About Simon Barber

Simon Barber

Simon Barber is the US Country manager for the International Marketing Council (IMC) of South Africa, a public-private partnership set up to promote a positive South African brand image for South Africa.

Simon’s primary responsibilities are to tell South Africa’s story, help others tell it in ways that resonate with US business people, decision makers, media and travelers, and to develop new channels for getting the story out. He joined the IMC after 20 years as US correspondent for leading South African newspapers Business Day, the Sunday Times and the Cape Times.

He remains a weekly columnist for Business Day. He runs the IMC’s BrandSouthAfricaBlog.com and also blogs to Izwi at izwi.com and Thoughtleader.co.za. The South African blogging tour is being sponsored by The International Marketing Council.

Latest Posts by Simon Barber

Extra! Extra! South Africa Now!

October 8, 2010 by  


South Africa Now, a supplement published in the Washington Post on October 6, offers a snapshot of a nation to believe in. Background here.

South Africa Now

Creating a Mobile Network of South African Brand Ambassadors

October 2, 2010 by  


Are you interested in becoming part of a global network of ambassadors for Brand South Africa? Then you might consider joining our new Motribe, Amazwi.

What’s a Motribe? It’s a group of people with a shared interest or passion linked together in an online community that can be accessed by virtually any mobile phone that has a web browser. You don’t need an iPhone or a Blackberry, much less a laptop or PC with an Internet connection, to be part of a Motribe.

We have launched a Motribe we are calling Amazwi which is Zulu for “voices.” If you would like to be part of it, drop us a line using this link and we’ll send you the instructions — it’s extremely simple — and the code you will need to join.

Once you’re aboard, you can start your own blog, upload photographs or go into a chat room, all from your mobile phone.

Amazwi is for anyone who is interested in helping promote the South African brand – by living it, helping others live it, and telling the world about it.

The South African brand is made up of those things that make South Africa special and relevant in a changing world and which, if you’re a South African,  make you glad to be one. Ubuntu. Diversity. Creativity. Energy. Resilience. The beauty of the place. All the things that took the breath away of everyone who came here for the World Cup and which made their experience unique.

To be an ambassador for brand South Africa  is to be a storyteller. Amazwi will, we hope, become a vibrant community of people from all walks of life who want to help each other tell South Africa’s story well by sharing their own experiences, thoughts and inspirations, and by offering each other encouragement and support.

You don’t have to be in South Africa, or even a South African, to be part of Amazwi. In fact, we would really like to see the network go global.

Let’s say you’re a South African student studying in Beijing or Nairobi or Mumbai and you’re invited to give a presentation on South Africa to your classmates. Amazwi could be a terrific resource for rounding up facts, figures, ideas, even materials. Maybe you’ve just started living in Boston and don’t know anyone. Other members of the Amazwi community may already be there to help you find your feet. And if not, they may be able to put you in touch with useful contacts.

Motribe is the brainchild of Vincent Maher and Nic Haralambous, two of South Africa’s smartest web mavens. They wanted to create a community building platform that had the main features of Ning but which would work for people whose principal means of accessing the Internet is their mobile phone.

The inspiration for Amazwi came from Banele Lukhele.  Banele, a Stellenbosch law student who was selected earlier this year to be part of the prestigious South Africa Washington Internship Programme, is intent on finding ways to mobilise talented young South African like herself as brand ambassadors.

Whales Frolicking in Kalk Bay on a Beautiful Day

September 24, 2010 by  


This past weekend was so beautiful  and everyone who lives in the Mother City knows that when the sun shines, you head outdoors and stay there until the sun goes down. I live in Muizenberg along the False bay coast and there is a flea market every Sunday, where you are able to buy ANYTHING from a needle to an anchor. We headed down there as it was a great day to be out.

After browsing for nearly an hour, we decided to head down to my hometown of Kalk Bay (about 15 minutes’ drive) and have lunch on the harbour at the local fish and chips shop, Kalky’s. Of course, we expected millions of people, but it would be worth it in the end.

