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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Columnist: Akotia, Mathias

Is Brand Ghana Program Necessary?

IS BRAND GHANA PROGRAM NECESSARY?

By Mathias Akotia

Chief Executive Officer

Brand Ghana office

In September 2010, the President of the Republic, HE Professor John Atta Mills announced the set-up of Brand Ghana Office. The mandate given was:

“To establish a compelling image for Brand Ghana by creating, coordinating and harmonizing a persuasive Brand Ghana positioning”

The goal for Brand Ghana Office is to stimulate economic, social and psychological wellbeing for all Ghanaians through developing and implementing a proactive and integrated national and international competitive brand strategy.

What is Brand Ghana? The people of Ghana constitute Brand Ghana. All of us!! It is the people, their education, abilities and aspirations that ultimately deliver what our country is and create the potential for tourism, business, cultural, social and political exchange. Without some sense of the people and their particular nature and ability, the country is an empty landscape. Our people are not only Brand Ghana; they are the prime vectors of our country’s perceived value and unique proposition to others. This is how important we are as the unique people of Ghana. Branding is unconsciously taking place as we communicate with others, through our acts of Government, through our behaviours as a people, through our exports and through our cultural products. Branding of Ghana is also unconsciously taking place as the negative African brand effects cast its halo on Ghana. Branding of Ghana is unconsciously taking place. Is unconscious and unplanned branding what we need? Are we likely to achieve our development aims with unconscious branding?

Why Brand Ghana? Ghana’s current situation will not lead us to what we are aiming for, a middle income country in our generation. Ghana, a country of about 22 million people, aims for a middle income status but the economy remains challenged. Per capita income is about $450 and major exports remain mainly primary products – cocoa, gold, and timber. Remittances from Ghanaians abroad and tourism are growing, but slowly. Investment inflow though on the rise, is too low to support any major economic push. Ghana does not have international or regional brands to leverage emerging brands. Infrastructure expansion is constrained. While the people are too divided for radical national mobilization, the current focus on human development can be made more holistic. Another obstacle to Ghana’s development is the fact that Ghana is not differentiated adequately from the negative image of “Brand” Africa.

Ghana’s Development Imperatives To grow and attain middle income status, Ghana needs a massive growth in inward investment, tourism and exports brands. Ghana also has to retain her best talents. To attract international attention and goodwill, the image of Ghana needs to be positively differentiated from the rest of Africa, and also from its past reality of instability and uneasy political experiments. In the absence of powerful commercial brands of Ghana origin, the country brand must provide direction and inspiration, parenting local brands into commercial success.

Ghana has to purposefully affect Citizenship Importantly, Ghana must consciously affect citizenship through social regulation. Ghana must be united by a common vision and shared values. The reality of our multicultural backgrounds demands an insight into our overarching oneness. We need to understand what qualities are shared, and how a nation of cultural diversity can result in a single representative culture. Brand Ghana has to purposefully affect lives with our espoused values to engender citizenship. Ordinary citizens must feel instrumental in realizing and shaping Ghana’s aspirations, helping create a stronger sense of national identity and social cohesion. People’s active intellectual and emotional buy-in is critical especially in reducing Ghana’s negative scorecard such as crime and violence, corruption, unstable political environment, poor safety and security, poor labor productivity, poor public health and sanitation.

More Order, Discipline and Strategic focus Shared values unite a nation and spawn citizenship behaviors. Ghana needs more order and discipline. National debates and acts and policies of government, civil society and businesses need to be more value-driven than they are currently, away from patently vested self-interests, greed and loyalties towards political and economic godfathers. The country brand would become the behavioral guide framework, providing direction and orientation to the whole nation, ensuring that national debates and public acts have their orientation from the Brand values. With high national commitment to our common aspiration our choice of leaders, for example, has a better possibility of being informed by who best reflects our common ambitions, instead of color, ethnicity or some other vested interest. We are concerned about the high rate of erosion of the Ghanaian discipline. Commercial consumer communication discovered decades ago that the best commercial messages are those that are anchored on cultural archetypes (for examples: mother love/care; reward through hard work; collective interests always bigger than individual ambitions; protection of the victim/vulnerable). Similarly, national campaigns for disciplined behavior in society (for example, time keeping) have a far better chance of success if anchored on the appropriate espoused shared-values (for example, “respect for others… respect for self”). As a country, we also need a strategic-focus, a focus on long term solutions which will generate better national improvements, in contrast with the short term election-oriented policies and acts. We must be assured of continuity in matters that bring real development to the people. This is only possible when Brand Ghana provides a common vision, which will succeed governments, similar to visions of entrepreneurships that outlast their founders, to spawn successful organizations. In the absence of nationally espoused and enacted cultural guide framework to orientate people towards citizenship behavior, people adopt other guide frameworks such as godfather loyalties, family, home-town, and ethnic references. These references are based on self-interests, and could further accentuate disunity in our country. The notion of Brand Ghana inspiring, guiding and feeding behaviors of the citizenry with purposeful values is a compelling one.

Conclusion Brand Ghana is about all Ghanaians working together to realize our national development aspirations. This journey is audacious. But, we can achieve much more working together as Brand Ghana