Although it may not seem like it now, Kenya has everything it needs to have a strong, stable economy. Specifically, I think we have what it takes to increase our literacy levels, improve and make affordable our healthcare, increase our exports and put money in people’s pockets. It is possible for Kenya to be a true Republic, where the relationship between the Government and Citizens is vibrant and inclusive. A practical Country where even though corruption and selfish politics will exist, development will take precedence.
I write this at a time when life on earth is increasingly difficult. We have unwarranted wars happening, social unrest in many parts of the world, an increase in strongman governments, an exponential rise in the cost of living, an acceleration towards the extinction of many plant and animal species as well as catastrophic acts of God. Millions of people are dying preventable deaths, and millions more are plunging into the misery of poverty. Yet, in all this chaos, the world is undergoing its fourth industrial revolution. If what we have seen with the first three is anything to go by, the future abounds with opportunities.
One of the opportunities I see for Kenya is in Marketing. Global brands like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft have continued to succeed because of the creative ways in which they use marketing. Dubai, Paris, London, Singapore, Amsterdam and others have also become what they are now largely due to conscious and subconscious marketing initiatives. In this limbo between chaos and opportunity, Kenya can make a leap forward by applying herself to some tactics from the aforementioned brands and places to remain resilient.
The Kenya Export Promotion And Branding Agency (KEPROBA).
There already exists a government agency established to ensure that Kenya has a solid and attractive reputation for herself and that the produce coming out of Kenya is good, wanted and excessively sold in other countries across the world at competitive prices. It is called KEPROBA, as in Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency. Don’t get me wrong but the boring name not only stems from Government’s proclivity towards boring names, but also because it is the marriage between the former Export Promotion Council (EPC) and Brand Kenya Board (BEB). It sounds like a mnemonic high school students would use to remember something from a Chemistry lesson! Their website reads that their core mandate is to implement export promotion and nation branding initiatives and policies to promote Kenya’s export of goods and services. They ‘Brand Kenya, Export Kenyan and Build Kenya’ with a vision to ‘transform Kenya into a Top Global Brand’. I love that we have the intention clear, but the reality is hazy. To briefly illustrate my point, you need not go further than their most basic elements – logo and website. Go on and check and then answer this, if KEPROBA were a person, what would they be like? (Please leave your responses in the comments section below).
“Implementing Export Promotion.”
Kenya has the potential to be the top seller of tea, coffee, pyrethrum, sisal, cashew nuts, meat and some natural minerals. But we are not, and we may be far from it. The reality is that Kenya is like a person who lives in Kilimani – we spend many times more than we bring in, but we have access to loans so we think we have money. One of KEPROBA’s sisters, the Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade), indicated that Kenya sold KSh 666.7 billion (US$ 5.5 billion) but bought KSh 2.1 trillion (US$17.4 billion) in 2021 alone! We are not exporting because we are not producing, and so as far as this responsibility goes KEPROBA may not have much to show.
If KEPROBA were a person, what would they be like?
“National Branding Initiatives and Policies”
As you read this, I have no doubt that you know of Kenya’s national values. I know this because according to the Vision 2030’s website, Kenya has made great strides in creating awareness around its national values. Now, a gun is pointed to your head, how many national values do we have in Kenya? You have 60 seconds! Are you still alive? I called a couple of my friends and asked them to name at least 5 national values. None of them could. If we do not understand who we are and what we stand for, I do not see how we will build a strong and reputable brand for ourselves globally. Still on branding, what with the uniforms we send our sports people in? And the county logos? The ministries and parastatals logos? There is a huge divide between what KEPROBA wants to do and what it is doing – and it us hurting all of us.
Also read: Africa Rising Is Now A Wake Up Call
There Are Many Solutions, And Marketing Is Right There At The Top.
By re-establishing itself and getting serious with the job, KEPROBA will spark a fire that leads to an economic upturn. Essentially, their job would be to enhance and increase the visibility of Kenya’s brand with a view to inspire national pride amongst citizens and cause more investments in Kenya. The government would have to create conducive environments for Kenyans to produce, meaning more businesses are likely to open. With good support, these businesses should not only thrive in Kenya, but also grow strong enough to sell abroad. The government would also have to improve its investments in infrastructural developments, because businesses must operate efficiently. If we want to be the Silicon Savannah, then we have to start acting like it. What’s more, it will be inevitable for the government to find ways of making it possible for foreign investors to venture into Kenya, creating job opportunities and increasing our offering to the world. Marketing can spark development, and it can improve people’s lives.
The Brightest Flower Attracts The Bee.
And as Rory Sutherland likes to say, “A flower is a weed with an advertising budget.” I spent some time imaging this: if I was KEPROBA’s CEO, what would I improve, change or remove? This is what I came up with:
1. Rebrand KEPROBA by changing its name, look and feel and tone. I would position it as a Marketing and Advertising Agency for the government and the people of Kenya. The goal here would be to transform it to feel more like a creative agency than a government library. I would redo the office, set up a vibrant team of creatives (young and experienced) and equip them with the best tools to be able to create innovative marketing solutions for brand Kenya.
