Although we’re all celebrating spring in Africa as a season ushering in new beginnings, here as the Brandhill Africa group of companies we’re also celebrating the first anniversary of this most informative and empowering pan-African independent business publication, Jambo Africa Online. Launched last year in September as a monthly digital publication, it has – through your support as readers and partners – evolved into a weekly news portal from May this year. What a rollercoaster journey it has been for us. This was the first major project we launched after all of us have taken the plunge to join the company on full time basis from 1 July 2020. Yes, right in the middle of the economic lockdowns intended to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

We launched it as a platform to respond to the worrying findings of the annual Brand Africa Survey that found that while during their launch year in 2010, 34% of the “Top 100 Most Admired Brands in Africa” were the continent’s indigenous brands, this paltry percentage has been consistently dwindling down to reaching 13% in 2020. The work was cut out for us to ensure that we helped build reputations of “Made in Africa” service and product brands so that the 1.3 billion consumers in the continent could embrace and uptake them. We knew the integration of Africa into a common market with a combined GDP of $3.6 trillion wouldn’t benefit these brands as long as foreign ones were to continue dominating in the marketplace. 

The launch in September was also symbolic as the 8th is dubbed the International Literacy Day. While naysayers proclaimed there was dearth of a reading culture primarily because of the advent and prevalence of multimedia products, we believed the written word remained cardinal and decided multimedia platforms were delivery channels for it. We were inspired by the Mozambican revolutionary leader, Jorge Rebelo, when he mused in his 1978 iconic poem: “Forge simple words/ which even the children can understand/ words which will enter/ every house/ like the wind/ and fall like red hot embers/ on our people’s souls…/ In our land/ Bullets are beginning to flower.”

We also knew along the way we were to transform this publication into a fully-fledged online publication with all the elements of multimedia content delivery to access all customer touch points – primarily riveting text narratives supported by podcasts and audiovisual materials. As I alluded to earlier, indeed we met this target in May – four months earlier than we had anticipated.  

Jambo Africa Online has emerged as a premier pan-African multimedia tool aimed at those committed to making valuable contributions to the growth, renewal and transformation of our continent’s economic landscape and for deriving maximum value out of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

An offspring of the African Union (AU), established by 55 member states and ratified by over 38 countries thus far, AfCFTA became operationalised from 1 January 2021 creating the largest Free Trade Zone globally with over 1.3 billion consumers! The publication became the first pan-African vehicle to communicate opportunities accruing from the AfCFTA.

As Africa asserts herself to create a single market, Jambo Africa Online provides: A genuinely valuable source of information to a huge captive audience of powerful investors, key decision makers in the public and private sectors, policy makers, captains of industry, business chambers, diplomatic corps, academic think tanks as well as individual entrepreneurs.

In-depth analyses of common issues, methods and practical experiences including present in-depth research and case studies which have tangible practical value.

A sublime opportunity to cover key issues, campaigns, events, products, services, management and best practices.

An opportunity for distinguished contributors to opine insofar as matters related to improving efficiency, efficacy and effectiveness across the continent in line with the rising expectations.

In line with the rules of origin and relaxation of tariffs guiding the trade zone, Jambo Africa Online is biased towards efforts aimed at creating a continental economy that is serviced by products made in Africa, by Africa and for the benefit of all Africans with the world forming part of the customer base.

This is a platform to brand position Africa’s products and services to compete successfully against foreign brands imported into the continent.

We were privileged when solid professionals from several African countries volunteered to serve in our Editorial Advisory Board. These distinguished professionals are Dr Thami Mazwai (a Commissioner in the National Planning Commission of the Republic of South Africa, who serves as the Chairperson); Prof Tshimpaka Yanga (attached to the University of Lumumbashi in the DRC); Angela Asante Akua (a celebrated television personality in Ghana); Francois Fouche (Director of Growth Diagnostics at the North-West University Business School); Namatirai Zinyohwera (an ICT business development specialist in Zimbabwe/RSA); Lebohang Ramotete (an accomplished journalist in Lesotho); Mlungisi Mpofu (Executive Director of the Trans Kalahari Corridor Secretariat based in Namibia); Dr Bamidele Adeoye, DBA, (a Nigerian business consultant based in the USA); yours truly; and our Editor, Andile Msindwana, providing Secretariat Services.

