The Sunday News
Speech by Hon Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services on Brand Zimbabwe Campaign at the Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s senior management and ambassadors’ retreat in Bulawayo last week.
I want to start by congratulating the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for successfully hosting this Senior Management and Ambassadors Retreat in the city of Kings and Queens. This convocation is appropriately running under the theme “RETOOLING ZIMBABWE’S DIPLOMACY FOR ACCELERATED ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION: THROUGH RE-AFFIRMATION, ENGAGEMENT AND RE-ENGAGEMENT”.
The event comes on the back of the recently commemorated Anti-Sanctions Day, a day that was set aside by SADC to fight for the removal of unjust and illegal sanctions imposed on our country by the United States and its allies. The event also comes on the backdrop of the recently launched Brand Zimbabwe Project aimed at re-asserting our true identity and restoring the country’s position on the international stage through a positive and high quality image. Incidentally, my presentation this morning will focus on the Brand Zimbabwe project and how its success hinges on diplomatic community.
The case for branding Zimbabwe
At the very basic level, the term brand refers to a business and marketing concept that helps people identify a particular company, product, or individual. Brands are intangible, which means you can’t actually touch or see them. As such, they help shape people’s perceptions of companies, their products, or individuals. Building from this definition, it therefore follows that the branding of Zimbabwe as a geographic unit essentially involves the building up of quality and distinctive goods and services that stake our exclusive identity in the coalescing global market place. This of necessity delivers a positive image for the country and its people.
Unlike a simple product brand however, the foundation of any enduring national Brand identity must be steeped in a people’s history and its record of achievement over a given time period. In the case of Zimbabwe, our history lies in the vivid existence of a millennia old Great Zimbabwe Civilization. Starting at Mapungubwe on the confluence of the Shashi and Limpopo rivers, it migrated to the glorious stone citadels of Masvingo, Danamombe, and Khami. Another 300 similar structures dot the plateau between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers to the north and south; and the Kalahali Desert and the Indian Ocean on the west and east. The Great Zimbabwe Civilization is easily the most dominant cultural identity of sub-Saharan Africa which prospered through prolific trade with the potentates of the littoral Indian Ocean.
So widespread was this civilization that the phenology or roots of Kiswahili owes a lot to the Shona language, which gained influence on account of the flourishing trade in precious gold deposits that are a mineral hallmark of the Plateau. Flourishing organized internal and external commerce ensured sustained stability even as successive empires shifted kingdoms in response to varying economic opportunities. It is a no brainer that the present Zimbabwean nation owes its name to this grand and enduring civilization.
We learn from historical record that the legendary Munhumutapa Kingdom had embassies in distant lands. Such was its influence through its capable emissaries that it even served as a jumping off post to spread Christianity to the Indian subcontinent. The sons of the Munhumutapa were bishops of the early Christian churches of Goa while some Munhumutapa missionaries went as far west as Brazil. We know this because Dr. Stanislaus Mudenge, our late Foreign Minister and national hero researched and wrote on this aspect as he poured over Portuguese historical archives. Needless to say more such history similarly lies in the records of Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Arabia, Ethiopia, India Indonesia, among other historical records of note.
History also records that the Rozvi Empire won enduring historical fame for defeating the Portuguese empire in the 17th Century. It recovered stolen estates called prazos and gave purazi as an eternal Shona word among other Portuguese lexicon heritages. The Portuguese retreated to the coast where they retained naval supremacy and occupied trading ports as they sanctioned the interior. Thus, cut off from global trade by mercantilist Lisbon, the Great Zimbabwe Civilization atrophied.
Over time however, Imperial Europe leapfrogged to the industrial revolution with England as the potent epicenter. Subsequently, the remnants of the Great Zimbabwe Civilization was too vulnerable to the military advances of the Maxim’s machine gun and Nobel’s dynamite. Thus the decapitated heads of the warriors and high priests of 19th Century Chimurenga-Mvukelo anti-colonial resistance ended up in British Museums.
It would take the military victory of Chimurenga-Impi yoMvukelo II of the 1960-80s to reverse the shackles of a century of foreign rule. In the process Zimbabwe wrought a venerated chapter of modern military warfare by defeating the Rhodesian catspaw of the foremost imperial power of all time that was the British Empire.
This brief historical expose is the bedrock of our quest for the Brand Zimbabwe. It provides for elegies and legends that inspire us as we glue together in tight national unity. It generates the energy that drives hard work and creative ingenuity. It also provides context so that we appreciate our contemporary history in as far as the national brand in concerned.
Our national brand suffered from the assault on our image by the West following the fast track land reform programme of 2000 in which the Government compulsorily acquired excess agricultural land from former white commercial farmers and redistributed it to the black majority from whose ancestors it had been forcibly taken by white settlers.
Britain then sold the dispute to other Western countries and the United States, mobilizing them to impose illegal sanctions on our country. In addition to serving as retribution to force our Government to stop and reverse the move, the sanctions were also meant to hurt the ordinary citizens so that they could revolt against the Government and remove it from power, replacing it with one, which would be subordinate to the West.
Resultantly, the country’s image was battered by negative and damaging publicity peddled by the Western media. This led to Zimbabwe being ostracized from the rest of the world, with some sponsored local and international media on the onslaught to portray the country in bad light. It is against this background that we found it imperative to re-assert our real identity and spruce up our image and begin to play a part in the community of nations, hence the Brand Zimbabwe Project.
Brand Zimbabwe Project
On 5 September, 2022 the Government of Zimbabwe launched the Brand Zimbabwe project whose initiative is to portray a new Zimbabwe under a new political culture and industrious workmanship. The Brand Zimbabwe initiative signalled a re-commitment of the Second Republic’s promise to re-curate and project our true national image. That rebranding drive which includes engagement and re-engagement will create new opportunities for partnerships and new friendships.
