In my first Africa on the blog post relating to branding Africa, I explored the idea of marketing Africa with a twist: Stop selling Africa, rather sell its high quality products. Why did I come on strong with this issue? I did it because I feel “Africans” do not quite know what they need to sell and how to sell them well… YET!
How do we overcome this? I am no marketing expert but in my line of work, when trying to develop a concept or solve a problem, I would usually start with a SWOT analysis. In short S.W.O.T is simply a tool for assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is a thinking tool and I have found it to be useful in my work and would like to exercise just how powerful this and other mind tools can be when applied to other fields. First step I will take is to choose brand Africa and assess its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
If you try to sell Africa today:
1. You don’t really know what you are selling if you do not focus on a specific product, Africa is just too diverse, break it down to workable products. So what sort of products am I talking about? I could start by simply naming a country and its product. A couple of examples are Botswana – Diamonds, Nigeria – Oil, Uganda – fashion textiles. These are examples of strong products.
2. You cannot put a price on an obscure object if there is no specific product, and if you could, would it sell at that price?
3. You limit your market only to Africans if you are trying to sell “Africa”, and in saying that, you are limited only to those who are interested in their mother land.
What next for brand Africa? If Africa wants to sell something to the world:
1. study what the world wants,
2. create that product,
3. make sure it meets an extremely high specification,
4. make sure it is useful and able to compete with the other products in the market on price and performance
5. and last but not least, make sure that product can be delivered on time.
Above is an example of a short and simple SWOT analysis in no particular order.
I bring my focus to weaknesses; which are not all bad. Weaknesses pose opportunities for improvement and creativity. One area I absolutely love is in fashionable goods and accessories. This area has tremendous opportunity for growth. What do I see as a weakness? Many so called “African” fashion accessories on the market need not be painted with conventional images of Africa as I feel that immediately limits the potential market reach. What? Sell “African” goods that do not appear to be very “African”? Absolutely! Sell fashionable goods of African origin which will not just appeal to another African, but will appeal to the whole world! Sell a fashionable item which is not dated with an “African” print; prints which do not compliment non-Africans, but a fashionable item which is in season and will compete with the rest of the market. Sell a high quality product of African origin. Are you catching my drift?
What other products could we sell? I mentioned fashion; yes! How about broadening our horizons and selling Electronics and other forms of engineering technology that the world finds very useful? Even better! Could we move into fields that have traditionally been dominated by countries such as Russia, China, and USA? Why not? Could Africa have the brains to engineer better micro chips, vehicles and pharmaceuticals that can compete with what the world has got? This idea may seem a little farfetched as we are centuries behind the rest of the world, but it is a dream we can all work towards. We are very rich in natural resources, and the world needs them. But can we add value to these at source? Yes we can!
Africa has a very long way to go before it appeals to the masses. We need to start focusing on our strengths as well as areas which seem impossible, but it needs to be done. We need to become efficient in business. It is a must. We need to build better and stronger infrastructure to facilitate this business. Tourism is huge in Africa, but why is it almost impossible and terribly expensive to travel by air from one end of Africa to the other? Trying to do this will almost certainly have to involve a stopover in Europe, before re-entering Africa. Why is that? Is it something we could improve? It most certainly is something we should improve.
Weakness or threat? Africa’s bane of existence is poor political governance, but that has never stopped anyone. Germany has had its problems. But look at it today. When I hear of Germany, I immediately think engineering excellence in the automotive industry. Benz, Daimler and Maybach, all highly sought after automobile brands, hail from Germany. Didn’t Germany have political issues? It most certainly did, but that did not stop it from being the automobile powerhouse of the world. And did it take billions of dollars of investment to get these brands up to spec? Probably, but these brands were built by hand, each by one person to start with. Another example comes up when I think about Russia, or rather, the USSR of the 1980’s, I think of space travel. Interestingly, women during this time accounted for 58% of the engineering workforce. Did USSR have political problems? Yes, of course they did, but it has not stopped the country from achieving ground breaking results in the field of astronautical engineering. There are countless other countries I could describe. Each of them have a product, and mostly just one product is the focus.
Could Africa do the same and build iconic brands like Western countries have?