.Brand South Africa has welcomed the country's improved performance in the 2016 Anholt-GfK Nation Brand Index. SA went up by three places in the latest survey and now stands at 35 out of 50 nation brands. “South Africa’s improved performance can be attributed to improved perceptions of our governance, immigration and investment, and people. This speaks directly to the work we are doing as a country in implementing the National Development Plan and programmes like Invest South Africa,” Brand SA CEO Kingsley Makhubela says. “In addition, our Nation Brand continues to be admired for our unspoiled natural beauty, with 13 nations ranking South Africa in the top 25 countries being assessed. Moreover, we are recognised internationally for our efforts to preserve the environment. In this regard, South Africa moved up six places to stand at 29 of 50 nations. This resonates with the brand of the country as a good international citizen.” He continues: “We can say with confidence that our country is going in the right direction as a globally competitive Nation Brand.” The study ranks the US as the strongest global nation brand, followed by Germany, the UK, Canada, France and Italy. However, all of the Top Ten suffered falls in their global reputation this year – with eight of those being classed as ‘significant’ drops. Notes GfK senior executive, Vadim Volos: “How a nation is perceived is a function of both long-standing attributes (such as stereotypes of its people or region, and images of its natural and social environment) and short-term influences (such as positive or negative news coverage or dramatic events). Each nation has some ability to impact either of these areas, by promoting the nation’s key positive assets to drive up inbound tourism and investment.”
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Rwanda is continuing to promote itself an African technology hub with the recent announcement that a low-cost laptop computer, the Positivo BGH, is being produced in the country. The laptop costs around US$265 and is being marketed as ‘proudly made in Africa’. It will be sold in Rwanda, other parts of Africa and possibly even further afield. Although the units are being manufactured in the capital city, Kigali, the business behind the project is South American technology company Positivo BGH (the same name as the computer). The website ‘Rwanda Eye’ quotes the company’s President for Africa, Juan Ignacio Ponelli, as saying: “It’s a strategic decision … to go global. We are a top company in technology but we are known really just in South America. So right now we decided to go global and chose here [Rwanda] to start the international arm for this group.” According to Ponelli, Rwanda does present some obstacles. “It has the challenges of being an emerging market, but we’re coming from emerging markets. We’re coming from Argentina and Brazil so we know to do it, and we’ve been doing it for 100 years,” he says. The company employs around 50 staff in Kigali and sees opportunity in the Rwandan education sector, with the government reportedly agreeing to purchase 150 000 units a year for education. The nation’s many co-operatives – there are around 7 500 countrywide – are also being targeted as customers. Rwanda’s ‘Vision 2020’ national strategy aims to “transform "transform the country into a knowledge-based middle-income [economy]” by the year 2020.
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Mauritius, the island nation frequently rated as Africa’s most competitive economy, is looking to increase its profile in the Asia-Pacific region and market itself as a trade and investment hub for Asian companies looking to do business in Africa. It also sees potential to increase tourism links between Asia and Mauritius. On a recent state visit to Singapore, the Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius, Charles Gaetan Xavier-Luc Duval, invited Singaporean businesses to use Mauritius as their regional headquarters from which to invest in mainland Africa, reports the ‘Straits Times’ newspaper. “Africa is waking up, everybody is concentrating on Africa [and] everybody sees Africa as a major growth pole. And Mauritius is just sitting off the coast of Africa,” Duval said. “The potential between these two hubs is enormous, because trade and investment between Asia and Africa are bound to grow exponentially.” Duval said another important component of the vision for Mauritius was to transform it into a ‘smart island’. “Our government is therefore encouraging projects involving smart cities and new cyber cities that will include techno parks,” he noted in a speech to Singapore’s business community. The state visit coincided with the launch of non-stop flights between Mauritius and Singapore, as well as a Mauritius-Singapore business forum. Previously Air Mauritius flew to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, but the website ‘Orient Aviation’ says that Changi Airport in Singapore has greater ‘marketing might’ and has undertaking to promote Mauritius through channels such as fairs and roadshows. In a separate report, Bloomberg news agency said that Mauritius was marketing itself as an international financial centre as it looked to Asia and the Far East for new business.
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Africa is set to develop the world's fastest-growing travel and tourism market over the next 10 years, alongside Asia-Pacific, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). This will be the key message of David Scowsill, President and CEO of WTTC, when he delivers his keynote speech to aviation and travel industry leaders at the 21st World Route Development Forum taking place in Durban, South Africa on 19-22 September. According to Scowsill, the growth of Africa's tourism industry is on course to reach 4.9% for the sector's direct contribution to GDP over the next decade, equalling the growth of the Asia-Pacific region. This unprecedented growth rate underscores the strength of the region's potential compared to the estimated forecast increase in other regions of the world over the next decade – notably the Middle East at 4.6%; the Americas at 3.8% and Europe at 2.8%. Scowsill says: “The world has mostly been focused on Asia-Pacific as the fastest-growing region, but our latest figures demonstrate the potential in Africa's travel and tourism industry, which is ripe for investment. “Tremendous opportunities exist … yet growth doesn't happen by itself and challenges remain. African nations must collectively focus on four key areas: first, expanded investment in tourism infrastructure; second, improved connectivity and air liberalisation – a move towards a fairer open skies policy; third, common visas across multiple countries: and fourth, investment in human capital to build the capacity and skill set of the workforce.” According to Scowsill, the economic potential of tourism in Africa is remarkable. But for this to materialise it is critical that individual nations strengthen their unique branding positions.
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Tuesday, 23 June 2015 22:00

Is it time to boost Brand Africa?

