As part of Brand South Africa’s assessment of the country’s competitive advantage, Brand South Africa tracks a wide variety of indices, reputation indicator studies, and commissioned research to assess and monitor the nation brand’s competitiveness and reputation standings. Miller Matola delivers the insights.
One of the tools used by Brand South Africa to determine the health of the country’s reputation is the Nation Brand Index (NBI). It consists of six dimensions namely: exports, governance, culture, people, tourism, and immigration/investment. Of these dimensions, exports, governance, immigration/investment is considered part of the hard performance measures whereas culture, people and tourism are considered to be soft criteria.
In positioning the nation brand as a reliable investment, tourist and skills destination, both the hard and the soft criteria are equally important.
In 2014, Brand South Africa undertook a fieldwork study in peer African countries: Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya – to engage with various stakeholders from business, civil society, media, government, think tanks and academic professionals. This field study explored the softer elements of South Africa’s rich identity – the culture and people dimension of the NBI. The rationale being that South Africa’s success in peer African countries is very much dependant on its reputation, which is shaped by more than foreign policy, or trade interactions.
Perceptions shape a version of the truth in the minds of individuals, communities and nations which is often deemed as reality. Thus this research seeked to develop insight not only on South Africa’s footprint in these three markets, but to also understand the perceptions which formed their reality and in turn, deepen relations with peer African countries.
From a reputational point of view it is clear that South Africa has major influence on two fronts, one being democratic transition and the other being strong institutions and as a result of major interest in South African music and culture.
For South Africa to build and protect its reputation, it needs to identify what exactly the world appreciates most about us.
This is part of growing South Africa’s competitive strength. Although culture and heritage is regarded as a “soft issue”, it makes a decisive contribution to South Africa’s competitive appeal.
Brand South Africa’s research shows that in all three markets, there is a keen interest in South Africa’s music and entertainment industry. Music is a very strong cultural exchange between the countries. Kenyans identify with local South African music and believe it is a sense of aestheticism of what African music should sound like in a western world.
Music serves as a unifier of African culture and crosses all boundaries of race, ethnicity groupings and language barriers. This is evident through the collaborations with Nigerian and South African musicians showcased on television and radio platforms. Not only does music create a national identity, it crosses beyond borders and the sound transcends to other nations through the feeling of the rhythm and beat of the songs.
Hip-hop, kwaito and house music is the predominant genre that is consumed by listeners. It is interesting to note that in all three countries, the predominant exposure to South African music is through DStv, particularly Channel O, radio and live streaming through the internet.
Music is therefore a powerful source of nation building and national identity and greatly contributes to giving South Africa a competitive edge. South African artists can play an integral role in the transfer of South African knowledge, culture and reality through festivals and concerts.
Join the conversation and tell us what you think makes South Africa competitive on @Brand_SA #CompetitiveSA.
Miller Matola is CEO of Brand South Africa.
IMAGE: Songbird Abigail Kubeka / Mediaclub South Africa / Suleiman Philip
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