The 28th edition of the African Public Relations Association Conference with the theme – leapfrogging Africa: the role of Communication was formally declared opened on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 by His Excellency, the Governor of Cross River State, Senator (Prof.) Ben Ayade who was represented by the State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Barr. (Mrs.) Rosemary Effiom Archibong.
137 Delegates drawn from twelve countries namely – South Africa, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Bulgaria, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal and host – Nigeria attended the conference. The opening was preceded by a one day free orientation programme for Students, Information Officers and Public Relations Practitioners in the employ of Cross River State Government on Monday, May 23, 2016 at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Excellence, University of Calabar.
Also, the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) had a one-day pre-conference interactive session for Consultants in the profession themed – “The Business of PR – Managing a successful consultancy” on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. The session was presided over by the President of ICCO, Mr. Max Behar inconjunction with Mr. John Ehiguese, President of PRCAN.
A Special Goodwill message was received from the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari with a charge to African Public Relations Practitioners to embrace change for a new Africa to emerge, so as to fulfill the potentials of Africa in the area of attracting investments and good balance of trade. Apology was received from former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for his inability to attend the conference as Chairman of the Opening Session due to engagements outside the country. In his welcome address, the Cross River State Governor, Senator (Prof.) Ben Ayade expressed high regard for APRA, commending the body for choosing Calabar for the conference and urged delegates to savour the rich hospitality of the State.
The President of APRA, Mr. Peter Mutie in his address welcomed delegates to Nigeria, urging them to take advantage of the takeaways from the conference to boost the practice of PR in Africa.
The opening session was chaired by Mazi Mike Okereke, an erudite Public Relations scholar and former President of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) In his keynote address to the conference, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who was represented by Mr. Tony Chiejiena, admonished APRA to take the lead in positioning Africa to reverse her current negative narratives and stereotypes that have impeded economic development of the continent. He also charged governments in Africa to tackle the issue of stronger integration ties and inadequate power supply for citizens to maximize benefits of the use of the social media and other modern communication tools as well as improve economic activities.
Goodwill messages were also received from the President and Chairman of Council, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Dr. Rotimi Oladele, the President of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), Mr. Bart De Vries and Mr. Paul Holmes, who promised to work with APRA leadership in the years ahead.