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We must be locally relevant, always…sawa?

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A warm welcome to the readers of The DailyNews in Tanzania, Ahsantesana. You knowwhen you visit someone’s home for the fi rsttime and you feel right at home from the second youwalk through the door? Well that is how we felt asthe Hotwire Public Relations Tanzania team waswelcomed to The Daily News in Dar es Salaam.As those that have been following this column fora while will have noted, we try and share our observationsin relations to brands and how we as Africansinteract and relate with brands. LOL soundslike a mouth full right? Well I promise you will fi ndit very OMG… This column is less about the scienceof Brands and complex human behaviour theorybut rather a practical translation of how brands andproducts operate in our unique context.

 

Yes, unique.I think it is time that we come to a factual and brutalconclusion:we are different from the West. YesI know this may seem like I’m stating the blatantlyobvious. But am I?If we truly believe that we are different from theWest then why do we so love Western brands overour own. You all know what I mean. Just look at musiciansfor instance. Name an African star more popularthan the late Michael Jackson… We all knewthe words to his music even if we could not speakEnglish! What about chefs and food? We all watchwith great amusement the antics of Gordon Ramsay,we gasp at the magic that Jamie Oliver creates in hishome. We listen to Oprah as if a living saint is talkingto us… The fact is we know how to cook in Africa,we know how to make great music and we mostcertainly know how to give life advice to strangersfor free like Oprah.

 

If we are able to do the same whydo we not have our own Michael Jacksons?Here is something to consider to further deepenthis topic. Most Africans would actually not preferto eat Mr Ramsay’s food. All that cream and wine inthe food, smelly cheese and fi sh eggs…? These arenot things we Africans would call comfort food…We prefer what our Mama’s cooked for us as wegrew up in the village. In terms of music in Africawe prefer our own any day over Western tunes asthey talk to us in tones and voices we understandand can relate to. Everyday the greater majority ofAfricans wear clothes that are inspired by Africandesigners, and actually suite the climate.So if we prefer our own stuff why then do AfricanBrands not command nearly the same amount ofrespect as Western brands? We have a very strangesituation here then.

 

A conundrum if you please. Althoughwe prefer local products as they relate closerto who we actually are as a people, we are even preparedto pay a premium for Western products thatsay nothing to us.What to do? The simplest thing we can do, anddo right now, is vote with our wallets. Retailers willfollow the money and start to give you, the consumerall those African products that you really want. Forthe longer term mind set change, let us take full advantageof the world’s attention which is currentlyfocused on us. Just last week Tanzania hosted theThai Prime Minister with a delegation featuring 100businessmen; the month before the leader of the freeworld also paid Africa a visit. This is our time asAfrica to promote local brands and the stories behindthem, believe me; the world needs something newto listen to.

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