Africa: Expert Attributes Africa's Underdevelopment to Poor Narrative

18 November 2019

A top Nigerian Marketing Communication expert and pioneer Chief Executive of the Rebranding Nigeria Project, Lolu Akinwunmi, has called on African leaders to push for development and deployment of strategies that will ensure the continent owns and tells its own stories. Akinwumi, who shared his thought alongside other African leaders, including Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, at the recently held African Development Bank's Africa Investment Forum, in Johannesburg, South Africa, said it's by changing the narrative that the continent quest for development could be realised.

He noted that the continent would not always be the provider of raw materials for developed nations and must take clear and well-defined steps towards changing the Africa narrative.

For the Marketing Communication expert, Africa must, as a matter of necessity, begin to be more deliberate and strategic in defining the message it wants to communicate about itself and its people; determine the audience for all its communication, especially within the scope of attracting global financing for the continent and also determine how to most effectively reach this global audience given the plethora of media within the landscape.

"As an investment destination, Africa is perhaps the last frontier in many areas that present amazing opportunities. There are about six key areas of brand property ownership and opportunities and our narrative ought to be focused on projecting these on medium and long term basis.

"The African middle class is growing and with certain expectations; Africans are getting more educated, urbane and professional; Africa also has the largest population of young people under the age of 25; Africans are becoming more brand conscious and sophisticated in taste; these are affecting retail businesses in fashion, lifestyle products, etc. These are keeping retailers busy as they anticipate the needs of this growing list of new consumers," he said.

While he admitted that Africa has huge opportunities in the energy, technology, supply chain design and the agriculture value chain, he lamented the continent's crippling infrastructure deficit, a factor he blamed for the difficulty in harnessing opportunities that would enable the continent take advantage of the maturity and saturation of developed economies.

"Infrastructure deficits are all over Africa in roads, transportation like rail, water etc. Airports, Power and IT are also needed to lift up the economy and regionally create demand.

"Power is critical to development but Sub-Saharan Africa is plagued by power outages with over 600 hours of outages a year on average, roads and rail lines are sparse, decrepit and over-burdened; lack of aviation agreements have limited intra-African air travels and connections, and these dire situations have been killing productivity, adding costs and leaving businesses captive to expensive back-up and alternative power and logistics options," he lamented.

He also observed that Africa's was also in want of efficient storage and distribution infrastructure, leading to as losses of as much as 50 percent of perishable agricultural produce.

Highlighting what he termed the continent's "soft infrastructure deficit, he insisted that Africa could no longer take data gathering for granted in such critical areas as credit and risk information, market data, consumption pattern, among others, because of their importance to policy formulation and planning as well as business decision-making.

He said the continent would benefit immensely and could become a vast regional hub by reducing barriers to trade, saying the continent's 54 sovereign nations could create its own mega trade deal by creating incentives that will spur seamless intra-Africa trade.

"No one can tell our story like us. We should take ownership and let Africa communicate for Africa. Following my recent experience as the pioneer CEO of the Nigeria Rebranding Project, and generally observing trends within countries, the biggest challenge towards developing an African narrative and communicating same is generally funding.

"We have the people and the technology but are usually hampered by financing. I therefore strongly call on the African Development Bank to lead this initiative by helping craft the strategy and then providing the funding that will help initiate the African rebranding process; creating an own narrative. African countries like Nigeria can also use our Nollywood and music industry, amongst others, to help communicate the African story" Akinwunmi said.

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