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Despite government’s effort, African brands fall by 13 per cent

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Making Africans believe in their products has been a serious challenge militating against the growth of indigenous brands for ages. But it also seems that strengthening African brands in a manner that will ensure they strongly compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world is something the governments of the countries have to deliberately work on to enhance the global competitiveness of brands of African origin.

Years after independence, African countries have continued to export raw material to Europe, Asia and America, while importing finished goods.

Across the continent, many governments have mouthed what looks like deliberate policies to encourage local capacity building in many areas of industry but with limited successes.

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Nigeria, for instance, had the indigenisation policy of the middle-to-late 1970s. The Structural Adjustment Programme of 1986 was also designed to develop local capacities in many areas. 

But none of these has enhanced the profiles of brands coming out of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, brands from Nigeria have struggled for acceptance in their country of origin and would not even stand for mention when a pan-African audit is an issue.

A Brand Africa report, published in May 2020, stated that only two African brands, South Africa’s MTN and Nigeria’s Dangote are in the top 100 of most admired brands on the continent. It has been like that for three years in a row as European, American and Asian brands maintained dominance in the scale of preferences of Africans.

The 2020 report by Brand Africa 100, presents damning evidence of productivity regression in Africa, with indigenous African brands dropping from a showing of 18 per cent on the top 100 logs of Africa’s best brands to 13 per cent.

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Though population growth is highest in Africa as compared to other continents, productivity is low and there is excessive reliance on other continents to meet the needs of the spiraling population that is projected to hit between 1.65 billion and 1.71 billion from the present 1.35 billion.

Despite the federal government’s efforts at diversifying Nigeria’s economy through the promotion of local products, border closure and encouraging farmers in different ways, Nigerian brands still suffer patronage and presence locally and internationally.

What are the challenges that have hindered the growth of African brands even within Africa? Is it a question of consumption preferences of the people of the continent or are there other underlying issues that have ensured the continent remained unable to produce for its own people?

Acting Director-General of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Chuma Oruche, told The Guardian that an average Nigerian had the tendency to consume imported products, hence the need for reorientation.

According to him, “most of the foreign brands are not better than the Nigerian brands, but their people believe in them and have promoted them. We need to change our attitude and realise that our products are good, our brands will not make it in the global ranking.”

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Reacting to how inferior some of Nigerian brands are, and how this had contributed to the poor ranking, Oruche said, “When you make a premium brand in Nigeria, how many average Nigerians can afford it.? Nigerian products meet a minimum standard. Premium products are possible to manufacture in Nigeria but for the cost; every Nigerian manufacturer is capable of producing a premium quality.

On how the government could come in, the DG lamented that “The government officials are the ones promoting foreign brands against the local ones. They don’t think local, forget about the propaganda. For instance, why do the government officials prefer Toyota to Innosson cars? We have been brainwashed by colonial masters and we believe everything black is bad.”

Chief Executive Officer of Top 50 Brands, Taiwo Oluboyede, told The Guardian that though the brand owners were responsible for visibility, “The fact is, the increasing valuation and success of brands in a country is in a large extent an indication of the viability of the nation, its brand and its economy.”

He insisted that “government needs to really help in creating the enabling environment for businesses to thrive and live by example in consuming indigenous products. It’s a vote of confidence on the brands and has a long spiral effect. Imagine if 30 to 50 per cent of all government vehicular usage are Innoson and other made in Nigeria products, others will follow, including multinationals. More income for the government, confidence in the country’s product, positive projection. It will also enhance the perception of national brands. It has a long spiral effect across the board. Living by example is a better reorientation, even than running campaigns.”

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Brand analyst, Ikem Okuhu, said the government was the main stakeholder in the country’s brand and economy and lays the ground rules that every other person expectedly complies with he added, “The relationship between the government and the brands in the country is like that between parents and their children. If parents eat certain types of food, chances are their children will adopt the same taste.

“Similarly, when government goes beyond posturing about certain brands in the country and gives both policy and exemplary teeth to them, adoption by the citizens becomes easy. A typical example is the Nigerian rice issue. Just a few years ago, eating foreign rice was a statement of class. Although Nigerian rice was potentially in abundance, no one wanted to touch it because the leadership appeared to favour the foreign ones. It was not until this administration made a deliberate policy towards containing the importation of rice that many of us began to understand that we had rice, better quality ones, in the country. Today, Nigerian rice is almost everywhere, gracing the menu in five-star hotels and other places of the high and mighty.”

Okuhu opined that when government begins to give preference to Nigerian brands above the foreign ones, the brands will grow and marketing them across the continent will not be expensive. “In their travels”, he said, “the foreigners carry their brands with them and as they gather in their characteristic way to enjoy themselves, they spread this through Social and lifestyle channels to others peoples and cultures.

“I also expect deliberate incentives from the government to Nigerian businesses to enable them to have a good head start and be able to compete. It saved us foreign exchange, creates jobs for our citizens and multiplies the ambassadors that will push those brands into the noses of peoples of other cultures and nationalities in Africa”.

Marketing Communication people call it “living the brand.” The moment you are wearing American suit and you are advertising Ankara prints, nobody will take you seriously. The guys in the Nigerian Export Promotion Council should also begin to do more than help foreign businesses conduct due diligence on their Nigerian partners. They should lead our entrepreneurs to trade shows and other global platforms and at reduced fees. This will bring exposure, bring them closer to potential partners and most importantly showcase what we can do here apart from being a market for ram materials.”

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