REGIONAL MANAGER FOR HAVAS AFRICA (UGANDA, RWANDA AND TANZANIA), JOSHUA KAMUGABIRWE, SAYS AFRICAN MARKETERS NEED TO HOLD THEMSELVES TO WORLD-CLASS STANDARDS.
Havas Africa’s Joshua Kamugabirwe is one of Uganda’s most inspirational professionals according to the country’s leading newspaper Sunday Vision, which included the marketer in its 40 Under 40 list this year. The Regional Manager of Havas Africa (Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania) talks about the changing African market, what makes a great creative, and how becoming a parent has impacted his life and career.
Tell us about your career path into advertising.
I started working for an ad agency way back in 2008, soon after university. I had always been a media-crazy child—I loved reading about artists, politicians and trendsetters, so every time I saw an ad on TV or heard it on the radio, I always wanted to know who was behind it. As fate would have it, my elder brother was an ad man. He always told me to listen to the radio or watch TV to confirm if their ads were running. When an opportunity came up in a startup agency, I was just ready to go. Since then, my journey in advertising has seen me work with global agencies from WPP to Publicis and agencies in different East African countries.
You’ve recently been named one of Sunday Vision’s 40 Under 40. How does it feel to be included?
I feel honored because, realistically, however impactful advertising is, the general public knows little about it. In fact, in this part of the world, arts and unconventional jobs are perceived to be for less serious people. Every time you tell people you are an adman, they simply think you are a model. To be recognized as one of the most promising young people shaping and influencing a generation shows that the industry is being appreciated and that we can contribute positively to the growth of the country through advertising and branding. Brands need advertising if they are to grow and it’s great that more and more people and business owners are appreciating the sector.
How do you build effective teams?
The process begins from the first day we become interested in a resource. Advertising is not for generally okay people—it is for the people with a little extra. This extra element could be craziness, creativity, intelligence or something completely weird, and it is that something weird that makes one a special ad man. Once we have these kinds of people, we try to orient, train and shape their mindsets to a global, but locally relevant, perspective so that they become stars. We also allow them the freedom to exercise their creativity while being aware of the market challenges. Eventually, we find ourselves with responsible, transformational and creative minds that deliver results. The agency also has established mandatory tools and processes that are utilized to build competitive individuals.
Who are some of Havas Africa’s biggest clients?
We have global and local clients, including Emirates, Reckitt Benckiser, Shell and Airtel.
What makes the African markets in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda unique?
These are growing markets with very young populations, which means if they are well courted, they will provide a market for the next 20 years and beyond. These markets are also very flexible and quick to adapt to global trends, so executing world-class campaigns or world-class services is not challenging. There is a lot of potential in these markets and we need to harness it.
You live and work in Kampala. What are some of your favorite things about the city; where do you relax, where do you eat?
Kampala is an epitome of a free city in the world—anything is possible here. The weather, the people and food will make you forget all your troubles. There are a lot of possibilities in Kampala and anyone can survive here as long as you decide to accept the city the way it is. The most beautiful thing about the city is that I can get the equivalent of a fun-packed Las Vegas night out without spending the Las Vegas money. We bring the world to ourselves.
You have two kids—has having children changed your perspective?
Parenting is a very challenging job. You can be successful in your career but if you are not successful at home, then all your greatness is in vain. Raising children is very difficult—they need your time, love and effort amidst daily routine. A child can wake up at 3 a.m. and start crying, yet you have to rest a bit and be ready for work the next day. It is even worse when toddlers cannot easily express themselves and you have to pull out all your parenting skills to understand them. Sometimes I feel sad when leaving home to go to work as the kids always want to go with me. Overall, being a parent makes one more responsible, understanding and compassionate.
Outside of work, what are your greatest passions?
I love watching football on TV and reading. I read a lot of books, stories, articles and opinions. In the future, I plan to take at least one holiday outside Uganda each year to appreciate the world and get exposed.
How do you think the African industry will change throughout the next ten years?
It is already happening. We are dealing with global brands and centralized teams and looking at issues from a global perspective.
We can no longer hide under the “African way”—it has to be the global way. A satisfied customer in Africa derives the same happiness as a satisfied customer in Europe or America. In the next ten years, geographical and technological differences will no longer be an excuse. Even now as we work, study, service and learn, we have the international standards at heart.