Nation Brand Forum explores ways to build an inspiring South Africa

Civil society, the private sector and the government sought ways to build social cohesion and discussed a means for the nation to pull in one direction in telling the country’s story, at the inaugural Brand South Africa Nation Brand Forum.

240816 Nation Brand Forum articleBrand South Africa CEO Kingsley Makhubela expanded on the theme of cohesion and its importance in building a strong nation brand.

By Sulaiman Philip

A nation must strive “to accentuate and promote local distinctiveness as a competitive advantage”, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi said at Brand South Africa’s inaugural Nation Brand Forum on 24 August 2016.

“The rapid advance of globalisation means that every country, every region and every city must compete with each other for its share of the world’s consumers, tourists, investors, students, entrepreneurs, and international sporting and cultural events.”

Brand South Africa board member Janine Hills, Vuma Reputation Management CEO and programme director on the day, echoed the minister’s sentiments. She reminded the audience that the country had just conducted a successful election. Despite all the negativity, South Africa, she explained, was maturing as a democracy. “Yes, we have challenges but we are a changing nation.

“We must be proud to be South Africans. I love this country. This is our country. We need to get over ourselves. We need to talk with each other,” she added.

Brand South Africa CEO Kingsley Makhubela expanded on the theme of cohesion and its importance in building a strong nation brand. He explained that the forum was called to discuss three issues:

• How to manage the reputation of a nation brand
• How to best project South Africa as a nation brand
• How to best define the narrative that South Africa wants to tell the world

He reminded the audience that they were from the three most important spheres of society. As the government, civil society and the private sector, it fell to them to create and build a positive nation brand.

South Africa was a strong, resilient democracy, a narrative often overlooked because the nation tended to concentrate on the challenges it faced. “Before the election we were saying ‘these elections won’t be free and fair’. This was the message communicated to the outside world. And what happened? We have resilient, robust institutions. We should celebrate our strengths,” Makhubela said.

The local government elections were held on 3 August.

The Nation Brand Forum has its origins in the 2015/16 Department of Communications budget vote, tabled by the minister in parliament on 20 May 2015. By bringing together civil society, the private sector and the government, the expectation is that the nation will pull in one direction and sing from the same hymn sheet.

Before the plenary sessions began the minister reminded the audience that they were there to find ways to build social cohesion. They were encouraged to find, “the ‘how’ of achieving an inspiring South Africa. Brand South Africa understands that it is imperative that everyone plays a part towards making South Africa a better country.”

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