As indicated last week, I had the honour of being invited by Dr Amany Asfour, President of the African Business Council (ABC), to a high level panel tackling “the role of business in promoting Africa-Europe businesses” which was held on the margins of the 7th Europe Africa Business Summit. Our colloquium took place this afternoon on Friday. 

As a way of introduction, the ABC has a glorious mission of being “the premier advocacy arm and platform for private sector cooperation and engagement at the African continental level, strengthening economic, commercial, business and investment ties among the business communities of the African continent, while ensuring regular inclusive dialogue with the African Union (AU).”.

Taking place after the 5th Africa Business Forum (ABF) which was held on the margins of the AU Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Europe-Africa Summit, attended by the Heads of State and Government of the member states of the AU and the EU, took place in Brussels from 17 and 18 February (see the full communiqué in this edition) – which was preceded by the ministerial meeting which started on 14 February to the 16th. The 5th ABF which was convened by the UN Economic Commission on Africa (ECA) in partnership with such institutions as the ABC, had the following key strategic objectives:

  • To present the findings of ECA research on the implications of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) for the transport industry with a particular focus on air transport and tourism; 
  • To provide a high-level platform for dialogue between the private and public sector, including investors, on new market developments, business opportunities and technological advancements to enable the African aviation industry to meet the new demand scenarios presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area and to do so in a sustainable way;
  • To put forward the contributions of academic and research centres in improving both the air transport sector and the tourism sector.

So it goes without saying that those delegates to the 7th Europe Africa Business Summit carried with them the aspirations of the entire African business community as ventilated a week earlier in Addis Ababa.

I chose the topic “the role of media in opening market access opportunities for ‘Made in Africa’ service and product brands”, the subject which – as my readers – you do know rules supreme in my mind and soul. After Dr Asfour opened our seminar by emphasising the critical role that the media has to play in supporting African business in their engagements with their European counterparts, my fellow esteemed panellists took the proverbial podium all advocating the strategic imperative of developing authentic African voices. 

The programme was excellently directed by Rose Sibisi from Zambia and Angela Akua Asante from Ghana, who happens to be a member of the Edititial Advisory Board of this news portal, Jambo Africa Online. And we also expressed how grateful we were to Raghda ElShaloudy, the Cairo-based Communications and External Affairs Head of the Africa Business Council for organising this event.  She explained that the whole idea of this ABC is organising this event was to build a network of consistent and trusted media partners to support the private sector dissemination of information.

The other glowing speaker was my aunt (yes in Africa we have no distinction between adopted and biological relations) Rose Ssali – the Kenyan-born Sandton-based founder of Ssali Media House as well as Ssali Publishing House who has already published more than 50 titles to date.  She is a highly experienced editor and ghost-writer and has authored four novels in her own name in the last two years. Her topic was on “creating African business stories the news of 2022”.

Then Constant Namale – who in my book deserves the title of “the godfather of pan African television” – took us through his inspirational journey into the world of media entrepreneurship. He is the founder and President of Afrimédia SA, based in France. My interest in his television channel, Africa 24, is centred around the campaign, “Believe in Africa”, which they launched in 2011 which was aimed at supporting African businesses by boosting confidence in the quality of their workmanship.

Ali Guindo came in to talk about the brand positioning of Africa 24 from a sales perspective. Ali has since 2012 been managing the Group operations – HR and project management – from Dubai (UAE). His topic was on “Africa 24 Role in highlighting Africa Europe business partnerships.”

I was preceded by Charles Ayitey who is a seasoned business multimedia journalist and founder of the Ghana-based Joy Multimedia. His topic was on “the role of media and journalism in promoting and empowering the Africa Europe collaboration”. 

I prefaced my intervention by quoting Socrates when he mused: “The way to gain a reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear…” I then argued Africa needed to invest more than sufficient resources into developing its own continental and global platforms to promote “Made in Africa” service and product brands. The adage “who he pays the piper dictates the tune” was more relevant in the media industry than in any sector of our society.

