Country perception: The onus is on us

07 Jul, 2019 - 00:07 0 Views
Country perception: The onus is on us

The Sunday Mail

Writing Back
Ranga Mataire

For long, we have allowed other people to define who we are. What other people say about us has been so ingrained in some of us that we have forgotten who we are.

It is a real tragedy whose genesis dates back to colonial conquest when everything about us — our way of doing things were regarded as inferior and primitive.

Years after colonialism has vanquished, some among us are still afflicted with self-hate that make us think that unless something is legitimated by a white man or the West, it remains inferior, unreasonable and something to be abhorred.

A case in point is the continued denigration of good-intentioned state interventions on the currency issue.

Realising the unsustainability of the multi-currency system where the Us dollar had literally become the dominant currency, the Government through Statutory Instrument (SI) 142 made the Zimbabwean dollar as the sole legal tender.

Typical of brainwashed colonials, some among us have come out guns blazing condemning such a move.

Spurious factors have been put forward to justify this condemnation.

Comparisons are drawn to 2008 when the then Zimbabwean dollar lost value.

And indeed, as fickle as some Zimbabweans are, they have also gotten onto the bandwagon of condemning the introduction of the local currency even when its apparent that the conditions that existed in 2008 are completely different from those obtaining in 2019.

Just one critical ingredient that distinguishes 2008 and 2019 is production.

The fundamentals are completely different.

Production has been steadily increasing since 2013.

In 2013, gold output was around 12 metric tonnes annually but in 2018 output rose to 32 metric tonnes and all predictions point to an upward output in 2019.

Similarly, there has also been an upward production of tobacco and minerals like chrome, nickel while tourism is also on the mend with and greater prospects envisaged as the Second Republic introduces a raft of reforms.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame could not have put it any better when he recently said that the onus to change the country’s perception lies first with Zimbabweans.

The tendency by some of our countrymen to perpetually manufacture a state of crisis so as to put Zimbabwe under international spotlight is not only patriotic treasonous.

Perception in international relations is everything. Country of origin plays an important role in the international marketing today.

It has been proven by many researchers that the perception of the country has an impact on how people view the quality of goods and services originating from that country and therefore also the prices customers are willing to pay for them.

A trade expert once remarked that some markets buy a product based on the story behind it.

Besides people’s perception, the mass media plays a critical role in influencing and changing the perception of a country because they combine many factors that make the message credible and trustful for consumers.

According to Petr Kral of the Czech Republic’s University of Economics, six main factors influence the perception of a country by other countries.

Kral classified the six factors into what he called the “national image hexagon” comprising of tourism, exports, internal political situation and foreign affairs, investment and immigration, culture and cultural heritage and the people.

Tourism plays a critical role because it is based on a visitors’ personal experience.

Are we as Zimbabwe tuned up to realise the importance of visitors to our country?

Exports are also critical in determining other countries perception of us as well as internal political situation.

To a greater extent, people form biases towards a country because of how the media projects the country of origin.

And much of what the international media projects about another country comes from how it is depicted by the local media.

The manner in which our media has reported about the local currency was not just hot-air but alarmist in that it is intended to instil some kind of anxiety among the general populace.

In today’s times of financial crisis markets are very sensitive to every new information published.

A case in point is the forecast of the American investment bank Goldman Sachs published in the beginning of January 2009 in the Czech Republic.

The forecast after the publication of the Goldman Sachs story had leading newspapers suggesting that the Czech currency would lose its value in the upcoming months from 26 CZK/EUR to more than 32 CZK/EUR.

After the publication of this information, the Czech currency started to depreciate and within a few days it reached the value of 28,105 on the 23rd of January of 2009.

Within just a few weeks the currency lost 7 percent of its value.

This clearly shows the power of the media in shaping perceptions.

In the case of the Czech Republic, much of the information that precipitated the rapid depreciation was based on incorrect data and misunderstanding of statistical data which was interpreted in a wrong way.

We have the same scenario in Zimbabwe where overnight we have all sorts of pseudo economists predicting doom following the introduction of a mono-currency regime.

Incessant pessimistic articles are fed onto the social media — all with the effect of swaying public opinion about the new currency.

In order to counter this deliberate agenda setting by the media, the monetary authorities need to come up with an effective communication strategy that puts issues into perspective. People need to understand that transformation is a process and there is need to explain each step taken on all communication platforms — radio, print, television and social media.

The message must incessantly be put across all corners of the country.


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