JOHANNESBURG--Hill + Knowlton Strategies has retained its hold on South Africa's $3m global brand assignment, as the country attempts to elevate its international reputation.

The decision follows a lengthy review of the brief by Brand South Africa, the organisation charged with marketing the country at home and abroad. 

Hill + Knowlton has held the business for the past three years, focusing in particular on the BRIC markets, Germany, UAE, Nigeria and Kenya.

Following a four-way pitch, the firm has been reappointed for a wider geographic remit that sees expansion into Ghana, Zimbabwe and the DRC. Earlier this year, Hill + Knowlton opened new offices in a slew of African countries.

The domestic component of the brief has previously been handled by H+K affiliate Meropa and was also under review. Each of the tenders is worth around $3m, requiring a broad range of public relations counsel, including communications strategy; stakeholder and issues management; social mobilisation; and, thought leadership.

"As with all emerging markets, South Africa has its challenges as well as opportunities – but over the course of the last three years we have worked alongside Brand South Africa to move the country on from the positive afterglow of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and to firmly establish it as part of the BRICS grouping of countries and a leading player in the African growth story,” said H+K SVP Lalu Dasgupta, leads the account.

Brand South Africa is aiming to crack the top 20 of world nation brands. Despite successfully hosting the Fifa World Cup in 2010, South Africa remains ranked 36th out of 50 countries on the Anholt-GFK Roper Nation Brands Index, because of poor scores for governance and immigration/investment.

Recent developments suggest that the positive uplift from the World Cup is fading. Last year, the Economist noted that South Africa is "sliding downhill", because of bleak economic and political conditions.

In addition to elevating South Africa to a top nation brand ranking, Brand South Africa is also aiming to make the country a top 30 globally competitive nation by 2030. South Africa currently ranks 52nd out of 144 countries on this index.

“We have been impressed by the way in which H+K has become an extension of our team," said Nomsa Mazibuko, strategic marketing and communications director at Brand South Africa. "As an agency, H+K has a strong track record of international delivery; as a team, they have a deep understanding of South Africa’s role in the world in terms of politics and trade."