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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Columnist: Annoh-Manso, Jerome

Ghana will “BRAND” itself- First things first.

In my opinion, seriously speaking, the “Brand Ghana” secretariat is an unnecessary creation by the Government. What are we branding? Is it the people? Is it the location of the country? Or it is the new oil find? In fact, what is the product that is being branded?

The country is already branded in Africa by the simplicity and rhyming of its name (GHANA). That has been complemented by the comparatively peaceful nature of its people relative to other countries on the African continent.

In my opinion, all that Ghana needs urgently is continuous and uninterrupted supply of power and continuous and unlimited supply and access to water. With regular power and water supply, all other things will fall in place automatically and Ghana will BRAND itself.

Consider the following:

1. If we are branding to boost tourism, how do we attract tourists when our beaches are filthy and smelling of defecation because those living along the beaches cannot use proper toilets due to lack of water? How do you attract tourist when the few who have earlier visited Ghana only go back to propagate the news that hotel showers are inoperative because of water supply problems? Also, power supply is inconsistent and so erratic resulting in hotel air conditioners standing as ‘white elephants’. 2. If we are branding to boost investment, how do we convince investors that all is well, when for example, they are aware that Valco, for instance, has been suffering because of power crisis? Also, even existing businesses cannot expand because of capacity issues with regards to power supply?

Is it then any wonder that we only have banks springing up in the country and not manufacturing enterprises which rather employ the chunk of the workforce? How about the telecommunication companies? Most of them can survive on generators for a long time and still make money due to the nature of their business.

There are several graduates, school drop-outs and others who could begin some form of business in their various towns and villages but cannot do so due to lack of the two essentials ( WATER and POWER supply). They are therefore compelled to move to the few cities like Accra and Kumasi just to add to the numbers.

Water is life and Power supply is an essential enabling commodity for investors and development. Without them, Ghana can never attract some of the key investments it anticipates. Besides, when our water and power supply situations are stabilised, the citizenry can easily BRAND GHANA using word of mouth and all the necessary electronic information technology available to us, as well as the use of the various Ghanaian communities scattered across the globe. Not long ago in the previous NPP administration, the Tourism Minister, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey and the sitting President shot a video or clip of themselves with the intention of selling Ghana. When I saw that clip, I asked myself, is it images of the President and Minister which will Ghana for tourism or it is the culture and attractions of its people and the interviews of tourists who narrate their experiences in Ghana which should be put together as a clip or video to market Ghana? What did the country derive from that endeavour? Absolute nothing.

Mr. President, presently Ghana has no product to be branded for sale. Please do not let Ghanaians suffer the same fate as they did under Mr. Kuffour’s Presidential Special Initiative (PSI) which failed woefully, in my opinion.

Mr. President, the money meant for setting up the secretariat could be given to a commission, committee or body charged with coming out with modalities of turning the University of Ghana Hospital into a Teaching Hospital, for example. Alternatively, there are several roads and streets in Accra and other cities that need only Caterpillar grading, not even bitumen, to make them passable. I believe that just fraction of such monies could be used to contract and deploy graders to such areas to make them accessible.

In conclusion, Ghana will BRAND itself if:

1. It becomes the only country in sub-Saharan Africa with uninterrupted Water and Power supply. 2. It becomes the only country in the sub-region that is self sufficient in its food needs. 3. It becomes the country in the sub-region with little incidence of crime and robbery. 4. It becomes the only country in the sub-region with consistent political stability. 5. It becomes the only country in the sub-region with no conflict.

All these can be done when we prioritise and make good use the already existing and available institutions.

Thanks

Jerome Annoh-Manso (annohmanso@yahoo.com)