En route, we had to wait in the traffic as the road works are still underway, but no one was perturbed by this. Instead, everyone sat in their cars, admiring the ocean and the whales frolicking in the bay. What an awesome sight. I didn’t see them straight away, as I was on my Blackberry, but my 5 year old son pointed them out to me and suddenly we were engrossed in trying to see the whales blow and splash in the water. We were so engrossed that we nearly missed our turn to drive, but again no angry driver waved an accusing finger at us for holding up traffic; instead the cars behind us patiently waited with smiles on their faces.

It was a beautiful day and nothing could spoil it, not even a 45min wait in the queue for food at Kalky’s! I was bursting for the loo, but had to suffer my eyeballs swimming in their sockets rather as we had managed to find a table and hubby was in the queue, and I couldn’t leave my monkey alone at the table. Even the hub’s impatience had disappeared and instead he was sporting a smile as he texted me every few minutes from the queue updating me on how many centimetres he’d moved. I thought there was an ATM inside the shop, but it wasn’t working. I asked the owner and he was willing to trust me enough to bring him the money the next day. WOW!

The cherry on top, though, was the Marimba Band busking outside the restaurant. It was perfect. They gave the day a true African flavour and I felt more at home than ever before. I decided to record their music on my Blackberry not knowing that their next song was going to be the World Cup anthem by Shakira and Freshlyground – WAKA WAKA !

I recorded all 16 minutes and had goosebumps while they were playing, remembering the awesomeness of the World Cup that took place nearly two months ago already! They got the audience to sing along too and my son was one of the first to join in. What more could I ask for…glorious sunshine + browsing the market + whale watching + good food + great African beats = SHEER PERFECTION all in one day! Or was it?

Well, I knew Murphy and his law would lend a hand and as luck would have it, my 16 minutes of video taken on my Blackberry didn’t record and so I have no fabulous African marimbas to listen to. But do I really need it? Considering that everything else was near perfection, it really didn’t matter because if I could get goosebumps listening to the tunes of the Marimba band and reminisce about the great times we had, then my memory would serve me well in treasuring this random Sunday that I got to enjoy with my family. I live in a beautiful country where people are patient, kind, trusting and friendly and they tend to exhibit it more when the sun shines brightly.

My corner of the globe epitomises the way I see South African people. Thank you, South Africa, for being my guiding star!

You Made It Happen, South Africa

September 23, 2010 by  


In 1995, when South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup, they had a political point to prove. This was to show the world that, under the umbrella of a sport, it was possible to unite a nation, despite the torrid past whose embers still glowed. That point was well made as South Africa went on to win the Webb-Ellis Trophy that year and the point was well received.

How does this translate into 2010, though? Sixteen years into our new democracy, we don’t have any political point to prove anymore, surely? So what did the Soccer World Cup mean for South Africa?

So many people had so many different viewpoints, and I would like to share my own with you. The only thing that South Africans needed to do was to showcase this amazing country, introduce the world to her beautiful people and show the globe that we are overflowing with national pride. How did we do this, you may ask.

Allow me to tell you….

The first thing we did was we got behind our national soccer team, Bafana Bafana. Now, I know what you may be thinking, but I am a very proud South African and I believe that in order to succeed you have to be able to accept, learn and grow. I used to coach netball and the first thing I would tell my players before they stepped onto the field was this: is that it is no good if you are physically fit if you are lacking the psychological motivation to play the game to the best of your ability. You have to believe in yourself and it becomes easier when you have someone who believes in you. As a nation, we have to believe in our national soccer team. They were selected as the creme de la creme of the South African soccer fraternity and we needed to give them all the support we could. I can think of nothing better than doing what I love and having my country supporting me every step of the way. So, we gave the team something to smile about and they made us proud. We may not have got through the first round, but we did beat France and that is something to feel proud about.

