Every country has a brand. Of course bandying around the word brand in relation to an entire country is a little bit pedestrian. However, we can all agree that the mere mention of certain countries conjures up a particular image.
Every country has a set of perceived compelling peculiarities, as seen by the rest of the world.
Finland and the Nordics in general are noted for their legendary education, widely accepted as the best in the world. The Americans wield technological might and take the position of being the world’s superpower rather seriously. The Swiss are famous for precision watchmaking, design and chocolate. Dubai and the UAE are clearly renowned for wealth and opulence.
Peter van Ham in his 2001 article observes that: Hermes scarves and Beaujolais Nouveau evoke the French art de vivre; BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes drive with German efficiency and reliability…
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Nigeria was well on its way to being renowned as Africa’s Largest Commodities’ Trading Zone — exporting a vast array of produce from Cocoa and Groundnuts to Shea Butter and Palm Oil. Side note: Indonesia is now reckoned as the world’s largest exporter of Palm Oil.
The Nigerian Brand
In my view the Nigerian brand is still alive and well. Not exactly in the incarnation of “good people, great nation” — a widely panned rebranding campaign run a few years ago, but in the real, inspired sense of worth shared by its people. I feel the Nigerian Brand is:
- Welcoming, and
It is however another matter entirely how this brand is perceived by the rest of the world and to a large extent, by Nigerians themselves.
Decades of poor leadership have taken a massive toll on the country’s reputation as it has across most of Africa. I’ll come back to leadership in a minute. But the first and most important step a nation can take to building and enhancing its brand image is to ensure its people agree on a Fundamental Common Purpose. What do Nigerians believe in?
It is all very well to hire PR firms to help burnish the image of the country, but these will only yield cosmetic results if the effort is not underpinned by fundamental transformation in these critical areas:
- Culture & Heritage
- Finance & Investment
Unquestionably, the single most important factor in the success or failure of a nation is leadership.
This is especially true in African countries where institutions are fragile and policy weak. Fred Swaniker makes a great case for this in his recent TED talk when he called for a deliberate approach to raising a new generation of leaders in Africa.
Nigeria is a case study in what consequentially occurs when there’s a sustained lacuna of leadership. But the story need not end there. We have another opportunity for renewal and transformation. There has been a lot of activity in recent years by a growing section of the Nigerian polity. Interventions like Occupy Nigeria and Enough is Enough are clear and prescient signals of a changing narrative.
Also, this raises the question of ownership.After all, a country is simply a group of people that subscribe to a common set of values.
In the same way no one ever washes a rental car, people will not rise in unison if some of them are disenfranchised and don’t feel relevant to the political and socio-economic discourse.
We are approaching a turn in the road in Nigeria. As Swaniker noted, a new generation of African leaders are starting to emerge. The people need to be educated about why they must put their weight behind the change and birth a new national ideology for the country.
In the words of the national pledge, let’s “uphold her honour and glory”.
This is our Nigeria.