Zim should manage perception: Analysts

HARARE - Government must develop a national branding strategy aimed at revamping Zimbabwe’s image as part of efforts to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), analysts say.

Tafadzwa Matiza, a researcher with the University of Limpopo, says the country must shake off its “bad boy” tag if it is to raise hopes of getting a significant chunk of the anticipated $100 billion FDI inflows into Africa in 2014.

“In an increasingly globalised world the role of nation branding in facilitating FDI is that nation branding assumes the symbolic meaning to investors as the development of a value proposition (brand) that represents the multidimensional intangible value of a nation in comparison to other nations, thereby creating competitive advantage and differentiation,” he said.

Matiza noted that Zimbabwe’s predominantly negative image as an investment destination and a contradictory image as a nation in general have a significant effect on the country’s ability to attract FDI and its investment promotion efforts.

The southern African country has been experiencing significant declines in foreign direct investment (FDI) since 2000 mainly because of the political situation in the country which triggered uncertainty over property rights after the land reform programme.

Most of the country’s  4 000 white farmers –— then the backbone of the country’s agricultural economy — were forced from their land, which was handed over to about a million black Zimbabweans.

Shortly afterwards, Western nations imposed targeted sanctions on the ruling elite and companies linked to them following what they termed a breakdown in rule of law and abuse of human rights, but Zimbabwean authorities routinely blame these for all the problems that the country faces.

During the period, FDI inflows into Zimbabwe declined from $444 million in 1998 to $60 million in 2009.

Economic experts blame the land redistribution exercise for triggering Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis in history characterised by runaway inflation and foreign currency shortages that resulted in the trapping of foreign capital which could not be repatriated due the hard currency woes.

Although the country has made significant inroads in attracting foreign capital since 2009 following the establishment of a unity government and subsequent political and economic stabilisation, economic experts say Zimbabwe must change its economic policies if it hopes to attract more FDI.

In a study called “Nation Branding as a Strategic Marketing Approach to Foreign Direct Investment Promotion: The Case of Zimbabwe” published recently, Matiza noted that the new government must strongly consider initiation and development of a nation branding strategy aimed at revamping the image of the country as a whole, accentuating the positive image of Zimbabwe while simultaneously trying to change the realities that give rise to its negative image.

“Once Zimbabwe has established a nation branding programme we recommend that the government through its ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and its stakeholders work out a long-term strategy for a more positive investment destination profile via concrete developments and improvements on the problematic fields and the allocation of budgets to investment brand image development activities,” he said.

“This implies creating an enabling environment for investment and effectively marketing it thereof.”

This comes after Zimbabwe was recently rated among high risk investment destinations in Africa by an Ernst & Young survey.

In its “Africa by numbers: Assessing market attractiveness in Africa” survey, the financial advisory and consultancy firm noted that the southern African country — still suffering a hangover from a decade-long recession — is among a group of countries that are “relatively high risk environments and which do not exhibit particularly exciting growth characteristics”.

“Logically, these are the obvious markets to say no to, although some may still be worth a closer look or at least keeping on a ‘watch list.’”

Comments (2)

I think the best brand ever is doing things correctly, efficiently and being transparent. Spending a fortune on 'rebranding' whilst still doing the same bad things over and over again is sure wastage of resources.Zimbabwe should 'rebrand' only when ready to encompass change and the starting point should be a call for changes in the ways and methods of doing business.

Peter Masuka - 14 December 2013

One of the key tenants of nation branding is that the brand a nation creates, monitors and manages be based on reality. Nation branding is by no means a tool to whitewash structural and systematic challenges of any country. For positive and effective Nation branding to occur a nation must ask itself some very difficult questions, an intensive "SWOT" analysis of sorts, to identify particulalrly its weaknesses and threats with regards to its image and in this case Zimbabwe as an investment destination, as well the attraction of much needed FDI and address these to create an enabling environment for foreign investors. These are the factors, albeit, that inform the perceptions of investors with regard to Zimbabwe as an investment destination. Yes our country is developing credible polices such as those towards the benefication of minerals. This issue has been the key developmental and proverbial thorn in the side for many natural resource-rich African governments. In the case of Zimbabwe this could be the key to job creation, the start of a new industry for the country that exploits the vast, skilled human resource base this country has, the opening of new markets and more importantly the creation of a whole new tax base. Any efficiencey and/or market-seeking foreign investor would see this as an opportunity to invest in Zimbabwe BUT it is the image that our country has that circumvents the investment potential we have. We have a good investment product....but it is our packaging that distracts consumers with regards to its consumption. Our packaging is our Nation Brand and it needs urgent attention.

Tafadzwa Matiza - 15 December 2013

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