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‘Candid conversations’ to reduce obstacles to African tourism growth
By our News Team | 2023
2023 AMC Conference hears multiple calls for marketers to collaborate with the AU to build a more enticing Brand Africa proposition.
The importance of tourism to the African economy – and the most effective ways to market the continent’s attributes to foreign and intra-African visitors – came under the spotlight on the third and final day of the annual marketing conference of the African Marketing Confederation.
This year’s conference ran from Wednesday to Friday at the Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe, Uganda. It was hosted by the Uganda Marketers Society in conjunction with the African Marketing Confederation.
Dr Matongo Matamwandi, Chief Executive Officer of the Zambia Tourism Agency, speaks to conference delegates. Photo courtesy of Uganda Marketers Society
The theme‘Rebranding Africa – One Country at a Time’ was discussed by: Dr Matongo Matamwandi, Chief Executive Officer of the Zambia Tourism Agency; Toni Gumede, Manager in the office of the CEO of Brand South Africa; and Stephen Masaba, Director of Tourism and Business Development at the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
In his presentation, Dr Matamwandi emphasised that the continent needed to do more to market what it had to offer. For example, authentic African food was often being better prepared in Dubai than within the countries where it originated.
He called for “candid conversations” on what is holding Africa back and why there are bottlenecks in its rebranding.
Dr Matamwandi told delegates the obstructions included insufficient air links, overly complex visa regimes and border-crossing procedures, lack of reliable tourism data and statistics, challenging security conditions, inadequate infrastructure and facilities on tourist routes, a shortage of skilled workers, language barriers, limited awareness of tourism experiences in African countries, and insufficient private-public sector dialogue.
Governments must collaborate and not compete
He recommended that governments collaborate on tourism strategies rather than competing, work together to set up infrastructure on cross-border routes, and have common standards for tourist facilities. Countries should also be easier to access.
Dr Matamwandi called for African marketers to set up a group of experts to help develop a continent-wide tourism marketing strategy. This echoed an earlier call on day one of the conference by Professor Robert Ebo Hinson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Ghana Communication Technology University, who said the AU Digital Transformation Agenda could be the basis for developing a technologically inspired Brand Africa programme.
In her presentation, Toni Gumede, Manager in the office of the CEO of Brand South Africa, added her support for engaging with the African Union to build a successful Brand Africa strategy.
She emphasised that tourism branding should be ‘inside out’, with a focus on achieving buy-in from people and business within the country. “If [local] people are not happy with their tourism product, then you have already lost half the battle,” she said.
Similarly, the study released earlier this year by the Brand Africa NPO, which showed African brands declining in popularity versus multinational ones, was worrying. “Nobody will believe in our products if we don’t believe in them ourselves,” Gumede stressed.
She told conference delegates that many smaller African businesses from different countries were already collaborating to sell themselves overseas. Nation brands within Africa needed to do the same.
The 2023 conference concluded on Friday evening (8 September) with an Official Closing Ceremony and Awards Dinner.
During the conference it was announced that the Marketing Society of Kenya (MSK) will host the 2024 conference of the African Marketing Confederation.
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