If you have had any problem making payment online as a Nigerian or being branded as a scammer before, then you will appreciate this level of challenge we face online as Nigerians.
The recent ‘malicious playstation3 commercial’ on the Internet is regrettable, I am happy the step government and other concerned individuals are taking to address such situation portraying Nigerians as fraudsters. This is one out of many of such scenarios we experience as we transact legitimate businesses online as Nigerians.
Our country might not be the worst country in terms of crimes but we don’t have the international media to showcase our good side so we are left at the mercy of other people’s media. There is no better time to take the re-branding campaign online than now. That is the essence of this writing where I have to do something slightly different because am involved.
In my interview on the opportunities and challenges of Internet marketing in Nigeria, as published in The Punch newspaper of 3rd October, 2009, I did mention the importance of the Internet as a veritable marketing and mass communications tool. Let’s see how we can use this tool to re-brand our Nigeria.
Talking about the re-branding Nigeria project being promoted by Prof. Dora Akunyili, minister of Information and communications, this is one of the issues that have gained a lot of controversies especially in the media. Different people from different sectors have commented on how re-branding should and shouldn’t be done.
Having been privileged to meet the honourable minister sometime last year when I published my book titled: How to Create Unlimited Internet Wealth, where I presented a complementary copy of the book to her, little did I know she will be in charge of information and communications in Nigeria.
I personally believe Nigeria needs re-branding, that made me participate in the finding- a -logo -and-a- slogan contest for our country, and unfortunately my entry didn’t win. The intention to re-brand Nigeria is a good one but the process has to be carefully done to achieve the desired result. One of such ways is to look at the different areas and things that has given the country bad image within and outside the country and find a way of changing them, that for me is the beginning of the re-branding process.
Some of the things that have given Nigeria bad image abroad are the leadership of this country, Niger delta issues, then the cyber crimes (yahoo yahoo).These are the major areas we need to start changing.
Like Steve Omojafor, the group chairman of STB-McCann, in his speech at AAAN’S 36th AGM,as reported in The Punch of Thursday, September 3,2009,pointed out how important it is for leadership in Nigeria to be re-branded, he outlined the decay in leadership and the need to start the re-branding process from our leaders. He also mentioned that if we get the leadership of the country right, the problem of Nigeria would have been solved and I share in that. I will leave the experts in leadership to propose the right way to go about that.
The Niger-delta issue on its own has created very bad image of the country in no small measure. It has affected the socio-economic strength of the country. The recent step taken by the government through the Amnesty and rehabilitation initiative is a welcomed development and should not be politicised as to achieve the desired peace needed the region.
Another important area that needs re-branding is our image online, It is no longer news to say Nigerians are regarded as criminals on the cyberspace because of cyber crimes popularly called yahoo yahoo. Our identity online is synonymous with cyber crime.
The issue is deeper than this; it takes you to visit our cyber cafes to know the extent of this menace amongst our young people. These cyber criminals are not faceless, they are our brothers, sisters, friends, relations with the crime getting ‘internalised’ as in Nigerians are also falling victims. There is no need to pretend that this doesn’t exist or that it is not as the world has seen it. It is time for us to kick against cyber crimes and proffer pragmatic solutions to reduce the incidence.
Even before that ‘malicious Sony ad’ that has attracted government attention, many online payment solutions has blacklisted Nigerians from using their platform, as an Internet Marketing Consultant, I face daily challenges trying to make payments online as a result of cyber crimes emanating from Nigeria. From the way things are going if urgent steps are not taken now, we will soon be restricted totally from using the major online services with the rest of the world.
The first step in tackling this menace is to identify why many people go into cyber crimes, one of the reasons is lack of employment. The rate of unemployment in Nigeria has exponential effect with about 40 million Nigerians unemployed. Many young people even after graduating from the university don’t have a gainful employment, some of them in a bid to eke out a living resort to cyber crimes. If jobs are created, many young people that go into cyber crimes will not get involved in such act.
