In conversation with Eustace Mashimbye Chief Executive Officer of Proudly South African Conducted by David Molloy, FDI Spotlight SADC Regional Editor

Key Quote: To be selected

Selected quotes from this interview will be published within Invest SADC report.

FDI Spotlight: Given the recent negative events in South Africa, is it difficult still to be proudly South African?

Eustace Mashimbye: Personally, I do not feel it is. The message that we as Proudly South African want to send out is more relevant now than ever. Recent events, such as the downgrade, have in fact helped us to push the positive image of the country.

We are riding the wave; by that I mean we are saying that yes, unemployment is high and our investment status is critical at this moment, but there are many ways in which South Africa can improve business confidence with the expertise we have in the country. We are saying that collectively, without having to wait for the government to implement specific policies, we can still improve our situation.

One of the things corporate South Africa can do is educate ordinary citizens on consumer choice and that in buying into their country they can take a stand and take action. The current campaign we are running, the Buy Local Campaign, is something I am very passionate about and something I believe can make a real difference.

If, by the end of my tenure, things have not improved, I do not believe that anyone else can do it. Being Proudly South African means, as an organisation, we have to do everything we can do make citizens aware of how great the country is and how many local businesses, entrepreneurs and products exist here of which we can be proud.

We have to lead the charge when it comes to embedding a sense of patriotism which means we have to push the concept through increasing local products uptake, supporting entrepreneurial endeavours, SMME development and what it means to support all the campaigns which Proudly South African runs.

FDI Spotlight: How many South Africans are aware of what Proudly South African wants to achieve, especially when it comes to your campaigns?

Eustace Mashimbye: The last survey we did revealed that around 80% of South Africans are aware of the Proudly South African campaign. However, there is still a large gap in public education on purchasing Proudly South African products rather than international equivalents and its overall positive effect on the economy.

However, we have to be honest, and what we are battling with at the moment is whether or not people understand what is expected of them as South Africans. In a country where millions of people are poverty stricken, the challenge is that many people are not able to make those decisions that will bring about economic change. They make decisions based on what they have and how much they can afford to put in their grocery basket.

The three challenges that South Africa faces and that it simply cannot run away from are unemployment, inequality and poverty. I believe that we are still stuck in a developmental mind-set and people are still heavily dependent on government subsidies. A little over R1 000 can only take you so far. We need to do more to build middle class mobility and diversity as the South African middle class is a distributer of wealth to those with less rather than consumers.

You can talk and shout as much as you want to about how those people are supposed to stand up and buy locally, but the reality is that many of them simply cannot afford to enter the formal market.

That said, we are targeting those that are able to buy and invest locally. There are many South Africans that are able to do so. Recently we have been talking specifically to those within the private sector and those who have big corporate budgets. We have been asking them what they are doing to increase their support of local procurement, if they are in fact even doing so, and how much they can afford to spend.

Large corporates with big budgets, do not always make decisions based not on what is best for the South African economy, but for shareholders. This is the space we are mostly playing in. Just like consumers are important to talk to, we are talking to private companies. It is important for us to be communicating to an audience that has greatest effect and impact and that is the decision makers.

Over the last festive season, we targeted many of the big shopping centres, especially those who cater for the higher earners. Many South Africans go on holidays over the festive season and they make their purchasing choices based on offerings at their holiday shopping centres and simply what it is they can afford given what they have spent on travel and accommodation.

Therefore, the way we targeted them was to show that South African products are just as good as imported goods. South Africans are aspiration buyers and still carry the perception that foreign products elevate their status and are of better quality, which is something we want and need to change.

This is why we are holding hands with Brand South Africa to find local designers or crafters in order to show consumers and entrepreneurs that locals are able to make products that South Africans can feel proud to purchase, and more importantly, highlight products that are of the highest quality. We are also looking at entrepreneurs from across the continent who are making their own products here in South Africa, in order to integrate the rest of the continent into our Campaign and begin fighting xenophobia. We need to harness the strong essence of Ubuntu with the highest value of craftsmanship.

