What you need to know:
- Fixer. Walakira met her current employer in 2010 during the African Union Summit while still in school. Four years later, after graduation he sought her out and offered her a job.
For more than seven years, Tracy Nabiteeko Walakira has been operating from her home in Uganda, to collaborate with media and coordinate huge events in all parts of Africa for the APO Group. APO Group is a media relations’ consulting firm and press release distribution service in Africa and the Middle East. According to Walakira, the firm aims at increasing visibility and spreading a positive narrative of Africa.
Walakira works with more than 300 global and multinational companies, NGOs, governments and notable entrepreneurs including Facebook, Dangote Group, Jack Ma Foundation, Nestle, NBA, Rugby Africa, FIFA, Canon, DHL, World Health Organization, Marriott Group, African Development Bank, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Rotary International, among many other clients.
Her main role is to secure top-level interviews and other media opportunities with influential global media organisations such as CNN, the BBC, Sky News, Voice of America, Bloomberg, Reuters and Forbes Africa, among others to foster media visibility for various African countries.
“I have worked across many sectors including business and entrepreneurship, energy, oil and gas, health, agriculture and aviation, among many others. We work with journalists through providing them with first-hand and authentic content from trusted sources.
My work also involves organising and coordinating press events both physical and virtual across the continent. I organise press conferences, press trips, media awards, inaugural events, book promotions, Op-Eds, and article placements, press release distribution, video news release production and distribution, media partnerships management, book promotions and book review placements, among other media relations work,” she explains about the extent of her work.
Before joining APO Group, Walakira worked as a volunteer with White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA), working closely with the media and civil society organisations to promote maternal health in Uganda.
“With a deep passion of becoming a change maker through communication, I enrolled for journalism at the Uganda Institute of Business and Media Studies (UIBMS). Upon graduation, I became a radio talk-show host at Prime Radio. The talk-show focused on identifying challenges facing Ugandan youth and providing expert advice,” she says.
And in 2014, she joined APO Group. Walakira says she had met her current employer in 2010 during the African Union Summit while still in school and worked with him briefly.
“He liked the quality of my work and as soon as he knew I had graduated, he asked me to join APO Group in 2014. My role at APO Group has evolved over the years from being a project manager and public relations specialist, to senior accounts manager and now I am the accounts director in the media relations department,” says Walakira.
Her role involved to bring on board multinational online content partners ranging from international organisations operating across Africa, to government ministries in all 54 African countries, together with all embassies both in Africa and African embassies across the globe.
“I was fortunate to get training from APO Group’s Founder and Chairman Mr. Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, it helped my progress through the company ranks,” says Walakira.
The youth impacting Africa
According to the UN’s demographic projections, Africa is the world’s youngest continent in relation to its population makeup. Walakira remarks that a number of African youth are creating an impact in their unique fields across the continent and globally, mostly through entrepreneurship and in leadership positions.
According to the African Development Bank, 22 per cent of Africa’s working-age population are starting businesses. The MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2017 listed several African countries (Uganda on top of the list at 34.8 percent), as having the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs globally.
She says, “There is enormous potential for Africa to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the next decade if Africa’s youth tap more into entrepreneurship.”
Walakira remarks that doing PR work across Africa does not come easy because it is not like working in a single country market.
“Much as it is an extraordinary experience, it is also highly challenging as you must gain deep knowledge of the media landscapes in all the 54 African countries on top of creating and maintaining good relationships with the media.
Each African country and media landscape is unique; I am constantly creating relationships with journalists across the continent which takes time, hard work, and a lot of patience because all media professionals are different,” the public relations expert says.
Also, in some African countries she remarks that one must speak and understand more than one language in order to effectively coordinate journalists.
“Internet and electricity inadequacies in many African countries are another big challenge. Reaching reporters where internet is intermittent, slow, or highly expensive, becomes quite tricky,” Walakira says.
Much as the Covid-19 pandemic has left many people challenged globally especially the working class and learners, it is important that we appreciate the many opportunities that have come with it especially acceleration of digital transformation.
While based in Uganda, Walakira has managed to secure interviews with CNN’s renowned hosts such as Richard Quest on Quest Means Business and Fareed Zakaria among other notable international media players.
She says, “It is through effective use of digital connectivity that I have been able to achieve such. With the ongoing lockdown which is yet to end, there is an urgent need to go digital across all sectors as soon as everyone can. Market trends are fast-changing, so no one should allow to be left behind.”
Walakira notes that the pandemic is a global challenge, therefore, just as other countries are doing whatever it takes to cope, Uganda to should adapt faster as things may never return to normal.
“A lot of office work may have to shift to remote work, studying as well as doing business. The opportunity in all this is that we are now beginning to live and operate as a global village,” she says.
Walakira says there is need for improvement on the quality of content disseminated in the media outlets or else international media will continue to take over most of our local audiences. “The quality of information output is the cornerstone of the longevity and competitiveness of any media organisation. Many Ugandans and Africans now watch international media outlets and some run to social media as their major source of updates, among others because they do not trust the local media organisations,” she notes.
About the impact of social networks on the communication sector, Walakira says, “with the increased pace of technological advancements, we must face the fact that fragmentation of media is real and that the rising rate of citizen journalism across social media platforms is here to stay.
Anyone with a smart phone can share information in a very short time, putting a lot of pressure to professionals in the communication sector. Nevertheless, if we stay in the know, maintain professionalism as journalists and provide accurate media content, the right audiences in need of factual and reliable information will guarantee our relevancy. This calls for consistently updating our journalism skills (career professional development), to enable us cope with this fast-paced globalised world.”
According to Walakira, the role of media professionals should be highly recognised as the cornerstone of the growth of every sector globally.
“I dream of a Uganda where journalists are well remunerated, protected and supported to play a vital role much needed for the country’s growth,” she shares.