2. Rebrand Kenya. With this team, we would bring together different stakeholders to create an initiative aimed towards answering these questions: If Kenya were a person, what would they be like? What do we stand for? Who are we trying to appeal to? Who should we be? We would go around the country collecting feedback to this questions through questionnaires, focus groups, interviews etc. At the end of this process, we would have determined what our current brand is and what it offers, as well as ideas from Kenyans about who we should be and where we should be going. Since this process is dynamic, we may find that we do not need to change who we are, maybe just enhance.
We would not County governments and other government agencies aside. Gradually, we would rebrand them into small sub-brands with their own identities but aligned to the master Brand Kenya. It is unfortunate that in the 21st century, government agencies still look and feel pre-historic. I am impressed by what Nakuru County did and I love their ambition to have a new vibe. We would work with teams of techies to do new websites that have good User Interfaces and comfortable User Experiences. For example, we would ensure to avoid mistakes like the site inconsistency between the current Ministry of Trade, Investments And Industry and Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development.
3. Develop a comprehensive marketing plan for the Country, to be actioned by this Agency. The plan would be aligned with various national and international ambitions such as the Kenya’s Vision 2030, African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals. It would also map out all our stakeholders and rank them in order of influence, each with corresponding tactics detailing how to engage them. Ideally, the plan will be a consultative process between government, private sector and citizens. it would attempt to be as inclusive as possible, focussing on small activities as I shall mention in subsequent points.
4. Reduce the national values from 17 to 5. Then preach them so that every Kenyan citizen knows them by heart. They will be taught in primary schools, repeated in high schools and Universities. I imagine theme hung in public offices, parliament, places of worship, matatus etc. The chief shall remind people of them during barazas and the president shall lead people in saying them during public holidays. The goal here is to get every Kenyan to know that this is who we are and this is what we do.
5. Create a national slogan. A line that motivates and encourages Kenyans to an action. A rallying call. I don’t know if Harambee is still it because I have never heard anyone use to do the things I have described. This line shall be put on t-shirts, shirts, spare wheel covers, car stickers, seats in public transport like the SGR and other public spaces. We shall work on campaigns to popularise it across all Kenyan institutions and the public.
6. Run campaigns. When was the last time you saw an ad for Kenya? And I don’t mean those ones done by travel agencies, no. We have many things to offer, from good coffee, tea, diverse cultures, deep history, wildlife, party life, beautiful holiday destinations etc. There is also an opportunity for us to market our innovations, ideas and character. The goal here is to use all avenues and tools available – from social media to international expos – to sustain high visibility of the Kenyan brand in people’s minds.
We have a lot of content creators in Kenya and abroad who could be engaged to support these campaigns. Videos like this excite me because it is exactly what I am talking about. I don’t know what Naomi Campbell has done for Kenya in her position as Magical Kenya’s brand ambassador, but I know local creators will have way more impact than her. Apart from not knowing the first thing about what being Kenyan is and therefore lacking nuance, I am not convinced that she pull the kind of visitors we want. Smaller scale content creators from around the world who have blogs and blogs are a better avenue to walk on.
Still on influencers, I suggest that the President becomes influencer number one. It would not hurt to see the President doing short social media clips and memes reminding us of our values and encouraging foreigners to visit/invest in Kenya. It would not hurt if he directed his Ambassadors all over the world to make sure that they are spreading the gospel of Kenya in their places. it should be clear to them that one of their jobs is to bring Kenya business.
I would invest in working with local filmmakers and musicians to create films and music that improves how the world views us. If America and the UK have excelled at this, why can’t we? Even more, I would empower our sports people to be our brand ambassadors. We would create campaigns around them as a gesture of appreciation and encouragement, but also as a way to tell their stories to the world. We would create beautiful uniforms unlike the boring ones that we have seen in the past, with colours and patterns that speak to who we really are.
There us an opportunity for our airports and airlines to attract more people people to come to Kenya. I am sure we could play around with copy and images to create nice visuals to brand the planes inside and out. I love what I saw Jambojet and KQ do some time back. In addition to this, we will develop short clips that promote Kenya and play them inflight and on airport screens – including the President’s videos as ideated above.
7. Use social media. I mean seriously, why don’t we have social media pages for Kenya (the people and experiences of Kenya)? We would create social media accounts for Kenya and have one standard national harsh tag. We shall welcome everybody to use that harsh tag to post anything that relating to experiences in Kenya.
8. Invest in our own festivals that attract foreigners to come experience Kenya – think of Koroga Fest or even Tomorrowland. Also lobby to host international events and conferences as way to bring serious people to explore what Kenya has to offer. And similar to what Rwanda as done, partner with international outfits to encourage the international audience to visit Kenya. This will mean working with the government to improve public services as well as creating exciting amusement facilities, rehabilitating historical sites, protecting wildlife and so on.
I may go on about this forever, and never finish. KEPROBA has got to ready itself to make a leap. A jump into the future. From the normal way way of doing things, to a new way. Marketing improves lives. With all the creative talent in Kenya, we have no excuse not to use it for this purpose.