With over 20 years working in the Communications industry in Africa and Europe, one thing we love about our Comms Spotlight for the week is how passionate she is about Africa. Meet Dénadi Carole Sagbo, a Corporate Communications & Marketing expert and the founding CEO of Dena-di, a Communications and PR Agency based in Cotonou and Paris. In our interview with her, Dénadi shares how she made the pivot from banking into Communications and how her agency fills an important gap within the Communications industry.
What do you do as Founding CEO at Dena-di Agency?
I am the founding CEO of Dena-di, a Communications and PR Agency based in Cotonou, Republic of Benin and Paris, France. As a Corporate Communications & Marketing expert, I have more than 20 years of experience in Content Strategy, Events Management, Business Development and Public Relations. Dena-di is a Pan-African agency with the mission of promoting African excellence, notably through Art and Culture. It is our firm belief that African art and culture are real assets of soft power.
Our services include Content Strategy, Events Management, and Public relations. With a team of experienced consultants and experts, we strive to deliver creative and impactful communication strategies that set our clients apart from the competition. We work with governments, international organisations, big brands, and start-ups in Europe, Africa and the USA.
Tell us how you began your career in Communications and what steps you took to grow as a professional.
I initially graduated with a Master’s degree in Banking, Finance, and Insurance, from Sorbonne University in Paris and started my career as a Financial analyst in the City of London. But my passion for writing which started at a very early age, and the attractiveness of Marketing and Communications sectors were stronger than anything else. Therefore, I went back to Sorbonne University and graduated with a Master’s degree in Marketing.
I pursued my career as a Communications and PR specialist in the Banking industry in France, and, after a few years, resigned to become an independent consultant in 2011. In 2018, I launched my PR and Comms agency, Dena-di, in Benin, my native country, and later on in France.
This career shift was the best decision ever as I love what I do and I’ve had the opportunity to work on great projects in Africa, Europe, and the USA, for major institutions such as the World Bank Group, and African governments.
Can you share a major highlight from your career journey so far?
In 2021, France handed back 26 treasures that were looted from Benin during the colonial period, fulfilling a promise made by French President E. Macron, to restore a lost part of Africa’s heritage.
For this symbolic, moving and historic moment, my country, the Republic of Benin, entrusted me with the responsibility of working on the Benin Cultural Week at the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris. It was a week-long event whose aim was to showcase the 26 artworks before their restitution to the Republic of Benin, and their return to their country of origin.
My agency was in charge of the overall promotion of the event, i.e, Digital Communication, Media and Public Relations. The event was very successful and registered more than 15,000 visitors in seven days.
Why did you decide to start a Public Relations Agency? Are there any gaps you saw in the industry that you decided to fill?
Indeed! As an African, born in Africa, raised between Africa and Europe, and working in international environments, I realised very early that the perspectives that I could bring on issues in the African continent are different from somebody coming from, let’s say, Europe or North America. And, as an African, my perception is definitely what I bring into the business when I talk about Africa, either in Europe or anywhere else outside my continent.
When we talk about Africa, we often tend to refer to the outside world mostly the West, and to the way they frame stories about our continent. But when we, as Africans, take our destiny into our hands, we somehow help to rewrite the history books that our children are still using in our schools. And that’s a huge responsibility that we have and should be aware of. We understand that narratives evolve through stories told over time, so, if we want to change narratives, we have to change the underlying stories. That is what we are striving to do every day at Dena-di Agency.
For instance, we have recently launched in collaboration with LEA RESIDENCE, a concept of “Africa Arts & Gourmet Cuisine Dinners”, which aims to promote African excellence through the visual and culinary arts of the continent. The first edition of this top-class event took place in Cotonou in July and was a great success. We are already planning other events in Abidjan and Dakar, and hopefully Lagos too!
What is a Communications book/ resource/ podcast you would recommend to any professional in the industry?
I would recommend the books of Frederic FOUGERAT, a French author of several books published in more than 25 countries. He is a Communication Director and President of TENKAN Paris, a crisis communications, image and reputation agency for sensitive personalities. In 2021, he was ranked Number One among the 100 most influential personalities in communication in France by Forbes magazine.
I’ve read most of his books and have learned a lot from them. Two of his must-reads are: “A Communication Director is not a Democrat” and “Communication is a profession”. These are a translation from the French titles, I really hope those books can be found in English.
What advice would you give your younger professional self?
There are many pieces of advice I would give to my younger self, just starting in the professional world. But if I were to choose only one, it would be: It’s okay to have multiple paths, don’t limit yourself! I wish I had the courage to trust myself a bit more and follow my dreams, instead of focusing on one path specifically. There are so many different professions and businesses to get into.