Rationale

Having successfully hosted the Brand Summit South Africa in Cape Town in May 2018, then in Sandton, South Africa, in June 2019, the calls have continued to grow for the event’s thematic and strategic reach to expand further in order to embrace the entire African continent, as destination perception issues at country-level also reappear at continental level, at home and abroad, and inform attitudes about individual countries and the entire African continent.

Ultimately, perceptions inform investor sentiments and attitudes. They can make or break any destination’s success in generating goodwill; which is the basis for positive engagements with the outside world.

Individual countries in Africa and the continent at a broad level continue to fail using all of their resources and potential to benefit African economic development and to position the continent as net exporter of food crops, a magnet for key and rare global skills, a magnet for foreign tertiary students seeking quality higher education whose credentials are respected around the world, as well as a magnet for lucrative foreign exchange earning business in Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events.

African leaders must also work harder at creating an enabling environment for cross-country and regional business; growth of the agrarian economy, seamless movement of goods and skills, as well as business friendly customs regimes where companies, especially established brands that work across various borders, are not subjected to unnecessary red tape.

Project Context

In the minds of millions of people around the world, especially those who have never been to Africa, perceptions about Africa tend to be negative, on the whole. Immediate associations with Africa/ being African, reference poverty, corruption, laziness, maladies, backwardness, archaic traditional systems, mores that stand in the way of modernity, etc. Such perceptions often work against all efforts to promote Africa as a place to do business, to go for tertiary studies, etc. In the end, they impede Africa’s full integration into the world economy as a place of new knowledge creation, innovation, beyond it being a mere source of natural resources.

Since the Brand Summit Africa-Africa Brand Summit proposes to become a respected platform for frank, politically unaligned, conversations – a place where Africans get to look into the mirror and acknowledge their own role in Africa’s perennially negative image – some people might find it to be an uncomfortable platform to participate in.

To date, we have managed to attract the participation of highly respected, ethical, and inspirational leaders in the public service, private business, civil society, media, etc. to speak at the summit. They have come from South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, USA, Russia, Hungary, India, the UK, Switzerland, Portugal, Bulgaria, etc. Their impact, individually and collectively, has raised the bar for us. We intend to keep it that way.

Justification for the project

  • Individual countries in Africa and the continent as a whole continue to suffer from perceptions, at home and around the world, that continue to work against the continent’s need to generate global esteem and respect;
  • As a result of the generally negative perceptions of Africa and what it means to be African, Africans tend to be negatively profiled and treated with suspicion when they 1) Go through customs/passport control around the world; 2) Enter restaurants, stores, business meetings, etc.; 3)
  • Get assumed to be incompetent/potential criminals until they prove themselves otherwise, even when they possess respected academic qualifications and are experienced in their trade.
  • To initiate, facilitate, and host frank, pan-African conversations about the current image of Africa (continent’s brand image) and how it impacts perceptions, goodwill and, eventually, socio-economic development
  • AND to eventually establish an Africa-based global destination image ‘research and advisory service’ to provide globally applicable best practice in destination branding, positioning, and destination reputation management. The service’s approach will aim to be 80% proactive and 20% curative, helping countries understand possible reputational ramifications of new policy proposals before they are adopted (80%).
  • There will also be crisis recovery advisory services on how best to manage ‘in crisis’ and ‘post-crisis’ communication.

The Approach: Summary

o The Africa Brand Summit / Brand Summit South Africa initiative is, jointly, a lot more than an annual event where people come and exchange ideas and then go back home. Deliberations at each annual event will be underpinned by research on the current and evolving image/reputational status of Africa and a select key regional economic and political country drivers.
o The discussions will therefore ask:
– What is the current reputation/image of Africa/ the five regions/ key African countries?
– How does such an image /reputation influence attitudes in Africa and across the world?
– What are the key drivers/ influencers of such an image/reputation?
– What must be done to augment/enhance the positive aspects and to progressively eliminate the negative ones?
– What recommendations will be made for policy makers and other leaders in politics, corporate/business, civil society, media, etc. to get them to understand their respective roles and, eventually, play their part in generating, through their conduct, a progressively positive image of Africa, on the whole, and render it more attractive and hospitable for key skills (including those of expatriate Africans across the globe), (business) tourists, investors, global corporations and multilateral organisations, etc.?

Conclusion

This annual event would not have come as far as it has without the partnership of partners in business, government, civil society, academia, local and international sector and professional bodies, media, and other sectors of society.

As indicated elsewhere above, the Brand Summit Africa-Africa Brand Summit is more than just an annual talk shop. It has already been cited on several occasions as a body urging government in South Africa to begin speaking in one voice and will continue to reach out to African policy makers in order to positively engage them and to influence their policy decisions for the benefit of Africa.

Its programmatic content that looks at (host country) national issues at a macro level, benchmarking them at continental and global levels by involving speakers and panelists from across the globe to offer their perspectives, will continue.

Reliable, tested scientific research will always be at the core of our deliberations.

