The University of Pretoria (UP) recently hosted the 2022 Marketing, Advancement and Communication in Education (MACE) Congress at its Future Africa Campus. MACE is an umbrella body of marketing, communication, and advancement practitioners in Southern Africa playing a leadership role in the higher education sector through promotion of development programmes and best practice among their member institutions.
MACE was founded in 1989 and this was the first time that UP hosted the congress.
This year’s programme, themed ‘The Power of Staying Relevant’, consisted of three plenary sessions and a cocktail party at the Javett-UP Art Centre on the first day. The second day included parallel learning and sharing sessions, a plenary session, and the 2022 MACE Excellence Awards Ceremony.
The annual awards recognise and celebrate excellence among specialists and practitioners in marketing, advancement and communication in the higher education sector. UP’s Department of Institutional Advancement submitted 20 entries across the various categories for their marketing and communication campaigns and initiatives. The team received one Gold, one Silver and seven Bronze awards.
During the congress, various speakers explored the theme and encouraged attendees to challenge the status quo, particularly within the higher education sector. The keynote address was delivered by Thebe Ikalafeng, Founder and Chairman of Brand Africa and Brand Leadership. His presentation on ‘African Relevance’ received praise from the participants.
“As Africans, we need to question and interrogate why African-made products only receive value and recognition when they are commercialised by the American and European companies,” Ikalafeng said. “It is highly imperative that we produce and create our own and stop being just consumers. It is very interesting that this congress is currently taking place at the Future Africa campus, with the theme of the power of staying relevant, but if the knowledge produced here does not support African ideas, then this campus becomes irrelevant.”
Founder and chairman of Brand Africa and Brand Leadership Thebe Ikalafeng (left), who gave the keynote address, with Silvanus Welcome, MACE National Chairperson (right).
Ricky Naidoo, Chief Content Officer at the African News Agency, also considered some of the challenges faced by the higher education sector from a media perspective. “Transformation of this sector has been fraught with immense challenges, and we continue to grapple with a range of issues including racism, violent confrontation, leadership struggles, funding, unpaid debt, social unrest, gender-based violence, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “However, it is not all doom and gloom. Notwithstanding the myriad challenges, I am quite certain that all your institutions still have great stories to tell on a daily basis, to counter the negative narrative and to empower ordinary citizens to believe that achieving a better life for all is still a real possibility.”
The final plenary session was presented by Setlogane Manchidi, Head of Corporate Social Investment at Investec. Manchidi emphasised the significance of strategic corporate social investment for business and society, especially in the South African context. He also pointed out the distinction between social corporate responsibility (CSR) and corporate social investment (CSI). “In some cases, CSI is referred to as CSR, and I have my own qualms with the inclusion of the word ‘responsibility’, as it has a negative connotation, and a sense of obligation. However, with CSI, similarly to an investment, there is always an anticipation for returns, and therefore corporates need to invest in our communities for societal growth and development.”
Manchidi also added that CSI from institutions of higher learning should move away from being a box-ticking exercise to meet BBBEE compliance status and as a form of public relations. “At the heart of every CSI strategy lies intent and purpose. Universities must base their CSI strategies on a broader societal transformation and start appreciating the urgency of the need for CSI. As marketers, communicators, and advancement, you must interrogate the nature and involvement of your strategy, the long-term and the short-term approach, the quality versus quantity and, finally, what difference will it make in society.”
Rikus Delport, UP Director of Institutional Advancement, facilitated a panel discussion on social media platform management, focusing on how universities can leverage newer platforms like TikTok. There were differing views from university representatives, but one common view was that institutions of higher leaving should incorporate this growing platform into their strategy, as platforms like TikTok are the preferred networks of today’s school-leavers and other young people.