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Opinions of Thursday, 30 September 2010

Columnist: Amoo, Rans

The Missed Opportunity:

How Ghana is missing an opportunity to showcase and brand itself to over 70million people at the World Expo in Shanghai, China.

Is Ghana truly the gateway to Africa? I do not believe so because Ghana is missing an opportunity to showcase and brand itself to over 70million people at the World Expo in China. I was just in China and visited the World Expo and I am glad President Atta Mills was in China too. I hope he did get some feedback about Ghana‘s participation at the World Expo or perhaps it was already on his agenda.

Since I am a Ghanaian my interest of course was to see what Ghana was showcasing to the world at the Ghanaian Pavilion. My first surprise was that there was no pavilion for Ghana. South Africa, Egypt Nigeria, Tunisia, Angola and many other African countries (some pictures attached) all had huge and very nice pavilions built but Ghana… Wow!!! No pavilion built for Ghana? To the best of my knowledge, Ghana is supposed to be the Gateway to Africa… unfortunately; I did not find the gateway this time.

However, I found a ‘stand’ for Ghana (not a pavilion, though it is called a joint pavilion), hidden somewhere in the Africa pavilion. So at least Ghana had a stand and was there with the rest of Africa in the African Pavilion. I visited –out of interest - the Ghana stand, to see what they had to offer. I vaguely recollect the stand and what was on display. But, since I had a video camera and recorded my country’s stand, I went back to replay. If I had to replay to recollect what was on my country’s stand - only after a few days of visiting; then your guess will be as good as mine. Bottom-line is that, our stand was not impressive (my opinion). To be fair, it did look ok and very presentable (see picture), after –all we had posters of Essien, Andiyah, Mills, and Nkrumah etc… but that was it. As a Ghanaian, I know who they are, but what do they mean for Ghana? What is the story line, what was the stand’s theme? i.e. what is their association to Ghana as country? Are we a great people or just friendly and if so what…? The questions were and are still endless.

The World Expo in China is boasting of approximately 500,000 visitors a day and a total projected attendance of 70 MILLION PEOPLE. On the day I visited, there were just over 400,000 visitors. And queues to popular pavilions like China, USA, Austria, Brazil etc were long with as high as an 8hour wait time. The African pavilion had no wait time or queues; and though it was not the best showing of Africa, it was still crowded. That is telling in itself, what interest there is in Africa. The Ghanaian Stand; though an even poorer showing of Ghana’s status in Africa, still had about ten people in it almost every other minute. So imagine if we had taken this more seriously.

I know the Ministry of Trade and Industry was present during the Ghana day celebration, with a minister present but I am not sure why we did not initiate steps to improve our stand then. One day celebration is not enough. The stand must be consistently celebrated to indicate that Ghana is truly a gateway. What happened to our Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, and is Ghana’s Embassy in China asleep? Okay, if even they are, then what about GIPC, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and more importantly, The Brand Ghana Office ….? To brand Ghana is to make Ghana known for something. Right now as we speak, the official website of the World Expo has it that Ghana has a population of only 2.2 million? I know we are now doing a census in Ghana but I think we definitely have more than 20 million people, and that must be known. How can such an error be on this website for so long and nothing has been done by the Ghana Embassy in China about this? The World Expo was and is an opportunity to be known in the most populated country in the world, to have close to at least 10,000 visitors a day at the Ghana stand, and in turn wish that out of those visitors at least a 100 will visit Ghana one day. Not sure why Ghana would like to miss such an opportunity when countries like South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt are cashing in. What is the Ghana Agenda, What is the Ghana Brand? Do we really have an Agenda out there for Ghana? Are we really the Gateway to Africa?
The World Expo is big and even countries like the USA who had to join in the last minute with private funds are making an impressive showing. The Chinese Pavilion is incredible and though Ghana may not be able to build anything close to that (Though, personally I don’t see why we cannot) I believe Ghana should have dominated at least when it comes to Africa.

Ok so I have complained enough just like most Ghanaians do when we don’t like something. We complain but hardly offer any solutions. I don’t want to just complain. Here are some tangible suggestions I think can help in the future if we build upon them. I categorize them as immediate/short term solutions and future/long term solutions.

