By Sithembile Ntombela
South Africa is one of the countries that has shown interest and intent in the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. The Agreement is positioned as Africa’s greatest economic tool towards achieving the self-sustainability championed in the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and also as it pertains to South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030.
In the way it was conceptualized the AfCFTA has the potential to deliver on broader and deeper economic integration, attract new investment with ease, boost trade, create more opportunities for skills development and skilled jobs, lift millions out of poverty, and increase shared prosperity in Africa. It is the core project behind the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and provides the opportunity to expand Africa’s economy by $3.4 trillion, predominantly by eliminating tariffs on intra-Africa trade. A unified African economy demands unified messaging, thus the development of the AfCFTA relies on the strength of the continent’s image and intra-continental confidence.
The mandate of Brand South Africa is steeped in communicating a message that creates a positive nation brand image, and to a large extent, promote the ideals of a unified Africa – all for the objective of attracting investment. To this end, the AfCFTA presents us, as the Nation Brand custodians, with the best opportunity possible to attract investment, when paired with South Africa’s status of the most industrialised nation in Africa. It is a match made in ‘trade and industry’ heaven, so to speak.
The marketer in me sees Africa’s trade story as a tale of two archetypes. The first is the export of raw materials to the world – we all have the expectation that the AfCFTA will radicalise this industry the most, maybe not in the immediate future, but its impact will be felt here the greatest, as it is ostensibly to be the source of most of the wealth creation, lifting millions out of poverty.
But, it’s the second archetype that holds the true embodiment of what the AfCFTA could mean to the continent’s almost 1.4 billion people – where a higher degree of trade diversification will be required when Africa trades amongst ourselves, under the AfCFTA. This is what I am excited for the most, as this is the gateway for entrepreneurs to know true wealth, for technology startups to be globally disruptive, and for multinationals to invest without risk, while FDIs can optimise and vary investment portfolios. This is when the aspirations of economic integration, industrial development and social transformation will be realised in a very tangible way, through the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The possibilities for marketers, communicators, and nation branders are infinite. One of the most critical but simple examples is the impact of packaging. Trade diversification, as we know, is about adding product, services, location, customers and markets to a business’s portfolio. With this expansion comes audience engagement and targeting, and from a packaging perspective, not only does this provide branding opportunities, it’s also about technical and operational clarification that each market will need based on AfCFTA specifications and compliance, such as the ‘rules of origin’ for example.
If we unpack this, it takes us down the road of testing, compliance, standards, and more – before we even get to the advertising and messaging, which creates or diversifies a sector in a country, or opens up the opportunity for a country like South Africa, which has established mechanisms and put globally trusted measurements in place to partner with countries beyond our borders to create not just intra-African trade markets, but also global markets whose standards we can guarantee compliance for.
THIS is the true incarnation of the AfCFTA unity in economic terms, that was once just a dream of our founding fathers.
“African Made” and the unified messaging intrinsic to “Buying African Made” is key to projecting the confidence within the African continent, and from a global perspective. It is a communicative cornerstone critical to the success of AfCFTA and Agenda 2063 – it engenders unity by manifesting unity. “African Made” is not just a hollow marketing phrase. It is a messaging product that communicates unity and will ultimately advance Africa’s competitive advantage and reputation.