South Africa according to World Cup adverts: tribes, jeeps and animals

All in the name of World Cup fever, advertisers around the world have been given the task of selling this year's host state - South Africa, the Rainbow Nation. One of our Observers isn't very impressed with the depictions of his home country.


"The average South African child does not grow up close to a game park"

Sean Jacobs teaches international affairs at the New School in New York City. He was born and grew up in South Africa, and will shortly be on his way home for the World Cup. He runs the blog "Africa is a country".

I know these ads are tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken too seriously, but as the World Cup nears and increasingly clichéd ads appear from around the world, I can't help but get more frustrated. It's so disappointing to think that the default image of Africa is still children, jeeps and animals.


The Netherlands - ING bank

What you see in this ad, produced for Dutch bank ING, is a continent that remains the same. The veiled woman in the desert, the women collecting water in a stream with buckets, the Masai [tribal community] ... It's only when you get to Cape Town that you get a sense of urban Africa. It's as though there are no skyscrapers on the rest of the continent.


Australia - Optus Telecommunications

This one's produced by Optus Telecommunications [Australia's national team sponsors]. I think that some people might watch this ad and read from it that if you go to South Africa and play football with the locals, well - they're animals. Yes, it's an extreme reaction, but didn't the Australians think about that before they came up with this weird scenario? The fact that the little boy is white is also poor taste. Yes, we have white people in South Africa, but having the only human South African in the ad as white, while the rest are animals... Well, that could be read very badly.


USA - Adidas

This unofficial Adidas ad, made on spec by director Igor Martinovic, is another offender. Firstly, it was filmed on Long Island, which is pretty far from South Africa. Secondly, the ending; the ball ... It's only since a documentary that showed African kids making footballs from condoms that everyone seems to think it's the only kind of football we have in South Africa.

Now I grew up in an urban ghetto, and there was a grass pitch at school and after apartheid I played in a Saturday league. The referees were dressed in black, there was a club house. I certainly never saw a ball made from condoms.


Mexico - Televisa TV network

One of our bloggers, Sonja Uwimana, pointed out to me that Televisa, the TV channel that aired this ad, said that they produced it in response to marketing surveys which showed that their audience thought of one big safari when imagining Africa.

The idea that we all live in a massive gaming park is ridiculous. Most people in South Africa have to take two planes and a car to a private game park to see the animals you see in these ads. The average South African child does not grow up close to a game park ...

There was also another Spanish-language service that had to apologise for airing a World Cup skit that showed characters in Afro wigs clutching spears and dancing to faux jungle music. Honestly!


South Africa itself isn't much better...

It's true that South Africa itself it guilty of selling this "safari utopia" idea. That's because we have a history of white advertising, which depicted the country as somewhere full of animals and tribal people. It's an image which apartheid South Africa sold to Europe and North America. And now, that image is being sold back to modern South Africa, because many foreign companies come here to produce advertisements as production is so much cheaper.


All bad?

Of course they're not all bad. A good example of a positive African soccer ad is Puma's beautiful ‘Journey of Football', which is actually about football and a realistic view of Africa. If you can get around the idea of a fast-food chain selling sport, then the McDonalds' ‘Four Shadows' is quite realistic too.

The Nike ad for the World Cup is also a good one - they're focusing on football itself, which is what all the others should have done in the first place..."


south Africa

Dont know why people take notice of the White broadcasting, and media organisations,They pander to its own ignorant white man in its society.China,Russia ,India,brazil.latin America dont tolerate the westerm media and broadcasters ignorance.

Furthermore as I realized

Furthermore as I realized after I posted is that I didn't elaborate. I was speaking specifically of South Africa though I don't believe there's any refugee camps in S.Africa. Yes, as I mentioned they are the wealthiest country in Africa with the largest economy. Many places in Africa are peaceful with largely stable governments and societies. I realize that it is a misunderstood continent that is often neglected in thought among the people of the world. Whether it be from the Maghreb to the southern tip, the continent like all continent has a variety of nations, cultures, and peoples that reflect a range of things from good to bad.

Yes, of course good things

Yes, of course good things happen along with the bad but correct me if I'm wrong but does S. Africa not have the highest rape rate as well as child rape rate in the world? one of the highest HIV rates? The capital for car jacking in the world as well as a nation with one of the highest murder rates in the world. That's a lot for one country. Every country has problems of course, my point was that it's better to have it betrayed positively in the world albeit naively then have a lot of real characteristics about the country portrayed in advertisements around the world. The money spent on the World Cup by the S.African government could be better spent alleviating many of its social problems.

It's not my intent to offend, my point is merely to say that sugar coating the country is not necessarily a bad thing if it draws people to the nation for the World Cup. The World Cup is a great thing that uses sports to bring people together in healthy competition.

Look I can understand your

Look I can understand your frustrations with a portrayal of Africa that is a little out of line with the 21st century but do you really want to sell the World Cup by showing people playing soccer among shanty towns and slums or in refugee camps. Perhaps have them play a pickup game outside a HIV clinic or while people are smoking crack and getting murdered and raped. Would that be the side of S.Africa that you want them to show in advertisements? Perhaps contrast that with a game being played among ANC supporters singing "Kill the Boers" and showing the skyscrapers that mark Africa's largest economy & wealthiest nation. Very few people would want to go to S.Africa if they were shown images that showed them the reality of the place as opposed to an idealist image of the bush, tribal people, and happy little children running around playing football among the lions and gazelle.

this is exactly what is

this is exactly what is wrong, with your view of Africa, of south Africa even. it's like yu think that nothing good ever happens in africa. the truth is yes there are bad things that happen every day, but it's not unique to africa, it happens everywhere in the world. you don't see ads depicting the natives raping each other on the american continent do you? no. this is just foolish propaganda being promoted by foolish advertising agencies in the west. when ever you think of Africa yu think AIDS, RAPE, THEFT AND MURDER. it is implausible for you to imagine the possibility that it's not all bad, that there actualy is an urban africa,you think cities are shanty towns made from discarded corrugated tin stuff. ooh please come to africa to see the good, the bad and the not so great for yurself and srop repeating propaganda, because it shows ignorance and stupidity on your part.

there are suburbs, cities,towns and villages all with a level of development. we have local governments, provincial governments that run the buisness of the country. Africa is slow to development its infrastructures. but africans are not daft, stupid savages, that are depicted in these ads. we simply are too dark for other races to think of us as equals!!

the world simply needs to get to know the real Africa and Africans. there is so much that is so unexplored in africa, so much development that is being overlooked. anyways it's all good. One day we will catch up with the world on development.

for now Africa keeps surviving. we will prevail against our struggles.


First of all I want to let you know that I like adverts but what I do like best is to criticize them (in good or bad). These adverts indeed show the African continent as a very primitive continent. It looks like Africa is made out of savanna, wild symbolic animals, poor African children and rich European tourists. It's true that poverty remains an big problem in Africa, but showing stereotypes doesn't help.
Instead of neglecting all the cultural, social and geographical aspects of mother Africa, we should show all the treasures of this "rich" continent: literature, music, traditions, handicraft, architecture, gastronomy, economical development, Nature...
Anyway, we'll always be confronted to intelligent adverts (very few) and comic (but stereotypical) adverts.

Here's another advert that

Here's another advert that takes place is the savanna, no houses, no buildings, zero infrastructure. That's not Africa.