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The journalist who built a big-ticket firm

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By JULIUS BARIGABA
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Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard is a Franco-Gabonese entrepreneur and the founder of APO Group. It is the leading media relations consultancy and press release distribution service in Africa and the Middle East.

The 43-year-old founded APO Group in 2007, from his living room, using some $11,000 in savings. Having no investors and money to hire staff, Pompigne-Mognard took on all roles, from accounts, to writing proposals, to marketing and selling.

At the time, he was a journalist for online publication Gabonews and deputy president of the Pan-African Press Organisation in France.

Last year, Pompigne-Mognard stepped down as company chief executive to become its chairman. He appointed Lionel Reina as chief executive.

Mr Reina is the former vice president and general manager for Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Orange Business Services, a division of French telecoms giant Orange.

APO Group has close to 80 employees across its offices in Switzerland, Dubai, Senegal and Hong Kong. The firm works with more than 300 clients including public relations agencies in the region and global companies across multiple industries such as Siemens, Facebook and Nokia.

The firm’s strategic partners include Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, Nasdaq, Getty Images, CNBC Africa and Africanews, a subsidiary of Euronews.

APO Group is also the main official sponsor of World Rugby’s African association, Rugby Africa. Pompigne-Mognard, who played the game for more than 10 years says it is developing at an unprecedented pace in Africa, hence the need to invest in it.

“Players are acting as role models for the next generation of young Africans,” said Pompigne-Mognard. “Out of 105 countries playing rugby competitively, one-third are African and there are many talents in Africa who deserve better recognition.”

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How did a former journalist build a multi-million business?

I founded APO Group, a media relations consultancy firm in 2007, investing all my savings in it. As a self-made entrepreneur, I have been resilient and diligent. I devoted a few years of my life to the firm to ensure it succeeds.

To succeed in business you must be visionary and stay ahead, tap into opportunities, be innovative and offer unique solutions.

When I see the results today, I feel proud and happy to be contributing to the development of Africa by supporting local and international companies.

When you establish a company, you create jobs, which is essential for a continent whose population is expected to reach 2.4 billion in 2050.

Why a media relations consultancy, and specifically in Africa and the Middle East?

I started my career as a European correspondent for an African news website. Accessing relevant press releases was difficult. News on Africa never made it out of the continent.

In creating APO Group, I wanted to facilitate access to information and, anticipating the potential for development on the continent, the timing was right.

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I also knew that sharing news about Africa’s economy would also support its growth. International clients often group Africa and the Middle East together for strategic reasons. It was wise for us to include the Middle East in order to leverage on our earnings in Africa.

But aren’t you killing enterprise journalism by distributing content and doing public relations for conglomerates?

Press releases are a valuable resource as long as they are timely, topical and well-written. Media houses use them and understand how to use PR content to deliver newsworthy and reliable information.

By distributing content including text, images, video and infographics, from more than 700 sources, APO Group is facilitating access to information.

We have redistribution agreements with media firms such as Bloomberg, Reuters, CNBC Africa, Euronews subsidiary’s Africanews, Lexis Nexis and Dow Jones Factiva, including 300 Africa-related news websites. Our content is free.

None of these media houses would have used our press releases if they were not resourceful and reliable.

While at Makerere University you spoke about the risks linked to international media house’s expansion in Africa…

The African market is untapped. Media houses face a number of challenges including digitalisation, monetisation and talent management, but the biggest of them all is content creation.

Recent reports show that the Nigerian upper middle class prefers international media to local content. To help bridge that gap I have started a series of conferences across Africa for journalism and public relations students.

Last month I was in Senegal then I came to Uganda and in April I will be in Zambia.

In the meantime, several international media organisations are expanding into Africa to take advantage of this huge untapped market.

The BBC, for example, has opened its biggest office yet outside of the UK in Kenya; The Washington Post has recently announced it is expanding into Africa, and European TV channel Euronews, has launched Africanews. CNN now has six programmes dedicated to Africa.

In North Africa, HuffPost has created HuffPostMorocco, Tunisia. Africa should not be left behind.

Can African media houses survive this onslaught?

About 10 years ago, multinational companies began to invest in Africa. More than 400 US companies have been operating in South Africa for several years. Today, most of them plan their expansion across the continent to take advantage of this huge untapped market.

In order to achieve their growth objectives, these companies will have to spend money on advertising and public relations.

If the international media, that already have close relationships, are a credible alternative to advertising in Africa, it is only natural that these companies will spend their budget on them. This will further weaken African media houses.

Without money to invest in their organisations and grow their businesses and invest in talent, local media will lose the battle for content.

How then should African media tell the African story?

One of the questions we need to be asking ourselves is why the middle class is spending more time watching foreign content.

The most probable answer is related to the content. We should not let this happen otherwise advertisers will opt to work with international media.

Africans are most qualified to tell authentic local stories, otherwise those narratives will be altered by outsiders to appease foreign interests.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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