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?


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?


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.


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?