What you need to know:
- Among Ms Njathi’s proudest moments in life is her recently co-authored book chapter with Dr Nicole Lee.
- The chapter has valuable influencer marketing insights that would influence marketing strategies adapted by stakeholders across Africa.
When Anne Njathi left Kenya for the United States of America two years ago, the now PhD student knew exactly what she wanted to achieve. Many thought that it was absurd for her to leave a well-paying job as a Marketing and Customer Experience Director (MCED) at a renewable energy company to become a student.
But she yearned for more. She felt saturated and wanted a new challenge in life.
Njathi has always been a risk taker, self-driven and passionate about anything she sets her mind on. In her own words - “Sometimes you take a step backwards to leap forward.”
She won a scholarship and moved to the United States.
“I was awarded the Graduate Student Support Plan which is a competitive support package used to attract top students to North Carolina State University. Out of the many applicants, only 14 of us made it,” she says.
With this plan, Graduate students who meet the requirements are eligible to receive health insurance and standard tuition support (for a limited number of semesters).
“However, settling in the US takes quite some time to get fully acquainted with the new system, weather, food and people. I cannot claim to have fully settled but I am certainly in a better space than when I first arrived,” she says.
While this journey has not been smooth sailing for Njathi, two days after President Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States of America, she received some good news. Her application for PhD Candidature at North Carolina State University had been accepted.
“This means that I unconditionally passed my comprehensive exams and received approval to proceed with my dissertation writing. Preparing for the exams takes an immense amount of work, undying spirit and commitment. Even though my PhD journey has been tough, I consider this experience one of the most challenging times of my life. The whole process was exacerbated by the challenges Covid-19 presented for the better part of 2020,” Njathi says.
Among Ms Njathi’s proudest moments in life is her recently co-authored book chapter with Dr Nicole Lee titled Social Media Influencers in Africa: An Analysis of Instagram Content and Brand Endorsements.
Results from this study suggest directions for future research and provide a basis for future studies on SMIs in Africa and other growing markets around the world. As the global economic landscape changes in the coming years and decades, this will be an important topic of study and of great interest to communication practitioners working for international and local brands.
This chapter has valuable influencer marketing insights that would influence marketing strategies adapted by stakeholders across Africa. Although several studies have demonstrated how developed countries have adopted this digitally mediated communication strategy, the continent of Africa still remains understudied. Much of what exists is anecdotal and sometimes scanty industry reports.
“Our fundamental goal was understanding how public relations and marketing professionals are leveraging on social media across Africa to push relevant brand experiences in these fast-growing consumer markets. This is fundamental to understanding the interrelations between the brand communication landscape in Africa, the relatively young proliferation of the Internet, and the ubiquity of smartphones, especially in the age of the digital revolution and its overall contribution to the African digital economy. Specifically, we analyzed Instagram posts from 50 social media influencers across five countries - Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Ethiopia,” Njathi says.
The chapter she co-authored in specific will benefit anyone seeking to understand influencer marketing opportunities, threats as well as critical measures beyond regulation needed to address and leverage the influencer marketing in Africa.
The book is titled Research Perspectives on Social Media Influencers and Their Followers by Lexington Publishers, USA. The book is not yet available in Kenya but is available on Amazon and other online platforms. The hardcover is listed at $105 and the e-book is listed at $95.
Njathi’s inspiration to write this chapter and also pursue her PhD studies was driven by her vast marketing experience of positioning multiple brands across East Africa. Through the nine years of her work experience she identified knowledge gaps and decided to quit formal employment to go back to school.
She currently teaches Communication Media in a Changing World and International and Cross-Cultural Communication at North Carolina State University.
Last year she awarded as an outstanding Graduate Teacher /Teaching Assistant by the Teaching Effectiveness Committee under the NC State Graduate Student Association.
In addition, some of her co-authored research projects were accepted and presented in top leading international peer reviewed journals. Other awards she has won include top Student Research Paper in Fintech (2nd runners up) Award – 12th Kenya Scholars and Studies Association Conference Atlanta, Georgia in September 2019.
