Brand Africa 'guru', Thebe Ikalafeng in this interview gives us an update on the current state of the branding and reputation of countries in Africa - and the continent as a whole. Thebe's interview is as much a source of inspiration as it is a call for action. It is also an invitation for those of us not living in Africa, to check whether our perceptions of Africa still match reality.
- The incredible volume of innovation happening across the content of Africa;
- The strongest and weakest points of Brand Africa, according to Thebe Ikalafeng;
- The biggest changes in Africa's image abroad in recent years;
- How a country's political leadership influences its Place Brand;
- How great brands have a catalytic impact on their societies and create a better way of life.
Thebe, do you remember the first time you thought about brands in connection with places?
Growing up in a then isolated apartheid South Africa and still colonized continent, we all grew up with a yearning for places beyond our borders. They represented an escapism and influenced our daily expressions: We even dressed ‘Italian’.
As a former English colony, I was surrounded by English symbolism – Queen Elizabeth Bridge, Port Elizabeth, King Edward Hospital, for example. In freedom songs, we yearned for Fidel Castro of Cuba to help liberate us.
We romanticized about America and Hollywood – a place to realize dreams – and for black Africa, a place that represented ‘free’ Africans (despite the history of slavery). We may not have called it ‘branding’ anything, but each place had a unique position, reputation or symbolism in our minds.
But as ‘science’ or profession that can be applied to places? I actively engaged with the concept while I was still in corporate as marketing director for Nike across Africa in a new post-apartheid South Africa, which needed to redefine what this new nation stands for and should project to the world.
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