Info Digital Africa aka ID Africa, was a child of necessity. I remember clearly that day around 2012 when the idea first occurred to me. I was in conversation with a couple of friends, exchanging notes on operational frustrations when I realised that one of the biggest risks to BHM’s continued growth and success was new media and digital technology. Clients needed more help and hand-holding as social media became ubiquitous, and smartphone technology was being transformed.
I was worried about not being ready enough and being left behind. We were one of the first companies in our market to have a website, to get on social media, but as things unfolded, I became agitated not just for our company, but for the industry. So-called digital agencies were emerging, clients were talking SEO, and CMS platforms were becoming a thing. It was clear that having an ‘IT’ department with folks good with networking, and troubleshooting would no longer cut it.
We ended the discussion, on this hot, sunny Lagos day promising to become digital experts.
The next week, I informed some of my colleagues that the company would consider setting up its own digital agency, to help us compete in that space, and to make sure our people build capacity and are able to help clients better. I asked our freelance web developer to join as co-founder and CEO.
When the company, ID Africa, went live in 2015, after being incubated as a BHM Digital department for about two years, digital marketing was already a multi billion dollar industry; and BHM was already considered a leader in digital communication services. But we got a lot of things wrong, and I spent the first few years fixing those errors.
Digital Marketing and Communications grew and changed rapidly, as did ID Africa. We acquired skills only to realise they were no longer needed. No matter what areas you look at, you are only as good as yesterday’s skills. Protocols and technologies and tools were changing in real time, and we did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. One of the most watched, and early viral videos on Nigerian internet with over 13 million views across facebook and youtube. Cumulative 1.2 million social media following, the largest for any Nigerian agency. And so on and so on.
By the end of 2021, ID Africa was hiring 30 people full time, paying hundreds of vendors and freelancers; and servicing 10 accounts. Revenues grew 76% compared to 2020.
And it’s fascinating to see that the bulk of that growth has come from supporting clients in so many ways we could not have imagined when we set out seven years ago. In addition to its ‘digital’ work, ID Africa has built impressive capability in content creation, editorial distribution, owned media, communications advisory, media relations, and issues management. And they do it so well that BHM would be jealous.
Along with ID Africa, we’ve been building Plaqad since 2017, where most of our engineers, product managers, and designers are domiciled. And as Plaqad is emerging as the software technology unit of our business, we see a new opportunity, presented by a challenge as urgent; as critical as the one that gave birth to the company in 2015. This challenge is Africa: the way it communicates; the way it is communicated; the way it sees the world; the way the world sees it. The challenge is the opportunity.
So what would the next seven years mean? What problems would we be solving? I believe the answer lies in the two announcements we made today: setting up operations in Kenya and Ghana, with many more countries and markets soon to follow. Using specific geographic locations, distributed teams, and Plaqad technology, we are optimising to be able to help consumers and clients no matter where they are; no matter what language they speak; and no matter how they access information. Clients want to know and do better, as concerns Africa issues and interventions and investment. And we want to help. Citizens are advocating for better governance and more corporate responsibility. We want to help.
And that’s the path to our future: helping individuals and organisations at home and abroad understand Africa better; help Africa understand and engage with the world better; and be a strong, active part of the community of believers working to build a better Africa, tell the Africa story, and of course delivering value to citizens, clients, consumers, and everyone else in the mix.
The work starts now.