Secrets of branding: changing the African narrative

What’s the Africa Brand?

As early as anyone can remember, the Africa brand has largely been linked to pictures of “underdeveloped economies, lions and elephants, and extreme poverty.” In fact, Rising Africa reported that Africa’s image in the media is often distorted, one-dimensional view – that sees the continent only through a prism of war, disease, scarcity, starvation, and corruption.

Conventional wisdom cannot deny that this would have a negative impact on the Africa Travel industry. And as abstract or absurd as it may seem, Africa, the second largest continent in the world, is a brand on its own.

Undisputedly, the next frontier in global development, the then-tagged “hopeless continent” by ‘The Economist Magazine’ has witnessed impressive growth from foreign direct investment compared to other parts of the world.

Branding Challenges in the Africa Travel Industry

Africa ranks second last (2.3%) as the most visited continent in 2016 according to a study done by HotelsPro. First was Europe (58.5%), then Asia (19.5%) and then North America (16%). It’s extremely underwhelming from a market share perspective.

According to the global travel sector, tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors, estimated $7 trillion. However, the fact remains that only 3 percent of this pie is being attributed to African trips. And therefore, the Africans have to do something.

Social Media in the African Travel Industry

Certain brands are just doing it right. Companies such as Rhino Africa have more than 45,000 Instagram followers. They only make use of HD quality photos of the African wildlife – enabling them to be positioned as the top tourist travel company in Africa.

Likewise, Southern Sun Hotel in South Africa has enabled users to book hotels on its Facebook page — making it easy for users to plan their travels where they do their social media – such a smart move!

The viral hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou which has over 18,000 Instagram posts and 50,000 tweets. The hashtag, started by a Somali student named Diana Salah, was created to depict Africa to contradict the typical associations made with Africa.

A Twitter or Instagram search of this hashtag will quickly take you to some of the most picturesque images of African people, architecture, and wonderful travel sites.

The hashtag attempts to cut through the negative media about Africa, and indirectly change the travel industry in Africa. The year 2017 represents quite the best year of travel in Africa, with over 18.6 million visitors – relatively a 7 percent increase from 2012 – according to Euromonitor. The most popular locations are South Africa, Tanzania, Mauritius, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Consumers can be fickle.

The 2017 Deloitte travel and hospitality industry outlook points out how travel is adversely affected by neglect risk management or in simple terms — loss of traveler’s trust. This holds true for Africa’s brand, which is associated with natural disasters and disease epidemics.

Likewise, the report explained how the Zika virus negatively impacted South and North American tourism, the same way terror attacks in Europe adversely affected theirs.

If that’s the effect it had on the most popularly visited continents, then anything that occurs in Africa exponentially decreases traveler appetite. Social media plays a large part in the narrative that consumers would draw about a particular country or continent in this instance.

The role of social media in this industry can be crucial, as it has shown to completely change narratives in the past – influencing and inculcating better ‘ideas’ of what Africa is.



Euromonitor International