LONDON/LAGOS: Global PR firms are increasingly looking to set up offices in African markets, where the emphasis of their work is shifting from the political to the commercial.

African Business reported that this development was in part a consequence of the international clients of these firms looking to penetrate new territories but also noted the rise of African businesses seeking to expand across the continent.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies, for example, has just opened a new office in Lagos to add to existing ones in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

"Global businesses with long-term growth strategies are focusing on the African continent," said Lars Erik Grønntun, chairman and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, adding that it was important to be able to offer businesses "access to full-service communication strategies" in a market with such potential as Nigeria.

Narda Shirley, the founder of Gong Communications, a ten-year old London-based boutique agency which also has offices in Accra, Johannesburg and Nairobi, outlined the shift she had noticed.

"Our portfolio was primarily international companies wanting to enter African markets when we first started out working on the continent," she said, but "recently we are working a lot with local firms".

"Many of these want to expand outside of their home markets," she explained. "They feel that professional PR is crucial to building their profile regionally or across the whole of Africa."

Local PR firms are also waking up to the idea of regional expansion, with Nigeria's Brooks+Blake opening an office in Cameroon to service the Central African market

Senior manager Dare Ogunyombo cautioned that African firms had no special advantages in this regard as "different countries present their own peculiarities" which needed to be understood by anyone entering them for the first time.

And for international businesses a local presence is likely to become ever more necessary, according to Paul Jackson, managing director at Grey South Africa.

"African clients are growing tired of the seagull mentality of most European and international PR firms, where the top team flies in for the pitch, wins the business and disappears leaving the local team ill–equipped to execute the strategy," he said.

Data sourced from African Business, Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff