Branding Africa: Part Two

So where do we begin? In my thought we need to create a platform where the African story will be communicated to the world in our own way on our terms. This is because in the midst of the poverty, suffering, wars and mal administration there are some positive things happening on the African continent. However CNN, BBC, Skynews or Time will not take time to investigate, publish and encourage these in a similar manner that an African child whose interests are directly affected would. The second step is a point I have made earlier which is that Africa rises and falls together in the eyes of the world and therefore all Africans must acknowledge and accept our shared destiny. That is we are first and foremost Africans then we are citizens of our respective countries second. The third step in this process will be to build a sense and a spirit of patriotism and self belief. Most of us who are sports followers will be aware of the tendency in the English media to promote its own English players even though the English Premier League (EPL) has many foreign nationals who many times are better. It is very rare that you find the English football community singing the praises of a foreign born player unless he is something of an exceptional case and talent. A case in point is the story a few years ago when Jose Mourinho was manager of Chelsea Football club and Claude Makelele a French international was playing for the club. During that season John Terry and Frank Lampard (both English) received a lot of praise for the success of the club and even some awards. It was Jose Mourinho who was at pains to highlight that it was the French man who made both players look as good as they did. However the English media never seemed to notice or deliberately choose to ignore that fact? One could cite many such examples of a sense of patriotism elsewhere in Europe. As such I believe that building a sense of patriotism where we celebrate our own will go a long way in getting us there. The fact is if all more than one billion people on the continent support a particular product or destination that is based here would that not make a difference in the success of that particular endeavor? Am I advocating for accepting mediocrity in the name of patriotism? Not at all, we must be critical but in the same vein patriotic. The final step in this process I believe is to ensure that we consume our own products and use the resources that we have, financial, natural and our sheer volume to create the type of hype that has made certain western originating products so popular. Being a sport fanatic I will use that example again. The prize money for winning the coveted European Champions league is something in the region of € 9, 000, 000 and that is only for playing and winning the final[1]. However there are various prizes at different stages for instance there is a prize just for qualifying and for playing a match in the group stages. The result has been a huge interest from clubs due to the business benefits and from players due to the fulfillment and status afforded playing the tournament. This has inevitably led to club trying to get the best players and then rewarding them accordingly the net effect being higher salaries in Europe then elsewhere in the world. The key however is that UEFA has created a product, marketed it extensively and build a strong brand followership. Statistics show that as many as four hundred million across the globe watch the finals and semifinals of the Champions league competition. Indeed whole industries are being spun off from these events. Key lesson though, create a product, market it extensively and put your money where your mouth is. To take a case study why can’t CAF embark on a systematic process of building the African champions league? We have the talent, yes the infrastructure is not yet there however we can start building and continue to build and market our product. It is disappointing to see the number of replica Manchester or Real Madrid shirts in the street of major African cities on UEFA Champions League match days but few South Africans would recognize a replica of Enyimba from Nigeria. It is even more disappointing that you will find some South African football clubs choosing not to participate in the CAF competition due to the fact that they make more money winning one domestic cup than playing and winning a CAF tournament. What stop CAF from designing a program where all football association are standardized and follow a similar structure and have a continental harmony, so that you don’t have a situation where South Africa players a Premier league system and somebody else is doing it differently elsewhere on the continent, the result of it being lack of cohesion and limited impact. Is it really necessary for the some of the best and brightest of Africa to be warming benches in Europe? The mineral wealth we have on the continent can be converted and reward our own better and enjoy them. The one billion people on the continent can become the consumers of this product. Of course we will need to deal with the poor border administrations and lack of quick and cheap transport infrastructure to ferry fans across different countries as is the case in Europe. Then we can begin to build a brand that we will ultimately take to the world and indeed even great footballers will dream of playing in Botswana for Gunners or in Ghana for Asante or even Ivory Coast for Asec Mimosa. Another case study we can look at is by branding and marketing certain destinations on the continent at a regional level as centre of excellence for particular industries. For instance India has become the center of the worlds Business Process Outsourcing industry, whereas Silicon Valley almost seems to have an exclusive handle on the high tech industry. So what if in the SADC region Botswana becomes the centre of a particular industry for instance diamond mining and processing. The rest of the region or continent sends their diamonds to Botswana for beneficiation and receives this back under some type of duty free program to use in the local economy. What happens in the mean time is that the country’s economy grows and the region benefits. The industry grows to the point where it is a world beater and it can then be promoted to other regions of the world and skills and services are exported to the benefit of the country region and continent. We could take many more examples like that. However once a brand is established be it a particular region, product or industry we can then sell it to the world on our own terms and conditions. I hope this contribution will continue to stir you to make a difference on our continent.


[1] Barcelona amassed a total of €51.0 million after winning the trophy last season.
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Joel Maine

Joel Maine is a full time minister, scholar and a part time business consultant. In his spare time he enjoys working with community development organizations to improve the lives of the less fortunate. It is his deep conviction that it is the time for African's to make an impact in the world and take a leadership role in all spheres.