A Quest for Africa's Competitive Edge
The Brand Kenya Board and its South African counterpart recently held a roundtable meeting in Nairobi with key stakeholders to address challenges facing Africa in developing its global competitiveness.
Under the title ‘ Perceptions versus the reality of intra – African relations: South Africa & Kenya’, Brand Kenya and Brand South Africa sought to address the key issues of how country brands can assist build the continental brand. They also examined how branding can help governments become more competitive in the global economy.
The consultative session is part of a research project that is developing an in-depth analysis of South Africa’s interactions with and reputation in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.
Similar roundtable sessions will be held in Ghana and Nigeria.
Brand Kenya Chief Executive Officer, veteran marketer, Ms Mary Kimonye, said African governments need to fast track integration processes which will give the continent immense power as a trading block.
She said it was important to strengthen trade relations between African states and that Kenya holds an important position in building the continent’s economy.
“We need to start building our African brand before we think of marketing our countries. Branding should be about telling better stories about Africa by engaging the media more constructively,” she said.
Brand Kenya Board is a state corporation that is charged with building Kenya’s image nationally, regionally and internation-
ally. It has played a sterling role in positioning the country as an important investor and tourist destination.
In hosting the roundtable with Brand South Africa, Ms Kimonye was seeking to have the two nations combine their strengths and advantages to position Africa as a competitive investment destination.
Kenya is the economic hub of the East African Community and the Great Lakes region while South Africa is the lynchpin of the South Africa Development Community region.
She expressed her dismay about how the media portrays Africa. “Africa is unique with 53 countries, but out there, the documented story of the continent is one that is driven by negative forces. It is perpetuated by media headlines that are not meant to inform but make profit for the media owners.
“Therefore, the headlines give stories of a continent that is backward, with child soldiers, dictators, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, and all the negatives images we are aware of. But behind this tweaked story, is a beautiful tale of a people who are resilient, who work against all odds to develop their continent to the point that the storyline has changed and Africa is rising,” she said.
Africa has enormous resources in minerals, energy and people, which must be exploited but no nation is big enough to do it alone, cautioned Kimonye.
Her comments resonated well with the Brand South Africa Chief Executive Officer, Mr Miller Matola, “With South Africa and Kenya celebrating key developmental milestones in 2014; that is 20 and 50 years of democracy respectively, the opportunity arises for each of us to evaluate our national brands and how we com- municate this message - to our neighbours, other African countries and the world,” he said.
Brand South Africa is the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation, helping to improve its global competitiveness. It also aims to build pride and patriotism among South Africans, contributing to social cohesion and nation brand ambassadorship.
Matola said South Africa, which is Africa’s most developed economy, was committed to working with other African countries to leverage their inter-country strengths and competitive advantages. This is the only way to position Africa as a competitive investment destination.
“These conversations and the participation of other stakeholders, including business, are important in sharing lessons learnt and challenges in the quest for economic and social development in our countries and the continent through profiling our individual competitiveness,” he said.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Kenya, HE Rutubatsi Super Moloi couldn’t agree more. “The more competitive a nation is, the stronger the nation brand, and the more investment it can attract. African countries in working towards this can, therefore, make an invaluable impact on the reputation and competitiveness of our continent.
“We need to ask ourselves what sells America today. We can talk about Hollywood or the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), though it creates problems of obesity. These are the brands that sell America today,” he said.
Despite African economies being among the fastest growing in the world, “we are not telling our stories ourselves, thus all that
is seen about the continent is negative,” said Moloi.
“It is our duty as African to tell the world why Africa is indeed the continent to be in this century. But let me hasten to state that we are unfortunate because our story is told by others and, in the process, is slanted towards the negative,” he said.
The meeting between, arguably, Africa’s two top brands is seen as part of the Brand Africa Forum’s efforts to improve the image of the continent.
The Brand Africa Forum is an intergenerational engagement platform for decision-makers, leaders and influential global figures in the private, public and civil sectors on issues that impact on the reputation, competitiveness and future of Africa.
It enables governments to engage society and the media in saying Africa’s side of the story and is complemented by a series of regional and diaspora Brand Africa Roundtables held in the run-up to and post the Brand Africa FORUM. The Brand Africa Roundtables focus the host country and/or regional issues linked to key socio-economic reports such as the Most Valuable African Nation Brands, Most Valued African Brands, Africa Competitiveness Report, and Perception and Investment Reports. BRAND AFRICA FORUM The inaugural Brand Africa FORUM in 2010 was hosted by Brand South Africa in September 2010 in South Africa. Brand Africa has, attracted captains of nation branding institutions of leading African countries such as Kenya, South Africa and Ghana. It has captured the attention of private sector decision-makers from the global, African and emerging market nations of Nigeria, India, China and South Africa.
For Brand Kenya and Ms Kimonye, the Forum occupies a special place; the inaugural Brand Africa Roundtable - East Africa was held in Nairobi on Africa Day, May 25, 2012. The theme was‘ Value of a Nation Brand as a Catalyst for Competitiveness’ with business tycoon and the chairman of Haco Tiger Brands, Mr Chris Kirubi, the CEO of Brand Finance plc, Mr. David Haigh and industrialist Dr Manu Chandaria, Chairman and CEO of Comcroft Group taking part.
The highlight of the roundtable discussion was the announcement of the 2nd Top 10 ‘Most Valuable African Nations’ led by South Africa ($218b), Egypt ($109b) and Nigeria ($88b) and host nation, Kenya in 8th position at $19bn.
The Brand Africa FORUM™ 2011 focused on key questions which are catalytic to Africa’s growth, reputation and competitiveness:
How can South Africa leverage its membership to BRIC to raise Africa’s voice and influence African economic investment and growth beyond 7 per cent?
What market-driven interventions and policies can African nations learn from other BRIC nations to transform the continent’s economy?
How can savvy African business and brands inspire and empower other African brands to grow beyond financial services, FMCG and telecommunications?
Are many African businesses looking to African expansion ahead of global development? If so, what are the implications of looking inward rather than internationally?
What type of leadership is be required to build an enabling environment and systems to inspire growth, investment and innovation in Africa?
What is the youth’s vision for Africa?
It was hosted by Brand South Africa and brought together more than 300 pan-African decision makers, thought leaders, influencers and media
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