opinionBy Maureen Twahirwa
Reading from the Sunday times of 10th February 2013 a commentary titled, "Rwanda's government on its own, business is sleeping" by one Martin Semukanya on the role of private sector in branding and marketing Rwanda, was an interesting moment of reflection on the country's presence online.
A couple of observations in the piece are factual especially the fact that Rwanda's private sector needs to improve its visibility and on-line presence to complement the Government's efforts to market Rwanda.
Firstly, Effective "Branding Rwanda" may at moment be championed by the Government but in reality is a collective effort by both the public and private sector. Whilst it is true that in the equation one variable seems stronger than the other, it is not shocking given Rwanda's history and progression.
A wake up call is timely, no doubt!
As a matter of fact, companies in Rwanda embrace marketing and branding concepts as one of the requisite necessities for competitiveness. Can one imagine what may happen to those companies that won't invest in making their brands stronger in the context of the liberalised market place of the East African Community, for example? Besides, Rwanda dreams to be a net exporter -this calls for a different way of doing business.
But what is the problem? Businesses have struggled in one way or another to reach to greater heights stemming from a very informal environment.
Talking of integrating information technology in processes and way of doing is a new phenomenon to most our large SME business sector. Branding and marketing, until now, is considered a waste expense to most businesses. Perceptions and depth of understanding marketing concepts become worse and mild as one moves down the business ladder. Corporates, however, have leveraged branding and marketing to achieve competitive edge and here examples are many.
The pace is catching up.
Today, presence on social media and online visibility is a necessity for any enterprise -be it private or public. As coordinator of private enterprises, PSF understands the importance of communication and the role that the private sector needs to play to brand Rwanda. In fact, some of the private enterprises too, understand the returns of branding and marketing.
PSF's website (www.psf.org.rw): Our website has been revamped to quality standards by any measure. Information is now being uploaded after which we hope that Martin and others will enjoy the luxury of finding all the information they need including a business directory, membership registration forms, and other useful information.
We are also developing an online members' portal that shall function as platform for information exchange, recruitment channel and real time commutation. Martin and others will be able to tweet us and call our hotline for any assistance that we may offer.
Business Directory (2011-2012) containing relevant information on business establishments in Rwanda is available in hard copy for any contending users. Copies can be obtained either at the Rwanda Development Board or PSF offices. In the very near future, an online version of the same will be available as well as other useful documentation and much more for free.
At enterprise level, sensitisation campaigns will be undertaken to ensure that businesses up scale their visibility in all media especially the online base media. We are working with all our associations, chambers, provincial and Business Development Services (BDS) offices nationwide to ensure success and good results of this exercise.
You can be rest assured that there is work in progress aimed at improving the situation. Private sector is committed to a better Rwanda just like the public sector folks. Blame game is not the way out but rather, let us constructively contribute to the progress registered so far.
One more thing, PSF is not a government institution as perceived. It is fully a private organisation but functions in close collaboration with the government to deliver private sector development.
This is what we mean by "Beyond Advocacy".
Maureen Twahirwa is the Marketing and Communications Officer at PSF.