Whose City Is It Anyway?: Limits of City Branding in Harare amidst the Storm of Economic Hardships in Zimbabwe

Whose City Is It Anyway?: Limits of City Branding in Harare amidst the Storm of Economic Hardships in Zimbabwe

Innocent Chirisa (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe), Elmond Bandauko (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe), Gladys Mandisvika (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe), Aaron Maphosa (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe) and Liaison Mukarwi (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0576-1.ch009
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Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is describe why and how a multiplicity of especially diverging forces, ‘voices' and rationalities can work against effective place branding. Specifically, it aims to demonstrate by the case of Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, that economic hardships are the major place shaper rather than the wishes and marketing strategies that may be put in place by the state. An ailing economy will naturally see the terrain and fabric of a place, in this case, a city deteriorating both in terms of its service performance and in terms of outlook. This is in contrast with the main urban planning philosophies of order, amenity, functionality, aesthetics and convenience. The post-colonial Harare has suffered major blows of trying to retain its vividness and functionality due to a number of forces including state control and interference, the consistently perturbed political economy that explains rising retrenchments, unemployment and underemployment, which has seen the ushering in of rampant informality. Both the state and the non-state actors, including politicians and households have laid claim on the affairs of the city without approaching the same with a sense of place stewardship. Proper city branding presupposes shared visioning and moving on an agreed path and trajectory. However, characteristic of Harare is disparate and fragmented efforts, most of which work against the cause of city branding. Street vending, of late, is the major cancer haemorrhaging the city fabric and outlook. Even the politicians, who have assumed a major seat in the decision-making of the affairs of the city, seem not to agree on the way forward. Although, the city is under the leadership of the opposition – MDC-T councilors, their role has not been subsumed, within the council chambers as one that matters. The councilors have largely been silenced, if not technically, co-opted. The role of physical planning, on the other side of the story, has become increasingly nullified. Some real estate investors are considering reducing their portfolios. The dramatis personæ and the effects it is inflicting on the ground needs adequate scholarly interrogation hence the line of the argument in this paper: Whose city is it anyway? Unless, the city is seen as a collective responsibility), efforts to brand will simply prove futile and a waste of time. Overall, there is an economy that needs first to be fixed and players that need aligning their inspirations, aspirations and actions for achieving a branded city. Planning has to be given its place because it provides a solid foundation upon which actions are built.
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Introduction

City branding has, in recent years, become a prevalent activity within city management discourse and practice. Cities and towns, all over the world, are making ardent attempts to employ various strategies to promote themselves to relevant audiences such as investors, visitors and residents and in their efforts they commonly include striking logos and captivating slogans that feature in welcoming websites and advertising campaigns in national and international media (Ashworth & Kavaratzis, 2009). At the same time, a substantial debate over the usefulness and proper application of city branding has accumulated among academics, consultants and government officials. City branding has become a local government of contemporary design practice for promoting city competitiveness in recent years. Its application, largely through tourism marketing, to the definition and communication of the characteristics of locations suggests an alternative line of inquiry beyond building criticism. Also, so call place-marketing is the process of applying the branding process as applied to commercial products to geographical locations and is an activity within advertising and marketing. By conceptualising in terms of public design, reach beyond the superficies of city brand-marketing or built form in pursuit of an understanding of the role of culture in urban regeneration and identity formation. Communications for city brand marketing link the meanings of both private and public design consumption within the metropolis and may provide good ideas for the performance of everyday life. This present chapter seeks describe and explain how a multiplicity of especially diverging forces, ‘voices’ and rationalities can work against effective place branding. Specifically, it aims to demonstrate by the case of Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, that economic hardships are the major place shaper rather than the wishes and marketing strategies that may be put in place by the state.

The chapter is organised under the following subheadings:

  • Study Context: This section provides an outline of the global, regional, national and local context of the study. It highlights the economic and social factors characterising each and every level since these affect city branding activities.

  • Theoretical Frameworks and Literature Review: Under this section, key concepts that underpin this study are highlighted. These include city branding, place stewardship and how they are interlinked.

  • City Branding at Global Scale: The aim of this section is to provide an outline of some of the best practices in city branding at international level, in which cases were drawn from European and Asian Cities. The purpose of this review is to draw lessons for Harare.

  • Regional Context - Some African Experiences in City Branding: Under this section, reference is made to some of the African stories in city branding. Examples are drawn especially from Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Local Context - Harare’s City Branding Story: The focus of this section is to provide an outline of Harare’s experiences with city branding. The challenges of the City’s branding efforts are examined under this section.

  • Discussion, Policy Options and Practical Implications: This section discusses the case of Harare in as far as place branding is concerned. It highlights some of the key options that the City can adopt to transform its image and identity.

  • Conclusion: This section emphasises some of key debates of the study. It tries to round off the discussion by providing answers to some of the key questions such as whose city is it anyway?

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Study Context

Global Context

The global economy is in transition. Developing countries an engine of global growth following the financial crisis, but now they face a more difficult economic environment. The current global economy has become a level playing field for all countries as a result of globalisation. Though there are prospects of improvement in the global economy, there still exist certain problems such as rising income inequality in developing economies. The global financial crisis has paralyzed market solutions to many urban problems around the world (Chirisa et al, 2014).

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