The next thing I did was fly my country’s beautiful flag. I found a place in my home where I hung it and flew it off my car’s antenna too. Everyone knew that I am proudly South African. Our flag’s colourful appearance emulates its history. When Mandela was negotiating his release from prison in 1990, one of his requests was that the country’s flag be changed by the time of the first democratic elections. This was agreed upon and in 1993, a nationwide competition was held where the South African public could submit their designs, in the hope that their flag would be the new symbol of freedom and unity in South Africa.

Over 7000 entries were received and after much deliberation only six were chosen. These six were made public and South Africans were asked to vote for their favourite flag design. This did not go very well, as it seems that the South African people did not like any of the six designs and thus it was back to the drawing board. By the end of 1993, the powers-that-be were in a flat panic as no design had been chosen as even a preliminary measure. Design houses were contacted and begged to submit, but no luck. That was until Frederick Brownell submitted his design. (Frederick is also the designer of the Namibian national flag.) The deciding committee looked at Frederick’s design and was still unsure. They decided to adopt the flag as a preliminary measure. Sixteen years down the line, the flag has been made official and is flown with pride and dignity across the globe. I love our flag as it symbolises our people so well and really captures the unity we have found.

The third thing I did was put a great big smile on my face, opened my arms as wide as I could and welcomed the world!! It may sound a bit clichéd, as we had heard the media harp on about “Welcoming the World to SA”, but this is exactly what we were meant to be doing. Sure, we have a country that is riddled with crime and yes, our politicians are corrupt, but South Africa is indeed the land of milk and honey. We have people here who believe in her and together we can show the world that there is no better place than South Africa.

So, in the aftermath of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, I invite you to join me by keeping this spirit of this great time alive. Let’s unite by putting on our sports shirts and support our national teams. Let’s continue to fly our flag with pride and let’s put a smile on our faces and continue to say, “Welcome to South Africa. We hope you enjoy your stay!”

Irvin Khoza of the Local Organising Committee for Fifa put it well:

“Africa is the home of limitless potential. Feel free to dream and, together we will make it happen! ”

You made it happen, South Africa!

FIFA may have been the driver of the Soccer World Cup, but you, the people of South Africa, were the GPS!

Grabbing a Joburg Flight

September 20, 2010 by  


This arrived in our mail box on Sunday:

As a South African cabin crew for a Middle Eastern airline getting a Joburg flight is on my Top 10 list of favourite things. Flying all over the world is exciting and fun, yes, but sittting in my jumpseat looking out of the window waiting to land onto SA soil far outweighs landing anywhere else.

The moment I step off the aircraft I can just feel it — I”m home!  The smell of the air, the smile of the cleaning staff, the way even strangers talk to each other. Growing up in South Africa I didn’t realise how wonderful all these things were but I sure do now.

I only stop in Joburg for one  night so don’t get to see my family who live in East London, but I get to have a little taste of home and that keeps me going till my next flight back.

No trip is complete without a steak and many, many glasses of wine. A trip to the grocery store to fill my suitcase with All Gold tomato sauce, Ina Paarmans sundried tomatoes, Five Roses tea and Porcupine Ridge wine. A quick fix of SA TV — an episode of Isidingo or Top Billing. Then its back to the plane and onto the next destination.

An Apron To Braai For

August 27, 2010 by  


Calling global South Africans living in the US!

If you plan to invite friends round for a braai on Heritage Day (Friday, September 24, but Saturday will also do, or both), send us your address by filling in the form below, and we’ll send you an apron like the one our colleague Vuyo Vezi is modelling on the right.

We were inspired to do this by Jan Scannell at braai4heritage.co.za and his patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who explains it all in this video:

All we ask is that you send us pictures.You can do that by going to Global South Africans to submit a post.

Tell us where you’d like us to mail your apron.

William Kentridge on Africa and Art

July 28, 2010 by  


CNN’s Robyn Curnow talks to the Johannesburg artist about his work, which is making waves from the Louvre in Paris to the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Brahms and Ravel on the Vuvuzela

July 15, 2010 by  


In Berlin, they show how it’s done.

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