The best way for African countries to get ink on their papers of bilateral trade is making sure they are recognized for one thing or the other, globally. But the first-ever global ranking for soft power nations shows just how much countries on the continent are lacking international reputation.
Soft power in the region is disturbingly low as Brand Finance’s Global Soft Power Index mentions only four African countries out of the 60 nations considered in the survey. Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa made the cut, while others were off the sheet based on a number of reasons.
Soft power is a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of economic or cultural influence. The consultancy firm took a look at more than 50,000 consumers in 87 countries to rank nations in terms of familiarity, reputation and influence, among other metrics.
While the United States came out on top, South Africa took the first African position at 36th, two places after which Egypt came occupying. These two nations scored 36.4 and 34.8 out of 100, respectively, winning mostly by familiarity. In 54th place sits Algeria, while Nigeria – Africa’s economic powerhouse – came in 56th.
Per the ranking’s methodology, Brand Finance asked over 100 nations on their opinions regarding 60 nations. For budget and other technical drawbacks, the top 50 countries were chosen based on their respective GDPs. The ranking then strategically included 10 other nations based on their region, prominence and a set of other factors.
At the end of the day, Africa came up short as not a lot of its countries met these criteria. Nevertheless, the international awareness of a nation – or familiarity – is a strong pillar within the study. This means, the rest of the world does not have a huge amount of familiarity for the remaining 50 African countries left out.
Brand Finance is not the only one to rank African countries low on soft power. The Soft Power 30 by Portland features the same set of western winners but hardly mentions any nation from Africa.
South Africa is using its sports industry to keep up good international appearances. Apart from being the African powerhouse for cricket and rugby, hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup pretty much put the nation in the spotlight. It has successfully hosted international summits and sporting events such as the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
In the same way, Nigeria’s entertainment industry – including Nollywood and music – is helping the nation gobble up a place in the ranking. However, it is believed that the West African nation is not making the most of this non-coercive means of power, the first reason for which is a democratic deficit. This can be traced back to cracks in the huge pit of corruption.
“Nigeria is using a multitude of cultural forces to exercise soft power. The country’s entertainment has huge appeal across the African continent and further into Americas, Europe and the Caribbean. This appeal is extending Nigeria’s cultural influence beyond its own borders, Jeremy Samson, Managing director Brand Finance Africa told WeeTracker.
To illustrate this, Nigeria is ranked 56th in overall soft power but 37th for the metric “influential in arts and entertainment”. Nevertheless, the rest of the countries in the region are doing much worse even though their names may be synonymous with some interesting givens – like world-class marathoners for Kenya and developed tourism for Morocco.
The extent to which corruption-related activities can hurt a nation’s reputation is evident in the U.S’s eroded power of attraction due to the controversial dealings of Trump’s administration.
On the other hand, despite Brexit woes, the U.K was able to rank above Russia and China among the likes because it’s capable of swaying countries’ and organizations’ opinions and behaviors while ceaselessly investing in other countries.
Brand Finance told WeeTracker that soft power can have a huge impact on the economy of any country.
“Ultimately, if the country is viewed in a more positive light across a range of metrics, then this could benefit tourism, bilateral cross-border businesses, foreign investments and other factors that are huge drivers of a country’s economy,” the London-based firm added.
Plenty of African countries are struggling to break their GDP even, and they could turn to soft power to succeed. Internal conflict, being at the beck and call of dictatorial regimes and political instability contribute to their faring worse – but the conundrum is not peculiar to Africa.
The pillars used by the ranking include: Business & Trade, Governance, International Relations, Culture & Heritage, Media & Communication, Education & Science, and People & Values. These all work hand in hand to make or mara the economy of any country.
It comes as no surprise that Japan – the world’s third largest economy – ranked as the most influential country in Asia, as the country keeps pouring investments in technology while having a strong, disruptive hand in world business. It is also no shocker that it is followed closely by China for the same set of reasons.