Despite the International Monetary Fund’s prediction that Africa will have the highest rate of economic growth in the world over the next decade, global perceptions of the continent are still tinged with negativity. Many experts believe it’s time for Africa to up the ante in executing an effective public relations and branding strategy.

There’s no shortage of bad news stories coming out of Africa currently: xenophobic attacks in South Africa against the citizens of other African countries; an oil crisis in Nigeria; political turmoil in Burundi. There’s more than enough ammunition for international media outlets to once again paint a negative picture of the continent.

In an column for the ‘IOL online’ news website, media relations and PR expert Rich Mkhondo commented on the renewal of xenophobic attacks in the continent’s most developed economy and explained the damage done to brand South Africa. The truth is xenophobia is hurting South Africa the brand. We cannot divorce the business and image of the brand from the look of the brand. At the moment we look like a nation of savages, with thugs running amok with machetes [attacking] fellow Africans,” he wrote.

“While it is difficult to put a [monetary]value on how much xenophobia is damaging the [national] brand, there is no doubt that there is a real link between the brand valuation and business valuation of our country as a [place] to do business with and visit.”  

Mkhondo continued: “We live in a branded world. Nowadays everything is branded; from soap to sport; from the connectivity of a country to its politicians. To brand a country is a natural progression – a bigger, more complex challenge. But branding a country is not only about pride, but profit too.”

Branding a continent means taking such challenges – and potential rewards – to the next level. The Africa Public Relations Association (APRA), which recently met in Yaoundé, Cameroon has echoed the need for a more effective PR strategy on the continent, reports the ‘Voice of America’ newswebsite.

The experts gathered at the APRA event agreed that Western Media largely portrays the continent in a negative light. Yet many argued that solutions to very real problems ultimately need to come from leaders on the continent. “Leaders must not sit back and assume that somehow [issues] will fade away tomorrow,” commented Charles Nklonzo from Day Star University in Kenya.

APRA’s intent is, therefore, to work together with governments – the continent’s most prominent brand ambassadors – to build a positive image of Africa.

“What we want to do is to [move forward] together, telling our own story,” said Bogwa Djeroge, an APRA official in Kenya. “There are so many projects that are being initiated [and] our tourism industry is booming. If you look at our education system, it is superb. We are sending out so many graduates and these are the stories that we want to talk about. Stories of hope [and] stories of success, not stories of despair like have been [presented] by the foreign media.”

While there’s no denying the significant issues Africa faces, there are numerous positive stories in a continent that’s experiencing phenomenal growth.

The African consumer is on the rise and their spending power is increasing year on year as more and more households move into the middle-income bracket,” Loretta Ahmed, CEO of Middle East, Turkey & Africa for leading global communications network, Grayling, told ‘Forbes’ magazine recently. It’s up to communications professionals on the continent to market the [region] in a realistic yet hopeful way, emphasising its considerable achievements and the undeniable spirit of its people.

With PR professionals on the continent clearly on message, a positive move is the announcement that Africa will host the 2015 World Congress of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA). The event, taking place in Johannesburg from 27-29 September, offers the chance for African practitioners to set the record straight on the continent, with 800 delegates from around the globe expected to descend on South Africa.

Dr Amybel Sánchez de Walther, President of the IPRA, said in a statement: “We believe that this event will be important for the PR community in Africa, as well as in the rest of the world.”

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After years of political instability, the African island nation of Madagascar plans to capitalise on its natural attractions and beach holiday appeal to draw one million visitors by 2020. The country’s re-branding strategy hinges on attracting large international investors, strongly marketing the destination and implementing programmes aimed at attracting high-end travellers.

While the charms of natural beauty, Baobabs, an extensive coastline and unusual indigenous wildlife species may speak for themselves, the political upheaval that followed the 2009 coup has tarnished the reputation of a country that boasted 375 000 tourist arrivals in 2008. These were its highest recorded visitor levels to date, according to local tour operator Asisten Travel. But with the turmoil came declining figures which have yet to fully recover, despite the reestablishment of democracy in the world’s fourth-largest island. Just 198 816 tourists visited Madagascar in 2013 and 255 942 in 2012, according to newspaper ‘Les Nouvelles’.

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Monday, 15 September 2014 22:00

South Africa pumps up its country marketing

South Africa is going on an offensive to promote the country’s tourism sector, an industry which in 2013 generated 9,5% of GDP and accounted for more than 1,4-million direct and indirect jobs.

During an address at the Southern African Tourism Services Association’s Annual Conference in Cape Town last month, Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom spoke glowingly about the country’s tourism sector. “During the last 10 years, while global tourism expanded only 4,5% per year on average, the compound annual growth in our foreign arrivals was 9,3%,” he said.

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