Corruption, poor leadership and infrastructure deficit have all combined to hamper the journey of Nigeria to becoming a viable nation brand. Branding experts have expressed concern that it will be difficult to create a brand out of a nation without first of all building all the structures and fittings that are critical to delivering the promises and purposes ascribed to the brand.
According to a report by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP), Nigeria loses about N455 billion (about $3billion) annually, due to poor sanitation conditions.
Last year, the Chief Executive Officer of Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote, said Nigeria loses $1bn (about N197bn) annually due to poor condition of roads in the country
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, in August disclosed that Nigeria loses $21 billion yearly to poor breastfeeding, though it stands to gain a $35 investment return for every $1 investment in breastfeeding.
Analyst in Chief, Brandish Meeting of Minds, Mr. Ikem Okuhu said the government must change its focus in rebranding Nigeria as it is only selling a product that has not been created, “Nigeria is not even a house yet and we want to create a home,” he said.
Government’s three previous branding projects produced little or no result. With the first being ‘The Giant of Africa’ project, which was an unconscious proposition during the Yakubu Gowon era. The second was the ‘Heart of Africa’ project, which started during the second coming of Obasanjo and was a conscious proposition, global in nature and more of a derivative of Economic and Investment Policy. The third was the ‘Good People, Great Nation’ campaign, which started during the Yar’Adua era as a national reorientation campaign to address observed negatives and get the world to see Nigeria differently.
Just recently, the government also launched the ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign, which, is essentially a national mobilization project seeking for citizens to change, “but again, to what extent have the country’s leaders at all levels changed? Cases of corruption and nepotism are still rife and as we speak, there are very strong centrifugal forces seeking the fragile nationhood the country has been struggling to hold in place. Our leaders do not express faith in the Nigerian brand when they go abroad for medical treatment or send their children to study outside the country,” Okuhu lamented.
Nigeria’s external image has swung between periods of extreme positivity to periods of extreme negativity. Over the years in the country’s political history, she juggled between a good image at certain periods; 1960-1967, 1970-1983, 1999-2007 and a bad image at other periods; 1993-1999, 2007-date.
The re-branding programme of the Yar’Adua administration led by the then Information Minister, Dora Akunyili, had said it was the duty of the Federal Ministry of information and communication. One could ask, how did Nigeria earned this bad image, and what efforts have been made to address the image crisis?
During periods of negative external image, various governments responded with different measures and programmes, with policies aimed at turning around and improving the image and these have met with varying degrees of success.
First, the country’s image was tarnished by civil war between 67 and 70.
In Nigeria’s image in historical perspective by Saliu (2002), the author offers an explanation for the negative image, which Nigeria projected in the 1990’s. He argued that it was part of the biases of the global system towards the African continent.
Nigeria currently ranks 136 out of 175 Countries surveyed on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index as a corrupt nation.
Another is crime and advance fee fraud. According to a report by Ultrascan AGI, losses from Nigerian scams totaled $12.7 billion in 2013. Yet another is bad politics and governance. Nigeria ranked 36th out of 54 countries in overall governance with a score of 46.5 out of 100 in the 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG). Another downside is the issues of infrastructure and ease of doing business. It currently ranks 127 in the Global Competitiveness Ranking. It is projected that Nigeria requires at least $2 trillion (N398.1 trillion) for infrastructure development over the next three decades.
Today, branding experts attribute the poor image to bad leadership and say leadership was critical to evolving a strong nation brand.
For Lampe Omoyele, the country’s leaders should be the ambassador plenipotentiaries of the positioning, accentuating the positives. Their actions and body languages should resonate the very fabrics of the envisioned brand promises that Nigeria represents. He advised that to place Nigeria as a land of hope and opportunity for business and investment, the development, involvement and strengthening of the private sector, public-private partnership Was imperative.
He said social media platforms could be used to create good impressions and positive perceptions about the Nigeria brand, adding, “The major drivers of this revolution are digital natives, not tribal natives, the youths, who are willing to collaborate and fight for a common cause. They embody the ‘Naija’ spirit, and can be veritable ambassadors for the repositioning of Nigeria in the global space.”
The country’s poor image also robs it of investment opportunities as investors are skeptical doing business in Nigeria.
“Clearly, the country doesn’t get the kind of investments it would get in another country that may have a more positive reputation. Nigeria is competing against over 200 countries in the world and investors are more concerned about where they can get quick returns, and here is where perception matters a lot. Investors would want to go to a country where there is positive governance and the rule of law. It is important to address the issues of governance and certainty of contract, which will attract investors,” Omoyele added.
Okuhu said Nigeria needs to look inward and possible adopt India’s style of investing in the IT space. “India created a proposition known as ‘Make in India’, which is more of a message to the world that India does not even wish to be known as the country of brand origin.
On the contrary, they targeted their appeal at global companies seeking low-cost places to make their products. And because the country has what companies are looking for, this campaign is looking like one of the most successful nation marketing campaigns in history. Copying something like this and creating a purpose that Nigeria can own is something we could look at,” he said.
Recently, a lot of programmes and seminars are being launched to help boost the country’s image, Bolaji Osunkoya who has featured in some of the discussions, while reacting to the success of these programmes said it was one thing to have a talk and it was another to walk the talk. “We are still far beneath the mark. A lot of things fall into perspectives; how do we align our cultural, economic, political perspective with our over all national development and begin to promote that, because there are strategies at achieving this, we then begin to crystalise these strategies and prepare for that battle,” he added.
He stated the a body consisting of professionals in the field of marketing, diplomacy, economics, Information Technology, and business must be set up to midwife the project, and such a body must be insulated from political influences and given tenure to ensure seamless execution, evaluation and monitoring of project progress.
Nigeria’s purpose must be designed to position Nigeria as the right place to invest in Africa – the last haven for investment following the recent trends of underperformance of commercial portfolios in European, American and Asian markets. These must be backed by incontrovertible date that will generate a high level of awareness and thus arouse the interests of global deep pockets.