A country’s brand is made of intricate and complicated components which work together to create this distinctive identity. Lebanon has unique attributes linked to its geopolitical location and its climate. But mostly to its people; their never-die attitude, their lust for life, and their love of both the mundane and the frivolous. Even visitors from abroad have come to bury their frustrations and ignite their joyful self.
Since the October 2019 demonstrations, the collapse of the economy, and the dramatic consequences of the Beirut port explosion, the mood has been deteriorating, and along with it, the outlook for a better tomorrow. The inaction and refusal of the Lebanese state to instigate commands and put the brakes on the slide into the abyss has pushed the private sector to respond and start acting.
So, where are we today? How is the country perceived? And what should be done to regain its former glory? The research group Arab Barometer conducted a study in June 2022 about the image of Lebanon. The results showed that 94 percent of the Lebanese surveyed think that the government, parliament, and all political actors need to change. What is most demoralizing, however, is the finding that a third of the population believes that nothing can be done.
If we are to accept such a harsh reality then we will be paralyzed, inert and totally complacent. A well-trusted and versed journalist once said to me that “the economy never dies, it just dims and picks up again,” and so does Lebanon.
Brand Lebanon has not been built on steroids, nor supplements nor boosters. It is organic in its growth, and centric in its assets. It is an age long maturing of qualities which are embedded in the heritage and the entrepreneurial DNA of its people. From antiquity till modern day, they constructed the brand piece by piece, idea by idea, creative mind by creative mind, until it became what it is now. The Lebanon we know is going through an atrocious and self-deprecating phase, but the core is still intact. And because the core is unbreakable, there is a belief that things can be turned around, and while that belief is shared by many, it is achieved by few.
That may sound rhetorical and poetic. But thanks to many good women and men in the private sector, this claim is verified, tangible and truthful to what is happening on the local market, as well as on the regional and international scene.
Firstly, the radiance and the glow of the Lebanese continues to shine across all sectors, disciplines, and markets. From the creative industry to construction to the digital field, passing through commerce and real estate, the Lebanese continue to shine and keep the flame alive wherever they are. They are today the bearers of the flame of brand Lebanon.
The ingenuity of the local enterprise to propose solutions to everyday problems is flabbergasting. From street lighting to traffic light revival, to novelty agricultural ideas, to local produce and production projects, to sustainable energy and pollution solutions, the private sector has stepped up and met the call to revive the brand. Tourism, along with the call for the diaspora to encourage and support their homeland has been met with a huge turnout during the holiday seasons.
Secondly, the intrinsic value of Lebanon’s assets will turn the tide. This is not a sprint race nor a single battle. This is a marathon that needs effort, this is a war that requires strategic nous and tactical acumen, where small battles need to be won to reach a final victory. Many Lebanese may be reaching desperation levels, but the responsible private sector will fight to create jobs, to keep businesses operating, to find solutions and improve the conditions of its employees on social, health and purchasing power levels.
I figured that brand Lebanon can have a formula:Brand Lebanon = (natural endowment + human capital) – political cast
The political cast is not eternal, inevitably it will change and we have to firm up our belief that this will happen. In the meantime, we need to keep doing what we do best as entrepreneurs, and keep believing in what we stand for. The image is dislocated but still wholesome and real. It is tainted of course, it is dented absolutely, but the DNA is not mutating, it is intact.