Some African countries have been able to successfully improve their economies through tested corporate branding techniques. These economies have also recorded impressive growth in tourism, increased investors confidence and general appeal. For communications and branding professionals, nation branding has grown to become an important business, by helping nations in portraying competitive identities. Countries can claim a distinct brand positioning in the minds of its citizens, international stakeholders and the global customer. It’s not only good for the country, but it’s also good for its companies, as the companies feed off the country’s image. Think of Italian fashion, Swiss watches, French wine, etc.
South African Thebe Ikalafeng, the Founder of Brand Leadership Group, who gave a keynote on the first day of the first-ever Global Africa Forum on Communications (GAFCOMM) themed Speak For Africa taking place in Kigali, Rwanda from August 21 to 23, 2019, spoke on the topic “TRADING PLACES: New Horizons for Country Branding. Ikalafeng started this session with a quote saying “The idea that the world is aiding Africa is flawed. It is Africa that is aiding the rest of the world.”
Thebe revealed that we are aiding the world with our own sweat and tears. They bring in $132 billion and take $192 billion. Meaning that aid is not working for us, aid is crippling us as a continent. “They are eating from our plate while we grow hungry and they look at us and say that we are hungry and poor. This is the time to change our narrative as Africans and move forward because we are making money these days. Consumer spending in Africa is in billions and trillions, and we are urbanizing at an increasing rate. An Accenture report projects that urbanization in Africa is expected to reach 62 percent by 2050. Kigali is already taking the lead as the cleanest country in the continent,” the Brand Africa Guru revealed
According to reports from the United Nations and World Bank, Africa’s population is expected to reach two million by 2050. However, Ikalafeng is of the opinion that we should not apologise as Africans that we are making babies because that is one issue that we don’t have as Africans. He also stated that Africa is a peaceful continent and urged Africans not to be confused about what is happening in places like Sudan “whatever happens in that country is Africa taking charge of their destiny and we are doing it aggressively and because we want to move the continent forward.”
In order to change the narrative of the continent and move forward, Ikalafeng said that we need to first rebrand Africa. According to him here are seven ways that he believes we can rebrand the continent:
We can move the continent forward by our culture because it is who we are and they can find us everywhere. This is because if we are proud of our culture we won’t look at the Massai and say that they are a tribe or that they are primitive. If we are proud of who we are we won’t be shy to take it to the rest of the world. For instance, Esther Mahlangu 83, is the only Artist that has been asked twice by a global brand like BMW to bring her culture into their brand because she loves her culture.
We should not be apologising. Whether you are a king or not you should not dress like the soldiers from England just be who you are. Thebe said that we should appreciate it when the East Africans said that they are going to speak Kiswahili because it is the biggest language in the continent and it should be celebrated. Mandela once said that if you speak to somebody in their language it goes straight into their heart. When we speak our language we are excited we are bubbly but when we speak English we think we are so important.
3. Owning our Narrative
We need to tell our stories because if we don’t tell it CNN, BBC, Aljazeera will tell it for us from their perspective. Thebe said that we need to appreciate some of the people like Nigerians that are already telling their own story. Cameroonian Tonje Bakang decided to come up with Africastream to provide African and African Diaspora film through subscription just like Netflix. Another part of changing our narratives is understanding our history whether it is further years of slavery or South Africa’s apartheid just take that story and decide which part of the story you want to tell the world, tell it as your own.
Thebe spoke Standard Bank’s advert which says they call it Africa. We call it Home “if it is your home you will make it work if it is your home you will fix it. If it is your home you will not look anywhere else for solutions.”
4. Intellectual Property
We need to own our ideas. Africans started using match sticks broken into two to pick their teeth but our idea was turned into a toothpick. Now we don’t own toothpicks, it is being sold to us. Starbucks came to Africa and they started buying coffee from our continent. After buying for $2, the made $24. The people of Ethiopia decide to travel to America to find out how they were able to sell for $24 and they were told that it was possible through branding. Ethiopians came back and decided to brand their coffee and when Starbucks came back they were told that coffee was sold for $24 and they were surprised. After years of argument between both countries on the price of Coffee, they decided to meet halfway to fix the price.
“We need to spend money on research and development and trademark our ideas,” Thebe said.
5. Own the Value chain
We need to own the value chain of our businesses. From the planting of the seed to the minute it ends up on the shelf. Let’s take a clue from Botswana which decided to form its own diamond company after realizing that almost all the value chain of producing its diamond was done outside the country and creating jobs for others while their people remained unemployed. Botswana now produces its diamond in the country it now owns the value chain for diamond thereby creating jobs for its nationals.
Africa needs to connect as it doesn’t make sense that only 15 percent of African trade with each other because they are happy to go and buy a house in London or America and they think they have arrived. We need to do more business with each other that is we have to appreciate efforts that are being made to make travelling across Africa easy. We also need to have our own currencies.
7. Brands and Branding
It’s not going to help us that we put up pictures of us in Gucci, Channel and Louis Vuitton on Instagram rather than our own African brands. We haven’t arrived until we do our own thing. Arriving is creating our own brands from here and feeding them such as Mpesa.
Thebe who cited a Brand Africa 100 report, revealed that 80 percent of the Brands that Africans admire are not African brands said: “we need to make sure that we are creating competitive brands and not allow other brands of the world dominate us. We need to rebrand this continent. We need to own our story. We need to tell our own story ourselves.”