Flying the flag – your role as SA’s brand ambassador abroad

By: Tshepo Matseba


You miss SA? SA misses you too. There’s something you can do to feel closer to home.

South Africans are reported to be leaving the country in droves – many of them citing crime, slow economic growth and a lack of job opportunities as their reasons for emigrating.But emigration is hard. Finding one’s feet in a strange land is discomfiting, and there’s a lot to miss about South Africa. Expats get misty eyed about South Africa’s natural beauty, sunny weather, and our warm and friendly people. They miss the food and attempt braais in the rain and snow. They drive long distances in their new countries just to buy a Springbok sweater and some boerewors. Given a chance, they congregate with other South Africans in public spaces to celebrate South African sporting wins and sing ‘Shosholoza.’Sithembile Ntombela, the Acting Chief Marketing Officer of Brand South Africa says that it is hard to leave behind South African roots.  “But the good news is – you don’t have to.


Says Ntombela, “effective brand ambassadors can drive interest from foreign investors and tourists, which helps to build the South African economy and create jobs. In the long run, this can help South Africa to overcome its current challenges and make home a better place for you to return to.”


What can you do to fly the flag abroad?


Our accent is part of our DNA

According to Brand South Africa, your South African accent is distinctive and is even seen as exotic in some places. “In fact, it was even voted the second sexiest in the world last year. Your accent paves the way for people to ask where you’re from, and get the conversation going about South Africa,” Ntombela says, adding that it is crucial to support South Africans abroad.


Support South Africans abroad

“Turn up to support South African sports teams, businesses and creatives when they’re touring your new home country. Be part of that awesome crowd of proud South Africans that draws admiration in your new country,” she says.


Showcase SA culture

But don’t mingle only with other expats in your new country. Get to know the locals. Wear your proudly South African clothing, host South African braais, and introduce your new friends to traditional South African foods. Teach them a few words in one of our national languages.


Introduce SA business

Send business our way by pointing your new colleagues at South African suppliers and service providers. Research from Brand South Africa shows that South African businesses offer world class products and services at globally competitive prices. You’ll be doing a favour for both your new employers and the South African economy.


Flaunt your SA work ethic

Ntombela exclaims that South Africans are known in many countries for their strong work ethic. “Maintain our reputation by cheerfully going the extra mile, and always being professional and ethical. It’s good for you and other expats entering the job market abroad, and it’s helpful for South Africa as a whole when the world sees us as professional, hard workers.”


Wax lyrical about the good things

Despite our challenges, South Africa has a lot going for it. We’re dynamic, diverse, colourful and warm.   We have hordes of entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives making a name for themselves internationally. It’s the home of the creative hustle, with people making a living in astonishing ways. We have a wealth of natural and mineral resources. And our big blue skies and great weather are hard to beat. Don’t focus only on the negatives – fly the flag and tell people about the good things too.


Stick to fair and balanced reporting

“Some expats may feel inclined to justify their move by exaggerating the problems South Africa faces. It’s easier to generalise and say ‘there’s never electricity in SA’ than to research the exact statistics on the spur of the moment during a conversation,” says Ntombela. “Besides, it doesn’t sound quite as impressive when you state ‘we were without power for a total of 80 hours in the past three years’. These negative generalisations harm Brand SA. They don’t paint an accurate picture, and they deter foreign investors and visitors. Which, in the long run, worsens South Africa’s problems,” she concludes.


Be discerning: fake news is the enemy

Numerous sites exist dedicated to inflating bad news beyond recognition, and actually presenting complete untruths as fact. Characterised by blood red headlines and multiple exclamation marks, these sites thrive on gory photographs and graphic descriptions of horrific situations. Unfortunately, many internet users are not able to distinguish between real and fake news, and relish sharing these articles widely on social media. This gives the impression that South Africans are all either dead or murderers, and detracts from investment and tourism that could help the country overcome its real challenges.


Tshepo Matseba is the former President of PRISA and Managing Director at Reputation 1stGroup.

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