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Opinions of Friday, 14 March 2014

Columnist: Atuahene, Kwame Koduah

Deepening Patriotism and Patronage for everything Ghana

Deepening Patriotism and Patronage for everything Ghana, the time to act is now-

Kwame Koduah Atuahene

I agree in part with those who label the President’s Independence Day speech as his best as president. I agree to the extent of the call to increase patronage for everything made in Ghana every day.

I recall vividly my desperation with President Kufour when he arrived at the Accra International Conference Center for the global launch of the 2008 African cup of Nations in 2006 before a multi-million audience via Africast, an International television station in over 25 countries.

My beef was that the President had walked the podium on a Friday ‘”naked’ because he was in suit contrary to his own call on us to patronize made in Ghana textiles at least on Fridays. I got my fair share of chastise for my commentary then on radio and in a write-up published then on ghanawebhttp://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=110716&comment=0#com. My President as our key brand ambassador had failed to project a Ghanaian costume more so on a Friday and I was saddened by the lost opportunity.

My convictions have not changed and continue to wonder why we suffer a deficit of a catalyst to rally us around the flag to make profitable the creative works of our own. I think that President Kufour deserves every praise for the conviction to declare the NATIONAL FRIDAY WEAR initiative.

It was a worthy step forward and for me there is always some guilt that slaps me whenever I have the unpleasantness to defy the “presidential order” because of an appointment before “My Lords”. But I trust that, one day and very soon I will be able to walk out on a Friday suited for court by a Ghanaian entrepreneur.

Another positive is the National Chocolate Day initiative credited to Jake Obetsebi Lamptey as Minister of Tourism to increase patronage for Ghana made chocolate. There must be a concerted effort to develop and sustain the patronage of these goods for our own good. This is not a call to sacrifice patriotism for mediocrity but in patronage comes perfection and the global appeal that will give this economy the boost that it deserves.

With the global reputation we enjoy for our brand of cocoa beans, it is a sad reality that at 57 years after 1957, we struggle to make it count in terms of cocoa-related products. We enjoy no appellation of origin for our chocolates, Milo drinks, cocoa butter as it the case for the Gruyere Cheese, French Wines, Swizz Chocolate, Cognac, Roquefort cheese, Sherry, Parmigiano Reggiano, Teruel, Basmati Tea, Darjeeling tea, Parma hams, Tuscany olives among others.

These appellations give a geographical indication of the place of origin. It is known as Geographical indications in the field of intellectual property and has become a useful intellectual property right and tool for developing countries because of their potential to add value and promote rural socio-economic development while protecting same globally.

Like the examples above, some of our unique local products that correspond to the concept of geographical indications can be protected globally. I dream of a Ghana when products like Chocolates, Kente, Shea Butter, Pito, etc will enjoy global appeal and acceptability

Across border, I never spotted President Obasanjo in suit. He was always seen in the formal traditional three pieces (Agbada, Buba & Soro) in fabrics made in Nigeria. Growing up in Nigeria, the Nigerian fabric commonly known as the “lace’ is a common fabric in every wardrobe. I cannot be that confident with the various textiles made in Ghana including the unique Smocks from Northern Ghana.

Leadership has a responsibility to direct our choices for the national good. I had friends from Nigeria during our days at KNUST who will prefer to starve at the expense of eating anything “Ghanaian’”. They had an exemplary preference for Nigerian rice such that if it has to be rice even on a foreign land, it has to be Nigerian rice or no rice at all. I look forward to a day when we will popularize the consumption of local rice by cutting down on their importation.

Only last week, President Mahama endorsed Tonyi Senaya’s horseman brand of shoes in Parliament during the State of the Nation Address. Even in my ‘’small constituency’”, one cannot imagine the kind of excitement and effect it had on the local brand of shoes. It is common knowledge that, in that space some folks produce really good stuff but end up labelling them as made in ............”. I look forward to the day when our security forces will associated with the horseman brand as far as their shoes are concerned.

Long before the Horseman brand, the Kofi Ansah’s, MKoGH Clothing brands had been around and doing great globally, Today we speak of enterprising brands like Wear Ghana that is reflecting the taste for the young and trendy Ghanaian and African. They all need to be incentivised to grow tax vacations, markets opportunities and some better import regimes that will stimulate growth.

I agree with the President when he remarks that, ‘’ We are smart. We are creative. We are crafty. We have a good business sense. And when put to the test, we are, indeed, hardworking. There is no reason why a significant number of the items that we import to use on a daily basis cannot be made right here in Ghana. Just as we purchase products that are proudly Italian, proudly Chinese, proudly Turkish, or proudly South African, there is no reason we cannot manufacture goods that are proudly Ghanaian’’

We must resolve to move the next step beyond the talk to inspire confidence in everything Ghanaian product. We must create and guarantee markets for our farmers, businesses and entrepreneurs. In this country we continue to wilfully turn away innovations celebrated by our own that get celebrated elsewhere. A case in point is Bright Simons widely accepted mobile innovation-Mpedigree for fake drugs regulation. For over three decades, Apostle Kwadwo Sarfo continues to demonstrate some measure of rise in technological innovation. I dream of a Ghana where government will endorse the Kantanka brand of vehicles by procuring some of its fleet from it. I look forward to the Ghana when local entrepreneurs will not suffer abuse and crossness because of their perceived political persuasions. That way, we can stimulate growth and prosperity for our common good

Beyond the talk, we need to act and the time to act is NOW

You can reach the author on koduah.atuahene@yahoo.com