Brand South Africa chairperson Anitha Soni, speaking at the Brand Africa Forum in Johannesburg on Thursday, challenged African nations to co-operate in developing strong country brands to improve the continent’s global competitiveness.
Soni told a gathering of more than 300 government, business and civil society representatives at the Sandton Convention Centre that this would require better cooperation and information sharing among African countries.
Hosted by Brand South Africa and the Brand Leadership Academy and featuring several high-profile local and international speakers, the 2nd annual forum sought to harness African and global wisdom and experience to find home-grown solutions to improving the continent’s image and reputation.
Brand Africa founder and chairman Thebe Ikalafeng, addressing the forum, said that a key to increasing Africa’s growth was to be found in “in stimulating and growing thriving African and global businesses and brands in Africa,” which in turn required a better understanding of local environments.
‘Brand equity’ counts in tough times
Brand South Africa CEO Miller Matola said that, in times of economic uncertainty such as the world is presently undergoing, “brand equity” would attract direct foreign investment.
“The return on risk is obviously a factor which will be taken into account, but a country’s reputation for financial excellence and maturity will be the real driving factor,” Matola said.
Zimbabwe Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara told delegates that the benefits of nation branding were immense, “as they have both financial and non-financial implications.
“But it is critical to ensure that the country brand transcends political affiliation,” Mutambara said. “Our politicians need to be aware that, as nation brand ambassadors, they have to sacrifice political gain in lieu of the greater brand, the country.”
Mutambara said that in order for Africans to gain international respect, the continent as a whole had first to excel.
‘Country branding is not by accident’
“Country branding is not by accident. It is a strategic, holistic engagement which is a long-term commitment, at least 20 years. Only then can we claim success on all levels, personal, national and continental.”
He also highlighted the need for African countries to create pockets of excellence both to foster economic growth and development and to improve international competitiveness.
Other speakers at the forum included international economist Dambisa Moyo, author of Dead Aid and How the West was Lost, Malik Fal, managing director of Endeavour, and Vijay Mahajan, author of Africa Rising.
During his keynote address on the BRICS group of fast-growing emerging economies, Vijay Mahajan stressed the significance of Africa as a new market that could not be ignored.
“Africa is richer than you think, and it is certainly not a ‘media dark’ continent,” Mahajan said. “In light of this, the BRICS economies [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] have both a direct and indirect role to play in Africa’s continued growth and development.”