South Africans are ready for action

research---textDr Petrus de Kock revealing the findings of the research papers.

South Africa’s competitiveness is determined by many things, but none are as important as the perceptions of its citizens and those of people in other countries.

With this in mind, Brand South Africa and Power FM, the Joburg talk radio station, hosted a roundtable discussion on several research reports that looked at these perceptions.

Participating in the discussion were Brand South Africa’s general manager of research, Petrus de Kock, and the general manager of stakeholder relations, Mpumi Mabuza, as well as Power FM’s Marketing Manager Thabisile Khumalo.

Research reports presented for discussion included:

  • South Africans being a united nation against the attacks on foreign nationals;
  • Findings on levels of active citizenship and social cohesion;
  • Results on evolving the nation brand identity through a collective heritage;
  • Findings from the WEF Africa Research Seminar Report; and
  • Brand optimism and youth development findings from Brand South Africa’s Domestic Perceptions Research.

“South Africans on the whole are extremely proud of the country and its achievements,” De Kock said. “Key concerns however, pertain to crime, corruption, and lack of employment opportunities. That being said, survey results also indicate that citizens want to focus on solutions and that South Africans are willing to take action, rather than wait for someone else.”

The National Development Plan (NDP), or Vision 2030, could be seen as part of South Africa’s national competitiveness programme that identified the key constraints to faster growth and presented a roadmap to a more inclusive economy that would address the country’s socio-economic imbalances.

“It is important for South Africa to manage its reputation, to ensure the country is positively positioned internationally – because this improves the country’s competitiveness, which in turn will attract investment, business and trade which is tied to job creation,” he explained.

The range of competitive and human development indicators studied and presented by Brand South Africa, together with international investor perceptions of the country, provide building blocks that can effectively contribute to South Africa’s national competitiveness as outlined by the NDP. The plan seeks to increase productivity and thus improve living standards for South Africans.

NO TO ATTACKS ON FOREIGN NATIONALS

One of the research papers presented explored how South Africans stood together against the violent attacks on foreign nationals in April.

The aim of the paper was to unpack how South Africans showed the true spirit of the country and its people. This was done through a huge and sustained mobilisation against acts of violence perpetrated against African immigrants.

“This report illustrates the strong and unequivocal rejection of violence perpetrated against immigrants from peer African states living in South African communities,” De Kock said.

“We call on our stakeholders to continue to seek new and inspiring ways of integrating the continent, and addressing some of the local [South African] and continental root causes of social tensions in our communities.”

ACTIVE CITIZENSHIP AND SOCIAL COHESION

The findings from Brand South Africa’s Domestic Perceptions Research contributed to developing an understanding of how South Africans perceived the nation brand. In particular, it tracked indicators such as national pride, attitudes, values and beliefs.

According to Brand South Africa, on the Active Citizenship Index the country scores 68%, which falls into the “good” category. It implies that more than half of South Africa’s citizens participate actively in their respective communities, which includes involvement in a voluntary activity or engaging with local government agencies; are empowered to play a part in the decisions and processes that affect them, particularly public policy and services; have a fair amount of knowledge and understanding of the political, social and economic context of their participation so that they can make informed decisions; and are able to challenge policies or actions and existing structures on the basis of principles such as equality, inclusiveness, diversity and social justice.

NATION BRAND IDENTITY THROUGH COLLECTIVE HERITAGE

In March and April, several incidents cast the spotlight on issues pertaining to historical symbols, statues, and the public representation of the country’s national heritage. In May, Brand South Africa, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, hosted a research reference group on the theme “Evolving the nation brand identity through a collective heritage”.

“I believe the issue here is the distinction between history and heritage. We assume history is heritage but this is not the case,” said De Kock.

One of the conclusions of the research was that the more challenging aspects of our history would be the need to address our history of violence and how that history had scarred our society. The question to ask was why do we as a society tend to resort to violence to address these and other issues?

DOMESTIC PERCEPTIONS

Also in March, Brand South Africa received the results of one of its flagship research projects – the Domestic Perceptions Research.

Through this national survey, the organisation keeps its finger on the pulse of the nation, particularly focusing on perceptions of the country and its future outlook.

From this research report it was concluded among other things that while there was a strong sense of national pride, the key concerns, which affected pride to some extent, pertained to crime, corruption, and a lack of job opportunities. These factors were well recognised as key social challenges the country had to work to overcome.

It also indicated that as a relatively young and evolving democracy, South Africa continued to confront historical challenges and legacy issues. In the process of developing its society, it was important to focus on solutions and to find new and inspiring ways of engaging with problems and challenges.