Brand SA taps into NDP to build National Brand

 Furniture designers will battle it out next week at the annual Furniture Design Competition
Furniture designers will battle it out next week at the annual Furniture Design Competition

By Nthambeleni Gabara

Geneva – Brand SA trustee Muditambi Ravele says South Africa’s ambitious National Development Plan (NDP) is a robust tool that strengthens the country’s national brand, which helps to solidify SA’s place on the world stage.

Ravele was addressing the World Communication Forum (WCF) on Tuesday, which is underway in Geneva, Switzerland. The forum, which kicked off on Monday, 13 March, will conclude on Friday.

“As our government moves forward with the implementation of the NDP, we as leaders know that it is without a doubt that this vision will position us in good stead to have a positive national brand narrative.

“The transformation of the South African society, economy, identity, education and interactions with our immediate region and the world, are all in one way or another aimed at human development and greater social cohesion and this is outlined in the NDP,” Ravele said.

The NDP is South Africa’s blueprint to reduce inequality, eliminate poverty and accelerate economic growth by 2030. The plan envisions growth across multiple sectors, and this by default expands the opportunity for South Africa to work with international partners to realise the growth that will catapult the country to the level necessary to effect significant change in the social landscape. Nation branding thus becomes a vital part of the work being done as South Africa pushes towards achieving its targets.

Ravele, who participated in the session themed ‘Country branding: How to create communication assets of a State/country/nation/city’, was representing South Africa’s Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

Ravele told delegates at the session that a cohesive and consistent message about the country, communicated by a range of stakeholders, is critical to the way in which South Africa’s competitive identity is managed.

“Communication becomes a pivotal instrument in the marketing of the Nation Brand. The rapid advance of globalisation means that every country, every region and every city must complete with each other for its share of the world’s consumers, tourists, investors, students, entrepreneurs, international sporting and cultural events,” she said.  

Sharpening the brand at government level

Brand SA conducted a study during 2012/13 on how South Africa is positioned international by various entities of the South African government. The study found low levels of compliance with the Nation Brand corporate identity.

International marketing efforts by cities, metropolitans, provinces and national government departments were not coordinated and aligned.

Ravele said this raised red flags because communicating different and sometimes contrasting messages can create confusion in those at the receiving end of the message.

“This will significantly weaken the impact of the message. Considering the competition for share of attention and voice of the global community, South Africa could not afford for such a situation to continue.

“Brand SA strongly believes in the importance of adopting a consultative approach to relationship building. Strong and sustainable relationships are critical for the success and survival of South Africa’s Nation Brand,” she said.

Daniel Holtgen, the Director of Communications and spokesperson of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said the opportunities presented by social media to grow nation brands had to be used responsibly.

“… Don’t use social media to ridicule leaders and other people… As communicators, you must refrain from divisive language. You must be communicators for humanity...”

The President of the Association of Business Communicators of India (ABCI), Yogesh Joshi, expressed concern over the portrayal of developing nations by international media.

“When I started travelling across the globe nine years ago, I noted that when people talk about innovations, they talk about the United States of America. When they talk about fashion, they talk about France and Italy. When they talk about engineering excellence, they talk about Germany. When it comes to quality standards, they talk about the Japanese and when they talk about manufacturing, they talk about the People’s Republic of China and India is portrayed as a poor nation,” he said.

Joshi said through his own research, he discovered that 38% of doctors in the US are Indians and 36% of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists are Indians. He said at Microsoft in the US, 34% of employees are Indians, while at IBM and Intel, there are 28% and 17% Indian employees respectively.

“Still, India is portrayed as a backward nation... There is an acute need of image correction, hence I came with the idea of the Brand India Summit to showcase the true side of India,” he said. - SAnews.gov.za