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Kenya must first be branded for Kenyans

Saturday May 30 2009


We are getting it wrong, good people! Branding Kenya is not the business of the Brand Kenya Board (BKB) alone; it is the business of all of us.

Second, branding Kenya is not about our image abroad nor is this the sole reason for branding the country.

Third, it is not branding Kenya for foreigners that is difficult. It is branding Kenyans for Kenya and Kenya for Kenyans that is a tough call. If Kenyans can brilliantly brand themselves and their country, then external branding will be complete.

The external branding of the country, or branding the country with foreigners in mind, will be successful only if it is anchored on the internal image of the country. This is to say that foreigners will be confident to visit or invest in Kenya if we Kenyans are proud of and confident about our own country.

Branding is not about them out there who we want to come in here. It is about us in here and how we can make ourselves relevant and attractive to those out there. Towards this end, we need a vision and notion and sell these to those out there to come to us.

In this scenario, BKB exists as an integrated mechanism for building and enhancing Kenya’s image and national identity and rallying Kenyans around this image so that we all market our country locally and externally.


BKB is therefore tasked with creating an integrated national brand, harnessing and sustaining it over the long term. It is BKB’s task to build a national identity for us and instil national pride in each and any one of us.

This is crucial for the attainment of BKB’s second task of instilling confidence in Kenya among foreigners – be they investors, development partners or tourists.

We are here being asked to change our attitude towards Kenya. We are being asked to begin regarding Kenya differently and positively and use this new perspective to market our country as a destination of choice for ourselves first and then foreigners second.

Therefore, the biggest challenge facing BKB does not lie in convincing foreigners to come to Kenya, but in convincing Kenyans to feel good about Kenya and ourselves. Having done that, we are then being asked to be the leading campaigners for foreigners to think the same about Kenya.

The point of departure then is for us to have a perception audit for us to tell BKB what we feel about our country and ourselves and what we want to feel about ourselves and our country.

Having done that, BKB will be able to identify the notion for the nation around which all and sundry should rally in marketing Kenya. In 2004, Nigeria branded itself around it being the Heart of Africa; Uganda’s was Gifted by Nature and South Africa’s remains Proudly South African.

Nigeria is now re-branding under the theme Good People, Great Country. Malaysia still tags itself as Malaysia, Truly Asia, while Montenegro invites all to Experience its Wild Beauty.

Next, BKB will be looking to identify the assets that will boost the marketing of Kenya locally and abroad and also identify the liabilities that erode the country’s image.

This is rather like carrying out a survey to establish Kenya’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) and then arrive at a strategy of playing up the Strengths and Opportunities while addressing ways of turning the Weaknesses and Threats into Opportunities and Strengths.

In the assets column will fall our agricultural products, especially tea, coffee and flowers as well as our world-famous tourist attractions and heritage sites such as the Big Five, Mt Kenya, the Treetops and the Tsavo.

In here will also go the great and good of our sports, especially athletics and now rugby. Next will be our internationally recognised glitterati such as multiple award winner Wangari Maathai and international civil servants and icons such as Brigadier Daniel Opande.

Because we seek to present our country as an investment destination, we must identify the business opportunities that exist in our country and proudly and loudly draw the attention of ourselves and the world to them.

And the world of information technology (IT), for example, is one that will open up myriad opportunities for Kenya. Here we will also showcase and celebrate our successful private and public sector enterprises in order to invite foreigners to take advantage of the factors that are making these firms survive and thrive here.

Indeed, the main reason for branding our country is to position the place as a competitive business destination in a global economy that knows no trade barriers.

In the liabilities column will go our political instability, human rights abuses, disregard for the law and, of course, corruption.

Is BKB up to this patriotic task? I have worked with Chief Executive Officer Mary Kimonye and chairman Hanningtone Gaya and can vouch for them to do a good job if given the tools they need and, especially the support of the government and political leadership.

Past and present students and dons of marketing at the University of Nairobi will tell you Mrs Kimonye is a stickler for excellence, the epitome of commitment to a patriotic cause and armed with a razor-sharp business mind. As a marketing professor and guru, she is determined to successfully position Kenya as a great (place) brand.

Mr Gaya started his career as an engineer, trained in strategic management, has made marketing his first love, publishes six magazines.

The good ship Brand Kenya is in good hands, especially if you and I and our government, industry and leaders play our parts as assigned by BKB.

Live Kenya, Love It!

Kwendo Opanga is a media consultant [email protected]