#SpeakforAfrica: Highlights of Day One of the 2019 Global Africa Forum on Communications

The first-ever Global Africa Forum on Communications (GAFCOMM) is currently taking place in Kigali, Rwanda at the Kigali Convention Center. This meeting themed “Speak For Africa: New communications frontier for Africa’s growth story,” is being attended by 400 Executives and 30 speakers from over 20 countries. 

The first session, the Place Branding Chat was panelled by Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Republic of Ghana’s Minister For Information, Artur Miranda, Regional Operations Director, Coca-Cola East & Central Africa Franchise, Andisa Ntsubane, Head Marketing Strategy, Planning & Africa Marketing, Old Mutual, South Africa and Perez Tigidam, Convener of the Global Africa Forum on Communications/ CEO of Arden and Newton. They all spoke about the unique language of brands and how this language impacts the narrative of telling African Stories.

“For us in Ghana, the unique language of our brand and what it represents for us simply speaks to what we like to call the can-do spirit,” said Oppong Nkurumah.  He also said that as Ghana got into a democratic space, the country also tried to project itself and putting the black man at the forefront to championing his own course, to tell the world that he can do or that we are capable of building and do well.

Tigidam who explained why he thinks brands should strategically key into the big dream stated that for him, the most important thing for Africa was about integration and connectivity. He also said that whatever you’ve always seen over time, that is what you get used to and until you see or begin to see something different, nothing changes about your opinion and perspective about certain things. What we’ve always known about Africa, is what we’ve always been told. Now we need to begin to think about how we tell ourselves about Africa, how do we tell ourselves about ourselves. 

“For us, our brand is that of a Unifier, that of a platform builder and of an accelerator. That is what we do with TheNerve Africa,” Tigidam said. 

“Brand Africa Guru,” Thebe Ikalafeng, Founder, Brand Leadership Group, South Africa who gave a keynote titled “Trading places: New Horizons for Country Branding.” He revealed that in order to change the narrative of the continent and move forward, we need to first rebrand Africa. According to him there are 7 ways that he believes the continent can be rebranded and they include Culture, Identity, Owning our Narrative, Intellectual Property, Own the Value chain, connect and Brands and Branding.

“We need to rebrand this continent. We need to own our story. We need to tell our own story ourselves,” said Ikalafeng.

There was also another panel on Country Reputation and Impact On Local, Global Business and Investment Attractiveness moderated by Mimi Kalinda, CEO of Africa Communications Group in South Africa.

During the panel session, Tim Morris, Senior Adviser, Africa Matters Limited, London said that Africa is fighting against global ignorance about Africa and the tendency to lump everyone together. There is a need for some form of collective activity to promote Africa and some form of campaign. It is also extremely important that each country builds up its own business proposition. Countries should think of two or three unique selling points that their country has or a particular strength and they need to build up strategies and policies around them rather than talking about generality. Africa can raise their profiles but they need to develop the tools, stories the case studies to do so.

Richard Kiplagat, Managing Director, East Africa, Africa Practice, Kenya revealed that we have to build our new narratives on seven primary things which are the state of governance of the country, the culture of the country, Tourism, business climate, taxes,  people and skills and trade. 

“We must go beyond just the communications we have to go deeper. we have to look at the substance. we must make sure that there is consistency.”

Gina Din-Kariuki, CEO/Founder, Gina Din Group Kenya handled a powerful session alone where she spoke on “How Executives Can Help Drive and Shape Corporate Narrative and Reputation.”

 “The CEO must understand what the brand values are. Communication professionals must also know how to say “No, that’s not how that works,” said Din-Kariuki.

She revealed the dangers of a single story for the African continent, being conscious about changing the narrative and consciously looking out for positive untold stories in Africa. But to truly leave our mark, to truly catalyze change, we must move from the virtual into the real, to be unafraid of dissonance without the veil of anonymity.

She also urged the executives at the event to use these 3 days in Kigali to commit to a shared vision that places diversity of voices and diversity of stories at the centre of how the 55 countries are sold to the world.

Click here to see activities from Day 1