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  World Economic Forum on Africa
    Cape Town, 31 May 2 June 2006
World Economic Forum on Africa Home   

Strengthening Branding and Changing Perceptions Printer friendly versionSend to a friend
"We can only win the fight against corruption if each and every one of us has zero-tolerance for it. Each of us is a potential taker or a giver, and we need the courage to say no." Arunma Oteh Vice-President, African Development Bank, Tunis
"African brands can travel, but it is hard work and we have to be more innovative about how we do it." Susan M. Clark Member of the Executive Committee and Director, Corporate Affairs, SABMiller, United Kingdom
Africa lacks the international image that correctly reflects the new dynamism and confidence that is palpable on the continent.
•  Africans must aim for proper branding. The positive Africa story needs to be told.
•  A public relations campaign may be required to change perceptions. In 2010, South Africa stands to capitalize on its hosting of the World Cup football finals.
•  To sustain the rebranding effort, Africa must pursue leadership reform to underpin its institutions and the democratic values its people have fostered, particularly the rule of law and freedom of expression.
•  Although a problem everywhere, corruption is a scourge that has long contributed to Africa's poorimage. Africans must squarely address this challenge.

For the moment, Africa lacks an international image to match the real growth of its economies, and the vibrant aspirations of its peoples. News headlines highlight only war, famine, criminally mismanaged aid or epidemic disease. Participants committed themselves to rebranding Africa, building on recent achievements, such as South Africa's winning bid for the 2010 World Cup, to spread the word that Africa is a promising place to visit and in which to do business.

From Cape Town to Cairo, Africans have been feeling good about the direction of their countries and their continent as a whole. A recent Voice of the People poll showed that a majority (52%) of Africans are optimistic about the future. With the most encouraging economic indicators in 30 years, and unprecedented peace and prosperity, Africa should be courted by Western investors and visited by foreign tourists. Instead, Westerners still view Africa as "the hopeless continent".

Emulating and sustaining success: Joaquim Alberto Chissano, Director, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), South Africa and President of Mozambique (1986-2004); Reuel J. Khoza, Chairman, Nedbank Group, South Africa; Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania, during
the discussion on "Changing the Tone of African Leadership"
"It's the CNN effect," said Charles Soludo, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. While civil war in Sudan and Uganda dominate headlines, stories of conflict resolution and unprecedented growth fall off back pages. "We should do the branding properly," said Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, "to tell this very, very positive story."

Several recommendations and commitments to enhancing the international perception of Africa emerged from the discussions.

Rehabilitate Africa's Image
Participants called for an outright public relations campaign to overhaul the image of the continent internationally. Some recommended branding Africa "the next big thing" or the "must-have" trading partner with "must-have" products.

Others suggested involving celebrities in an "I am an African" campaign. A homecoming-themed campaign should target the African diaspora. Film companies should be encouraged to shoot movies in African locations. The Forum of Young Global Leaders committed to sponsoring a film series highlighting African success stories.

Africa achieved a good first step towards changing perceptions last year when South Africa won its bid to host the 2010 World Cup. To capitalize on the opportunity for all of Africa, the games must highlight a continent that is not only safe but warm and welcoming. "The World Cup is 43 days that can completely change the perceptions about our country and our continent," said Yvonne Johnston, Chief Executive Officer, The International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC), South Africa.

Strengthen Brands
Part of overhauling the perception of Africa is increasing the awareness of, and desire for, its products. African brands should be strengthened and strategies should be adopted to increase their value and availability in markets overseas. While much national pride existed for particular products beer from Kenya, diamonds from South Africa several participants agreed with Simon Anholt, Independent Consultant on Branding, United Kingdom, that Africa's brand image was "an ongoing catastrophe".

"Brand Africa has to be deleted," he said, "so we can develop 54 individual brands with their own brand values." Others encouraged advertising strategies rooted in the myriad cultures, rather than in national iconographies. "African brands can travel," said Susan M. Clark, "but it is hard work and we have to be more innovative about how we do it."

Reform Leadership
Perhaps the most direct way of enhancing the image of Africa is by changing the nature of its leaders. "We must become the change we want to see," said one participant, citing Mahatma Gandhi. To do this, Africa must develop the next generation of leaders that will bring Africa forward into a peaceful and prosperous new century.

"Poverty need not be hereditary": Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka extols the potential of social entrepreneurship as a driver of growth

African history has several examples of strong leadership, including Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Today, democratic systems have replaced dictatorships in many countries, term limits have replaced life terms and direct elections have replaced military coups.

We must nourish the institutional reforms that underpin democracy," said Reuel J. Khoza, Chairman, Nedbank Group, South Africa. "The rule of law, an independent judiciary and basic freedoms such as freedom of expression and freedom of the press must be entrenched and become part of the DNA of our democracy." Other goals include fostering trust and cooperation between business and government leaders and encouraging responsible opinion-shaping from the media.
Africa must also train the next generation of Mandelas and Nyereres to ensure that democracy lasts across the continent. Once again, The Forum of Young Global Leaders has committed to helping NEPAD in its leadership programme with a pledge to establish leadership development institutes across Africa.

Corruption, which costs African economies US$ 150 billion every year, remains a significant obstacle to trustworthy leadership, and thus to investment-worthy countries. A World Economic Forum initiative is tackling the problem. The 103 signatories to the Forum's Partnering Against Corruption Initiative have pledged to engage the African business community.

Ultimately, however, corruption, like Africa's poor image, can only be overcome if each African takes into their heart the ideals of a new continent. "Each of us is a potential taker or giver [of bribes]," said Arunma Oteh, Vice-President, African Development Bank, Tunis, "and we need the courage to say no."

"There is a strange arrogance among some business leaders that they would be better at running the country than the politicians." Mark J. Lamberti Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive, Massmart Holdings South Africa

"The perception of Africa must change from being a black hole into which money disappears to being a fertile field for growth." Simon Anholt Independent Consultant on Branding, United Kingdom

"We must nourish the institutional reforms that underpin democracy." Reuel J. Khoza Chairman, Nedbank Group, South Africa