IMMEDIATE/SHORT: Ghana must at least dominate in the African Joint pavilion ASAP.
HOW? 1st, the Ghana Embassy must find a way to immediately ensure the correction of Ghana’s population figures on the World Expo official website without delay. Then, we need the immediate collaboration of the Embassy, the Tourism Ministry, Trade and Industry, and the Brand Ghana Office and GIPC. We need to redesign our stand in some minor ways ASAP. We need it to be manned and have representatives (hopefully Ghanaians who can speak English, Chinese and some other languages). My personal observation in China is that, the Chinese are found of African people and seem to be fascinated with the pure black skin, (We need very serious, professional representatives both men and women showing off their dark skin, welcoming the visitors from all over the world at an entry and exit point. I can bet that our Ghana-stand will automatically become popular with this minor change since the Chinese and other Asians will flock there just to take pictures with our Rep’s assuming they are in well tailored traditional costumes/attire like any of our tribes’ traditional warrior costumes. I will leave the intricacies of event management/planning to the Public Relations teams of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Tourism and Culture. Currently the stand has only one entry and exit so that should be part of the minor design changes.

Next thing we should do is have representatives from GIPC on board to highlight the various investment opportunities in Ghana. We should also provide well-documented brochures about business opportunities in Ghana to potential investors at the stand. (At the rate at which China is growing economically, at least 1 out of every 10 Chinese is or will be a multi-billion Yuan investor someday soon. That is about 140 million potential investors.

The Chinese like to eat, so some sampling of Ghanaian dishes on weekends will be great and that will be a major differentiating factor between us and other stands/pavilions since other stands don’t provide this. The food sampling surely will make us literally the hottest/spiciest stand on weekends. Chinese also like art and craft. For Instance, I think we could be able to have a very good replica of a ‘clay hut.’ Here we can combine old and traditional designs with contemporary modern day art. We should do something like build a sizeable hut where people can go in briefly to watch a video of Ghana on a sizeable LCD screen or projector. The video should be well-branded video image depicting Ghana now, in the past and what the future holds. I am sure a similar video already exists if not I know advertising companies in Ghana that can easily produce something within a couple of days.

Ok since the show ends in October, the above are all good ideas but it’s a little too late to invest too much since we have already missed out on most of the opportunities. The question now is how can we make sure we do not miss out on such opportunities in the future?

Future/Long term: Lets be proactive the next time and seek to efficiently utilize such major opportunities.
The formation of a non-political, not-for-profit, volunteer group of Ghanaians around the world from Argentina to Zimbabwe and including Ghana. Here we can find out what opportunities exist around the world through exhibitions, trade shows, social events, competitions etc, that we can cost effectively take advantage of as a country to promote the image of Ghana. This will help to make sure we realize the goal of becoming the Gateway to Africa by promoting Ghana in everyway possible. I have various names that we can use for such a group and willing to freely give more details for strategic planning and formation of such a group.

Additionally, the Ministry of Tourism and Brand Ghana Offices should require all Embassies and Ghana Missions or affiliated missions to report on a bi-annual basis, all opportunities that exist to showcase and promote Ghana and to seek investments for Ghana with respect to their various locations. These reports should be made public and input from other Ghanaians should be solicited especially Ghanaians living in/or associated with such countries.

Also a national database via an internet-secured website- should be established where all Ghanaians abroad (or Ghanaians living in Ghana but with strong ties abroad) can be compiled and utilized during the organization of events, programs or promotions for Ghana. This database should also have a peer review and ratings mechanism so that imposters and fraudsters can be reviewed, flagged and rated by those that they will try to defraud. Also strict guidelines and code of ethics should be incorporated for all users and Ghanaians listed.

This is just a few rough ideas to throw out there and I am sure the capable officers and staff of the various MDA’s can build upon this or even make some new suggestions so we start building a powerful image for Ghana soon. Ghana has missed enough opportunities since independence. All Ghanaians or Ghanaian-loving people around the world must make sure we do not miss such opportunities ever again. Actually, we can not afford to miss such opportunities ever again simply because we live in a global village and not showcasing our potential and capabilities only mean we are not able to expand our markets.

By
Rans Amoo
www.giveafrica.org
USA.


Entrance view picture of the Ghana stand.


Side view of the Egypt Pavilion.


Back View of the South Africa Pavilion

Entrance View of the Tunisia Pavilion


Latvia in display


Long distance view of the Chinese Pavilion. The biggest pavilions at the World Expo with an 8-12 hours queue wait time.