Young leaders at the Youth Caucus debated how to build South Africa’s nation brand as well as ways in which ordinary people could play their part in meeting the goals of the government’s National Development PlanThe future of the country depends on the youth of today, which means their attitudes and thoughts are crucial to building a strong and prosperous nation. To get a deeper understanding of youth and prompt debate and discussion on a range of pertinent issues, as part of Youth Month activities, Brand South Africa hosted a Youth Caucus.Representatives of a number of youth organisations met at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton on 21 June to discuss active citizenry and to heed the government’s call to play a role in the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP), or Vision 2030. They included One Young World, Spring Age, Global Dignity Club, Junior Chamber International SA, Green Economy Youth, and Young Minds. Delegates spoke about youth matters and voiced their opinions on the way policies could shape the future of the country.LET’S PLAY OUR PARTSithembile Ntombela, Brand South Africa’s Brand Manager, outlined the organisation’s Play Your Part strategy to the young leaders. “Play Your Part is a nationwide campaign created to inspire, empower and celebrate active citizenship in South Africa. It aims to lift the spirit of the nation by inspiring all South Africans to contribute to positive change.”An aim behind Play Your Part was to foster social cohesion through dialogue. “We already have sport as a factor to build social cohesion but we should always be like that and not just get along because of our patriotism to our sports teams.”She said that Brand South Africa’s strategies were always guided by research, and that in a recent poll 77% of respondents said they were proud to be South African. “With bad news outnumbering good news in the media, the Play Your Part TV series is trying to balance the equation by showing ordinary people doing what they can to make the country a better place to live in.”This was why Brand South Africa had partnered with the Sowetan newspaper, Ntombela explained. The partnership would bring to the public the Sowetan/Play Your Part Dialogues, as well as South Africa The Good News.About the National Development Plan, Ntombela said: “By 2030, the country seeks to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. We seek a country wherein all its citizens have the capabilities to grasp the ever-broadening opportunities available.”ARTS AND CULTUREAnother point she made was that for investors, arts and culture played an important role in a country’s profile. “The state of our arts and culture speak on a country’s heritage and investors love a country with a strong heritage, according to research we have done.”Brand South Africa would now be using sport and religion to try to foster active citizenry, she added.Ntombela’s presentation prompted a range of questions from delegates, such as: How do you inspire brand buy-in? How do you get big business to buy into Brand South Africa’s vision? How will Brand South change the fact that there were certain alcoholic beverages, like Castle, that are synonymous with a united South Africa?Despite challenges and setbacks, South Africa has managed to double its economy (GDP) over the past 20 years says Leigh-Gail Petersen, a Brand South Africa researcherCOMPETITIVENESSSouth Africa ranked at 53 on the World Economic Forum Global Competitive Index, the second highest spot out of a Brics (The country grouping that features Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) country. With this in mind, Leigh-Gail Petersen, a Brand South Africa researcher, spoke about nation branding.“Nation branding aims to measure, build and manage the reputation of countries. Some approaches applied, such as an increasing importance on the symbolic value of products, have led countries to emphasise their distinctive characteristics,” she said. “The branding and image of a nation-state and the successful transference of this image to its exports is just as important as what they actually produce and sell.”A national perceptions audit had found that 91% of the population was proud to be South African, while 95% had a sense of belonging to the country. “According to this audit, 82% of South African youth want to be involved in the improving of South Africa’s population but do not know how to be.”Petersen pointed out that South Africa ranked 41 out of 189 worldwide when it came to ease of doing business, but only 61% of people where familiar with doing business in the country. “Out of the 61% who are familiar with doing business in South Africa, only 32% are current investors in the country.”She added that the top sectors associated with South Africa were mining, hospitality and tourism. “The media, especially TV and radio, are sources of negative information regarding the country and that affects the country’s competitiveness.”Despite all these setbacks, Petersen added, South Africa had managed to double its gross domestic product in the last 20 years.