The pillars to the Brand Zimbabwe are found in the expressions of our citizens as they go about their work, at play, at school and at whatever useful socio-economic activity they partake. The major sinew being the quality and vision of the political leadership harnessing the collective energy. Thus the birth of the Second Republic has resuscitated hope and rekindled imagination and there is a new ‘can do’ spirit across the land.
The EDM mantra Zimbabwe Is Open Business has worked into our socio-economic fabric. It has restored vigour and vitality. Riding on this momentum, the Brand Zimbabwe Campaign is already paving the way for our beautiful country to establish new relations with new friends, reviving ties with those we had broken ties with, and further deepening ties with those friends who have stood by us during difficult times.
The Brand Zimbabwe project is also starting to rekindle our motivation towards the consolidation of our national unity, reduction of polarization, strengthening of social coherence and concentration on our national project, which is, what is important for all Zimbabweans from Zambezi to Limpopo.
To ensure the success of the branding project, the campaign, which my Ministry is leading, has so far held a consultative meeting with the private sector, in the true spirit of inclusivity. In this meeting we highlighted the necessity of some brands to raise their competitive edge and become the key pillars of the Zimbabwe national Brand. In this meeting we also highlighted the need to promote the buying of Zimbabwean products to promote our industries and innovation that many of our youths are engaged in, as a way to help restore our national pride as Zimbabweans.
We also met with marketers where we highlighted the importance of marketing the country’s brands and our country. Meetings with other stakeholders and in different locations of our country are planned for this year and next year, so that we can ensure that our national brand is owned by Zimbabweans.
We are meeting today with the country’s top diplomats, those who have the responsibility of defending and promoting all the aspects of our country, politics, defence, security, culture, investments and trade relations, to mention but a few. Our friends, potential partners, foes, and all those that are interested in the country come to you first before they land in our country. You are the first image of the country that they encounter, and as such we will often be judged or commended through you.
Needless to say that you bear a special responsibility in promoting and maintaining a strong brand for our country. You often deal with Zimbabweans in the diaspora that have a special role in the Brand Zimbabwe exercise. Brand Zimbabwe cannot be achieved without your serious engagement and commitment. The Ministry of Information hopes to establish a strong partnership with you to package attractive investment information for the development and prosperity of the people of Zimbabwe. This I believe is fairly easy to do, considering the strides of the second republic.
At present, Domestic and Foreign Direct Investment is breathing a new entrepreneurial ethic across the length and breadth of our country. Our bountiful mineral resources are exciting and attracting the attention of world class corporate boardrooms. Whoever dreamt that Tsingshan Holdings Group, ranked number 238 on the Fortune 500 conglomerates would establish a full carbon steel ecosystem in Zimbabwe?
It started with ferrochrome furnaces in Selous on the Great Dyke. The next step was the Dinson coke batteries from thermal coal in Hwange and the final stage is the Manhize Carbon Steel Blast Furnaces in Mvuma.
There is another world class act going on with lithium as global transportation migrates from fossil fuels to new energy electric vehicles. A whopping $700 million dollars’ worth of mergers and acquisitions have been occurring covering Arcadia in Goromonzi, Sabi in Buhera, and Zulu Lithium in Bikita. All this in a mere five months span.
We have new industrial parks on the books. Ports, rail, road and border logistics are on the drawing board. New electricity power generators at Hwange are poised to be fired soon to add to the recently expanded Kariba South power station. There is more planned to meet burgeoning new industrial capacity.
Solar is being harvested. In agriculture, similar innovations are afoot as Africa’s most educated work force conquers new frontiers. Homegrown climate-change defiant Pfumvudza-Intwasa is staving off the ravages of global warming to food security. Staple food granaries are full to the brim.
Food security is further assured by bountiful and unprecedented winter wheat harvests. Dam construction is opening more land to year round irrigation, at the same time providing piped water to urban centers.
This is but a sampling of ED-works in the Second Republic. A new nation is rising, and it is as confident as it is forward looking. This is the stuff that lies at the heart of the Brand Zimbabwe Campaign.
On that same note, our President, His Excellency Cde Dr ED Mnangagwa, is once again going to make history by making Zimbabwe the first African country to offer a pathway to citizenship through investment in Zimbabwe. Many citizens of the globe, and more importantly, the African diaspora, who are scattered in various corners of the world, are ready to come home to Africa, starting right here in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe will host the Pan-African Congress in Victoria Falls during the first quarter of 2023. This is a proud moment for us, and a great opportunity to strategically brand and position Zimbabwe not only in Africa, but around the globe.
Like many other countries that seek international recognition, Zimbabwe’s national branding will also help it to position and re-position itself as part of an overall national economic development strategy whose ethos hinge on its ability to attract foreign investment, tourists, export markets, skilled human resources, among others.
Zimbabwe must be freely allowed to compete with other nations on the global stage as markets and foreign policies freely compete in the international arena. We envisage the branding campaign will help our country to implant a brand positioning in the minds of the citizenry, domestic and international stakeholders and global customers.
It is our hope that at the end of it all, Zimbabwe would be associated with a certain practice, a positive identity and high quality image. You can see that the Brand Zimbabwe Project neatly dovetails with the Second Republic’s policy thrust of Image Building, Engagement and Re-engagement. So this branding initiative goes beyond an afterthought as it is a well-planned programme under the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
Branding of a country is not something that the Government can go it alone. It requires everyone to put their hands on the deck and work towards coming up with a brand that truly identifies us, a brand that tells who we are, a brand that mirrors our culture, norms and values. And to achieve all that, we need to involve everyone in the branding process.
With these remarks I would like to wish you all fruitful deliberations.
I thank you!!!