Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo says the Southern African Development Community region and the rest of the continent offer new prospects for South Africa. Photo: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has called on South Africa to seek new opportunities in emerging markets as the winds of change blowing across the US and Europe make access to such economies difficult.

Dlodlo told the National Brand Forum in Joburg this week that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and the rest of the continent provided new prospects for South Africa. She commended the Department of Trade and Industry’s recent trade and investment mission to Algeria and Tunisia, saying: “Those are the markets we should be looking into.”

Algeria is South Africa’s largest export trading partner in the north Africa region, accounting for 43 percent of the total trade with the region from 2011 to 2015. The total value of trade between the two countries reached more than R13.4billion during the period.

Dlodlo told the captains of industry and the government officials that effective communication and marketing tools could play a pivotal role in advancing the nation’s agenda. She said these could also be used to attract much-needed investment and increase awareness of South Africa through money-spinning sectors such as tourism.

The minister pointed out that each nation was already a brand on its own, but questions needed to be asked as to what could be done to increase the brand awareness to potential investors. “We need to build the country’s reputation and shift perceptions.”

The event comes after the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017-18 revealed that South Africa has plummeted 14 places to rank 61 out of 137 economies appraised in the annual survey. Dlodlo said the nation brand belonged to all South Africans and was in many ways influenced by the many cultures, traditions and diversity.

“This year’s Nation Brand Forum aims to engage business on the development of the nation brand globally,” she said, adding the forum met at a critical time as the country was celebrating the legacy of revered anti-apartheid hero Oliver Reginald Tambo, who would have turned 100 this year. “OR Tambo was the foremost architect of Brand South Africa.”

Brand SA chief executive Dr Kingsley Makhubela, who was Tambo’s bodyguard, said often people thought the responsibility of building the nation brand belonged to government. But the pillars of business and civil society were equally important to that task.

“We will be looking at business regarding how they should be navigating the challenges we have around the world.” He lamented US President Donald Trump for being inward looking, and the rise of the right-wing in Germany. The right-wing populist AfD received more than 13percent of the vote during the German federal elections last month.

Makhubela said Africa was universally accepted as a thriving economy, saying: “We need to behave in a responsible way and empower people within the continent as we do that, we will build the brand of South Africa as a caring nation that is concerned about the plight of the poor in the world.”