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World Economic Forum on Africa 2006
The focus of this WorkSpace session changed to "Perceptions of Africa" under the direction of the facilitator, Peter Sullivan, Group Editor in Chief, Independent Newspapers, South Africa.
Simon Anholt, Independent Consultant on Branding, United Kingdom, said in introducing the discussions that a brand is a nation s most valuable asset. It can be changed not by communication but by the commonly held beliefs of its own people.
Yvonne Johnston, Chief Executive Officer, The International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC), South Africa listed some of the learnings from the development of Brand South Africa. These included that buy in, and budget, from the head of state is essential, that developing a national brand is a process that takes three to four decades, that the brand must be owned by the people and that it must tell the truth.
In a series of breakout group discussions, participants identified current perceptions of Africa, achievable perceptions of Africa in 2008, and some innovative ways of getting there.
Ideas for more positive perceptions in 2008 included promoting Africa as the "next big thing", a continent of nearly 900 million people following on the development of China and then India, each with some 1.2 billion people.
Allied to this was the promotion of Africa as the "must have" continent in 2008 the "must have" place to do business, to visit and the "must have" trading partner with "must have" products.
Other suggestions were "Africa exciting times ahead", "Africa on the rise" and "Africa producing positive surprises".
Suggested ways to achieve these objectives included identifying and promoting national, regional and continental successes and using African sports and entertainment stars to promote the continent and stress that "I am an African". Pop stars should also be encouraged to film their next video in Africa.
Business successes should be celebrated, such as highlighting investments into Africa and the development of successful co manufacturing ventures. So should the political factors affecting business, such as democratization and deregulation.
Sullivan said in conclusion that the ideas and suggestions have all been recorded and will be collated by the World Economic Forum. An Africa Union participant noted that the AU summit in September will also be looking at rebranding Africa, and she thanked participants for what will be a contribution to that discussion.
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