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Success for PAMRO's first conference in Francophone Africa

Piet Smit, Vice President of the Pan African Media Research Organisation (PAMRO) and chief technical officer of the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF), is enthusiastic about the results of the Organisation's 6th annual conference recently completed in Duoala, the commercial capital of Cameroon.
"Our first conference in Francophone Africa was marked by a number of excellent papers which have fully justified the theme of 'Breaking new ground', and will set a new standard of excellence for those to follow next year," said Smit.

Aids & Africa

Professor Carel van Aardt, director of the Bureau of Market Research at UNISA delivered the keynote address on the impact of AIDS in Africa. One of the most shocking facts related to the growing proportion of HIV positive babies that will be born and the consequent impact on their life expectancy: most are expected to die before they reach 20 years of age. This will leave a hole in the age group structure and have a negative impact on population growth.

It appears from available statistics that HIV/AIDS is already having dire demographic and economic consequences across Africa and especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It is expected to have even more severe demographic and economic consequences during the decade to come. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest per capita HIV prevalence and infection rates in the world.

According to Aardt, HIV/AIDS gives rise to higher levels of age-specific mortality in African countries and reduces the number of births as potential mothers die of HIV/AIDS before they can complete their reproductive years.

HIV/AIDS also impacts upon labour supply in the sense that a substantial percentage of the economically active population is already ill or dying as a result of AIDS.
Demand for labour could be affected if employers opt for capital-intensive production in the face of anticipated reduced production and productivity due to workforce losses.
HIV/AIDS will impact negatively on human capital realisation, skills availability and skills shortages across Africa.

Van Aardt also noted that HIV/AIDS will have dire consequences for household income and household expenditure patterns, as well as for the size of media audiences.

Innovations in radio research

Two papers related to radio developments in Africa. SAARF reported on the new procedure of 'flooding', that is, recording the listening habits of all adults in selected households, thus producing highly cost-effective research results which could be particularly beneficial for cash-strapped African countries. Multiple diaries are obtained from each household with minimal additional cost and effort. This paper, which was presented by Mluleki Ncube, technical support executive of SAARF, created lively debate.

A second paper presented by Roger Steadman of the Steadman Group in Kenya demonstrated the effectiveness of radio listening interviews conducted at road and highway roundabouts in Nairobi, Kenya. Interviewers were able to identify which stations were being listened to by questioning drivers, while noting number and gender of passengers and making age estimates. This piece of quasi-quantitative research, also relatively inexpensive, was aimed at providing radio owners and media planners information about car users' radio listening patterns and could be very useful at 'drive-times' in particular.

Creative use of AMPS

Tiaan Ras of Media24's Ads 24 presented his paper on the creative use of the All Media and Products Survey (AMPS) data. Ras' presentation focused on the key areas: How media research can be utilized to gain strategic insights into different market segments; and How AMPS can be used as a springboard for primary research.

Ras' case study showed how Ads24 commissioned Unisa's Bureau of Market Research to fuse AMPS readership data with household expenditure data to create the 'Ads24 calculator', which indicates household expenditure by category, item and publication.

In the final part of his presentation Ras showed how AMPS data may be compiled for marketing purposes and how to use AMPS lifestyle statements to create editorial profiles aimed at shaping the editorial content of a publication to target both regular and irregular readers.

'Africa 2025'

This book, edited by Dr Alouine Sall and sponsored by Unicef as part of the UN's African funding initiative, is published by African Futures. It envisages four future scenarios that Africa can follow in the next 20 years. Piet Smit summarizes the book's conclusions for delegates. The labelling of the scenarios, done in a typical African idiom, is self-explanatory:

Scenario 1: The lions are trapped in poverty - predominance of relational logic, war, authoritarian governments and an inability to escape
Scenario 2: The lions are hungry - this scenario has both positive and negative elements - hunger of the warlords and authoritarian politicians that can harm the continent as well as hunger of the population to improve their lives.
Scenario 3:The lions get out of their den and start investigating ways and means to move forward.
Scenario 4:The lions mark their territory Africans develop themselves and their environment within the African context, to be uniquely African and not just a pale carbon copy of the USA and Europe.

LSMs for Africa

The launch of African Living Standards Measures (ALSM), was accepted enthusiastically and subsequently debated at length, not only during the post-presentation discussion, but also during breaks, said Smit.

Development work was spearheaded by Research International (Zimbabwe and South Africa) and was further evidence supporting the conference theme, 'Breaking new ground'. The paper was presented by Tendai Mhizha of RI Zimbabwe. While different countries have developed their own customized LSMs in recent years, the conference viewed this as a major breakthrough being the first LSM that can be used in all African countries, including those that currently have their own indices.

Building a Pan-African data base

A feature of the conference was the emphasis on 'Harmonization', that is the drive to produce country research results that are fully comparable across the continent. Smit called this "a bold step: a core questionnaire has been agreed upon in principle, with the option of customized additional questions to fulfill the different requirements of member countries". An example put forward by Smit was the different combinations of age groupings, with many African nations selecting ages 15 to 24 as the youngest adult grouping. This conflicted with SA and Zimbabwe's current 16 - 24. After discussion, it was agreed that the group be standardized at 15 - 24, with those nations which were out of line to recommend an early change to their umbrella bodies. Other questions in the core questionnaire will also use the same wording and answering options. Smit will present the recommendation to the SAARF Board for ratification.

Summary of key conference decisions

Smit noted that in line with the theme, 'Breaking new ground', the quality and breadth of presentations was better than previous years. The conference had determined that training should be a focus going forward, for all country members, "it's one thing to produce good data, and it's another to train people to use these effectively..."

He said that while South Africa and particularly Zimbabwe, were the leaders in training for effective use, other African nations accepted the need to concentrate on training the users of media audience surveys for targeting and planning purposes.

A workshop had reviewed the achievements of the past five years against objectives and set new targets for the following five:
1. New members would be required to give undertakings on ethical behaviour and maintenance of the quality standards established by PAMRO.
2. PAMRO will remain the umbrella body for African media research, but regional chapters which can meet and network more frequently will be encouraged. Ghana is the first of these.
3. The AGM approved the formalising of PAMRO as a Section 21 company, registered in South Africa.

Forward to the 2005 conference

The format of next year's PAMRO meeting and conference will be extended from two to three days, including a half-day for organized activities to allow delegates to familiarize themselves with the environment, culture and customs of the host nation. The PAMRO secretariat, based in the SAARF offices in Johannesburg, has been tasked by the conference to decide on the 2005 venue, choosing between: Cape Town, South Africa; Dakar, Senegal; or Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The final decision will be made after due consideration of accessibility, convenience, affordability, availability of facilities and other relevant criteria.

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