British lawmakers want their European counterparts to quiz Facebook FB.O CEO Mark Zuckerberg about a scandal over improper use of millions of Facebook users’ data, as he will not give evidence in London himself.
Zuckerberg will be in Europe to defend the company after alleged misuse of its data by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy that worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign.
But while he will answer questions from lawmakers in Brussels on Tuesday, and is meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, he has so far declined to answer questions from British lawmakers, either in person or via video link.
Damian Collins, chair of the British parliament’s media committee, said on Tuesday that he believed Zuckerberg should still appear before British lawmakers.
“But if Mark Zuckerberg chooses not to address our questions directly, we are asking colleagues at the European Parliament to help us get answers - particularly on who knew what at the company, and when, about the data breach and the non-transparent use of political adverts which continue to undermine our democracy,” he said in a statement.
Last month, Facebook Chief Technical Officer Mike Schroepfer appeared before Collins’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating fake news.
But the lawmakers have said his testimony and subsequent written answers from the firm to follow-up questions have been inadequate.
Collins outlined deficiencies in Facebook’s answers so far in a letter to Rebecca Stimson, head of public policy at Facebook UK, which has been shared with the EU lawmakers who will quiz Zuckerberg. Collins requested a response from Facebook to his questions by June 4.
Standing on the steep rocky shores of Lake Tanganyika at sunset, looking out at fishermen heading out for their nightly lamp-boat fishing trips, it’s easy to imagine this immense 32,900km2 body of water as serene and unchanging.
Located in the western branch of the great African Rift Valley it’s divided among four countries; Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Zambia. It’s one of the oldest lakes in the world, probably dating back about 10 million years.
That expanse of geological time has permitted literally hundreds of unusual species of fish and invertebrates to evolve in isolation - organisms that are unique among the world’s lakes. Every day millions of people rely on the lake’s riches. But despite being a world class reservoir of biodiversity, food and economic activity, the lake is changing rapidly and may be facing a turbulent future.
Lake Tanganyika was recently declared the “Threatened Lake of 2017” – adversely affected by human activity in the form of climate change, deforestation, overfishing and hydrocarbon exploitation.
Beginning in the late 1980s scientists studying the lake began to notice significant and concerning changes caused by human activity.
But at the time worldwide attention was focused on other African Great Lakes, particularly Lake Victoria where evidence was beginning to emerge of the enormous impact the Nile Perch – an introduced species – was having.
The problems in Tanganyika were somewhat different.
Fortunately, no major exotic species introductions have occurred up to now. Instead, evidence shows that underwater habitat degradation is taking place adjacent to hill slopes. They are being rapidly deforested – converted to agricultural lands or for urban expansion –in the fast growing population centres around the lake. This activity has led to a rapid increase in the amount of loose sand and mud being washed into the lake which is smothering the lake floor.
Danger of sediment
The biodiversity of Lake Tanganyika can be imagined like a thin bathtub ring. It hugs the shallow zones around a deep and steep bottomed lake, up to 1470m in its deepest parts. The hundreds of species that inhabit the sunlit shallows give way to a dark expanse of water lacking oxygen and, so, animal life.
This narrow strip of extraordinary biodiversity is on the front line. Eroded sediments are being carried into the lake, affecting this strip. Researchers have begun to document where the impact is being felt. They are also looking back in time by collecting sediment cores with fossils of the many endemic animals to see when the impact was first felt.
They have found that some heavily populated regions lost much of their diversity more than 150 years ago. Other regions, particularly in the more southerly past of the lake, are seeing these effects unfold only in recent decades.
Large scale fisheries for the lake’s small sardines started in the 1950s, quickly mushrooming into a major industry. They export up to 200,000 tons of fish per year and make up a very large portion of the average person’s animal protein intake in the surrounding regions.
In recent years this fishing yield has declined dramatically. This has been partially caused by the unsustainable growth in fisheries, and exacerbated by large numbers of refugees flooding into the region because of conflicts in Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC during the 1990s.
It’s now increasingly clear that another factor has also been at play.
Starting in the early 2000s, scientists began to document that the surface waters of Lake Tanganyika were warming rapidly. This is most likely because of global climate change related to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This warming has had serious consequences for the lake’s fragile ecosystems.