We are looking for the snowball effect: once companies start buying locally, more and more consumers will do so.

FDI Spotlight: What, according to you, is genuinely South African and what mind-set do you believe needs to be embraced by South Africans and by Proudly South African in order to push the agenda of being a proud citizen?

Eustace Mashimbye: There are many things that come out of the clothing and textile sector that are genuinely South African and unique to us. You can see the South African designs in airport shops and most of them are designed by our various ethnic groups who work their history and identity into their products.

The problem is that the same designs come from China or other places as well. They have positioned themselves and their factories to supply to the world and this is exactly what we need to do. We do not necessarily need to supply to the whole world, but we need to meet the needs and wants of locals first via local products.

That is our role as Proudly South African: we need to position the country and its entrepreneurs so that consumers and those making products mutually benefit. We need to make sure that South Africans understand what can and would happen economically, if they were to buy local products. We need to enhance the positive impact of buying local.

As many people will know, our campaigns and our business model is based on Australia’s model of increasing pride in the country and its citizens. When Proudly South African was established in 1998, research showed that the Australian buy local campaign, ‘Australian Made’, was extremely successful with 100% recognition and with Australian born citizens opting to buy Australian Made products 90.3% of the time over foreign counterparts. That is why the Australian Made model was brought to South Africa.

We have used it to address issues such as job creation through local investment in local products and services. However, the major success of the ‘Australian Made’ campaign was its ability to market itself to international consumers. This has enabled them to create successful export markets and has made it easier for Australians to establish businesses outside of that country due to the exceptional brand recognition of Australian Made products globally.

We have been quite successful using this model, and we are hoping that it will gain more traction internationally. That is of course the long-term goal. We definitely want the Proudly South African campaign to be recognised as a success abroad and for local and international consumers to opt to purchase our products.

Brand SA has done a lot of research on what and how South Africa feels when it comes to anything local, and the fact is that South Africans love their country. Research relating to the issue of patriotism shows that 50% of South Africans would purchase local products, even if the price was higher than an imported equivalent. However, the lynch pin is education because this anchors us to a deepened understanding of how buying local contributes to the economy and its overall impact for South Africans. Education is the key to increasing local purchasing habits, as consumers and companies would thoroughly understand the power and impact their consumption has on those around them as well as upon themselves in terms of job creation and sustainability.

Brand SA also found that 76% of South Africans are passionate and very patriotic when it comes to sport. That same percentage of people said that they will support their team no matter what and no matter how poorly the team is doing. These findings are significant and if we can work to link ourselves to the unity of South Africa via sport and tap into that same emotion I believe Proudly South African can become a household name.

FDI Spotlight: Do you think that South Africans have difficulty attaching themselves to the flag and to their country?

Eustace Mashimbye: No, I do not believe that. You cannot ignore that South Africans stand together.

It is true that South Africans are very pessimistic and sometimes self deprecating which is in my opinion largely due to the high unemployment rate mostly affecting our youth. However, as mentioned, we can improve upon this.

One way the mind-set of South Africa’s current economic condition and lack of foreign direct investment can be improved upon, is to reassure overseas investors that the local sectors can support them in terms of human capital and technology. In other words, if a Spanish company were to invest in the South African transport and logistics sector, they can have confidence in what is available locally and they can employ local expertise. Once again this requires an undertaking to communicate the concept of Proudly South African products and educate international investors on the importance of Proudly South African’s mandate to insure we purchase and support local suppliers and purchase products where possible locally.

The government has looked at which sectors can benefit from this the most. They found that the manufacturing and industrial, transport, logistics, agribusiness and tourism sectors stood out amongst the rest. The state knows that the people are despondent and they recognised that they have to take the lead in changing this. Their objective is to get foreign investors to work and support local manufacturing companies; the Department of Trade and Industry has said there needs to be a quid pro quo; Investors are able to bring their own technologies but all the workers and vast majority of local procurement will be South African. Of course, local procurement initiatives and mandates need to be communicated to investors so there is a thorough, transparent understanding of the goals and policies set out by government and Proudly South African.

