Poverty is a disease, only branding can cure it
Poverty remains the most widespread disease across Africa. In Nigeria, despite that fact that we have a lot of money, poverty remains one of our biggest problems. We have been described as a rich nation whose people are poor. Because we have not been deploying the riches from our natural resources, mainly crude oil, towards the creation of wealth and the empowerment of our people.
This disease is actually prevalent across Africa, where leadership generally fails to create wealth and empower the people. It is no coincidence that global brands are not originating from Africa. There is a direct relationship between brand building and wealth creation, and we have seen over the decades that the wealthiest countries are the ones building brands.
For this reason, 300 Small and Medium Enterprises, many of them start-ups, will gather at the Muson Centre in Lagos, on October 5, for the Annual USP Brand2Wealth Seminar for SMEs. They will be joined by a team of branding experts who will impart knowledge and engage them in a robust idea sharing session. Established ten years ago, BRAND2WEALTH is a forum that empowers SMEs with the branding knowledge they need to build globally competitive brands.
The program has directly impacted more than 2000 SMEs, many of whom attribute the attractive packaging of their products to knowledge gained at the program. In addition to enlightening SMEs about the value of branding, the program also grants a one-year free brand consultancy to selected SMEs, whose business ideas are compelling and show promise of becoming globally competitive brands.
We must get our SMEs building brands and generally develop a culture of brand building if we are serious about getting our people out of the poverty trap. For too long, we have foolishly depended on a natural resource, whose price we do not control. By failing to add value to this natural resource, we have left ourselves at the mercy of volatile market conditions. When we export our crude or cocoa beans, we are powerless in determining the price.
But if we add value by refining and processing, we gain better control, and gain greater rewards. This is as clear as daylight, yet our leaders refuse to follow this direction. A farmer grows maize, harvests and sells it. Somebody buys it, processes it into corn flakes and packages it. That is value creation through brand building. If the entire value chain is within our country, we reap the full reward. But if we export that maize and import the corn flakes, we are making a foolish choice that impoverishes our people. Unfortunately, this is what we have been doing with our crude oil.
Now that we can no longer satisfy our appetite for all things foreign, due to the dwindling value of our crude, we must focus on building brands as the surest way to building wealth and building our nation. A nation is only as strong as its brands and for us to be a strong nation we must become a nation of strong brands. Why is Dangote the richest man in Africa? Because he has built one of the strongest brands in Africa. From modest beginnings, Dangote Group is now one of the largest multinationals in Africa, boasting a robust portfolio of globally competitive brands in Food and Beverage, Construction, Real Estate, Petrochemicals and Technology, with annual revenues in excess of $3billion. Dangote’s success story is not the result of miraculous breakthroughs like a popular song implies, but decades of consistent hard work, driven by vision and commitment.
Other success stories abound, even if on a smaller scale when compared with Dangote. We have Emzor Group, the largest indigenous pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria and one of the largest in Africa. There is Zinox Technologies. We also have Chicason Group, a conglomerate with operations spanning several sectors of the economy including real estate, oil and gas, mining and construction. Chicason’s brand of automotive lubricant called A-Z is one of the strongest brands in the market and completely indigenous. And of course, we have Glo, one of Africa’s largest telecom networks and a proudly Nigerian brand.
The essence of the BRAND2WEALTH program is to get our SMEs thinking and envisioning. All great brands begin with vision. So we must cultivate the habit of thinking big and believing in our ability to make big dreams happen. It is easy to get discouraged by the challenges around us, especially because our leadership has consistently let us down. But our country is full of opportunities to make a difference. That’s why we must seize those opportunities and create brands that create value by making the big difference in our lives.
Where brands are created, wealth is created. That is why the program is called Brand2Wealth. We must brand our way out of poverty and create brands that create value and create wealth. Such brands will make us millionaires and improve the quality of life of our people. We must shun all the schemes and scams that promise to turn us into instant millionaires by taking the little we have from us. The popularity of such scams is one of the symptoms of widespread poverty and desperation.
Brand building is the best form of nation building, because branding is not limited to products and companies. Nations are brands too and if the right branding tools are applied, nations become stronger and prosperous. But you cannot have a great nation without great people building great brands. This inevitably brings wealth creation and wealth brings empowerment. That is why we must liberate ourselves from the perennial poverty which for decades has become our trade mark. Our collective brand identity has for long been defined by the Siamese twins of poverty and disease, with endemic corruption as their parent.
We must change this narrative by committing to building our respective brands. While we cannot all be entrepreneurs, we can all commit ourselves to creating value and creating wealth through whatever we do. We can commit to building wealth by patronizing home grown brands as much as possible. When we realize that only through building our own brands can we free ourselves from poverty, we will develop the ability to collectively pull ourselves up and rise to the heights we are capable of.
In our national consciousness, poverty alleviation must be replaced with wealth creation. Our leaders must elevate their thinking above the mere alleviation of poverty, which suggests that poverty must forever remain with us. They must think wealth creation and commit to the deployment of our resources towards giving our people the quality life they rightly deserve. Let’s get branding, and soon enough, poverty will be a thing of the past.
• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.