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Opinions of Tuesday, 4 April 2006

Columnist: Amankwah, Kasadiimu Gyekye

Countdown To Y-50: Media Power

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Barely a year from now Ghana our motherland would have reached and marked an important milestone- its Golden Jubilee. While many would think of this as an opportunity to eat, drink and make merry, other Ghanaians and friends of Ghana would take time to take stock- praise the praise-worth, and whine about waste. Whichever school of thought would be acceptable. Sort of.

However, looking at our current socio-economic situation in the 21st century?s global village, I deem it a vain endeavor to clad ourselves in colorful GTP prints and make merry like there is no tomorrow. When it?s all said and done, we will still be confronted with the uphill climb of graduating from ?Developing? to a more honorable label- maybe qualify to be referred to as one of the world?s ?Emerging Markets?. The next 50 years is a long enough time to work that into reality. With this in mind, maybe you will understand why the need to adopt a more pragmatic strategy towards Ghana?s reemergence, and not let such a golden moment slip away into the dump.

So whiles the focus here (at the countdown), is to provide issues for your reflective minds, let us remember that whiles it may be sexy to have dreams, serious people have goals- measurable goals that is. Also let?s keep in mind that nobody will care when we celebrate our 51st or 52nd independence anniversary.

So as emotions run high and the powers that be find it very expedient to spend our precious, very limited or virtually non-existent resources on pomp and all kinds of festivities, enshrined in the repetitive historical seminars and speeches by the local politicians and bureaucrats, thinking minds, I believe, see an opportunity to organize strategic and attractive programs during these celebrations that would sell our dear motherland to the rest of the world.

I have heard something about The Joseph Project, but like many Ghanaians, I know very little about it. I wonder if it should not be common knowledge and be on the lips of every literate Ghanaian by now. I believe a good deal of our Golden Jubilee preparations might be spent on who makes the President?s suits and his wife?s outfits, how many hip-life concerts the President will attend to mark the celebrations, and things of that nature. So let?s take a lesson from the story of Cinderella (as we get ready for our own Ball). When the clock strikes midnight, the carriage will turn into a pumpkin, the horsemen into mice, etc. The only thing that remains is the half pair of the glass shoe. And it is this shoe that becomes her ticket out of the oppressive home. Unlike Cinderella, who I am sure always dreamt of marrying a Prince, dreams are not an acceptable national strategy.

Here are a few ideas (and there will be more as the countdown rolls on):

While President Kufuor would see this as an opportunity to read us a long uninteresting account of Ghana?s historical developments since independence, I would not be the first person to jump up and suggest that the target audience which is mainly the literate population of Ghana, already know all of this and some more. It is therefore not far from reach to conclude that those series of lectures delivered by our politicians on local levels would not only be an exercise in futility but also a waste or misdirection of our limited resources. It?s the right message for the wrong audience.

All I am asking for is the powers that be to make smart choices, grab the world?s attention and take advantage of the vital but free publicity that comes with being covered by the powerful world media. I am sure the western media might mention our Golden Jubilee and the Discovery Channel might be tempted (out of the desire to be benevolent) to rebroadcast The Presidential Tour, all of which will be nice but not add to our fortunes.

I suggest that powerful world leaders and media-obsessed gems should be approached to be part of these celebrations. For instance former US President Bill Clinton could put us in the news for days if not weeks. President Bush (why do you think he will not come) could be invited. Former President and Nobel Peace prize winner Nelson Mandela (if he is not too old to travel) should be invited. US Senator Barak Obama, former Atlanta Mayor and Ambassador Andrew Young and the Leadership of the NAACP should be all on our list. Rev. Jesse Jackson is waiting for his invitation, I am sure. Dr. Maya Angelou should not be left out. The attention and relationships we build with these people will take us further than any images of a crocodile pond in Paga would do for us as we yearn for the rest of the world to take note.

Yes, it will cost us some money. These are things to spend the money on.

When the Mexican government takes pro-immigration ads in US newspapers it costs them money. But think of what will happen if they don?t.

There are ways of going about it. You may not get all of them in one place at the same time, for security concerns. So get creative. Get Tavis Smiley to feature Ghana?s eloquent Ambassador to the US on his shows this summer. Begin working with C-SPAN and the NAACP to host a Presidential Information Session in Washington DC. Here, if Bush can?t come to Ghana, he has no excuse since you?ve brought it to his doorstep.

The involvement of important African American leaders and activists should be even more prominent since the year 2007 will be the Bicentennial of US and Britain passing laws to ban the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. So that?s a pitch Oprah Winfrey will be interested in.

But to get Oprah to do her show in Ghana, we have to start lobbying now. Even if it means getting the members of the Ghana National Council of Chicago standing outside Harpo Studios with placards, it will be well worth the effort.

But before we go bringing Oprah and all these people to showcase our ready-for-world Ghana, we need to deal with the filth in Accra. We will talk about that at another time (by then I hope we will be praising them for a good job done).

Ghana has the potential of becoming the Jamaica of West Africa if not of the entire African Continent and here?s an opportunity to grab the attention of the world. Our tourism potential goes beyond what we have in the past deemed attractive to the rest of the world. The fact that we are a modern country with modern infrastructure, world-class hotels, excellent weather, exemplary political stability, made-in-Ghana dollar millionaires, our unique hospitality, among other things will sell us to more people. We can sell ourselves to the world at a much lower cost than Jamaica mainly since providence has presented us with a GOLDEN opportunity to do so.

The media is a very powerful resource and I am going to keep doing my part to make sure we don?t squander this opportunity.

I don?t doubt that the honorable people who are running our country are planning to take every economic advantage of the 50th birthday. But I am sure there are many Ghanaians with awesome ideas and contacts that will get us into these corridors of influence. So if somebody from the Ghana consulates abroad for instance is reading this, maybe we have to rev up our PR machinery and get to work.

Whiles I don?t expect anybody to jump at my throat for suggesting ways to spend wisely, I wish to assure Mr. Kufuor that I am not in any way trying to take his moment of fame away from him. I will also add that by being the president of Ghana, he has chalked his place in the history of Ghana already but would even be a greater President by helping Ghana take advantage of one of its finest opportunities. Ghana?s economic future should be the focus as we plan our 50th birthday bash.

President Kufuor, his cabinet, his Ambassadors, as well as those who matter in Ghana could have all their speeches and celebrations (sometime during the year-long celebrations) but all I am hoping for is that we focus on the big picture.

Kasadiimu Gyekye Amankwah,
Ghana Institute for Human Development.
March 29, 2006

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