A Quest for Africa's Com­pet­i­tive Edge

Diplomat East Africa - - Diplospeak - SPE­CIAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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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