Place Management in Africa

Guest Article by Efe Sevin

Last year while I was trying to choose a university to do my PhD, I decided to visit some of the campuses. I saw a colorful ad at Johns Hopkins University promoting an ‘alternative spring break in Ghana’. I was glad to see that college students were willing to give up their break to do volunteering in Ghana…But when I actually read the ad, I realized it was not a development project, it was about the golden beaches of Ghana.

Even as a person who is interested in place branding (i.e. as a person trying to find ways through which countries/cities can break the stereotypical representation), I instantly associated an African country with development issues. So, how can countries, regions, and cities can overcome this huge obstacle (this negative ‘brand’) in their branding campaigns? I am aware of at least two countries that invest in place branding: Ghana and Nigeria. I would like to share some resources and a couple of words about these campaigns.

Ghana’s CEO points to the fundamental relation between place branding and place management: ‘focus on people’. In the video below, he explains how resources are not enough to create a brand for Ghana – as Ghanaian people are more important and effective in branding than other infrastructures or natural resources.

If you want to read more about contemporary Ghana, you can visit GhanaWeb.

The second campaign is Brand Nigeria. The reason why I started thinking about place management in Africa was an article I ran into last week, entitled Place branding: Ohakim spins brand Imo around ‘Wonder Lake Resort’.

The article practically talks about the recent developments in tourism industry – new resorts and other infrastructural developments. I used Brand Nigeria as a theoretical framework both in my master thesis and book, and I believe the branding understanding in the country entails much more than an exclusive focus on ‘constructions’. I was glad to find another article which had a more inclusive understanding of branding (as well as Nigeria)

In short, I argue that African countries have two main options in their branding endeavors. Firstly, they can take the ‘easy’ way out and try to brand themselves out of the continent. They can try to break the link between Africa and their place in communication terms. They can show ‘their golden beaches’ (as in the case of Johns Hopkins ad) or ‘new resorts’ (as in the case of Wonder Lake Resorts). However, I find it very difficult to convince an audience with these artificial differences.  Secondly, they can engage in place management practices in which they focus on their strengths and weaknesses, and work towards a branding-conscious, people-oriented place governance methods.

About Efe

I read and write about political communication stuff and I play with data to see what they have to say. I also love to cook.
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