AMC23: The $3.4 trillion enigma - What is brand Africa?
AMC23: The $3.4 trillion enigma - What is brand Africa?
Marketers must change the narrative if Africa is to shine as it should on the global stage.
With a population of over 1.3 billion people, rich in natural resources, vibrant cultures and talented individuals, Africa as a commercial entity remains stubbornly opaque. It is talked about as a homogenous entity, despite a landscape of 54 diverse member states. It is a continent that has a vast amount to offer its own people and the global marketplace, but it is yet to discover the ‘secret sauce’ that will launch it once and for all onto the world stage.
In September 2023, the 2nd Annual African Marketing Confederation Conference hopes to break open what brand Africa means – to the continent, to countries, to organisations and to individuals.
One of the key speakers at the event, Professor Robert Ebo Hinson took time out to explain to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) why marketers need to take a long, hard look at what it means to be African on the global stage, and why they must redouble their efforts if they’re to capitalise on the continent’s clear economic, social and cultural opportunities.
“Why doesn’t Africa control its own narrative,” he demands. “Ask yourself, how many of those 54 states have a clearly articulated brand proposition? How many can leverage that brand for investment, trade and tourism? I would argue it’s down to the creative industries – and marketers – to change that narrative.”
The foundations are in place – now build
The groundwork has already been done. Professor Hinson points to the AfCFTA, the world’s largest free trade area bringing together the 55 countries of the African Union (AU) and eight Regional Economic Communities that make up the combined $3.4 trillion opportunity.
A flagship project of the Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, which is the AU’s long-term development strategy for “transforming the continent into a global powerhouse”.
“The starting point for changing the narrative around Brand Africa begins with the free trade secretariat. Over the past two years, despite removing trade barriers and facilitating export and technology, there has been an absence of clear marketing thinking. I don’t hear discussions about marketing and customer sophistication that will bring about this economic miracle,” Professor Hinson warns.
But he also agrees we cannot afford to sit back and wait for an organisation like the secretariat to take the lead. “Marketers are in a position to influence the C-Suite to bring about change. We have to build a collaborative mindset to get CIOs, CTOs and CFOs to align around the centrality of the customer in building profit.”
Collaboration with the CIO – chief information officer – and CTO – chief technology officer – is perhaps a new relationship for marketers to forge. Much has been made of the impact COVID had on turbocharging technology’s relationship with marketing and the wider business, but now there is less urgency, perhaps complacency is also creeping in.
“Marketers themselves must become more tech-savvy. Salespeople have now pivoted to technology because COVID made it impossible to take face-to-face meetings. We had to start using mobile devices more. That doesn’t mean we weren’t using them before, but it’s become more concentrated,” Professor Hinson explains.
Marketing’s technological heart
This will be at the heart of Professor Hinson’s keynote speech at the conference, ‘Marketing Strategy and Technology. Expanding the Success of Pan-African Brands’. It’s something he admits is a change in his thinking, and one he hopes he can convince others of, too. “I wasn’t a big fan of having technology lead the conversation, but working as a consultant and teacher I revised my thinking. We now need tech-led marketing teams. We need to be able to explain to HR and IT the sort of tools that are likely to optimise the marketing function. We need to tell the finance team what technology is going to help us complete our reports.
“Brand strategy needs to be informed by real-time insights. Nowadays, we don’t just go by gut. Campaigns are informed by data and augmented by AI. Media activations are iterated rapidly using the unique attributes of every channel.”
Professor Hinson also looks to touch on a familiar bone of contention: Consumer privacy. “The new African consumer is very interested in anonymity. They want to interact in a way that doesn’t expose their identity. They want to be anonymous but still want more creative experiences. That has to drive us to make the tech better. Marketers need to influence the C-Suite so they can create a 360-degree customer data view that becomes the core of the customer journey, across an integrated tech stack.”
Supporting through change and the role of professional bodies
Like Professor Hinson, CIM will also be contributing to the conversation in the form of James Sutton, CIM’s strategic and commercial director. At the conference, he will discuss how marketers need to harness the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI). One of the areas where marketers’ skills are lacking, something Professor Hinson agrees with and would like to see a call to arms over technology in marketing in general.
James will also debate the need for continuous learning to meet both innovation and changing consumer demands both now and in the future. Professional bodies such as CIM play a pivotal role as the backbone of any thriving profession, fostering advocacy, representation, standard setting and accreditation. This is critical when we consider the issues of data privacy, sustainability considerations and how they feed into long-term brand loyalty, not to mention the long hoped-for establishment of Africa as the aforementioned “global powerhouse”.
This is easier said than done, but the $3.4 trillion opportunity is immense if the correct level of collaboration and partnership can be achieved. The 2nd annual African Marketing Confederation Conference is not just an opportunity to sit back and listen to some of the most talented marketers across Africa today. It’s a chance to build those crucial collaborations. For more information and to secure your place at this seminal event, visit https://africanmarketingconfederation.org/book-now/.
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