Havas SA (HAV), a French advertising agency, opened its first office in English-speaking Africa in Kenya, moving ahead with its plan to increase the company’s presence on the continent fivefold over the next two years.
Havas controls 60 percent of Havas Media Kenya and its local partner, Corporate Talk Group, owns the rest, Jorge Irizar, Chief Executive Officer of Havas Media International, said in an interview in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, today.
Havas may announce a similar partnership with a Nigerian company in 10 to 15 days, he said, declining to name it, while its Gabon office may open in May. In the last two years, Havas began operating in the French-speaking West African nations of Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Senegal.
Havas plans to set up in 20 African nations by 2013. French billionaire Vincent Bollore, who controls the company, “believes in Africa,” Irizar said.
Havas Media Kenya is seeking a bigger cut of the country’s advertising market, now dominated by Scangroup Ltd., East Africa’s biggest marketing company by sales, which commands as much as four-fifths of the business, Irizar said. The goal is to gain market share of at least 10 percent in a few years, from Corporate Talk Group’s current 2 percent to 3 percent portion.
“We are facing a very challenging situation where one company controls 80 percent of the market,” Irizar said. “We believe we can break the monopoly.”
Havas Media Kenya will pursue projects in digital media, using both Internet and mobile phones, advertising, public relations and social networking, aiming for its earnings to break even this year and move into profit the next, he said.
Havas, which operates in more than 100 countries, brings international advertising and media-buying experience and the capability to invest, while Corporate Talk Group’s strength is its local working knowledge, Irizar said. He declined to comment on how much spending Havas will commit to its Kenyan unit.
“In English-speaking African countries we decided not to go from scratch because the markets are more mature and much more complicated,” he said.
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