Brand: Africa

Posted on 01/05/2010

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I’ve been thinking about the continent much more than usual lately. Whilst sitting at my desk at my ‘day job’ on a late Friday afternoon I had an epiphany.  Why don’t we see the ‘real Africa’ on the usual and common media sources out there? I even turned to a friend and colleague and asked him what images he has of Africa. The answer was as I suspected the stereotypical ‘famine, war, poverty, genocide and corruption’ yet I know there is much more to Africa than this. So in my epiphany inspired moment I turned to my trusted personal Twitter account to pose the question to my ‘followers’. This is what I asked: –   

‘Question: Out of the 50 odd #African countries how many ACTUALLY have famine,war, poverty,and/or genocide? #Africa

And: –

‘I ask this simply becoz that’s what the popular media sources chooses to cover on #Africa. Why is that?’

I received several responses from my friends agreeing and adding their own comments. We were all in agreement about the need to re-address the African brand.

As mentioned in previous blog entries I’m currently reading, amongst others, a book entitled ‘Africa’s Greatest Entrepreneurs’ by Moky Makura. I am finding this book very inspiring especially now at this stage of my own personal entrepreneurial journey.  I am learning many great and important lessons about the journey that some of these amazing people have and continue to take. Entrepreneurs like Mo Ibrahim and Strive Masiyiwa for example have stories that require whole books dedicated to their journey.

And yet, when people talk about Africa we hear very little about the success stories of people making a ‘real’ difference in communities. We tend to hear about various aid agencies doing great work for Africans. What about the Africans doing great work for Africans? What about the Africans with business operations in Western countries, for example Strive Masiyiwa of Econet? What about the Africans with small businesses helping to grow the local economy which in turn adds to the overall growth of that country or region? I am not writing this entry to lay blame at anyone for this situation, rather as an observation made by a patriotic African like me. I often wonder why the media (even the African media) in general continues to assist in portraying Africa as a place that constantly requires assistance or ‘Aid’. I almost feel like this very situation (I call it the ‘poor Africa syndrome’) is what perpetuates a feeling of helplessness within my own African people especially those in the Diaspora (I hate that word).I also know that my own non-Africans friends look and feel sorry for us. Why?  We as Africans watch the same CNN, BBC and Sky News channels and we seemingly forget to see and tell the stories of the ‘real Africa’ even after visiting home. We forget to tell the ‘whole African story’…the story of the entrepreneurs and other such success stories. More importantly we ignore the fact that Africa was never on a level playing field to begin with. We forget that our resources (human and otherwise) enabled the American and the European nations to be what they are today. Generally the economic indicators such as inflation and interest rates indicate that Africa is making great progress and has been in the last several years. Small examples of this include countries like Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa – and there is more. Investment in Africa is on the rise and multinational corporations are setting up offices across the African continent. Why aren’t these stories on CNN, BBC or SKY News on a regular basis?

I will finish this entry with the remaining few‘Tweets from my ‘epiphany inspired moment’ on Friday. I was writing to those who agreed with my original 2 tweets. This is what I wrote on Twitter regarding the steps we (as Africans) needed to take in our normal lives to help shift and ‘rebrand Africa’: –

It seems we are all in agreement then.I now challenge you to start shifting the way ‘you’ talk about ‘your’ Africa whilst taking ownership

It starts off with little things like the dinner party with friends.Next time someone tells you how lucky you must feel 2 be ‘here’ tell ’em

Or in your own time research who the movers & shakers of Africa are so you can speak abt them with such conviction.

Thirdly our own African media sources need to tell the whole truth. Yes we have problems too but we have the personel to make the changes

We do need to stop blaming others,our past or situations.Let’s instead learn from the past.Great nations adapt 2 suit conditions so must we.

More discussion on ‘Brand: Africa’ will be required and expect more thoughts, analysis and blog entries on this issue.

Aluta continua…

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Posted in: Africa, Business, Politics