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Opinions of Monday, 5 August 2013

Columnist: Alootey, Van-Ess

Keeping The Brand Ghana Initiative Alive.

I received news of the Brand Ghana Initiative suffering from acute funding that might lead to its collapse in the coming months with a heavy heart. Check The Brand Ghana Initiative instituted by the late president Mills was wholly welcomed and accepted by stakeholders within the tourism sector and Ghanaians across the length and breadth of this country without the usual political commentary and vile criticisms that characterises every programme initiated by the government of the day, partly due to the immense benefits the initiative was going to bring to the country even at its initial stage.

I do not wish to belabour the point on the essence of branding to a country like Ghana that has a solid image as a beacon of hope in Africa boasting of its impeccable democratic credentials among the comity of nations. Branding in simple term can be defined as the use of a logo or symbols and images to add and create a positive effect for a particular product. Therefore branding for a country like Ghana has become necessary in the wake of many slogans cropping up every now and then, trying to define the core values of the country, in the past we have had slogans like “The most hospitable and friendliest country, “The Star of Africa, “The gateway to Africa” e.t.c, all these slogans have at one point in time served their usefulness but with time they were no longer relevant to the prevailing situation in the country. It was in the light of this confusion as to what the true core values of Ghana were, that instigated the late president Mills to institute and commission the brand Ghana team led by Mr. Mathias Akotia to find very simple but specific words to define the core values of Ghana with the view to strategically position the country to woo investors. Some benefits Ghana will derive from this branding exercise include the following:

• It will open up the country for enhanced development in every sector of the economy. The business community who will find some values that resonates and works for them expressed in time management, effectiveness, and efficiency in doing business in Ghana will most certainly bring their investments and businesses to Ghana. This will create a trickling down effect to benefit the teaming unemployed graduates in Ghana.

• It will help unify our diversity and collectively see us work and live together as one people bonded by common values. The current political organisation in the country has polarized the system along two lines i.e NPP and NDC, the clear definition of values, norms, vision and aspiration will help in uniting Ghanaians to strive and work hard to achieve common goals for Ghana as against satisfying the parochial interest of a particular party at the expense of the nation.

• It will help create a wider market for other goods and services in the light of the frequent drop in value for our primary products due to price fluctuations. Branding especially in tourism is a very important tool in creating alternative source of foreign exchange aside the traditional products of the country.i.e cocoa, gold, timber etc, the price of tourism is not determined by the international market, branding will help develop tourism and open up the country to many tourists thereby improving infrastructure and generating more revenue. • Finally the tourism industry will improve and expand tremendously especially in attracting the one million tourists we envisage coming into Ghana in the immediate future. The country has varied tourism resources ranging from sandy beaches, wild life reserves, rich culture, and historic artifacts of colonial days. The varied resources have clearly made it difficult to brand the country with a single resource, a typical case in point is Egypt where a single resource has been used to define it, as a country rich in ancient history .Branding the varied resources into one product creates a unique brand that speaks variety yet unity in purpose, will naturally stimulate the interest of tourists to visit and experience this rare phenomenon. The benefits from such visits are obvious to all.

It is in the light of these important benefits that the country Ghana stands to derive from the Brand Ghana Initiative, that I find the issue of funding quite unfortunate, I personally think the Brand Ghana Initiative is a strategic concept capable of attracting funding at reasonable rates from recognised international brands in the world, a strong draft business proposal backed by action will be the panacea to funding in the medium term. Mr. Akotia indicated that attempts to get the private sector to support the programme have not yielded much interest. The brand Ghana team must as a matter of urgency ,should create the buzz and rope in the Advertisers Association of Ghana and major media outlets across the country to collectively fashion out marketing strategies that will project their programmes to attract other private investors beyond Ghana. This is undoubtedly a good initiative that we must not allow to collapse in the name of inadequate funds to run and implement it for the greater good of Ghana .The Ministry of Tourism and the Ghana Tourist Board well as other ancillary service providers within the hospitality sector should collectively come on board using innovative ways to generate funds through their programmes to support the Brand Ghana Initiative, more importantly because they stand a greater chance of reaping in huge profits if this initiative works, mainly from the inflows of tourists into the country.

I want to also make a passionate appeal to the Ministry of Finance and all the relevant state institutions and agencies involved to go beyond their comfort zone and source for funds to see the completion of the Brand Ghana Initiative, this will be in my humble opinion one of the ways to keep the memory of the late Professor John Evans Atta Mills alive.

Long live Brand Ghana Initiative, long live Ghana.

Van-Ess Alootey.

Brand Expert.