On the sidelines of the Intra-African Trade Fair currently taking place in Durban, Thebe Ikalafeng, founder of Brand Africa, announced the launch of “Brand Africa | Africa’s Best Places”, a set of awards that will recognise the best countries, cities and destinations in Africa.
Every year, African Business publishes its ranking of Africa’s Top 100 Brands, a ranking conceived and produced by Brand Africa. Pedro Besugo, head of Business Development and Strategy at IC Publications, caught up with Ikalafeng, in Durban to find out more about this latest initiative.
You’ve been producing every year your ranking of Africa’s Best Brands, looking at Africa’s Most Admired Brands. You have just launched “Brand Africa Africa’s Best Places? What is it exactly?
“Brand Africa | Africa’s Best Places” is a Brand Africa initiative to recognise and rank the best places in Africa. Ultimately it is to inspire excellence and pride in African cities, and enhance their competitiveness, as a catalyst for growth in tourism and investment, and contribute to the greater development and image of the continent.
How did the idea come about?
There is no doubt that Africa is rich and diverse. Yes, while we are rich in mineral resources, we have enviable indigenous fauna and flora, are blessed with arable land and a youthful population, we do not get a commensurate share of world tourism, of global FDI or talent.
The last reliable estimates I saw said that the continent attracts roughly only 5% of the world’s inbound tourism and FDI. The “Brand Africa | Africa’s Best Places” initiative is a deliberate and strategic Africa-focused initiative to get Africa a larger share over time.
The urgency of the AfCFTA to accelerate intra-Africa trade from 15% to 50% by 2030 means Africa needs to fast track its development and industrialisation agenda. While there is hope that the funding will be created internally as intra-Africa trade and tourism grows, a significant investment will also need to come from FDI and in-bound tourism.
What are the desired outcomes? What will be key drivers behind Africa’s Best Places?
The goal is to inspire excellence, recognise and share best practices in place branding, marketing and development.
We will be focusing on six key categories: trade, investment and economic development; tourism; private public partnerships; citizen engagement; conservation and sustainability; and cross border collaborations, and how these impact the movement of capital for investment, talent and tourism.
More importantly, as an Africa driven initiative for Africa, ultimately it is about Africa owning its own narrative and agenda.
How will the winners be selected; have you devised a methodology and how can cities and places get involved?
There are two primary streams in selecting Africa’s Best Places. The first will be “Adjudicated” and the second “Research based”.
In the adjudicated stream, African private and public institutions, agencies and practitioners can submit entries for destination branding initiatives and campaigns implemented internally in Africa or externally for Africa.
The research-led stream will be an independent pan-African ranking of the most admired African countries and cities. This will be done based on nation, city and destination brands and this will be done through a comprehensive Africa-wide survey with a clear methodology based on a number of distinct metrics. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony next year.
This should create healthy competition amongst African cities. So, when will the winners be announced?
The process will officially kick off on 1 January 2022. It will be open to all countries, cities and destinations. Submissions for entries will open on 30 Jan 2022 and these will be open for three months closing on the 30 April 2022.
The adjudication process will take place between 15 May and 15 Jun 2022. The finalists and grand prix awards will be published on Brand Africa and partner media channels across traditional and social media channels between 30 June and 31 August 2022, with the awards being announced live on 1 September.
You say part of the objective is to change the narrative around our countries, cities and destinations. What needs to change in order for us to better promote our own brands and destinations?
It is well established that to compete, Africa, individually as countries, cities and destinations and collectively as a continent, we need to be deliberate in driving our agenda.
Well-articulated place development, branding and communication strategies and initiatives will help to build distinctive identities around our different countries, cities, regions and destinations so that they stand out from others.
We also need to better understand our own places and be able to articulate and communicate their benefits and strengths to investors, visitors and also to our own residents. There needs to be alignment between the messages created for and by government, business, citizens and visitors.
That messaging will help focus minds. We have seen it done elsewhere where identities have been forged from the belief of who they think they are and what they want to become.
We are encouraging our leaders, at a country, city and destination level to have a clear vision, to become more accountable around what these places mean to live in and visit and what they come to represent, and to also develop a results driven approach in designing the future they aspire to.
We are what we live and breathe, and what we experience. I’ve visited every African country. I have lived the richness of this continent.
Thebe Ikalafeng sits on the Advisory Board of IC Publications, publishers of African Business. Brand Africa and African Business publish every year Africa’s Top 100 Brands, a ranking of Africa’s most admired brands, a ranking developed and conceived by Brand Africa.