Awareness campaign should be intensified on the use of the Internet for positive things especially for legitimate businesses. We should begin to see the internet as a marketing tool to sell our product and services to the world. Several opportunities exist online for businesses, students, organisations, entrepreneurs to leverage on. Nigerians should be trained on the use of computer and related technologies like web designing, Software development, mobile technology, hardware engineering etc. This will help disabuse their minds about cyber crimes, they should be made to understand that many successful online brands like Google (the 7th among BusinessWeek 100 Global brands 2009),facebook,YouTube,Yahoo and others where developed by young people who are now billionaires.
Government on their part should create the enabling environment for all these to work. Such as making Internet access easy and affordable to all Nigerians.
Having pointed out some of the ways to stop cyber crimes lets see how to re-brand our image online and why the internet is the right medium.
ICT experts have emphasised the need to use technology as an effective tool for re-branding Nigeria, for example, In vol. 3 , March 2009 edition of ICT Today magazine,Dr Jimson Olufuye,the President of Information Technology Association of Nigeria(ITAN)pointed out the need for the re-branding Nigeria project to be taken to the Internet.
Re-branding Nigeria on the Internet is actually to leverage the potentials of the Internet to promote the campaign. The Internet is no doubt one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, its main advantage over other mass communications media is the high level of interactivity it offers. There is room for the communicator and the communicated to interact seamlessly.
For example if you are reading this article online from the website: www.techtrendsng.com you will have a place where you can make your comments and contributions known instantly and you will also get an instant feedback from me and other people who might want to contribute.
The internet is ubiquitous (viral effect in Internet marketing) and that makes the user and the message same. Messages are sent to different parts of the globe at the speed of thought. Making the world a global village indeed.
With the internet, you can target your campaign to the right audience which makes for effective communication and marketing. It is quite cheaper to promote your campaign or adverts online than offline.
Don’t also forget that the Internet is generally accepted all over the world with over 1.7 billion users worldwide, using the medium as a means of communication and socialization. Let us then see how the Internet can be used to re-brand Nigeria.
The first step to effective online campaign is having a unique identity for Nigeria online, thanks to the .ng country code Top Level domain (.ngccTLD) which identifies us uniquely online. This unique identity needs to be promoted both on the Internet and Outernet but right now using the .ng domain might not look very attractive for netpreneurs to use until our image online improves.
Taking this further, we should have a functional and active website which every Nigerian should know and access both Nigerians at home and in Diaspora, even non-Nigerians can also participate. The website should carry relevant information about governance in Nigeria. This will form a virtual community where issues concerning us are discussed and our good image portrayed to the world. Great ideas no doubt will be generated from such platform.
Social networking sites like facebook, twitter and others have proven to be agents of social change. These websites have been used in different times by different countries to chat a positive course. For example, during the recent Iranian political crises, the world got to know what was happening through Twitter, this site was actually used in updating the world about issues in Iran what other media couldn’t achieve.
We should explore the potentials of these sites to promote our campaign. In a related report titled Facebook: Social network turned Political tool, on The Punch newspaper of Tuesday, August 11, 2009, pg 22, it pointed out that prominent Nigerians even the Minister of Information and Communications use Facebook. The idea now is not for political reasons but to project the positive image of the country. We should explore the use of Youtube videos in projecting this campaign; the Prime minister of great Britain has in several occasions use Youtube in communicating to the world on vital issues.
Another place we need to optimise our image is the search engines; we should provide contents online that say good things about the country and her people so that anyone searching to know about Nigeria will always see the good things not the bad ones. It takes a conscientious effort to achieve that.
In Conclusion, Nigerians who are Internet and ICT experts like Philip Emeagwali (the father of the Internet) and others both in Nigeria and in diaspora should be made ambassadors of this online re-branding process giving ICT its rightful place as the backbone for national development.