After its first launch in 2007 there was furore surrounding Brand Botswana as most Batswana expressed discomfort about the then tagline ‘Opportunity and Tranquility Beckons’.
The idea had to be thrown back to the drawing board and was re-launched in 2010 with a new tagline ‘Our Pride Your Destination’.
Now, almost four years later the national branding initiative is in full swing and this week Director of Brand Botswana International portfolio, Gaorekwe Gaorekwe talks to INNOCENT TSHUKUDU about the strides they have made.
What efforts have you made to sell Brand Botswana to Batswana and what strides have you made so far in expediting your mandate?
Since 2010 we have made a lot of strides. We decided to make a deliberate effort of talking to Batswana about the nation brand initiative before going outside.
We have had over 40 workshops across the country with different stakeholders from the media, Parliament, Ntlo ya Dikgosi and the 16 District councils as well as NGOs and tertiary institutions.
We involved everybody across the different spectrums.
We also undertook a marketing campaign which was mainly focused at creating awareness and we have had a number of successes and Batswana are warming up to the program.
One of the things we did was to lobby government to help us increase the visibility of the pride mark without necessarily incurring costs.
We went into an agreement and implemented what we call the government implementation plan and that is why today our logo is in all government literature, adverts and vehicles.
Btv also agreed to give us a filler where they ran our animated logo explaining what it represents.
Lately we’ve also started focusing outside and we decided to start with our high commissions and embassies because whatever we are going to be doing in the international space, they are going to be our first point of call.
Recently we’ve been travelling around having workshops with the embassies and we’ve been to Lesotho, Mozambique, Brazil, London, Brussels, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and the journey is continuing because we still intend to roll out to all our embassies.
The plan is such that when we eventually go into their space they will be having a full appreciation of what Brand Botswana is all about and what we intend to do.
We’ve recently launched our sponsorship for Mokaragana and we’ve been partnering with other events such as Miss Botswana, Son of The Soil, Domboshaba and Kuru as a way of increasing our visibility.
Foreign investors are facing hostile immigration laws that have resulted in so many deportations and immigration red-tapes.
What are you doing to ensure that you are in synchrony with other stakeholders and government departments?
The good thing about our structural placement is that we are placed within BITC and most of the things you just mentioned, at first contact, will affect our investment promotion efforts.
Already BITC are engaging at that level.
Last year when the point-based system was troublesome and kicking out potential investors and people who had been operating in Botswana for a long time were all of a sudden not qualifying because of the new system, BITC facilitated to get all the stakeholders together in Phakalane.
Stakeholders agreed that something may have been wrong with the system. As a result of that intervention the pass-mark was reduced.
Most of the interventions we have done so far, we have not intervened at Brand Botswana level but rather BITC level because whatever happens is that investors are the first to feel the pinch, therefore BITC steps in.
But because we are within we are able to influence that within BITC.
How involved is the private sector in the promotion of Brand Botswana?
The private sector has always been involved from the word go.
One of our first stakeholders was BOCCIM and then over and above that we continue to work with companies including those that are not BOCCIM members.
A great number of companies have applied for the use of the pride mark and today we have about 61 private companies that have been approved to use it.
They are willing and they see the contribution either the association can do for them and for the country.
At the end of the day when you talk about nation branding its everyone’s responsibility and as Brand Botswana we are only facilitators.
How do you see the future of Brand Botswana?
The future looks good and bright (chuckles)! As a country we have a lot of positive stories which we can tell.
Obviously we have our own challenges which we cannot run away from.
I think issues such as water and electricity are a national problem that we all have to appreciate that it is affecting us one way or the other.
But that being the case we have a lot of positive stories that we can write about as a country.
There are a lot of things that we can still take pride in despite the circumstances we find ourselves in.
If you look at these engagements that we have started with the high commissions, for example during our recent visit to Mozambique, they invited other Batswana living in Mozambique to come for the workshop.
Unfortunately for us, Botswana is still very much unknown but with the interventions and strategies we have we believe that sooner or later at least we’ll be known for something.
We have the brand ambassadorship programme that we have launched.
We can’t be everywhere as Brand Botswana and, through this programme we’ll be looking for people who can influence opinion, who can be inspirational and tell the positive messages about the country.
We’re going to have a number of individuals from across different sectors be it sports, business, entertainment, arts or politics such that each ambassador will have their own group of people that they can influence.
What strategies do you have in place to place your campaign on the international scene?
In a month or two we’ll be starting our campaign on BBC in which we’ll be promoting Botswana as a way of creating awareness and we’ll also be launching another one with CNBC about doing business in Botswana.
We’ll be highlighting potential opportunities that are in Botswana and generally promote international awareness.
What major challenges are you facing in the promotion of Brand Botswana?
Nation branding on its own is a new concept and trying to get everybody to buy into the strategy or vision is something that is still challenging and you have to work hard to get people to warm up to the concept.