A while ago, I watched a YouTube video where the Afrikan-American singer Akon was talking about branding. He made mention of how America is considered the most branded society, in which all of the negative things happening in that land is brandedly (if there is any word like that) veiled using mind bending media power just to keep the narrative of an America that is all milk and honey with no problems. And in my opinion, if you watch properly, you will notice that the same America that goes all around bullying everybody and trying to police every country on account of the negative things that happens in their countries is the very same America where all that they accuse others of, happens but which they mask with branding. Akon went on to mention that the cases of terrorism that happen in America, but which you don’t hear of in the media are alarming.
From all indications and the way the American narrative of a perfect and mighty nation has been portrayed over the course of decades in Hollywood’s movies, music videos and social media, I want to agree with Akon.
However, I am of the opinion that every people, nation or continent have the right to control their narrative and public face. Meaning that I have no issues with whatever America or any other country outside of Afrika is doing to project to the world a very beautiful and stainless image of themselves. I however have issues with the fact that Afrika is not taking a clear and good stand to create her own positive narrative and public brand that befits her position as the cradle of humanity. Afrikans seem to see and trumpet their failure to the world more than they celebrate and give voice to the good things and successes coming out of Afrika. It’s like keeping the negative narrative of Afrika going on makes some people happy and motivated. But why be motivated by evil rather than being motivated by what is good? Does not make any sense to me.
Afrika’s brand, from where I sit, is not one which will take the shape of those lies that other nations use as masks, but the truth of what she is as the Motherland of mankind. Meaning her branding is about life and the spirit that nurtures life.
The Chinese gift
My wife and I recently launched our first book and to tell you the truth, we are quite excited the book came out when it did. Many thanks to those who have supported our work by way of purchase, even words of encouragement and sharing it with others.
So a short while ago, we were at our printers’ to collect a batch of books that we had ordered. As we talked about a few things concerning the job, a Chinese guy walked in carrying a small carton in both hands. Obviously, he looked like he was familiar with the office, for he just went around sharing the contents of his carton. He was giving everyone cupcakes packaged in fine branded packets. He could not even speak English, but he was a bit fluent with Swahili. At first I thought maybe there was a celebration of some sort going on in his own office for which reason he was sharing the cakes. He gave me one also, for which I was grateful. As a designer who loves colors and how they play together to create beauty, my eyes went straight to the bright red and gold colors of the wrapper. It was really beautiful and eye-catching to me. But then my eyes noticed something very interesting on the packet.
As part of the branding, I noticed the words “Chinese Gift”. Seriously speaking, on a normal day, I would have just taken the words “Chinese Gift” written on the packet as just part of the brand identity of whatever company or organization the Chinese guy represented. But on this day, my mind was not letting go what I saw. Instantly I began to think and try to reason why he brought the cake in the first place and why the packet is not labeled a gift from his company or organization but as a gift from China. It was then it dawned on me, these guys, whoever they are, are not just selling their company brand but they are actually selling the brand called CHINA. Knowing that the Chinese national color is basically red, yellow and sometimes gold, it made sense to know that the gift was more about China rather than the company or organization that the Chinese guy represents. The realization of the intention and the subtle way it is packaged in a gift was mind-blowing.
You may say what is the big deal about this whole thing? But the big deal is in the fact that you are even asking what is the big deal. For it shows that we clearly have not been paying attention in Afrika to the things going on around us. And if you know a bit of psychology and how our minds process the information about free things and most especially brands, then you will know that it is possible to control minds and popular narratives with free gifts, especially when the receiver has no reason to say no, since it’s not for sale.
If you ask me what I think about the many things happening right now in Afrika, I will say we are being invaded from all directions with every other nation’s and continent’s brand narrative, products, ideologies, global aspirations and dominations. To the point that right now our kids only believe in everything else except those that come from Afrika.
For too long we have sold this narrative of a wildlife tourist-based Afrika and thus when people come here all they seem to expect is the stories of lions, zebras and not the brand called Afrika. Afrika is a brand and in fact, she is the oldest brand in all of human development. And this Brand is not just a geographical space, but a wide collection of great humans, who themselves are as old as life on earth. Be it as it may, I must also say that we, as the brand ambassadors for Afrika, are certainly not doing enough to give her a bold and beautiful face. We like our little personal sensational spaces. We like to talk about the South Afrikan products in some grocery stores in Europe or the Kenyan tea brand in the UK or the Nigerian clothing line in Paris, but what about the brand called Afrika which has been projected far too long as the image of poverty, corruption, malnutrition, terrorism and the many of such ills that the mainstream media always say about Afrika? It is our responsibility and mandate to create the brand called AFRIKA and more so, in the grandiose and beauty that she definitely deserves, as Motherland.
