Durban - The role of ambassador belongs to all South Africans when it comes to promoting the country, its innovation, people and economic sustainability.
This was the crux of the message from the International Marketing Council (IMC) of South Africa CEO, Miller Matola, at a stakeholder summit held at the Durban International Convention Centre.
The IMC is responsible for the South African brand. It works on transforming the country's image by developing and marketing strategies that invite the rest of the world to experience South Africa through either tourism or business ventures.
A nation's brand determines to a large extent how well a country competes for its share of investors, consumers and visitors in a global economy.
Matola said in the past, South Africa has been written off several times, but has managed to prove its competence.
"We always see possibilities in everything... We are a solution-orientated country and a key player in global institutions, this is what we need to be selling," said Matola.
He said South Africa is being recognised for its increasing critical role in the fast changing governance landscape with its inclusion in BRICS, the IMF and UN Secretary Council.
"The emergence of the BRICS nations puts South Africa at the cutting edge of a new global paradigm, which could help reach consensus on key issues such as trade, poverty reduction, the global financial system and the growing tensions around limited resources," said Thabo Mhlongo, an IMC Board member.
Matola added: "People have faith in South Africa and it is time we started to do the same. We need to understand our country and how it works before saying negative things about it."
The South African brand is monitored in several ways. Focus is placed on people, exports, tourism, governance and investment and integration.
The IMC conducts a Domestic Perceptions Audit to find out how South Africans feel about their country.
They monitor what the media is reporting abroad through the Reputation Industry tool. They also use the International Tracker Results to see where in the world elite businesses are choosing to invest.
"In order to give South Arica a global pole position, Brand South Africa counts on each of you to share and deliver on the promise of disseminating the good news about South Africa to all South Africans and the world at large," said Matola.
The IMC aims to place South Africa in the Top 20 nation brands by 2020.
There are campaigns being run to help promote the country. A more recent one is the Play your Part campaign. South Africans are asked to give someone a helping hand, either with their time or resources.
MEC for Economic Development in KwaZulu-Natal, Mike Mabuyakhulu, said South Africans must avoid being prisoners of their own perceptions.
Mabuyakhulu said that International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, last week praised the country for its warmth and hospitality after it successfully hosted the 123rd IOC session.
Rogge, taken in by the beauty of the country, was also impressed with the organisation of the mammoth event.
The MEC, in his brief address, said KZN has built something unique and cemented its brand as the Zulu Kingdom.
He said the word Zulu is well known overseas and joked that no province in South Africa can compete with the KZN brand.
Mabuyakhulu also stressed that government, civil societies, business, media and all South Africans need to join forces to strengthen the South African brand.
For more info, go to www.imc.org.za; www.playyourpart.co.za.