This way, employment will be created and skills transfer will occur. The state is planning to invest a lot of money into this, especially in terms of switching from analogue to digital TV. That is something that has been on the State’s agenda for a while, and the fact that nothing has been done about it so far has created a negative attitude towards South Africans. However, policies have been put into place and, more importantly, policy interventions have been put in place recently with an emphasis on implementation.

FDI Spotlight: Tourism is so vital to the growth of an economy and the growth of a country. Why do you believe there is such a struggle to bring quality tourism to South Africa and improve the current statistics?

Eustace Mashimbye: Firstly, I think SA Tourism is going to change many things for the better – both for the country and for the organisation. Sisa Ntshona, the CEO, is absolutely fantastic and I believe he is going to do an exceptional job with what he has in mind.

I do think that there is more that can be done to improve the image of South Africa and to improve the tourism figures. South Africa has various offerings, and many of the great minds currently at the helm of organisations such as Brand SA and SA Tourism are looking at the infrastructure in place to make improvements. The media plays a big part in portraying our image to the outside world and more often than not the message they are sending is negative. The local and the international media thrive on negative press and unfortunately if negative messages continue to be expressed eventually the country becomes tarred with a negative brush. We need to seek out positive avenues to communicate our message and diverse offerings both domestically and internationally.

You cannot ignore the effect an increase in tourism numbers can and will have on all sectors in South Africa as well as rural integration. Everything from manufacturing to logistics will reap the rewards. I firmly believe we need a greater focus on the tourism sector because it brings hard currency straight into South Africa and affects households at a 1 job to 9 individual rate.

We need more campaigns like the Sho’t Left campaign SA Tourism started. It was extremely successful, uniquely South African and spoke to many locals no matter their ethnicity. However, the problem with that was that some South Africans might not have fully understood where it came from, which is an area we singled out to address.

FDI Spotlight: What do you believe to be the best way to reach out to the private sector companies who might not see the value in buying and investing locally?

Eustace Mashimbye: The Road Shows we do is one way that has proven to be quite successful. We do them in partnership with larger corporates, as well as with smaller enterprises.

We tend to lean more towards labour intensive sectors, because it is very important for us to focus on local manufacturers. We do not focus as much on whether the company is white or black owned, but rather the hubs where the manufacturing process occurs.

The recession has highlighted the fact that the manufacturing sector is in a slump, which is very concerning. It has shown us that we need to focus on manufacturing within all sectors more heavily and improve it across the board. Post 1994 manufacturing has contracted significantly whilst services have seen vast improvements. We need to do more to improve the manufacturing and industrial sectors to prevent further stagnation.

We have also seen that the local poultry industry is in a slump because many – if not all – of the chickens being dumped or imported from Brazil and from the European Union instead of local chickens are being used in homes and commercially. Because of this, we have started a campaign to get local businesses to buy local poultry, and Nando’s has agreed to this. Every single meal, 100% of Nando’s chickens will be procured and made with locally farmed chicken.

FDI Spotlight: What is the legacy you want to leave behind at Proudly South African when you reach the end of your tenure?

Eustace Mashimbye: I want people to see that I made a difference, especially in terms of the policy interventions I have put in place and implemented with positive results.

I want to be able to say myself that I have made a difference by using the policies South Africa put in place effectively and in a clever way. I want to know that I kept the company relevant and that we made a meaningful impact.

We are looking at how to improve government structures, government partnerships and how to utilise the online space in order to capitalise on the fourth industrial revolution especially with the youth. One initiative we are rolling out is our Tender Monitoring System, which monitors all 3 tiers of government for tender compliance in awarding business to local companies, most especially in sectors designated for local procurement. By extension we will monitor whether that local company that secures the business actually goes on to procure, for example uniforms for our nurses and doctor from a local supplier.

If I leave knowing that system has been implemented and is successful, I will be happy and I will know that I have met my responsibility to make South Africa a better place.

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