THE 23rd All Africa Public Relations Conference and Annual General Meeting of the African Public Relations Association (APRA) has been scheduled to take place from May 18 to 20, 2010 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
 
Tagged APRA Abuja 2010, the assembly of PR professionals from all over Africa is expected to focus on the emerging negative effects of poor corporate governance in Africa’s public and private sectors of the economy.
 
With Public Relations and Corporate Governance in Africa, as theme, the three-day outing will also look at various topics and sub-themes such as Principles and Practice of Corporate Governance in Africa (country experiences); Corporate Governance in Organizations such as Oil & Gas Sector, Financial Institutions, Telecommunications, Multinational Corporations, African Regional Organisations/Agencies; and Corporate Governance perspectives – ECOWAS, EAC, SADC, NEPAD and APRM.
 
Others are Corporate Governance and Social Economic development in Africa; Corporate Governance in the Public Sector – Executive, Legislature, Judiciary, Civil Service; and Communicating the message of Corporate Governance to all stakeholders; Legal perspectives of corporate governance; and evaluating the success factor in corporate governance among others.
 
Expectedly, the conference is planned to attract public relations and communications professionals, company secretaries, administrative personnel, finance executives, captain of industry and other important dignitaries.
 
As part of strategies to mobilize support for and sensitise the public about the conference, Secretary General of APRA, Dr. Wole Adamolekun led the Local Organising Committee on courtesy visits to some corporate and public organizations in Lagos recently. Organisations visited included MTN, Globacom, Brass LNG Limited, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR), The Guardian Newspapers Limited and others.
 
But with just few days away from hosting the conference, Adamolekun noted that preparations
 
were going on well. "Mobilisation of our members throughout the continent is ongoing and we are happy with the response we are getting. Already, we have recorded scores of participants who registered online. We have also been able to reach out to the public and government sector as the theme of the conference, "Public Relations and Corporate Governance in Africa" resonates appropriately with the current economic concerns around the world.
 
"The good news in all of this is that the Acting President, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, given his commitment to good governance, transparency and developmental orientation has graciously accepted to declare the conference open."
 
Bearing in mind, the giant stride, in terms of mobilising big players in the corporate world for 2004 edition of the conference hosted in Abuja, which is still fresh in the memory of participants, Adamolekun assured guests and professionals would not regret being part of 2010 edition.
 
"APRA promises corporate Nigeria that the choice of corporate governance is part of our contributions to lending our voice and professional skills to give meaning and relevance to issues that will add value and contribute to the well being of corporations as well as the people of Africa.
 
"Indeed, the certitudes of the wonders that the market can perform in regulating itself and ensuring prosperity for all has been challenged with the widespread impact of the economic meltdown that has put governments all over the world back to the drawing board. The issue today is not whether to bail out or otherwise but how to prevent a reoccurrence."
 
On African countries from where delegates are expected, he said, "this conference expects participants from all over Africa and indeed other parts of the world where our members are located as we partner with other international public relations professional organisations. These countries include South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Benin, Cameroun, United Kingdom and several others."
 
Responding to changes that have happened in PR and Communications industry between 2004 when Nigeria hosted the 17th edition of the conference and now, that could attract large audience especially from outside Nigeria to the event, APRA scribe said, "the conference tagged APRA Abuja 2010 will focus its attention on the emerging negative effects of poor corporate governance in Africa’s public and private sectors of the economy.
 
"Indeed, the global economic meltdown being experienced around the world requires pragmatic and holistic approach by critical stakeholders such as the professional communicators to proffer solutions in order to mitigate the debilitating effects of this phenomenon."
 
On how will hosting of the conference leverage on the 50th independence anniversary of Nigeria, he noted, "Nigeria strategically elected to host the conference this year because APRA encourages our member associations to host the conference when they are convinced that the programme would be most beneficial and meaningful to all concerned.
 
"Our conference in Kumasi, Ghana in 2008, for example, was held under the auspices of its Patron, His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, King of the Ashanti Kingdom in Ghana as he celebrated Otumfuo Education Fund for that year.
 
"This year’s conference, coinciding with Nigeria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations promises to be very exciting and rewarding as it will give all the participants the opportunity to know more about the good people of Nigeria and her several achievements in all fields of human endeavour."
 
Adamolekun who is also General Manager (Corporate Affairs), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) emphasized the significance of the theme of the conference: Public Relations and Corporate Governance in Africa.
 
"That need to actively canvass corporate governance at all levels of government and in the private sector too informed its choice.
 
"The initiative by Mo Ibrahim to reward honest leadership in Africa and promote the tenets of democracy and excellent leadership are some of the reasons APRA decided to contribute to the growing awareness that development is not possible where people are not transparent, disciplined, accountable, incorruptible and productive."
 
In specific terms, he marshaled benefits of the conference to participants. "We expect all the participants to have a better grasp of all the perspectives of corporate governance in all the sectors of the economy in Africa. They will avail themselves the opportunity of learning the success factors that have helped several organisations and country to grow and sustain their development. All the sessions would emphasize experience sharing and concrete solutions would be proffered for all the identified problems.
 
"Eminent international public figures, CEOs of blue chip companies, renowned public relations scholars from across the continent and beyond are scheduled to speak at the conference.
 
"The APRA Accreditation Programme and the Consultants Forum, which various committees have been working on, would receive special attention during the conference. It is only through these strategic projects that the public relations profession in the Continent can attain its rightful place in the scheme of things.
 
"Also the Annual General Meeting would also deliberate and evolve strategies to actualize the desire of the Association to gain official recognition by the African Union pursuant to the positive steps taken in Banjul in May 2009."
 
While acknowledging the theme’s link to global economic meltdown and monumental loss at the capital market, Adamolekun does not think events in recent time, such as the report that Nigerian stock market had recovered fully as well as World Bank prediction that Nigeria economy would witness 4.7 per cent growth this year, may have overtaken the relevance of the theme.
 
He explained, "this is precisely the time that all of us must worry about enthroning corporate governance best practices so that we do not become complacent about such issues in future.
 
"One of the enduring lessons of the economic meltdown is that no matter how well a system or practice appears to be working; there is need for constant reviews and evaluation with the goal of improving the processes."
 
Although IT has made communications easier and closer, he underscored certain challenges faced in planning and execution modalities for this conference more so when the key officials of the APRA Council are scattered between Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya.
 
"Well, we cannot take good credit for IT’s positive impact and making communication much easier and better managed. However, we have been able to meet at some regional programmes within the last year even if not at the same time.
 
"As a matter of fact, APRA’s event manager for this programme was able to meet with the President in South Africa early this year. We are managing as best as is possible."
 
He reiterated APRA secretariat’s expectations from the conference. "APRA’s expects to use the opportunity of this conference to properly establish Nigeria as the headquarters of the continental body following the Council decision in Kampala in 2007. Since then, APRA has been registered as a corporate body in Nigeria and is finalizing the protocol for the land where the headquarters as well as the African Public Relations and Communication Academy would be established in Abuja.
 
"We expect that this project will complement the government information programmes across the continent, facilitate continuous education, training and make available highly skilled consultants for all the stakeholders.
 
Source: The Guardian Newspaper

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