Though we value all our subscribers, we’re happy to say that one of our earlier subscribers was the Office of President Donald Trump who went a step further to give us a list of their heads of missions in Africa – particularly at the African Union (AU). In their own words, Jambo Africa Online was “a valuable resource”.

A sister project to Jambo Africa Online we launched is the Biashara Services and Products Africa (BiSPA) Conference and Exhibition. This annual conference was inaugurated on 9 December 2020. Looking at the calibre of speakers attracted; the excellent quality of their presentations; the breadth and depth of the themes covered: feed Africa; power Africa; industrialise Africa; and, integrate Africa; and the broad spectrum of virtual audiences from across Africa and other continents such as the Americas, Europe and Asia, it indeed exceeded our expectations. Participating companies included Proudly South African, CSIR, Walvis Bay Corridor Group, Trans Kalahari Corridor Secretariat and many others. Inspired by its success as it attracted delegates from all over the world with interest in Africa, we then made a commitment to host quarterly virtual seminars as build up to the annual December jamboree. 

We held our first quarterly virtual seminar on 3 March 2021 evaluating the opportunities and threats emerging as teething problems immediately after the operationslisation of the AfCFTA on 1 January 2021. It was even more humbling when our delegates requested that we set up a WhatsApp group so that the conversations could continue in-between the quarterly webinars. This has resulted into the formation of two groups with active members who daily share valuable information on business opportunities in Africa. 

This was followed by the second one on 31 May 2021. As this was the ultimate event celebrating the Africa Month, we partnered with the African Diplomatic and Consular Corps resident in South Africa, as led by the Dean of Diplomatic Corps and head of the DRC Diplomatic Mission, H.E. Amb Ben Mpoko. We were privileged to bring onboard the Pretoria Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

Then the third webinar focused on the film sector, and we were privileged to host Hollywood-based two-time Academy Award winner, Pietro Scalia. This took place during this week on 1 September (see a feature on him in this week’s edition). Scalia won an Oscar for editing “Black Hawk Down”, a seminal movie that was based on the humiliating defeat America suffered at the hands of the rebel leader, Mohammed Farah Aidid, in Somalia.

By the way, the total number of awards Scalia was nominated for or won are more than half my age. Hosting him here in Johannesburg was a moment that many companies, cities and countries would die to have. I also had the pleasure of setting up a few meetings for him around the city – including one with former President Kgalema Motlanthe and Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, organised a special tour of their facility for us.

The delegates included Abdul Mogale, President of the National Writers of South Africa (NWASA); Shane Maja, Chief Director at Gauteng’s Department of Sport, Arts and Culture; Mokonenyana Molete, a veteran television broadcaster; and, Makatisha Motsepe-Mphuloane, Chef and Managing Director of the Makatisha Culinary Effects. The delegates represented all value chains of the film industry.

Charity begins at home, the cliché goes. This holds true for us because Jambo Africa Online and BiSPA have done so well to promote the Brandhill Africa brand – it goes without saying that’s why we received so many invitations from various institutions across the world to do presentations on brand Africa and the AfCFTA. The crown on top was when the World Brand Congress bestowed upon Brandhill Africa (Pry) Ltd the “Best Brand Award” at its Brand Leadership Awards 2021 on 15 July 2021.

We were invited to become a member of the Dubai-headquartered World Free Zones Organisation (the World FZO is the umbrella body of special economic zones from across the world) and the eSwatini-headquartered African Tourism Board (the ATB is the umbrella body of tourism agencies and tourism infrastructure developers across the continent).

We were approached to sign strategic partnerships with UNISA Enterprises and Enterprises UP (University of Pretoria) – revenue generating agencies of the two universities. The partnership with the UNISA Enterprises will grant us, in addition to the normal academic faculties including the School of Business Leadership, access to cutting edge research undertaken by the Bureau of Market Research (BMR). Our interest in UP is primarily it’s Future Africa Institute and the fact that Bice Chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe has just been elected as the Chairperson of the Advisory Board of the African Alliance Partnership – a consortium of ten universities from African countries and Michigan State University. Growth Diagnostics (in collaboration with the North-West University Business School walked this journey with us from September last year as they supported us and contributed editorials regularly.

