Tuesday, May 25, 2010

South Africa Should Join the BRIC bloc - but needs better selling skills

South African needs to market its "highly attractive value offer" better and improve the country's brand so that it can be included in the Bric group of countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China.

So says Kuseni Dlamini, Old Mutual chief executive for South Africa and developing markets, implying the country can benefit a great deal from inclusion in this well-regarded group of developing countries with high growth rates.

The Bric countries enjoy increasing influence in world affairs as their economies assume a growing role in the global economy, especially after the massive negative impact of the global economic crisis on, for instance, the United States, Europe and Japan.

Although President Jacob Zuma at a recent Bric summit in Brazil issued a plea for South Africa's inclusion, a number of other developing markets - such as Mexico and Malaysia - equally want to become part of this exclusive club.

Dlamini believes South Africa has a great deal to offer the Bric group, which is reluctant to expand its membership. For instance, he says, South Africa played a key part in reaching an agreement at last year's Copenhagen summit on climate change by working together with the United States, Britain and China.

The country also earned respect when it was recently lauded by President Barack Obama of the United States for being the first country to voluntarily renounce a nuclear arms programme. This brought Zuma considerably closer to Obama, said Dlamini.

South Africa also has an important role in the rest of the continent, for example through its peacekeeping operations, trade and investments. The country exerts significant economic influence in Africa, occupying a decisive position.

There is a compelling and strong case for South Africa to play a more important and strategic role in world affairs. The country needs to state its case far more convincingly, and formulate its attractiveness better. South Africans don't sell themselves strongly enough.

Dlamini says that the perception of the country as a destination for investment and trade is declining. South Africans need to arrive at Heathrow without being regarded as fugitives from Africa or coming to demand unemployment benefits, but rather as people coming to invest and do business.