Territorial identity is often a problematic, controversial and even explosive topic, since it connotes and instrumentalizes politically and ideologically. Territorial identity is defined by time, marked by memorable anchors that request a long-term presence and mobilize historical or spatial markers.

In territorial identity, it is the territory as a spatial object, bearer of cultural signs and endowed with meaning, that feeds the construction of meaning, subject or community. In fact, the identity could be delimited by:

  • What makes the territory what it is, what represents it and what differentiates it from others.
  • The component that gives meaning to the territory.
  • Individuals determine the identity of the territory and the territory determines the identity of the individuals.

Identity and Attractiveness

Identity constitutes our deep nature, therefore, we start from a simple hypothesis in our research: if a territory does not have identity, it is not attractive. Identity conditions the image just as the image impacts the identity. There is a strong interrelation between identity, image and, therefore, attractiveness.

Attractiveness is seen as the set of potentials of the territory: economic, sociocultural, spatial, temporal, political, etc. Therefore, the definition refers to inherited and other acquired elements, and therefore, to the identity of the territory, since the latter is defined by natural and built elements.

Towards valuing identity for all attractiveness strategies for African territories: "The arkh-identity"

We propose in our reflection a type of contract before conceiving and making any decision about the development of the territory. In other words, and using legal language, we could affirm that identity is a kind of power of attorney. This procurement should be ethical and respect the will of the principal or donor, which is the territory. Therefore, to meet the requirements of the fictitious contract that unites the territory with the decision makers, we propose the development of a new concept that we call "Arkhidentity".

Definition of the Concept «Arkhidentity»

The word "Arche" or "arkhè" is an ancient Greek philosophical concept that means the first principle of all things, the foundations or the beginning, the origin, the cause and the power. In this sense, the proposed concept of “archidentity” implies that identity should be at the forefront and at the beginning of any strategy and decision related to the territory. Our proposal is justified by:

  • Working on territorial identity would allow African territories to avoid literal copying and build an attractiveness approach respectful of the specific characteristics of the territories.
  • Identity is shared by most stakeholders; To show it is to speak the same language, reduce the difference and unite leaders and actors, transforming everyone into passionate defenders and ambassadors of the territory.
  • The identity would also make it possible to seduce and create a lasting bond to retain the loyalty of its inhabitants, investors and tourists.
  • Identity would allow African territories to differentiate themselves from their competitors, highlighting their identity markers.

The Territorial Strategy Based on Arkhidentity: Virtues without Side Effects

A Resident Valuation

Making identity the starting point of marketing for the inhabitants is to speak to them in their same language, make them participate in development and "give them back their territories."

An Endorsement for Companies

Identity is represented by heritage and structure, but also, and above all, it is dynamic and constitutes a marker for the territory, and even a test of development, since it develops a project of the territory inscribed in the past, present and future. .

A Promise for Visitors

For tourists, identity becomes the Holy Grail of the tourist experience, offering the visitor a unique and differentiated journey. Researchers and tourism marketing experts have confirmed that cultural heritage and resources have a determining impact on tourism supply and demand.

At the origin of this reflection, a question arises: How does identity play a central role in the territorial marketing approach and, therefore, in territorial attractiveness? As a result, several answers, based on scientific studies that have been the subject of a doctoral thesis and a dozen indexed scientific publications, range from the interdependent relationship between identity and territory, to its unquestionable value in territorial marketing strategy, where it constitutes the starting point and the line of command in the attraction process in several territories in Morocco and Africa that have developed attraction strategies based on territorial identity.

The results of our research in African territories, as well as the international comparative analysis, reveal that identity is alive and constantly evolving, understood in the movement between past, present and future.

The application of 'arkhidentity' as a new concept in our African territories would have multiple repercussions: the creation of a consensus among interested parties, who often have divergent interests and objectives; Strengthening the attractiveness and pride of territorial belonging.; the definition of a positioning and a specific territorial brand platform for each development strategy; improving communication, which is often too supply-focused and inauthentic; and harmonious territorial development that highlights the past legacy while adapting to the present and guaranteeing the future hospitality of the territories.

In the same logic, Casablanca Events and Animation, responsible for the attractiveness of the 'WeCasablanca' brand, has chosen as the theme for its fourth edition of the great annual Africa Place Marketing event (a scientific event that we direct together with the team of the Society of Local Development CEA) the following topic: "THE IDENTITY; "VECTOR OF A RESILIENT AND SUSTAINABLE TERRITORIAL ATTRACTIVITY."

The final objective of this international symposium would be to spark debate around the issue of identity and develop a reflection on the role that identity plays in the sustainable and resilient territorial marketing strategy, specific to our African territories.

Written by

Dr. Yasmine Alaoui;

Professor-Researcher at the ENCG, Casablanca.

Expert consultant in marketing and attractiveness of territories.