To all our readers and stakeholders.
The metaphor for the bull that bellows is adapted from an iconic South African jazz song, “Yakhal’ inkomo”, composed by Makunku Ngozi in 1968 which grew to this day to become the signature tune that has embedded this African expression in this universal genre – hence it became the most recognisable jazz tune in the country. The ingenuity of our legendary saxophonist was most eloquently captured by our poet laureate, Dr Mongane Serote, in his introduction to his poetry collection, “Yakhal’ inkomo”, which was obviously inspired by this timeless musical piece and was published in 1972, as he mused: “I once saw Mankunku Ngozi blowing his saxophone. “Yakhal’ inkomo. His face was inflated like a balloon, it was wet with sweat, his eyes huge and red. He grew tall, shrank, coiled into himself, uncoiled and the cry came out of his horn. That is the meaning of Yakhal’ inkomo…”
Although this iconic song evokes emotional responses by its expression of human pain and endurance, remembrance and invocation which, one may add, is reminiscent of life in rural homesteads, the flip side to it is that a bull/cow is the symbol of wealth according to our traditional wisdom. In Setswana, this iconic wonder of creation is accorded an almost divine status: “modimo o nko e metsi” (which literally translates into “a goddess with moist nostrils”.) It is a symbol of opulence, prosperity and abundance where the two sides of the coin of inhumanity – namely, poverty and squalor – are foreign.
Furthermore, Setswana’s traditional wisdom wax lyrical about “mahube a naka tsa kgomo” (that could be translated as the dawning of the dawn). This relates to the reflection of the cows’ horns seen through the rising sun’s rays perceived as if they converge with the heavens. In our orature, dawn represents a new beginning pregnant with hope for a brighter day! These are the sun rays that the English bard, William Shakespeare, referred to when he poeticised: “Yon grey lines/ That fret the clouds are messengers of day… The gray-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night/ Checkering the eastern clouds with streaks of light…”
The sun symbolises renewal. And it’s because of sheer appreciation of this metaphor that to hope for continuous renewal and blessings, that traditional wisdom makes a clarion call to us: “ulibambe lingashoni ilanga” (which means “hold up the sun”). This demands of us “to make hay while the sun shines”, as the English dirge reinforces this symbolism. It isn’t only us who are saddened by sun set, but even the sun too assumes a melancholic look as iZintombi Zesi Manje Manje muse in their Setswana traditional epic song, “Ga le dikela”.
This hope ushered by a new dawn should be eloquently captured in the new image of brand Africa. The new dawn of the AfCFTA ushers us into an epoch in which all Africa’s assets, be they natural resources and human capital, will be mobilised to catapult our continent into a higher development trajectory.
The idea of exploring the dialectical interdependence between continental integration and economic development isn’t just a marketing gimmick. Africa is the next frontier. We observe foreign powers positioning themselves to be granted a seat at the dinner table – think the US, China, France, Germany, Russia and the desperate UK post Brexit (as they hope to concentrate their energies into the Commonwealth Association). Let these powers be warned: they will be no repeat of the 1885 Berlin Conference’s “scramble for Africa”. This time: Africa defines rules of engagement! Indeed, as Zakes Mda mused, “we shall sing for the fatherland”!
Although our brand positioning programme, projects and activities will be centred on ““Yakhal’ inkomo” as the central theme, we should be cognisant of the fact that the conceptualisation of the AfCFTA is multisectoral and cross-sectoral as it talks to human development in its totality. It cuts across all socioeconomic sectors. In this age of globalisation, innovation – within the context of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) – has become one of the primary drivers of opening market access opportunities beyond geographic borders – thus it’s a strategic vehicle for economic development. Scholarly literature posits innovation is a strategic source for competitive advantage, a multiplier of economic activity, employment and development in the face of globalisation.
Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd builds nation brand equities through developing and designing strategic nation brand architecture for cities, provinces and countries. This helps places to, within a globally competitive context, assert their brand identity and manage their reputation; attract foreign direct investment (FDI); and to reposition themselves as tourism destinations of choice.
