Interview with Ethel Mwambazi Kandiwo: COVID-19 and the Zambian Media and Advertising Industry

Ethel Mwambazi Kandiwo, Managing Director at BlackDot Media, speaks to COVID-19 Africa Watch about how the pandemic is affecting the media and advertising world in Zambia.


Key Takeaways

The following are a few of the main takeaways from COVID-19 Africa Watch‘s conversation with Ethel Mwambazi Kandiwo, Managing Director at BlackDot Media:

  • COVID-19 has negatively impacted business in Zambia, causing project deferrals and cancelations.
  • BlackDot has transitioned to having 85 percent of its employees work from home.
  • The pandemic has also changed media habits among the population and has accelerated the transition to digital advertising.

The interview was conducted by Kennedy Mukuka, an IFC-Milken Institute Capital Market Scholar from the Central Bank of Zambia. A transcript is available below.



Hello, my name is Kennedy Mukuka, a scholar with the IFC Milken Institute Capital Markets Program. Today I’m pleased to welcome Ms. Esther Kandiwo, who is joining us to share her insights on the COVID-19 crisis in Africa. Ms. Kandiwo, you are managing director of BlackDot Media based in Lusaka, Zambia. Thanks for being with us.

Let’s begin by understanding what BlackDot media is, and has COVID-19 posed any specific challenges for your business and the advertising industry?

Ethel Mwambazi Kandiwo

Thank you, Kennedy. To give a bit of background on who BlackDot is, we are a creative advertising agency. We’re actually Zambia’s largest media creative agency, and we have been in this industry for the last 30 years. Our services primarily range from providing creative solutions, and also digital marketing solutions and below-the-line solutions for activations and client engagement as well. As an agency, we are affiliated to the Publicis Groupe of France, and in Zambia we represent Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis Worldwide, and Leo Burnett.

As a business we have experienced some challenges. A lot of our clients have deferred projects or canceled them all together and this is particularly pertaining to below-the-line activities that require a human to human contact, and that has affected us quite negatively.

“The consumption of media has changed. However, as much as this is a business challenge, it is also an opportunity because it has afforded us some space to explore our digital marketing side.”

We’ve also seen that media consumption habits have changed quite significantly during this phase. There is less consumption of traditional channels like radio or print, given that a lot of the public is being required to stay at home. The consumption of media has changed. However, as much as this is a business challenge, it is also an opportunity because it has afforded us some space to explore our digital marketing side, which we’ve been pushing for the last two years. So in as much as we have some challenges, we’ve also recognized some opportunities for the business.


How have you repositioned yourselves as a business to ensure continuity during the pandemic, both internally and in your external dealings with clients or any other stakeholders?

Ethel Mwambazi Kandiwo

Before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Zambia specifically, we started looking at how we would best respond to the pandemic.

As a business, we have looked at it holistically. Internally, 85 percent of our employees are currently working from home. We are in communications and we are very dynamic, very flexible. So we have the creative teams, the animators, the digital teams working from home full time. The 15 percent of employees who are working at the office are practicing social distancing, and we also provide facemasks and hand sanitizers for all our employees. So we’ve got that covered. The teams communicate on a daily basis and we’ve become accustomed to easy meetings, video calls, and we are able to communicate by email and other means electronically.That’s something we’ve practiced in the past, and so we’re just adapting and becoming more flexible in terms of how we do that now.

Looking at how we relate with our clients and partners, we have also replaced physical meetings with the meetings. We communicate with our clients every day, and we are trying to push communication on a regular basis. And in terms of repositioning, we like to pride ourselves as an agency that is dynamic and evolving constantly. So we, we adapt to every situation and we continue to provide creative solutions for our clients.


Post-pandemic, what is the vision of the future as BlackDot media?

Ethel Mwambazi Kandiwo

Our vision as BlackDot is to continue to adapt, to continue to evolve, and to continue to provide solutions to our clients’ communication needs, whatever they may be. But also to allow them to understand the importance of digitization.

Zambia is not as advanced with digital solutions, and this is a great opportunity. So we see the future as being quite optimistic in the sense that we will be able to become accustomed to more digital solutions. It’s something we started two years ago, so we’re quite optimistic about that.


Thank you so much. The Milken Institute and I thank you again for these insights. They will be precious to our viewers. Goodbye and stay safe.

Ethel Mwambazi Kandiwo

Thank you, Kennedy.

COVID-19 Africa Watch tracks major developments and policy announcements from across the continent and also offers a curated selection of analysis on how the pandemic will impact African economies and development efforts. The site is a project of the Milken Institute’s Global Market Development Practice.

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via COVID-19 Africa Watch