South Africa Missteps While Marketing Itself Globally

South Africa Missteps While Marketing Itself Globally

From Los Angeles Times

Brand South Africa, the body charged with marketing the nation abroad, has had a tough month.

The International Monetary Fund on Oct. 1 downgraded its growth forecast for South Africa and called on the government to take tougher action to make the country more competitive, increase economic growth and tackle chronically high unemployment.

Then came BMW’s abrupt and embarrassing announcement Oct. 3 that the company had canceled plans to expand its South African operation, because of the cost of successive strikes.

To top off the bad news, on Tuesday the office of South African President Jacob Zuma was forced to apologize after Zuma a day earlier referred disdainfully to Malawi and other parts of Africa, saying that South Africa should not “think like Africans in Africa generally; we’re in Johannesburg.” He made the comments in reference to plans for a toll system to pay for highways.

Brand South Africa Chief Executive Miller Matola said that he didn’t think Zuma’s comments, known locally as his “I am not an African” speech, created negative international perceptions of the country. But he acknowledged that South Africa faced “challenges,” particularly in encouraging business investment.

“We need a national conversation about being more competitive,” he said at a news conference.

Matola said South Africa’s best hope was the government’s 20-year economic growth strategy, the National Development Plan, released last year, which aims to improve infrastructure and competitiveness, raise education levels, create jobs and eliminate poverty.

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The country needs a boost like the one it got from hosting the FIFA World Cup soccer championship in 2010, he said.

“The next World Cup for us is the National Development Plan, this national vision for the country, and making it work,” he said.

The plan has been applauded by economists but attacked by leaders of powerful South African trade unions. Union leaders argue that it is premised on undermining workers’ rights and cutting wages.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, meanwhile, blamed negative news reports for the nation’s downgrade last year by major credit-rating agencies.

“Whether we are in opposition or in government, whether we are in business or in any other sector of the economy, if you want to shoot this country down, carry on with the [negative] news flow,” Gordhan told a parliamentary committee, according to SAPA news agency. “Alternatively, change the narrative and talk about how we are going to cooperate to put this country on its proper growth path so we can create jobs and we can create optimism and a better investment climate for the country.”

Read more at Los Angeles Times.