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The Rwandan advertising, marketing and PR industries are in a developmental stage. Until recently consumers have been influenced principally by word of mouth reports but companies are increasingly leaning towards formal advertising to reach potential customers. Observers have pointed out great potential in the market but a lack of sophistication and funding in the industries.
A sign of the development of the industry is the Umutara Polytechnic’s Bachelor Degree of commerce with Honours (Marketing) which offers the chance to specialise in marketing at several points in the course. In a bid to regulate and professionalise the PR industry, the Public Relations Association of Rwanda (PRAR) was established in 2008.
Advertising, marketing and PR firms are principally found in Kigali including three subsidiaries of the global firm WPP. In addition the pan-African outdoor advertising company, Alliance Media has offices in over 20 Sub-Saharan African countries including Rwanda and is a leader in the field.
The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report (2012-2013) shows that Rwanda is moderately developed in terms of marketing and buyer sophistication. In extent of marketing where 1 means that marketers make little use of sophisticated marketing tools and techniques and 7 that marketers make extensive use of these tools, Rwanda scored 3.9. This ranks the country in 76th place out of 144 countries worldwide and just below the world mean of 4.1. In terms of buyer sophistication, according to the report, Rwandan consumers concentrate more on price (which scores 1) than on a sophisticated analysis of performance attributes (which scores 7). The country receives a score of 3.0 and a ranking of 101 out of 144 and below the world mean of 3.5.
Print media is ever popular in the country and has a large online presence. Publications such as the Women’s Times allow advertisers to efficiently target specific demographics.
Social media is growing in popularity in Rwanda although in 2012 uptake was low with only around 1.7% of the population with a Facebook account; this however had grown steadily over the last quarter of that year. Thus social media and advertising is not a developed industry although the business community is becoming aware of its potential. Wider internet and digital advertising however has become key to the country’s marketing industry.
In terms of broadcast media, Rwanda has a range of commercial television and radio stations which mean that a specialist broadcast advertising industry exists.
The leading outdoor advertising company in the country is the pan-African company Alliance Media which operates in 20 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. The company produces billboards and street furniture advertising.