Economist Group opens sub-Saharan offices in SA

The Economist Group, owner of the weekly newspaper, The Economist, and the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs, has opened its first commercial office in sub-Saharan Africa.

The opening, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa at the beginning of August, 2010, follows another successful year for The Economist Group, who despite turbulent trading conditions, achieved another record operating profit of £57.5 million during the financial year ending April 2010.

Worldwide circulation of The Economist also rose to 1,443,083 in the January-June 2010 ABC period.

A press statement announcing the opening of the Group’s new offices says “The Economist Group is seeing a growing interest in Africa and views Africa as a market in which it can make a contribution while developing its own business.”

The statement also relayed that an Africa only advertising edition is available to companies wishing to reach the pan-African market. Further, The Economist Group, which is an organisation that advocates political and economic freedom and focuses on the link between government and business, says “This Africa only edition, available with immediate effect, will have identical editorial content to all other editions globally and will differ in advertising content only.”

The new commercial office, located in Johannesburg, South Africa, enhances the Group’s capacity to provide services and products that are tailored to countries and customers in the sub-Saharan Africa region, according to the Group.

It says while the South African office will be supported by regional and local representative companies, Ghana’s office will be manned by InFocus PR, a leading West African integrated communications, events management and media consultancy based in Accra.

Meanwhile, The Economist Group has had an editorial office for The Economist in Johannesburg since 1994 and circulation in Africa is currently 17,287 (January-June 2010 ABC period). The new commercial office will however focus on promoting and extending the Group’s other businesses across the continent, which include the Economist Intelligence Unit, Economist Conferences, Economist Corporate Network, The World In… and Intelligent Life.

The Group also owns EuroFinance, a leading global provider of conferences, training, and research on cash management, treasury, and risk, along with CQ-Roll Call Group in Washington, DC, and European Voice in Brussels.

Also, in 2008, as part of its strategy of expanding into emerging markets, the Group opened an office in Dubai to put the Group on the ground in the Middle East, and now plans a similar move for Africa.

Commenting on the choice of Johannesburg, Economist Group Managing Director, Middle East and Africa (MEA), David Taylor-Evans, said, “We chose Johannesburg as our sub-Saharan hub because South Africa is Africa’s largest economy and the commercial infrastructure in Gauteng makes it an obvious choice for running our business in the region.”

The Africa office is currently staffed by two South Africans, who are product sales managers, Paul Vos and Thembi Mthembu. Vos, responsible for South and West Africa, has represented Time in Africa for 13 years, while Mthembu, responsible for South and East Africa, has worked with News24 since its inception.

Meanwhile, Taylor-Evans and his team are also recruiting an editor to develop conferences, research, and the recently launched Africa Corporate Network.

Taylor-Evans said, “Africa is an important market for us, because, as Vijay Mahajan wrote in his book Africa Rising, ‘If Africa were a single country, according to World Bank data, it would have had $978 billion total gross national income (GNI) in 2006, which places it ahead of India as a total market – and Africa would show up as the tenth largest economy in the world.’’

“The Africa office allows us to be closer to our African readers, members, delegates and clients so we can ensure that our products and services are even more relevant to them. For example, in February this year we launched Africa Corporate Network. The Economist Corporate Network was designed specifically for emerging markets and the Africa edition is customised still further for this particular market,” he added.

“Furthermore, greater visibility in the market will help us increase circulation for the newspaper,” Taylor-Evans commented further.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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