“I teach Americans and international students. Each has 30 students ranging from engineering, social sciences to veterinary students. Besides learning being a continuous process, I enjoy sharing information, knowledge and skills, the diversity, student’s curiosity and the global focus in both cases fuels my thirst for teaching. My students teach me a lot of things as well,” she says.
Ms Njathi’s love for teaching started way back when she was a child.
“I really do enjoy teaching. Mum always says I was meant to teach since from a tender age I would gather kids around and act as a teacher. But as I grew up, I thought teaching was not a fancy job as compared to being a lawyer or a news anchor which I dreamt of becoming,” she narrates.
She says having been in both worlds, teaching and industry, she hopes to leverage on these experiences to enter the management consulting space with a bias in digital technologies.
The 35-year-old was born in Murang’a County where both her parents were working at the time. The fourth-born in a family of five got to move around the country a lot because her parents were civil servants.
Her best childhood memories are of her rural village where she spent time with her grandparents and picking coffee berries from their farm.
“A lot of my childhood experiences shaped who I am today. Going to the village every other holiday exposed me to my grandparents’ work ethic, resilience and business skills. My grandfather (may his soul rest in peace) would wake up at 4am to tend to his farm. He had a huge coffee plantation where he would put all of us (my cousins included) to work. We would help in harvesting ripe coffee berries and fill up little baskets. Whoever did a good job would be awarded every evening when he came home from the town center,” Njathi recalls.
The mother of one started her education at Kamiu Primary School in Manyatta Constituency, Embu County before joining St. Teresa’s Girls School in the same county for her O-level studies.
“I would later join Daystar University. Both of my degrees are in communication and from the same University. I have Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Media and Public Relations and a Master of Arts in Corporate Communications. I also have a professional diploma from Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM),” she says.
Njathi is currently very excited about the digital economy and what it holds for the African continent.
“Many ask why digital economy and my answer is that every part of the economy in the world these days is in some ways part of the global digital economy. According to the Centre for Digital Development, Global North holds the lion’s share of the global digital economy,” she says.
According to Njathi, countries that will reap greater benefits are those that are playing digital technologies producer roles and not merely consumers.
“Africa, and Kenya in specific, is slowly taking part in the digital economy in its unique scale and shape. So, the curiosity for me is what sort of digital economy producer roles African countries can viably expand and develop. How do they design local tech solutions to local problems? The idea is to attempt to fill these knowledge gaps, identify what they are and how African countries are able to scale up, succeed and compete globally,” Njathi says.
She is taking an interdisciplinary approach that draws from digital political economy, global media studies, cultural anthropology, and other things related to communication, innovation and development technology, as she attempts to find Africa's positionality in the ever-changing digital economy.
“I am a firm believer in Africa and my country of course especially when it comes to technology uptake. But like many have said, we need to tell our own stories. The current narratives of digital technologies uptake in Africa has been told from western perceptions of what technology is to Africa. Seemingly, these narratives lean on tech for development mostly leaving out interesting ways how Africans are adopting, using and appropriating technology not only for utilitarian needs but also digital leisure among other creative and subversive use of technology,” she says.
Njathi says it’s important to understand the local frameworks to inform resource allocation and advancement of policy when it comes to undertaking technology uptake and how this implicates the digital economy.
“This of paramount importance now than before when we are witnessing the growing importance of the African continent for global technology companies (US.-based global tech companies, such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, as well as China-based Alibaba) which are deeply entrenching themselves into the African tech ecosystem, scouting for their next market. You know, a lot has been said about Africa’s development failures, poor governance, poverty, corruption etc. but where are the investors flocking to?” she poses.
“The global technology companies must find African countries ready with policy guiding entry and running businesses as opposed to playing catch up to technology,” she opines.
With all she has achieved and what she is planning to achieve, Njathi says her mother has been her inspiration.
“One thing that has kept me going through all that I do is my mum. She is my anchor. We are five children in our family and she continues to do all she can to ensure we do well in life. She has sacrificed a lot she has also been my cheerleader,” Njathi says.