(re)Branding Africa is a challenge
What are a lot of people’s first thoughts when hearing the word ‘Africa’?
Instability caused by war? Widespread poverty? Starving children, and primitive people living in huts? An exaggeration perhaps, but as someone who grew up in Africa and has lived in London for years now, I know this to be a genuine perception/misconception. This could be blamed on both personal ignorance and Western media portrayal of Africa.
Mainly we see Africa in the news when there’s some sort of crisis. In the competitive climate of the global market place, African countries are lagging in terms of investment, tourism, exports and employment.
Nation branding can certainly help African countries develop a more positive image and give them a chance to increase foreign direct investment, and tourism. I read an article in the journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy entitled ‘Branding African countries: A prospect for the future’ by Evalyne Wanjiru, that suggests the utilisation of customer relationship management (CRM) to ‘gain a competitive differentiation’. CRM is about managing customer relationships and understanding customers’ needs. Simon Anholt believed CRM can work when branding nations with a ‘viable target market’.
Interviews were carried out with experts in country branding, African development and CRM for the paper, and one interviewee interestingly stated that Africa suffers from ‘continent brand defect’, meaning the continent as a whole is seen as a single brand. Johnston of Brand South Africa believes that rebranding could end ‘Afro-pessimism’.
The paper goes into more detail regarding branding, CRM and the challenges of branding Africa however they can be overcome with the right policies in place and the right (re)branding campaign, especially through the use of CRM.
I personally think that branding Africa through CRM could work well.
As an Ethiopian, I know that my country could benefit from further tapping into the market available from their ideological link with the Caribbean and Rastafarianism. For example, an annual high profile music festival including prominent artists not only from Africa, but also around the world is a viable possibility that could boost tourism, and aid in the construction of a more positive image for both Ethiopia and Africa.