Akon Is Right About Branding Africa

Akon is right.  Yes, I’m talking about the hip hop rapper turned businessman and solar energy magnate.   As an entrepreneur and communications professional I can appreciate what the musician has done; as well as the comments he made at this year’s Youth Connekt Africa Summit in Kigali, Rawanda.

At the Summit, Akon highlighted a critical point I have made many, many times before!  To a very quiet and pensive audience, Akon said that Africa, has a “PR Problem.”  He went on to say that the marketing and branding for Africa needs to be changed–the narrative needed to be changed and the stories had to be told by Africans who cared and believed in Africa.

As a communications professional with a specialty in branding and public relations, I’ve stated this time and again.  I tend to see things through the  communications lens and so it is easy for me to see how attitudes and beliefs are influenced by media and the stories we tell.  Check out my bio and you’ll see how long I’ve understood and been fascinated by this process.

Akon is right.  African states need new and better branding.  They need good PR by Continental and Diaspora professionals who care about that brand! Akon, who is an American-born Senegalese indicated that many of African-Americans were “scared of Africa.”  He said that it was only until recently that Africa has become, “cool.”  He is one of the first I have seen to publicly say what many privately know:  Many Africans of the Diaspora including African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Afro-Latinos are just as influenced by Africa’s “bad press” as any other ethnic group–and that matters in terms of one of the largest markets for business and commerce.  But the phenomena cuts both ways, Continental Africans are influenced to believe the negative narrative of Africans of the Diaspora.  And this is bad business.

As an entrepreneur, I tend to see such phenomena in the light of profit and loss.  This perception is costing Africans and their Diaspora money.  Lost money in partnerships, investments, and other lucrative cooperation.  Africa’s narrative and its brand must be changed to re-position each African nations toward greater industry, wealth and investment.

Just look at what Akon was able to do by tapping into the African-American Diaspora here in the USA to make his first fortunes in Black Music.  From there he was able to launch Akon Lighting Africa.  We are seeing just a fraction of the lucrative partnership possibility in the music industry, when African and Diaspora Africans move beyond each other’s “bad brands” and partner to create new ones.  We are seeing Wizkid and Drake, Tiwa Savage and Rocafella Records, and Trey Songz as the 2016 Coke Studio Africa international guest artist.

Yes, Akon is right.  Africa needs better branding.  But I’d go a step further and say that each African state from Malawi to Zambia needs to work with native and Diaspora PR teams to push a unique African initiative forward.  In fact, I think it is also the responsibility of every African (whether you were born on the continent or not) to be an ambassador of “good words.”  Word-of-mouth is powerful, so if you’re in the UK, USA or Amsterdam and you only complain about what African states don’t do right, that doesn’t help the problem.

Let’s discuss a strategy on how to truly re-brand and redefine Africa as the place to be for investment, good living and business!  Get in touch with me.

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