There is, however, a fundamental problem with striving to ‘rebrand Africa’. For the sake of this argument, in a contemporary context, we take branding to mean the set of stories that describes the problems an institution, organization, or individual solves, who they serve and how they solve and serve. A brand, therefore, is not merely a logo, but a coordinated effort to communicate multiple stories to multiple audiences in order to achieve a set of goals, usually financial. Historically, you can only brand what you own, and a brand announces to the community who owns the branded object. The questions now shift. Who owns Africa? To whom is the brand announced? Who benefits from the brand Africa as it stands now, and who will benefit from a rebranding?
Current rhetoric also falls under this line of questioning. The term now is that Africa is rising, which begs the questions: when did it fall? Who is responsible for its falling? From where is it rising? And to where is it going? Again, we see a shifting in the narrative. Africa’s rising is a subjective one, relative to one’s relationship with Africa. If you are able to locate yourself in a temporal, spatial, economic and academic position that is above Africa, then you’re quite literally looking down on Africa and commending it for its efforts in rising to your level.
This is one of those letters that just have to be read several times in order for it to sink in. The topic of rebranding Africa has been cropping up in social media circles since 2008. It is now becoming intertwined in the Africa Rising meme. Who owns #brandAfrica?
There are a multiplicity of complex realities and conclusions in the questions that Ann (one of those think-while-sitting-on-the-outside-the-box African designers) poses. Concretizing brand Africa is impossible, just as impossible as the existence of a magic bullet that will develop and heal Africa.
I think what Ann is trying to get at is that Africa isn’t a place, it is a collection of destinations; both physical and metaphysical; tangible and intangible. Africa is the very essence of complexity. It is a complexity further made difficult by us Africans who embrace this one Africanness as a badge of honor.
Perhaps this is so because we have tribal, clan, educational, political, country, and regional identities. AND (for some of us), the duplicitous encumbrance of the diaspora label. We simply resign to the one Africanness out of simplicity.
This is a conversation we need to continue having because perhaps the only thing that can unify us is that intellectually and existentially fraught exercise of figuring out who we are.