Warm water is relatively light and struggles to mix with the deeper layers of the lake. This in turn keeps the vast pools of nutrients from being churned back to the surface by waves. It cuts down on the growth of floating plankton, which is what the lake’s many fish populations eat.
Scientists have been able to show that the decline in fish populations began well before the onset of commercial fishery in the 1950s. This implicates climate change and lake warming as the probable cause for much of the fishery’s long-term decline.
Unfortunately, this trend is unlikely to be reversed as long as the climate in the region continues to warm.
A related consequence of the reduction of mixing in the lake, is a continuous shallowing of the transition from the oxygenated to deoxygenated waters on the lake floor. This means there’s less of an oxygenated ring, reducing the habitat area within the bathtub ring of biodiversity from below.
As if scientists and lake managers at Lake Tanganyika didn’t have enough on their plates, a new problem has emerged: the search for oil and gas deposits.
Rift lake sediments of the type found in Lake Tanganyika are well known among geologists as reservoirs of hydrocarbons, as over millions of years vast quantities of plankton have died and settled on the lake floor.
The consequences of actual production are still unknown. But the recent record of catastrophic oil spills, for example along the Niger River Delta, highlight the critical need for very careful study and environmental planning before production proceeds in fragile Lake Tanganyika.
The biological and economic riches produced by 10 million years of evolution could lie in the balance.
A one-size-fits-all approach to marketing communications does not work in Africa, or any of its 54 countries.
Yes, there is a huge sense of optimism around Africa, and we continue to find our voice, but to build on and harness the massive progress we have already made, there is a real need for African-born creativity to be recognised and respected by an international community. This means that when businesses from beyond African borders plan to launch a new brand – and a communications strategy around it – they have to recognise and work with the cultural nuances and evolutions of the particular country they are entering.
In short, a brand entering Africa needs to listen first, and speak later.
Producing the right content with a narrative true to the African consumer, and then the company, is key. And when brands get it right on the ground, the results are beyond inspiring.
We continue to see beautiful communication campaigns emerge from various African markets, rich with local insights and built on unique content and partnerships that speak to the native audience using their semantics, on their terms, about their concerns.
The visual language a brand employs is just as important, and partnering with local art directors, photographers, designers and artists with a trained eye is imperative to aesthetically interpreting the brand in the market, and across various platforms.
“Adapt or die” seems to be the communications aphorism most true to today’s Africa. A brand’s reputation and positioning in Africa is completely reliant on immersing the communication strategy in the consumer culture and buying behaviour of the people in the country, and only by understanding their pain points and pressures can brands confidently accelerate their efforts for growth within the continent.
As a strategic communications firm that counsels multinationals both in South Africa, and those with specific interest in the rest of the continent, we at FleishmanHillard believe that a strong brand launch in a new African market remains heavily reliant on smart communications support, to provide insights about the market landscape, and to build and protect the company’s reputation as it navigates uncharted waters.
If we look at brands that have succeeded in responding to market nuances, Shoprite stands out as a good example – in the process of expanding its footprint, the retailer managed to build its name as an organisation that knows and cares about the communities it operates in.
The company moved north, from South Africa, on a journey to champion food security for a number of African countries. Its first store in Lusaka, Zambia imported all merchandise including fresh produce when it opened. Locals in the country were outraged, and the company responded by changing its supply chain and distribution strategy by developing local suppliers of fresh goods where possible. Now, approximately 80% of the goods on Shoprite’s African shelves come from local sources.
There is no doubt that Shoprite had to communicate with the Zambian farmers, in some shape or form, to make them aware of this operational change. This could have been through a targeted stakeholder management process or mass reach programme via the media and social platforms. Ultimately, communications initiatives have meant that the locals know this, and by supporting the overall business objectives has been able to drive market share.
Not all brands making the move are as fortunate as Shoprite, though, and the challenge typically lies in the organisation’s approach when it enters its African market of choice. Not adequately researching and respecting the local landscape is the biggest cause of failure, so brands looking to move into an African market need to ensure that their expansion plans and associated communications strategies truly tap into the realities of where they are moving into.
The time is now, and Africa is rising. Are you keeping up?