IT WAS no mistake that Kate Bapela ended up in the profession that she is in.
The president of the African Public Relations Association, a body governing public relations on the continent, worked hard to be where she is today.
After obtaining her MBA from Bond University SA and a string of public relations certificates, Bapela worked tirelessly to secure her place in the industry.
Her journey started in 1991 when she quit her job as a teacher to pursue a career in public relations.
It didn't take her long to become the first black woman president of the Public Relations and Communication Management Institute of Southern Africa.
Describing herself as an "extremely hard worker and educator", Bapela says her love for the profession has not only opened doors for her, but has made her more determined to create a global stage for young and upcoming PR practitioners.
As an accredited practitioner she has travelled extensively to present papers on the status of public relations in the country.
It was during one of these trips that a Nigerian delegation in London came across her portfolio and immediately tracked her down.
In May 2004 she travelled to Nigeria to attend an annual African PR conference. The meeting was organised by Apra, which represents more than 20000 PR practitioners. Delegates were so impressed by Bapela that they elected her vice-president.
"The inauguration is still vivid in my mind as though it happened yesterday. It was in the royal grounds of Abuja and the king told me that his chef had prepared a special meal for me. Their hospitality was out of this world," she says.
A year later she was appointed president of the 29-year-old organisation.
Bapela says her main challenge is to change the perception that Africa is a "dark continent."
She says: "When people say that, I worry because South Africa is part of the continent. I cannot sit back and do nothing.
"Apra was formed, not only to give practitioners a platform to engage, but also to make sure that we speak with one voice as far as the profession is concerned. If we can do that and politicians and businesses can do the same thing, then we can take the continent to the next level."
Bapela says Apra aims to develop common practices and standards as well as training material that speaks to PR practitioners in Africa.
She says PR is not a glamourous profession.
"There's a perception that PR is glamorous. People think that you must look and sound good to crack it in this industry. They don't realise that it is a demanding profession. You really need stamina to take the long hours," she says.
Her other concern is that men still dominate the profession.
"Women really need to take the ball and run with it.
The industry has matured and there is certainly room for more women," she says.
Bapela, who is also the Independent Elections Commission's chief communications officer, says with the 2010 Fifa World Cup coming, Apra can play a pivotal role in ensuring that the 2010 message is communicated with one voice on the continent.
"When my term ends in 2010, I will bow out knowing that Africa has achieved its goals. Right now we have to get the work done. There is no tomorrow for me. I work hard today because I may just not see tomorrow." Bapela says.