We signed a three-year strategic partnership with Proudly South African. We also signed a strategic partnership contract with the African Agri Council (AAC) – which has members in the agriculture and agribusiness sector across the continent. I will be moderating two sessions next week on September 9 and 10 at their Market Access Africa (MAA) conference which they have organised in collaboration with KZN’s Premier and eThekweni’s Executive Mayor. Please do register to attend this groundbreaking event.

We’re also privileged to partner as a brand management and investment facilitation partner with the Southern African Business Development Forum (SABDF) – we’re pursuing interesting infrastructure development opportunities in Zambia which is strategically located at the heartland of southern Africa thus qualifying to be the logistics nerve centre of the region.

More humbling for me was when the Netherlands-based Strategia Business School, roped me in as one of their regular facilitators for their certificate course on ‘Doing Business in Africa’. According to the institution, the “MasterClass provides the training and guidance needed to do business in Africa by providing a platform for learning, sharing, and networking to realise the opportunities Africa has to offer! The program includes carefully selected topics that provide training on the procedures, guidelines, and opportunities of doing business in Africa. The program is delivered through online webinars from leading industry experts, speakers, investment companies, Government Ministries, and partners across Africa & Europe.”

Recently I was appointed by the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) on behalf of the United States AID (USAID) agency into a panel of judges for the US-Southern African Regional Exporter Awards which will be taking place on 22 September 2021 at the East London International Convention Centre. The Awards recognise companies that performed well in promoting trade between the US and southern African states – SA, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, eSwatini, Botswana and Mozambique.

We emerged as thought leaders on the AfCFTA. We were commissioned to develop editorials on the AfCFTA for the Standard Bank Group – which we packaged into an Overview on the AfCFTA; Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs); and we also developed questions for the panelists in their seminar on the AfCFTA.

I was interviewed for an hour on ChaiFM unpacking the AfCFTA. The radio station serves the Jewish community – particularly captains of the industry.

I have addressed several conferences on the AfCFTA – including the Nigeria-based African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF); African Investment Forum (AIF) conference convened by Dubai’s Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Obaid Al Maktoum; addressed on the state of MSMEs in Africa to a conference organised by the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) – an umbrella body of 22 African countries sharing the Indian Ocean ocean; addressed the African Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre (AEIC) conference; addressed Africa Brand Summit; addressed the conference by the Africa Chapter of the World Women Leading Change – a global women’s empowerment organisation; addressed the India-headquartered Global Centre for the Promotion of International Trade (GCPIT);

Following my presentation, I was appointed a Trustee of the GCPIT Africa Chapter.

I was privileged to be appointed a Non-Executive Director of Beam Africa – with offices in South Africa and Kenya which also pursues opportunities across the continent. There are ample synergies we could derive from each other considering Kenya is the economic regional capital of East Africa.

Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd’s pipeline has infrastructure development projects in various sectors from South Africa, Mozambique, DRC, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ghana, Congo Brazzaville, Zambia, Gabon and Liberia. Negotiations are continuing with Malawi’s National Planning Commission. Our partners in the UK snd US continue to present them to potential funders. Investor confidence is gradually rebuilding after it was knocked by the violence in Capo Delgado in Mozambique and the recent mass lootings in South Africa.

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC)’s International Relations Sub-Committee drafted me into a project team that is developing South Africa’s National Strategy on the AfCFTA.

I was also asked to serve as a marketing and communications specialist to the project team that organised ANC’s webinar on the AfCFTA which was addressed by Wamkele Mene and Lebogang Pheko. I then organised the post-event one hour interview for Lebogang Pheko and Sisa Njikelana on ChaiFM.

Our subsidiaries have developed websites for two companies and have also hosted charity golf days for the Thato Molamu Foundation, which partnered the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) to develop prostate cancer awareness among vulnerable sections of our communities such as the taxi drivers; Bergville of Tomorrow (BOT) in KZN; and Limpopo Sports Confederation to raise funds for the introduction of new sporting codes in the rural hinterland.

We added three subsidiaries to Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd and Brandhill Africa Foundation NPC – namely, Brandhill Africa Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Brandhill Africa Media Holdings (Pty) Ltd and Brandhill Africa Institute (Pty) Ltd.

Yes, this has been an immensely successful year in terms of building ourselves into the brand we have become. And this could be attributed to this publication.

Enjoy your weekend. Stay safe and blessed.

Saul Molobi