Not new to presenting South Africa to the world, Brand SA CEO Kingsley Makhubela has earned his stripes. Formerly ambassador and high commissioner to Portugal and Kenya respectively, he has been active in advancing international relations for South Africa. A former director-general of the department of tourism, he played an integral part in South Africa’s campaign to host the 2010 World Cup. He’s also skilled at bringing together various stakeholders to position South Africa as a preferred tourism destination.
In a recent master class on branding with students from University of South Africa (Unisa) and Rutgers University in New Jersey, America, Makhubela noted the need for civic-minded people in building a country. He talked about international tensions and how conflict continues to shape perceptions about the world. “What do you communicate? The challenges? Or the potential and values of the nation?” he asked.
By telling inspiring stories, Brand SA aims to build confidence in the future of South Africa. The wine industry aims to do exactly that: sell wine through compelling stories. What are the key learnings when it comes to telling the South African story?
A positive brand story is most effectively told when it’s consistent and cohesive. There are many positive stories about our country told from various perspectives by millions of people – both inside the country and beyond our borders. One of these has been the story of our transition to democracy, our negotiated solution to what was considered an intractable situation, the tenacity and resilience of our people to withstand years of oppression and then work towards building a country representative of our diverse people.
This is the spirit that must characterise the South African story, even where there are challenges.
But we must also look for an alternative reality to the one that is dominating headlines. There’s always more to the story and this is one of the key learnings of this exercise.
What are the global challenges when it comes to marketing South Africa as an investor and tourist destination?
One of the challenges is the enormous pressure the global economy is under. We’ve recently seen the effects of this pressure on the commodity market, which is one of South Africa’s traditional revenue streams. This has impacted on our economy and is something that needs to be managed.
On the other hand, such a situation can galvanise us a nation into action so our economy is not as dependent on one industry. We’ve started to work in this direction and you’ll notice us implement programmes aimed at leveraging the economic benefit of the oceans economy.
The other challenge is posed by global security concerns. Recent events in Europe and other parts of the world can impact negatively on global tourism. South Africa’s source markets are also long-haul destinations, which means we must work harder to promote our country’s competitive advantages to tourists.
However we still have a good opportunity to promote and build our tourist economy because South Africa is a value-for-money destination which offers a favourable exchange rate.
Are there specific game-changing aspects that you feel could accelerate the success of Brand SA?
During my tenure at Brand SA I would like to be part of a movement where we begin to celebrate the best that our country has to offer. I think that if all South Africans were part of such a movement, it would go a long way towards building our country – both from a pride and patriotism perspective as well as from a global reputation perspective.
Every country has challenges but many are so much more than mere challenges. If we focus only on the challenges and problems we miss so much of the positive.
South African wine sales in Africa have seen significant successes. How can South Africa improve its image on the continent?
South Africa is an integral part of Africa and the continent is critical to the South African brand – from a foreign policy and trade perspective and when it comes to people-to-people relations.
There is however still a view that South Africa is separate from the continent. So I think we must start strengthening our awareness that we are a part of the continent and we are African.
What is your best wine or brandy moment?
South Africa produces the best red wine, the finest white wine and top-quality spirits.
Our wine routes are also becoming well-reputed destinations for wine tasting and exploration.