I couldn’t empahsise enough that all sectors of our society across the continent – particularly government and the private sector – had to avail resources for the establishment and support for the authentic mediums to communicate brand Africa. I advised the audience to constantly keep in their mind the wisdom emanating from an African proverb: “until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

So what challenges are we faced with as Africa?

I recalled the figures I quoted in this news portal a few weeks ago that the UK government budgets over €600 million annually for appropriation by the BBC World Service and this medium reaches 96 million people in Africa – making the channel’s largest audience. Then France avails over €373 million on international advertising in three media platforms: €140 million on Radio France Internationale (with a listenership of over 40 million in Africa);  €80 million on France 24 (with a viewership of over 45 million people a week mostly in Africa);  and €63 million on TV 5 (which has over 55 million viewers per week weekly  and mostly in Africa).

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the bulk of the $1 billion budget ($300 million for each of the  financial years from 2022 to 2026) which will be released to the “Counter Chinese Influence Fund” by the United States will be used on their battlefield, Africa – as all battles have always been about who plunders Africa’s resources – both human and material. So this battle of ideas (for the continued “scramble for Africa”) is not about China, it is about the west fighting to maintain their hegemony over the continent.

So, I then challenged the audience to each ask themselves: What is the strategic response of all Africans – in the public, private and civil society sectors – to this attempted wave of post-colonial conquest? Or rather to be direct: What is your response as an individual business enterprise? What role are you prepared to play in reversing this onslaught? 

Why did I use such a strong concept like “an onslaught”? I gave the audience the statistics of the SA wine exports as a case study. In 2019, the country exported 325 million litres of wine into the European Union. What worried me was that only 145 million were exported bottled and branded as produce of South Africa. 175 million litres were exported in bulk as non-fortified wine. This means they were only scented, preservatives added, bottled and branded as wines if France, Italy, Germany and any other EU member state that imported them, and then exported back into Africa where consumers paid premium prices for them. This constitute an onslaught!

I also referred to what I always decry – yes, I have to say this over and over again until all our consumers get it. Thebe Ikalafeng’s brand Africa annual survey indicates that at their launch in 2010, 34% of the Top 100 Most Admired Brands in Africa were homegrown. This paltry number has since dwindled down 13%. If this doesn’t constitute “onslaught”, I don’t know what wil to you,

Yes, let’s invest sufficient resources in developing and communicating Africa’s narratives from our own perspective and using our home-grown platforms. I congratulate Constant Namale for having established the groundbreaking Africa 24 TV. My preliminary research shows it has penetrated the Francophone market while Anglophone market continues to consume CNN, BBC World News Service, Sky News, Euronews and Travel Channel – making them the top five broadcasters in Africa in terms of market penetration. While I congratulate Africa 24 as the sixth most watched channel in Africa, I believe this is a serious indictment against us as a continent because we need to do everything in our power as various stakeholders to ensure it is the number one television channel watched on the continent.

As the Brandhill Africa group, we’re also trying to contribute to this effort of developing homegrown platforms intended to brand position Africa and her countries as viable destinations for tourism and investment and also helps to open market access opportunities for “Made in Africa” service and product brands. The feedback we’re receiving from various stakeholders on this weekly news portal, Jambo Africa Online, and the annual Biashara Services and Products Africa (BiSPA) Conference and Exhibition – and its quarterly instalments of webinars building up towards the annual jamboree – encourages us to develop a pan African television version as these platforms produce the kind of authentic and genuine content not offered by all these foreign mediums. Watch this space.

Yes, we are young BUT we’re endowed with big dreams and have managed to develop the kind of stakeholders that the multinational conglomerates can only dream about. We’re determined to continue telling uplifting stories to our people while also asserting our true worth as a continent to the entire world. We’re the captains of our destiny. 

Our belief is premised on the advice from Ben Okri, when he muses: “A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose in moorings or orientation… Even in our silence we are living our stories. Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart larger.”

Yes, join us on this epoch-making journey. Let’s make this 21st century a truly African century!

Enjoy your weekend.

Saul Molobi

Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd
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