Brand Rwanda, an economic value

Asking members of the public to define country branding could be an illuminating experience. They would respond with a variety of descriptions, including ‘designing national emblem’, ‘advertising the country profile on CNN’, ‘having a stall at international exhibitions’, ‘targeting and packaging’,’ bringing the likes Daniel Makokera to report on Rwanda’.
Emma Nsekanabo
Emma Nsekanabo

Asking members of the public to define country branding could be an illuminating experience. They would respond with a variety of descriptions, including ‘designing national emblem’, ‘advertising the country profile on CNN’, ‘having a stall at international exhibitions’, ‘targeting and packaging’,’ bringing the likes Daniel Makokera to report on Rwanda’.

In reality branding and marketing a nation encompasses many more activities than most people realize, and depends on a wealth of formal concepts, processes and models not implied by the soundbites just listed.

At any rate, this is still a sophisticated subject to our society’s level of establishment. Even a large section of influence makers might not be acquainted with how real nation branding would be operationalised to yield an economic value.

I had a chat with an Irish investor last week. He shared the experience that his county has come through to be where it is today.

 How do you develop a marketing strategy for a country? This was a question faced by the Irish government during difficult times in the 1960s and 1970s. The challenge was to build the Irish economy to match the affluence enjoyed by some of her European neighbours. At the time Ireland was viewed as backward and unattractive for investments by international corporations. Ireland’s investment board played an important role in developing the country’s economy, moving it away from its traditional overreliance on agriculture.

Today, with well of over a third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) coming from industry, and services also accounting for a figure approaching a third, agriculture’s contribution has fallen to just 10 per cent.

Marketing and good promotions alone were not responsible for this turnaround. The Irish government realised that to attract investment from overseas it had to provide a stable economy, desirable residential suburbs, modern road and air infrastructure, state-of-art telecommunications and, crucially, a well-qualified, dynamic and motivated workforce.

These improvements took some time to achieve, but today companies located in Dublin and around Ireland’s airports testify readily to the excellent infrastructure, communications, workforce and tax breaks. The Irish workforce is one of the best educated and most highly prized in Europe.

Having improved amenities, infrastructure and the workforce, the perceptions of investors overseas had to be addressed. In order to instigate this change, their investment board established a clear strategy by pinpointing attractive sectors for growth and actively encouraging growth businesses in those areas. Consumer products, electronics, healthcare, and financial services were some of the key targets.

Once decisions about growth priorities had been made, the aim was to develop a marketing programme based around the particular assets that Ireland was able to offer.  For example, promotional material focused on – among other things – the young, highly educated workforce, the low rates of corporate taxation, excellent digital and satellite telecommunications systems, and a stable currency with low inflation. The attractive countryside and vibrant cultural scene also featured prominently in Ireland’s branding.

Rwanda, at this stage, might not have flyovers yet but she already offers a plethora of things that could cut an eye-catching brand when well packaged and channeled through to potential investors and tourists. Rwanda is a thriving, safe country with one of the lowest crime rates in Africa. All major attractions are located within 1-5 hour drive from the capital, Kigali. We have more than twenty flight destinations per day to Europe, Asia and many cities in Africa.

Rwanda is politically stable with well-functioning institutions, rule of law and zero tolerance to corruption. We occupy fourth spot in Africa and first position in East Africa in fighting corruption as indicated in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012.

We are the fastest global reformer of business regulations based on World Bank Doing Business survey. Rwanda is the second most reformed country in the world, over six years, after Georgia. We are the third easiest to do business in Africa after Mauritius and South Africa.

There is growth potential in birding and conference tourism. Other attractive sectors include real estate and construction, financial services and mining. Above all, we are a resilient people! The list can go on and on. All these milestones can make Rwanda an attractive brand.

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