Indepth analysis by some of the country’s top academics highlighted domestic issues influencing the reputation and competitiveness of the nation’s brand, at a Brand South Africa competitiveness forum held at the University of Pretoria, Tshwane, on 5 October 2016.
“Gupta-gate, Nkandla scandal, Dalai Lama (visa debacle), (uncertainty surrounding Finance Minister) Pravin Gordhan and other incidents such as these, have a negative influence in our country,” said Dr Garth le Pere, visiting professor in the university political science department, during one of the forum’s panel discussions.
Le Pere added that South Africa’s reputational cache in foreign policy and its relationships with the rest of the world and Africa had been affected because of this uncertainty. He urged politicians, diplomats and, indeed, all South Africans to reclaim and help build on the country’s strong historical moral identity before the overall brand image suffered more permanent damage.
On the same panel, Professor George Angelopulo, from Unisa’s communication science department, said that while the economic and reputational growth of South African cities contributed greatly to building the nation’s brand, mismanagement of urban areas and economic inequality still exerted a negative influence on how perceptions of the country were formed.
“Cities hold many benefits, but in the rapid transformation that characterises South Africa’s cities there are also significant challenges,” Angelopulo said. “Urbanisation is swift and largely uncontrolled, with growing slums and informal settlements, unequal access to urban services, significant climate impact and rising inequality.”
Cities fulfilled a vital role in the destiny of the country because, as competitive positions within the nation, the economies of cities were connections to the rest of Africa and the world, he said, emphasising that cities must be “relevant to a wide spectrum of stakeholders of the South African brand – national and international business, institutions, government and its citizens”.
Earlier in the day, during his introduction to the forum, general manager of research at Brand South Africa Dr Petrus de Kock drew attention to the recent university protests creating uncertainty about the reputation of South Africa’s tertiary education sector.
“We must maintain the integrity of institutions and the protests are raising a question of instability of institutions and that’s something we really have to safeguard and protect because it’s an important nation asset.”
Individuals, he said, underlying the forum’s overall theme of responsible citizenship, were the key to building the country’s reputation. Citizens, be they private or working in public or commercial service, had a responsibility to uphold the values that were the core of South African democracy and decency, urging that all “South Africans take responsibility of what you do”.
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