The Chinese, just like the Americans and every other nations on the earth, are busy creating new narratives for themselves about how good and indispensable they are to the world, while we Afrikans are still wallowing in the weak narrative of how useless we are without the outside world. All we care about is still how to hustle and put food on the table because we have told ourselves and everyone else that we are just too dumb to do anything worthwhile except fight for our daily bread. So we have somehow mastered how to fight for short term gratifications while leaving the long term goals in the hands of those foreigners that control us and our realities. So when an Afrikan man meets a white man, let’s say somewhere in Afrika, the first thing the Afrikan man thinks of is how to get some handouts off of the white man. He is not conscious of the brand called Afrika and what she really stands for, which is not that of a slave in poverty but as a mother whose role is first to give life and also to nurture the same.
When will the Afrikan brand speak?
I shared this Chinese brand and gift story with a friend and he said “This is war for our hearts and minds. We can’t continue to be on the back foot. Gifts to soften and let down our guards and debt traps to shackle our hands and feet.” And I totally agree with him, while at the same time I am not blaming anyone for the place Afrika finds herself right now. But my question is this, when will the brand called AFRIKA speak?
What is a Brand?
According to an online source, “a brand is an identifying symbol, mark, logo, name, word, and/or sentence that companies use to distinguish their product from others. A combination of one or more of those elements can be utilized to create a brand identity.”
Now that Afrika is not an NGO, government organization nor a company, what would we now call the Afrika Brand?
Well, for me, I think one thing every companies or organizations look for in their brand is how whatever goods or services they produce tell the ideological narrative of why they came into business in the first place, in order to make profit. Now bringing Afrika into this analysis, it means to brand Afrika, we must first know and understand the reason she was created by her Creator and from that reason, we now bring forth the identifying symbol, mark, logo, name, word, and/or sentence that befits her purpose and reason for why she was created.
If you ask me, since Afrika is the mother continent of all continents, then her grand purpose is to give life and also nurture life. Obviously, and even though it’s not going to be acceptable anymore, but that she is a life giver, nurturer and also because she is the carrier of the original seed of life on earth, is one reason she kept being exploited by all for her motherly milk. This is a deep spiritual reality, but those with the mind of wisdom will understand.
I don’t know about you, but for me and Msingi Afrika Magazine, we have made up our minds that as long as God gives us grace and life, we will do all that is possible to sound the trumpet of a better and excellently branded Afrika. Not branded to cover her weakness and failures, but branded to give voice and strength to her true self as Motherland Afrika. We believe in Afrika and the Afrikans that are connected to her. There is an urgency to retrain ourselves about what it means to be Afrikan and we call on everyone who is interested to join this movement for a better Afrika.
Let me share a story with you.
At a point in my life, lets say around 2004 or thereabout, I had the chance to work in the shipping department of a flour milling company in Nigeria. As a tally clerk who checked the various cargoes that were offloaded from the ships, I had interactions with the stevedores. As far back as that time, I would get very pissed off when I would see these Afrikan guys working as stevedores suddenly lose their senses just being in the presence of the white sailors. You would see some of them begin to change their vocal tones to sound nasal like the white sailors. They would beg for left over food and canned drinks from the kitchen and I would really get very angry with them. I constantly tried to remind them that there is nothing superior about the white man even as there is also nothing inferior about the Afrikan man. At a point I became their enemy, for they saw me as someone who was trying to stop them from getting whatever they were trying to get from the sailors. But that was not what my intention was. I was simply trying to make them see themselves as people who are worthy of respect in their own land and not as some beggars who see the presence of the white man as another opportunity to beg and by that keep soiling the Afrikan beauty.
We are who we tell the world we are
No one will change our story apart from us as Afrikans. We are here in this state after sixty years of independence because nothing will change until we change how we see ourselves and the Afrikan narrative.
So I beg and plead with every Afrikan reading this article, whereever you may be in this whole world, please put on your Afrikan Brand of beauty, strength, majesty, boldness, wealth, wisdom, honor and self-worth. Deal with every issue that comes your way from the perspective of a wise and prudent Afrikan. Walk away from crime and anything that undermines the Afrikan strength. Walk with your shoulders straightened and your head held high and never be intimidated by anything or anyone. For he who controls your emotions will control your reactions and thus your reality.
The slave narrative is still here because we allowed it to stay with us. It’s time to recreate, re-brand, re-frame, re-engineer, retell our story from the place of truth and beauty. It’s time to be Afrikans with a brand that can withstand the eternal test of time.
We are Afrikans and life began with us here in Motherland Afrika. The question is, are you a true Afrikan and do you know who you are?