What does the African essence taste like to you?

We need to spread the soft power of the con­ti­nent

African Independent - - BUSINESS -

IS IT pos­si­ble you don’t like the taste of peo­ple who look and speak like you? In Africa and other emerg­ing mar­kets, it’s no se­cret colo­nial­ism cre­ated a bi­ased ap­petite for West­ern cul­ture – but how does this play out in the way we so­cialise, net­work and in­vest our re­sources?

If you ob­serve closely on so­cial me­dia, many peo­ple speak of Africa with a forked tongue, say­ing one thing and do­ing an­other. As a re­searcher into hu­man be­hav­iour, I’m in­trigued by the grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple who preach proudly African but buy and travel West­ern. The hypocrisy is un­set­tling be­cause the contradictions ap­pear mo­ti­vated by hid­den bi­ases from hun­dreds of years of me­dia, po­lit­i­cal and com­mu­nity con­di­tion­ing.

To shift any brand nar­ra­tive, the con­sumer must have a healthy ap­petite for the value of what­ever prod­uct or ser­vice is be­ing of­fered. It’s not enough to talk about over­com­ing self-hate, an in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex. A proac­tive ap­proach must be en­gi­neered that trig­gers a de­sire for our goods, ser­vices and prod­ucts so great the in­stinct to see oth­ers as bet­ter is over­rid­den by an in­her­ent force em­a­nat­ing from the brands of­fered. This self-love model ver­sus anti-oth­ers is per­haps the high­est level of con­scious­ness.

A brand is like a menu from which peo­ple eat. Your val­ues form a va­ri­ety of in­gre­di­ents which you pack­age into be­hav­iour recipes and peo­ple are at­tracted to you based on the di­gestibil­ity of your prod­uct or pres­ence. Es­sen­tially, we are “brand can­ni­bals”. The brands you con­sume are the ones who of­fer you “life nu­tri­ents”, which lead to so­cial and psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits – emo­tional nu­tri­ents such as fun, ef­fi­ciency, in­spi­ra­tion, af­flu­ence, af­fir­ma­tion, self-es­teem, safety etc.

To bet­ter un­der­stand this phe­nom­e­non of so­cial di­ges­tion, let’s delve into can­ni­bal­ism, a con­tro­ver­sial prac­tice where “one hu­man con­sumes an­other or parts of an­other for sur­vival, di­etary, rit­ual and/or patho­log­i­cal rea­sons” (sourced from about.com). Fur­ther re­search re­veals most cul­tures, at some point in their his­tory, have eaten other peo­ple (and many still do). But, the vast ma­jor­ity do so not for the meat but to digest what the per­son rep­re­sents – her­itage, char­ac­ter or “essence”.

Quickly, ask your­self, what does African essence taste like to you and to the rest of the world? And, more im­por­tantly, which brand tastes bet­ter – Brand Italy, France or Africa? The abil­ity to re-con­di­tion the world to taste us dif­fer­ently is a power we own.

In 2003, com­puter ex­pert Ar­min Mei­wes de­cided he wanted to eat some­one who spoke bet­ter English and was more courageous than him. He put his re­quest on­line and re­ceived over 200 replies. He de­cided on Bernard Bran­des. Bran­des em­bod­ied the traits Mei­wes de­sired and, af­ter con­sent, Bran­des was in­vited to Mei­wes’s home, they chat­ted over can­dle­light, Bran­des took a sleep­ing pill and Mei­wes be­gan the cer­e­mony. Once Bran­des was dead, Mei­wes cut up a few ki­los and put it into a fry­ing pan with some olive oil and gar­lic and be­gin to con­sume Bran­des with some fine red wine. Af­ter­wards, Mei­wes re­ported to feel Bran­des’s essence in him; feel­ing more ar­tic­u­late and em­pow­ered.

In an ar­ti­cle by Is­lamic teacher Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani about how anger eats away at the faith’s fol­low­ers, he says: “We can swal­low and digest anger, in the full knowl­edge other forms of nour­ish­ment are soon forth­com­ing.” Chris­tians would be fa­mil­iar with the pas­sage from John 6:53 where Je­sus said: “I tell you the truth, un­less you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

For those of you who are still feel­ing un­com­fort­able, how many times have you seen a cute baby and said: “You are so adorable, I could eat you!”

The point is we are wired to digest essence to ad­vance our so­cial and pro­fes­sional ob­jec­tives. To al­low the world to de­ter­mine how Brand Africa will taste, rather than con­trol­ling the nar­ra­tive, is an in­jus­tice not only to our­selves but to the next gen­er­a­tion.

Our val­ues, linked to the per­ceived value of what we’re di­gest­ing, de­ter­mine what we eat and, ul­ti­mately, how it tastes. This is why some so­ci­eties eat bugs, dogs, cows, chick­ens, snakes, while a neigh­bour­ing so­ci­ety wouldn’t dream of it. But what’s con­sis­tent for all is we seek nour­ish­ment from prop­er­ties deeper than the sur­face of the food. We feed off of peo­ple and brands that rep­re­sent our higher selves. We de­sire peo­ple around us whose pres­ence af­firms us and in­creases us in some way.

The question is how do we af­firm our­selves and then serve it to the world. Imag­ine a world where you ar­rive in New York, Rome or Paris and peo­ple are sali­vat­ing over African restau­rants and lux­ury goods. This chap­ter of his­tory has al­ready started.

African brands are sprout­ing, such as Yswara, the con­ti­nent’s first lux­ury tea brand, founded by Swaady Martin.

But what if our gov­ern­ments un­der­stood the power of en­trepreneurs and brands to change the African taste nar­ra­tive? In China, they are spend­ing bil­lions on this “soft power”.

Hard power is ex­pe­ri­enced through eco­nomic and mil­i­tary might. Soft power is felt through cul­tural and con­sumer forces, such as film, mu­sic and brands. When you see a Ja­panese teenager wear­ing hip hop clothes from Brook­lyn, New York, this is Amer­ica’s soft power at work.

Africa is well po­si­tioned to spread its soft power and have the world change its taste buds.

BREW: Swaady Martin started a lux­ury African tea brand.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.