Our partners will always benefit from the opportunities for brand exposure, networking with key decision makers in their and other related sectors, as well as opportunities to influence policy decision-making through the platforms created by the summit.

The South African story

South Africa has come a long way since the dark days of apartheid. While our story began many decades ago, the walls of apartheid began to crumble visibly in the late 1980s when P.W. Botha, realising that the system could no longer be sustained in a fast-changing world, began to dismantle some of the key apartheid legislation, such as the Immorality Act, and to release some of the aging struggle icons like Raymond Mhlaba, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and others from prison.

Secret talks that were begun under Botha, held with the ANC through the still imprisoned Nelson Mandela, culminated in the early 1990s in the unbanning of anti-apartheid movements, the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, as well as the formal end of apartheid.

Following multi-party talks that resulted in the historic, inclusive, 1994 elections, the country embarked on a new path; a journey that sought to bring all South Africans, irrespective of racial, ethnic, religious, and ideological background, under the same flag.

South Africa also became the first country in Africa and one of the first few in the world to recognise and constitutionally protect the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Intersex (GLBTI) communities. Following the promulgation of the new Constitution in 1996, buttressed by a progressive Bill of Rights, the country seemed irretrievably on a new path.

The rationale for the Brand Summit South Africa

22 years following the dawn of democratic South Africa and four Presidents later, a lot has happened to unravel the tapestry of the rainbow nation which earned South Africa the admiration of the world. This summit will provide a robust platform to begin – but probably not finish – a series of easy and difficult conversations that will enable participants to:

  • Understand how South Africa is perceived and what it is currently associated with and known for, domestically and globally (current nation brand image);
  • Identify the things that impact on South Africa as a nation brand;
  • Discuss South Africa’s brand narrative(s), i.e. the messages that are being received out there, domestically and globally, about the country, how these get sent out and how they inform the narrative of the nation brand image;
  • Identify key South African brands – across the spectrum – domestically and globally, that particularly impact on South Africa’s image;
  • Globally benchmark South Africa against other nation brands, especially its middle-income country peers, in Africa and elsewhere in the world;
  • Discuss global best practice in nation brand building and management;
  • Facilitate discussions about an ideal brand South Africa; what we would like South Africa to be known for and associated with (brand identity); and, finally
  • Recognise, award, and celebrate the brands that make South Africa shine.

Target Audience:

  • CEOs and Senior Executives
  • Middle-management
  • Brand management professionals
  • Reputation management professionals
  • Senior government officials
  • Political communicators
  • Specialist media in brand management and reputation management

Thematic Summit Discussion Panels

Project Good Hope

  • The day to day practicalities and challenges in promoting a high-performance region in a difficult environment
  • How have external factors reputationally impacted destination brand Cape Town/Western Cape over the past few years?
  • What initiatives are in place to mitigate the impact?
  • How can destination brand Cape Town/ Western Cape shield itself from any reoccurrence in the future?
  • How has the recent “water issue” impacted destination Cape Town/Western Cape?
  • How has this been dealt with to protect and enhance reputation?

Business

This panel will focus on the impact of corporate brands, big business, business role players, the macro South African business environment etc. on South Africa’s nation brand.

Panelists will assess home-born business brands that operate within the borders of South Africa and those that operate in the global arena. Are such brands values-driven? Are they consistent in their treatment of rights issues? Are the ones operating abroad seen to respect the laws of their host countries? Are they generally respected and do they represent South Africa well? What should they be doing differently to become positive ambassadors of brand South Africa and what it aspires to stand for, at home and globally? Is corruption prevalent in South African business? What should they not be doing?

Political

Politics play a big role in informing the mood in any country. The conduct of players in this arena can inspire confidence or destroy it. It can also instill fear for the future and damage goodwill if it is characterised by too much negative discourse, especially if such discourse is of a violent type that threatens to bring physical or unfair material harm to members of society. Issues such as real or perceived levels of corruption will be considered and discussed from a nation brand impact perspective.

Panelists in this session will cast abroad, mid-to-high level view of the South African political landscape and share views on whether the climate is a positive one that inspires confidence in the country or not.

Community

This panel will look at other important sectors with the potential to impact on how the country is viewed, domestically and globally. These are sectors and issues such as the sports, education, health, small business, religion, traditional leadership, NGOs, racial harmony, youth development, community building, safety, etc.

The discussions will remain at a high-level. The aim is to pin-point areas that have obvious and immediate impact on how sentiment about the country, at home and abroad, can be shaped. The panelists will aggregate the general sentiment on these areas and suggest ways to lessen negative impact on nation brand, especially in so far as it might scare off potential investors, tourists, foreign students considering South African universities, etc.

Global Benchmarking

This will be the last discussion panel of the summit. Having listened to discussions in preceding panels and armed with global experience in their respective fields, a combination of international and local experts will offer their views on South Africa as a nation brand, seen from outside.

What image of the country did they have prior to taking part in the summit? How does South Africa compare, globally? Is post Nelson Mandela South Africa seen to be different to when he was still around? If yes, in what way? What is the country getting right and what is it getting wrong? What should South Africa be doing differently?