SMMEs, young entrepreneurs key to rebuilding South Africa’s economy
Brand South Africa (Brand SA), the official marketing agency of South Africa with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation, improve its competitiveness, and create employment through inclusive partnerships across the African Continent, has successfully hosted the 6th Annual Nation Brand Forum, with a clarion call to amplify the work of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Speaking at this year’s Annual Nation Brand Forum at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, the acting CEO Ms Sithembile Ntombela said “We must continue amplifying the work of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). There is an important role for everyone, especially the youth and women, to co-create and drive a mutually beneficial, integrated African magic.”
According to Ntombela, this also involves a focus on shaping the individual country’s reputation and competitiveness, because “if we show the world how competitive we are, we will be able to attract loyal investors and tourists”.
The AfCFTA aims to progressively eliminate intra-Africa trade barriers, develop regional value chains, and enhance industrialisation across Africa. It requires investments to reduce inefficiencies in the trade within the African continent.
The three-day event, which concluded on Thursday (6 October), comprised of a youth symposium, roundtable side-events with various stakeholders including the media, and private sector open plenaries, focusing on key drivers of trade, investment, and sustainability.
On the first day, the key focus area was on engaging the youth to contribute towards
tangible solutions for alleviating youth unemployment, further fuelling entrepreneurship. This culminated in plenaries with the private sector that focussed on the youth being key drivers of trade, investment, and sustainability.
The second day involved intense discussions about the value of building individual country brands on the continent in a way that promotes a united Africa proposition. This will encourage cohesiveness in the way Africa presents itself to the world and drive further investment amongst nations.
A demonstration of this was the support and attendance to the event by similar nation brand building organisations from Kenya, Botswana, and Namibia amongst others.
The third day’s focus was on looking at South Africa, an inspiring nation full of opportunities, through the lens of hope, despite all the challenges.
Ms Thembi Siweya, Deputy Minister in the Presidency, through a recorded video message, emphasised the progress being made on South Africa’s economic renewal and rebuilding.
“Strengthening our economy through engagements and dialogue such as the Nation Brand Forum, builds on the potential that already exists and reinforces public and private partnerships, which are key to overcoming our socio-economic challenges as a country,” she said.
African and international corporates Standard Bank, General Electric, Siemens, H&M, and Google stressed the advantages that South Africa has that should be leveraged for the Nation Brand.
These include South Africa’s good labour arbitrage, its youth’s entrepreneurial flair, as well as its diversities such as straddling two markets: the emerging and established ones, which make it a perfect breeding ground for training global corporate leaders.
Mr Jose Filipe Torres, CEO of the renowned Spanish international branding agency Bloom, affirmed Brand SA’s steadfast efforts and achievements in presenting South Africa to the world. “Keep up the good work and now move the brand a step further, by developing one central positioning message for South Africa by using the country’s digital footprints to further excel the nation.”
Resolutely against the three days being yet another ‘talk shop’, the event lived up to its resolution of tabling and encouraging inclusive partnerships with the private sector to further grow the economy.
“Action is critical after meetings like these, which means there must be follow up to what we say. And one of the ways to do this is to continue to improve on our credibility as a country, because when Africa is organised, it’s easier to do business with from an international perspective,” said Nyimpini Mabunda, CEO of General Electric Southern Africa.
Other key take outs from the event were the critical role the SMME sector has to play in this economic, social, and environmental equation. Expanding on this is the importance of unlocking Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) opportunities for small businesses.
“In forging forward to grow our economy, doing so in a sustainable way that protects the environment is something we have to keep top of mind; this together with mindfully practicing inclusivity of all levels of our economy and not just the big corporates,” Ms Ntombela concluded.