Brand South Africa research manager, Petrus de Kock, is the driving force behind the South African Competitiveness Forum.(Image: Shamin Chibba)MEDIA CONTACTS • Brand South Africa+27 11 483 0122Brand South Africa.comThe South African Competitiveness Forum was officially launched on 25 July, followed by a number of regional consultations leading up to the main event, which takes place at Gallagher Estate, Midrand, on 5 November.Dr Petrus de Kock, the research manager at Brand South Africa, is passionate about the forum and the long-term implications the event could have for the future of the nation brand. “It’s very much a consultative forum – this is a key platform for us to share knowledge and experience, but also to work together to build a stronger reputation and a competitive country to position internationally.”It has a number of key content partners, which means there will be input from many levels and sectors. The forum will include senior business delegates, ministerial officials, representatives from several government departments, and from the Top 50 companies listed on the JSE, he explains.The programme is jam-packed, with a plenary session to be opened by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, followed by five breakaway sessions. Taking a workshop-style format, these sessions will focus on major themes, such as education, skills and labour; governance and leadership; manufacturing and related services; infrastructure; and foreign direct investment competitiveness.De Kock says the workshops will highlight the country’s reputational and competitive strengths and weaknesses. “We are looking at how we can fix problems and ways we can make the national brand even stronger.”The timing of the forum is hugely relevant, he adds. “Next year, we are celebrating 20 years of democracy [which] is very much founded and built on the concept of stakeholder input, of negotiation, of consultation, so the forum is very much a consultative platform [where] business, government and civil society can together identify the reputational strengths and competitive strengths, as well as challenges. So I think that’s unique, you know, very much as an open, public platform and what we can extract or absorb from that input into, say, our international marketing in the country.”He expects there will be much to learn from the delegates and the sessions throughout the day. “We [Brand South Africa] are not the experts at manufacturing, for example, and we will probably learn a tremendous amount about strengthening the country. I think it’s not just a talk shop; it’s very much focused on those things that we can extract and then incorporate into our operations going forward.”Brand South Africa launched the new payoff line in 2012, he explains – “Inspiring New Ways” – and the South African Competitiveness Forum is an effort by the marketing organisation to create a new kind of a platform and a new way of engaging key stakeholders, industry and the government.“The South African Competitiveness Forum is a call to all stakeholders across business, government and society to provide input and to inspire new ways of positioning the brand both domestically and internationally.”Brand South Africa will also take the opportunity to showcase a decade of creative and branding design work. “The forum aims to inspire delegates to become brand ambassadors through the exhibition of the brand and the work of Brand South Africa and through the thought- and knowledge-sharing. The forum is there as a call to stakeholders to help us to frame the picture in more detail and also to make the value proposition even stronger so that we can work towards realising the goals of the National Development Plan.”De Kock expects a fair amount of robust debate. “The forum promises to be an exciting and an engaging and probably a tough platform. As South Africans, we can engage thoroughly on issues, so I think it will be in-depth conversation … I think the experience people will have will enrich them and I hope, ultimately, that this will build more pride and patriotism and mobilise us as South Africans to work together to realise the strategic objectives that we have as a country.”The South African Competitiveness Forum takes place at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on 5 November 2013. There will be a commemorative exhibition documenting the creative and design work done by Brand South Africa in marketing the country.For more information, visit www.brandsouthafrica.com.