Mpumi Mabuza of Brand South Africa said that in order to properly represent the country, the Absa group needs to understand the direction it is taking.
(Images: Kgopi Mabotja)
• Barry Hiles
Brand South Africa
Digital content manager
+27 11 483 0122
Brand South Africa hosted a high-level delegation from banking leader Absa on 3 July, to hold discussions on how the country was perceived globally across a spectrum of issues including economics, politics, education and skills availability.
The group from Absa were on a leadership training program run by the company; they will soon leave for New York and São Paulo respectively on a mission to investigate sustainable business practices and observe new trends that will contribute to South Africa’s knowledge and skills base.
Speaking on the day, Enoch Malisa, head of debit and cheques at Absa, said the trip abroad will also help the group to “get a context for the role of South Africa in the world economy”.
Mpumi Mabuza, Brand South Africa’s manager of stakeholder relations for business, said it was important that the Absa group understood the direction the country is taking, as a basis for their mission and to be good ambassadors of South Africa.
“We invited you here today because you are going out of the country and you are brand ambassadors. It is important that we speak in one voice and remain consistent in our messaging because the way we are perceived outside our borders affects our brand,” said Mabuza.
Brand South Africa’s research Manager Petrus de Kock presented a wide range of information, painting a comprehensive picture of South Africa’s position in relation to the rest of Africa and the world.
De Kock said South Africa has made huge strides since the advent of democracy to position itself as a global player, and that its inclusion in the Brics bloc of developing nations and the G20 structures was an affirmation that its role in the continent and in the world was paramount.
“We did not ask to be included in Brics – we were invited. China made a very strong case for our inclusion, and it’s a strong endorsement of South Africa’s growth in global governance. An important part in our messaging is to tell that story,” he said.
Drawing a comparison between South Africa and other developing countries in Brics, De Kock said the country was on par.
“If you look at the overall performance of Brics in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness report, China is at 29, Brazil at 48 and South Africa is at 52, which means we are third in the group in terms of competiveness.
“But if you look at South Africa’s overall performance in the financial market development we remain third in the world out of 144 countries. This is one of our key international messages as Brand South Africa,” said De Kock.
He said if South Africa as a developing nation is ranked amongst the 40s and 50s in world then the country is on the right path. “The Obama visit is one of the important stories that attest to our recognition.”
A great journey lies ahead
De Kock said in spite of the progress made since the dawn of democracy, there is still a great journey ahead. Brand South Africa’s specific focus leading up to 20 years of democracy in 2014 will be used to communicate the direction which the country is taking, as well as key government strategies such as the National Development Plan (NDP).
“Twenty years of democracy is becoming quite a priority for us as Brand South Africa. In terms of messaging we have already started emphasising that point in some of our international programs. The NDP forms part of our key messaging,” De Kock added.
He urged the Absa group to speak about the NDP whenever the opportunity arises – “Not only what the plan is about, but to raise awareness of our long-term policy projects projection. It’s important that we have the NDP which is a multi-stakeholder thing owned by the whole country, including business and civil society. All people here have a role to play in contributing not only to the debate but taking ownership as well.”
The NDP, launched in early February is a long-term governmental strategy which aims, among others, to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to this plan South Africa can realise its goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnership throughout society.
Major infrastructure development
Asked about the major focus of the current administration under President Jacob Zuma, De Kock said that the infrastructure drive was central to the objective of developing a flourishing economy.
“Hence we have the national infrastructure plan, which is in the ownership of the presidential infrastructure coordinating committee. I would say this has been a highlight of President Zuma’s administration.”
De Kock said infrastructure alone could add colour to the Absa group’s discussions. “The kind of infrastructure we delivered during the 2010 Fifa World Cup is an interesting talking point, especially now that you will be going to Brazil.”
Logan Redhi, Absa’s supplier relations manager, raised the point about South Africa using its stadiums post-World Cup, ensuring they did not turn into white elephants. “This makes a good selling point on sustainability. We have been able to hosts concerts, rugby games and many other events.”
Talking about education
On education and skills, De Kock said research shows positive indicators that education has become more accessible since democracy, even though its quality needs improvement. “Yes there can be a lack of skills, but we cannot forget that already we have tremendous skills in the mining, financial, and manufacturing sectors, so we must build on that.”
Another possible talking point suggested by De Kock was the on-going discussions about the creation of a trilateral free trade area, a project that trade and industry minister Rob Davies is part of.
“It will basically create a common market among Southern Africa’s developing nations and in East and Central Africa to connect about 650-million people. Free trade area will have a combined GDP of US$624-billion (R6.25-trillion),” he said.
Redhi later said: “For me it has reinforced my thinking about the awesome country we live in.”
Wyna Modisapodi, Absa’s corporate legal counsel, said the occasion was “an eye opener about the blossoming county that is South Africa.”