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Rebranding our nation’s image from Ebola

By Francis W. Nyepon                     F Nyepon
Liberia has an international problem. Ebola has marred the image and identity of our country. The virus has shakened the country to its core. It has become a nuisance to our democratic governance process and remarkable GDP growth, which was
trumpeted just a few short months ago, as one of the ten fastest growing economies in the world. Regrettably, Ebola has trashed and stained that progressive record and image of Liberia by defining the country as a place of contagious epidemic, marked
by devastation, annihilation and death.

This tragic misfortune has become a source of unwanted stigma, shame and humiliation for our country and people the world over. This global misconception about Liberia needs to be debunked, and that negative image about our country re-fashioned. For example, say the name Liberia in any part of the world and immediately, people have a negative stereotypical image and false sense of what our country has become.
Overnight, Ebola has negatively defined what Liberia is and who Liberians are. This
is not right. Global attitudes and behaviors are having direct negative consequences
on our people, economy, travel and culture.

If immediate action isn’t taken, the stigma will make it more difficult to fashion
the necessary changes that are required to improve the lives and living standards of
our people. The distinctive characteristic of ‘our Land of Liberty’ as Africa’s first
independent republic endowed with an abundance of natural resources, precious
extractive raw materials and friendly people have been relegated to appalling ideas
like travel ban and visa restrictions that reflect the global reality of essentially
wanting to quarantine every Liberian because of Ebola.

Now, Liberia is faced with the need to address the crippling impact of this negative
image of our country brought on by Ebola. It is therefore imperative to rebrand
Liberia. The aim of this campaign should be to improve our country’s image and
reputation. As Liberians, we cannot simply wait and expect things to turn out for the
better. Our country has been sensationalized by western media, which is not a
reflection of what is really happening on the ground. We need to adopt a proactive
stance in rebranding our country’s image. By rebranding Liberia, perhaps we will all
realize that when it comes to image, being in possession of the truth is not enough;
the truth has to be told. This is what we must do for ourselves and for our
country. If we are to survive this negative image of Ebola, then we must market
Liberia to the world. We are capable of escaping this stigma by strategically
targeting and marketing an all-inclusive and sweeping message to a global
audience. Liberia needs to be rebranded globally as a place that is open for business
and investment with tranquility offering political stability, liberalism and
free market.

Promoting this new image; however, calls for broadcasting a global declaration that
visitors and investors must be made to realize that they aren’t going to enter
Liberia from the Roberts InternationalAirport and go directly into an Ebola
infested, disease-ridden and contaminated death-trap. We can begin by first
identifying our competitive advantages and build on them. Second, we need to put
Liberia in the position to once again compete and successfully attract foreign
healthcare volunteers, tourists, trade, investment, exports and even better relations
with other countries. Rebranding Liberia should seek to emphasize our country’s
distinct characteristics inorder to change the global perception as an Ebola-
infested nation. This can be accomplishedby creating more favorable conditions and
targeted messages at specific audiences. Living in Liberia does not mean that one is
infected or contaminated with Ebola, or on death row serving a life sentence of
ultimate death. Liberians must no longer accept stigmatization as the cost for
survival. And, we cannot sit idle and continue to allow others to narrowly define who
we are as a people and country. This stigma and negative global image cannot be
allowed to follow our country and people. It must be shaken-off. Our success or
failure can accurately be chartered; and questions of reputation, image, identity and
hence, marketing and branding will become central to our competitive edge of
removing the stigma of Ebola.

Liberia have lots of products that speak volume about the strength, heritage and
possession of  our country, which goes far beyond the sudden outbreak and rapid
spread of Ebola that have fatally claimed many innocentlives. The virus has never
before been known to West Africa. Consequently, the world needs to know that Ebola is
not holding Liberians hostage. We’ve got a fix on the virus and we are making
progress with fewer cases and low infection rates evident by empty beds at Ebola
Treatment Units (ETUs) due to remarkable policies and programs being implemented by
our government and international partners.

Let the world know that the majority of Liberians are living a full and productive
life. And that our country is filled of diversity, where over 4.4 million people
live, work, play and perform daily routines filled with pleasant, dynamic and vibrant
lives chock-full with vivacious and exciting lifestyles. The world must be reminded
that English is the official language of Liberia with 1.9 billion in GDP and
0.4 billion in debt. Liberians should also tell the world that our country is endowed
with an abundance of natural resources, which includes diamonds, gold, iron ore,
rubber,oil, gas and NOT Ebola. Liberia has the world’s largest plantation of planted
natural rubber, responsible for over one third of all automobile tires manufactured
in the world. Our Flag of Convenience, allows over one fourth of the world’s
ocean-bound maritime fleet to sail the seven oceans of the world with pride,
security and peace.

Liberian can pompously proclaim to the world that we are a resilient people. Nothing
can stop us from thriving after Ebola.The virus is a short-term challenge, but in
the long-term, Liberia will rise again and always be an attractive place to live,
work, play and do business. Liberia is a small country, but in this case, small is
good because it can easily be managed and governed with requisite democratic
principles aligned with the formulation of required economic and social policies to
deal effectively with ignorance, disease and poverty; hence, Ebola.

In order to change the negative global perception of Liberia and the outbreak of
Ebola, we need to dispel the common myths that exist by building a superior education
and healthcare delivery system. We must also do this by building affordable public
housing and instituting community-based investment programs that strengthens
adequate resources to prepare ordinary Liberians for future challenges. This author
believes that our core values must shape our country because those ideals have
longevity, and must engage citizens and national organizations at home while winning
recognition and respect abroad.  Those values inevitably transcends our growing
democracy, election cycles and special interests by capturing the core of our country
and people and what we offer the world.

The main challenge to rebranding Liberia and bringing this global misconception to an
immediate end is overcoming the stigma that Liberia is consumed by Ebola and anyone
coming in contact with Liberians, or anyone visiting Liberia foretells instant death.
This global misconception can be solved by bringing a considerably higher volume of
adjusted messages to target audiences in order to change hearts and minds. We need to
break down audiences, get them to know us better, send the right message to them, and
then get them to visit Liberia to show just how spectacular Liberia still is. At
the end of the day, we want people to say, ‘Wow! I didn’t know this about
Liberia. Liberians everywhere, have a moral obligation and responsibility to educate
the world about Ebola and how it can be controlled and eradicated. The main
challengeis to encourage people to visit Liberia and share benefits of what
Liberia offers the world in order to tear down all the walls of misconception
about Liberia and the Ebola virus.

Francis Nyepon: Author, Policy Analyst, Environmentalist & Entrepreneur
fnyepon@aol.com / ducorwaste@aol.com

Category: Editorial, News Headlines

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