Brands, a Solution to Africa’s Transformation [opinion]

“AFRICA is the next China”, “I’m setting my eyes on Africa”, “It’s Africa’s time”.

These are some of the statements made in support of Africa’s turnaround. Whether or not Africa is really coming out into the light, is not the point, what is important is whether we are ready and want to be part of Africa’s new dawn, and responsible for Africa’s new name. Why not use African brands to do so?

Since starting Cornerstone, I have come across fellow young Namibians, who in my opinion have shown an “audacity” to step out and do something about the status quo. Young leaders, who have not sat around blaming government, but have opted to do something! The same can be said of peers from other African countries. Africans such as Margatte Wade from Senegal, who owns Toissan Cosmetics and Strive Masiyiwa from Zimbabwe, founder of Econet. Both are making a visible contribution to Africa.

What is evident in Namibia is the rise of entrepreneurs. Many are opting out of high paying corporate employment, to start companies that aim to be tomorrow’s multinationals – clearly not determining small.

We know that starting a business requires sound business fundamentals these include structuring a value chain that works to meet and exceed consumer expectations. Getting the above requirements in place is key to developing a g brand. Sadly, many entrepreneurs focus on the fundamentals of business and pay little attention to developing the brand. If businesses are really market-focused then our companies must be built around the brand.

As a marketing professional, I have come to appreciate the benefits brands offer. However, although we know brands offer financial value, they are often overlooked, set aside and in many instances taken for granted as supposed by a professional in the industry. Why are many Namibian brands still not getting their place in the sun? Why not focus on developing and managing local brands that can contribute to really seeing the transformation of our countries and Africa.

What now?

I want to encourage entrepreneurs to not neglect developing their brands when starting a business, as g brands can help a “business capitalize on opportunities to expand into new categories and geographies”, as mentioned by Millward Brown. g brands entering new markets add to the growth and reputations of the very countries they come from.

Remember Nokia? Yes, it is sad that Nokia will no longer exist, but there was a time when Nokia contributed significantly to Finland’s growth. According to an article in The Economist, Nokia generated nearly one fifth of Finland’s exports. In the decade to 2007 Nokia was paying 23% of all Finnish corporation tax and Finland was home to the “greatest number of Nokia employees” – creating jobs and keeping the money in the country. It is remarkable to see the significant contribution, this single corporate once made to its home economy.

Although Nokia currently shows a sad ending, reading about the “Nokia Effect” gave me goose bumps. To see the power that Nokia had on Finland’s growth and reputation is notable. At the same time, it reminded me that building and maintaining brands is not a once-off thing but it takes continuous resolve and effort to maintain the success. I guess it’s like a marriage! You need to continuously resolve to work on it to maintain a successful marriage.

I don’t know about you, but I am convinced that I want to be part of developing brands (service or product brands) that not only contribute to developing the Namibian economy but also brands that will set Namibia and Africa on course to seeing its transformation.

Are we afraid of the world? No! It is Africa’s time as we hear, and as young entrepreneurs we can add to seeing Africa’s transformation through Proudly Namibian brands.

Margareth Gustavo is the Managing Director of Cornerstone Joe Public Consultants.

Source : The Namibian