By Odion Aleobua
“Congratulations to a New Nigeria”, a friend said to me last week. My friend was elated about the turn of democratic events in Nigeria. He believes that with the electorates voting out the current non-performing government, Nigeria as a country is ready for rebirth.
To be bluntly honest, the expectations by Nigerians of the things to come on the back of the successful elections are way stratospheric and perhaps unrealistic. Things would not change overnight! The dreamed Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) will not come pouring in torrents.
The international investment community still views Nigeria as a suspiciously unstable business destination: In October 2014, foreign investors pulled out N101.2 billion from the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) due to oil price slump; failing value of the Naira and the looming tension attributable to the 2015 elections. Conversely, the total foreign inflow during the month stood at N52.06 billion which showed that there were more outflows than inflows.
Importantly, the actions of the international investors have been chiefly provoked by perception than fundamentals. But then perception is the dominant factor in business decisions. Fortunately, bad perception is redeemable.
The new government should embark on a strategic image laundering programme for the sake of the Nigerian citizens and the health of our national economy. I recommend that the Government rebrands Nigeria. In the same breath, I will advocate an adoption of a systematic rebranding process rather than embark on classy nation branding campaign aimed at creating a favourable national brand value.
Avoid the Romanian Example
Like Nigeria, Romania was characterized by “bad governance, corruption, a decline in living standards and healthcare, and a restrictive visa system further added to the humiliation of being Romanian. Principles began to pale in the face of a sheer desire for survival and better opportunities. Illegal immigration of Romanians in the West flourished. Left to their own devices, many of the less educated resorted to stealing and violence.
The more the West was appalled by the people of the country and the way they behaved, the more Romania responded with pretty pictures of its landscape, failing to understand that, as a Romanian proverb says, ‘places are made holy by men’”- Andreea Sepi (Oct. 2013) ‘Nation Branding: The Case of Romania. Brief History and Possible Reason for Failure”.
From 1995 to 2010 different Romanian Government regimes launched about eight failed reputation shaping initiatives with a total budget of over 97 million Euros (N21 billion). According to Andreea Sepi, “it must be said up front that the term “nation branding” is rather inadequate for Romania. If a brand emerged, it was more the result of spontaneous forces than that of structured and consistent government action towards building and managing a reputation”.
Build before you brand
Simon Anholt – the leading authority in managing national identity – identified tourism, export brands, policy decisions, investment, people and culture as the hexagon on which national reputation is formed.
Andreea Sepi posits that Romania’s branding efforts focused on tourism and (elite) culture, with very limited and disorderly actions aimed at foreign investment, people, export brands, innovation and internal policy measures. She believes the approach was “like a table trying to stand on only two feet. Transparent and inclusive policy-making, stable legislation, good governance and a good education system were never taken seriously as reputation builders”.
The start for building a formidable Nigerian brand, the government must evolve measurable reforms and policies that will help to reverse today’s realities. In this light, the government must build world-class infrastructures that not only enhance the living conditions of Nigerians, but also command global respect in terms of quality, efficiency, architectural creativity and superior service delivery.
Attention must be paid to infrastructures that are touch-points for investors and tourists such as the airports, highways and public transportations. The country’s entry and exit points must epitomize the reputation and image that the country desires.
Public institutions especially the Nigerian Police must be reoriented and equipped for a friendly but firm enforcement of regulations. The government must uphold the sanctity of the rule of law and business contracts.
Measures set out to check corruption must reflect on the Transparency International ranking. The Freedom of Information law must be seen to have come to full effect and executive lawlessness by government officials in the public must be eliminated.
In addition, the government must bring about effective business and investment reforms and policy decisions that would radically revive local industries; diversify the economy; ensure Nigerian exports (both tangible and intangible) meet the highest standard of quality, creativity, packaging and innovation through incentives and regulations.
Encourage merit-driven process as the critical requirement for the admittance to public funded initiatives; criminalise age-cheating or any form of deceit in all sporting endeavors. Engender national pride.
These elements of national reputation should form the fulcrum for our brand propositions and the basis for launching extensive brand management strategies.
Culled from BusinessDay http://businessdayonline.com/2015/04/the-preliminary-steps-towards-rebuilding-the-nigeria-brand/#.VTInJst0zIU
Odion Aleobua is a Corporate and Marketing Communications Consultant with extensive experience in the area of brand management; perception and issue management and media practice. Follow me on twitter @odionmatics or email email@example.com (0902 2222 226).