On Africa Day (25 May 2015) Brand South Africa (http://www.brandsouthafrica.com) hosted a two-hour Breakfast Session under the theme, Re-imaging the future towards 2063: Building Competitive African Nation Brands. The session was part of the Annual African Unity Renaissance Conference which took place from 22-24 May 2015.)
The main objective of the dialogue was to positively change perceptions about South Africa in the continent and build awareness of importance of positioning Africa as a competitive continent.
The session raised a number of questions about what it is that we measure when we talk about competitiveness. Whether it is not high time to consider a fundamental ‘Africanisation’ of this concept? Is it not better to celebrate, on Africa Day, the endless human and natural beauty, and hence, the great wealth of this continent? Is it not better to speak about the creative pulse that flows in the continent’s music, and the stories, both told and untold, that pass to us wisdom and knowledge pre-dating even the ancients of Egypt?
Is competitiveness not a rather problematical concept that speaks about market efficiency, and production merely for the sake of production, regardless of its associated human and environmental costs?
The discussions evolved to a probability that the answer can be found if the manner in which we approach and define competitiveness in the African context is re-thought, or at least delineated in new and inspiring ‘social ways’. This means that to the rationalism of the market logic has to be added a significant dose of human development.
The discourse shared perspectives on the role of commerce in Africa’s development considering the reality that regardless of the good policies and strategies competitiveness of the continent remains lower that desired.
In conclusion, Africa’s competitiveness should be viewed within the context of its developmental challenges that need to be put into the correct historical context as we chart the way forward in developing the continent.