Since building and forging a nation brand is more complex and multidimensional than branding a commercial product or corporate entity as a result of the multiple stakeholders with vested interests in a nation brand, Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd is an ideal vehicle to advise governments and institutions in undertaking such brand image-building and reputation programmes. Since nation brand concept has infinite range of touchpoints, the agency helps to unpack and streamline them by developing holistic public diplomacy strategic platforms.
The non-state actors, such as the private sector and civil society, are defined by public diplomacy theoretical paradigm as vehicles for communicating a country’s foreign policy objectives and yet they are often not given the opportunity to engage with government’s conceptualisation and development of implementation initiatives of such strategies. Brandhill Africa (PTY) Ltd endeavours to close such a strategic gap by guiding and mentoring such institutions on navigating the ambit of foreign policy environment. The question then is how do we manage the perceptions of Africa away from the images of a dark continent as articulated by Joseph Conrad in his seminal work, “The Heart of Darkness”.
How do we manage the reputation of Africa while we avoid “the danger of [communicating] a single story”, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian contemporary novelist, has put it. How do we communicate a message of the
“Africa rising” narrative while at the same time asserting the sub-text that “Africa is not a country”, as eloquently articulated by Arthur Lewin. Beyond this, how do we manage the nation brands of Africa’s 54 member states within the context of Africa striving to accelerate the reintegration effort. To us, these complexities
provide us with opportunities for presenting individual nation brands which are at once distinctive yet varied.
We rely on the theoretical framework on competitive identity which we have developed as Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd and it is aptly titled “the Zebra Paradigm”. This model ranks forty variables that influence investor decision making regarding destinations of their investments. The framework, which I have developed in my
dissertation in partial fulfilment for the requirements of the MSc in Global Marketing degree, is outlined in detail in my account on www.academia.edu.
By the way, another ingenuous metaphor that could be borrowed from cattle is when they chew their cud. This speaks to the need for investing for the future. During grazing time, cattle will partake as much grass as possible and in the late afternoon or early evening at their leisure they will then return the partly digested food from the first stomach of ruminants to the mouth for further chewing. While other countries have depleted their natural resources, Africa’s are hidden safely in its bowels. We are the next frontier!
Before I conclude, let me focus a bit on housekeeping. The Brandhill Africa group is now constituted by five subsidiaries. Three previous divisions have evolved into fully-fledged autonomous companies – namely, Brandhill Africa Media Holdings (Pty) Ltd, which publishes Jambo Africa Online and books for the trade market; Brandhill Africa Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd which mobilises investments for infrastructure development projects in South Africa and other African countries; and finally, Brandhill Africa Institute (Pty) Ltd, which is our vehicle for public diplomacy. This means Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd remains a strategic brand development and management agency which will continue positioning African brands and opening market access opportunities for them – with the Biashara Services and Products Africa (BiSPA) Conference and Exhibition being one of its flagship projects. The group’s corporate social investment programmes are driven by the Brandhill Africa Foundation NPC.
Before exiting, let me thank the staff for keeping the promise we made to our stakeholders on 9 December 2020 when we inaugurated the annual star-studded BiSPA Conference and Exhibition: that from the beginning of 2021we will mount bimonthly virtual seminars promoting trade and investment opportunities accruing from the AfCFTA. Yes, the series was launched on 3 March 2021. Our warmest regards to our partners – the African Chambers of Mines and other Mining Associations in Africa (ACMMAA) and the Growth Diagnostics in collaboration with the North-West University Business School. Words are not sufficient to express how grateful we are to our audiences from all over Africa and other continents.
“Yakhal’ inkomo! Wake up to appreciate all the refreshing things Africa has to offer. Our traditional wisdom further says: “ga gona kgomo ya boroko” (which means “nobody derives wealth from sleeping”). Remember, traditionally cattle are a symbol of wealth. So let’s get up, fold our sleeves and let’s work hard for Africa’s development. If you don’t do this, let me warn you, we’ll mourn quoting the legendary Amampondo’s song: “Zimnkile inkomo!” (which means “the cows are gone”).
Enjoy the International Women’s Day and South Africa’s Human Rights’ Month.
Follow me on Twitter: @saulmolobi