank Top Women Awards as Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 and 2020. Mimi is a fellow of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Programme. In December 2019, Reset Global People listed her in its annual Top 100 Women CEOs in Africa and she was recognised in 2021 as one of the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) in the creative industry. Mimi was also part of the African Union’s campaign against Ebola, with fundraising of over $51 million.
Mimi Kalinda, founder and CEO of Africa Communications Media Group (ACG) said: “Uniting both MARCO and ACG, we are now in a position to implement communication support to both sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb region. In addition, MARCO has a global outreach through its additional 16 offices worldwide and its affiliated presence in 100 markets outside of Africa. ACG being part of the MARCO family translates into real opportunities for our clients to not only build their reputations and brands in Africa but also well beyond the continent’s frontiers.
“By developing a presence and a reputation in Europe, most notably in Brussels, Paris and London, as well as in Washington DC and New York, we are now available and accessible to our clients. I am also very pleased to combine my personal expertise in powerful country brand building with Didier’s unmatched experience and knowledge, as well-articulated in his book ‘A Country Brand, a Branded Country’.”
Linda Weaver, Chief Operations Officer (COO) and second in command at ACG, has an impressive career that spans over 30 years. Focused on reputation management, and strategic and crisis communications, Linda has delivered award-winning campaigns for Sandton City, one of the most iconic shopping centres in Africa and Isuzu, the most important producer of trucks in Africa. Linda, who previously headed the African operation for Weber Shandwick, has also provided strategic counsel to pan-African clients such as Unilever and she led the country brand work for Brand South Africa.
MARCO continues to expand its communication operations with 16 offices and almost 200 employees and will soon open an office in London. The acquisition of ACG will further create more employment mobility opportunities and cultural exchanges for all employees who can experience working in any of the 16 offices. It is a new era for reputation management and brand building as MARCO and ACG now join forces to offer communications support to their clients globally.
Africa Communications Media Group (ACG) was founded in response to a need for complete, culturally-attuned and effective communication solutions structured specifically for the complex and diverse African landscape. ACG is the first African-owned, pan-African agency handling communication for global clients in the African context. ACG supports local, pan-African and global voices that want to tell their African stories.
MARCO is the most awarded and best-valued global independent agency based in Madrid, Spain, specialising in branding and reputation building. Formed by a team of approximately 200 consultants, it has its own offices in Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Paris, Brussels, Milan, Berlin, Miami, Mexico City, Bogotá, Lima, São Paulo, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Abidjan and Nairobi, as well as affiliated MSL offices in more than 100 markets. In 2020, the agency was recognised as the best communications consultancy in Southern Europe by the SABRE Awards, after having received the award for Best Iberia Consultancy of the Year in 2019. The agency was also awarded the European Agency of the Year at the European Excellence Awards in 2017. The latest campaigns carried out in brand building by MARCO, for clients such as Audible, Kraft Heinz Orlando and Friends of Glass, among others, have won more than 20 awards in the last two years.