South Africa, like all countries, doesn’t exist in isolation, and its brand identity can be both positively and negatively affected by global perceptions of its partners, collaborators and socio-economic allies. South Africa, viewed as part of a greater network, is a more attractive investment opportunity than positioning the nation as an isolated unit. Having the security that South Africa has the support of the continent is an assuring proposition for potential global investors. And while Brand South Africa remains strong in communicating nation pride messaging, creating a positive continental image, and promoting an image of a unified Africa, is as important a means of attracting investment.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the core project behind the African Union’s Agenda 2063, provides the opportunity to expand Africa’s economy by $3.4 trillion, predominantly by eliminating tariffs on intra-Africa trade. A unified African economy demands unified messaging, thus the development of the AfCFTA relies on the strength of the continent’s image and intra-continental confidence.
Buy African, Invest African, and Support African is the message that all nation brand custodians should be amplifying in bringing to life opportunities and awareness of the AfCFTA. “African Made” is a term that intrinsically communicates continental unity, and it is a strategy that is currently being executed as part of the Agenda 2063 goals. Brand South Africa started this journey last year during its Nation Brand Forum wherein stakeholders from a few of African continent attempted to define the central idea of the African continent so as to identify a strategic angle that would amplify the African story.
Brand South Africa will work in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), and the African Prosperity Fund in order to strategically rollout “African Made” messaging and attractively position the idea of “Buying African Made”. The collaboration will include input from the The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) directorate, which has the main objective of bridging the digital and connectivity divides in Africa. Ultimately the unity being projected needs to be informed by an infrastructural and communicative unity, co-created through efficient access models under ICT research.
The more unified the messaging, the more attractive the product. The more people, including the layman on the streets, who understand the AfCFTA vision, the more buy-in would be realised. Promoting awareness around the vision posits an integral communication job to be implemented by Brand South Africa and other continental agencies tasked with the promotion of their country brands, investments or tourism.
Just as South Africa doesn’t exist in isolation, neither do the goals of Agenda 2063. They require collaboration on both infrastructural and ideological lines across the continent. Yes, the European Union (EU) benefits from its intra-trade agreements, but it also benefits from the external and internal perceptions of European unity and strength. This doesn’t diminish the member countries’ own national pride; it just translates that pride into one of intra-continental confidence.
“African Made” and the unified messaging intrinsic to “Buying African Made” is key to projecting this confidence within the African continent, and from a global perspective. It is a communicative cornerstone critical to the success of AfCFTA and Agenda 2063 – it engenders unity by manifesting unity.
“African Made” is not just a hollow marketing phrase. It’s a messaging product that not only communicates unity but requires it to be successful. It’s the messaging that will advance Africa’s competitive advantage and reputation.