Thursday, March 8, 2012

Brand Ghana

I should say the lack of. This post is not because of this news.  It's not because of this

  clip from South Africa (sorry but the original showing nowadays on BBC is too hard to find).
It's certainly NOT because we just celebrated our independence; It's been festering in my heart for a while.

I'll admit right now that I'm not the most culturally exposed Ghanaian. Furthest within the country I've been from home is Kumasi, and even then, not for more than 4 days. That's nothing compared to others. At the same time, others haven't seen Ghana beyond their villages, towns and cities. It slowly built in my mind, until it burst out here.  Someone framed my annoyance in an alleged exchange during a travel visa interview:

- Why do you want to go to (whichever western country)?

- To travel and see what the world has to offer.

- Have you been anywhere in Ghana?

- No (as the applicant beamed waiting for this visa).

And yet the exposure we seek locally is nothing like when we seek it externally. What bites most of all is that the 2 most important things we need to drive our tourism are lacking: promotion and access.

Here's one of Macedoniaa.
One of Azerbaijan.
One of Croatia featuring a song you HAVE heard if you've ever watched CNN.
Tell me what you don't want to go there, you liar.

Now you have 5 seconds to tell me how many times you saw or heard of any promotion to visit a festival or location and wanted to go afterwards. Done. Now subtract from that what you were taught in an educational facility or told by a friend. If you have more than 3, you've done well.  Now you have 1 second to tell me the number of promotions you can think of telling you to buy something l. Done. Subtract like before.
That said, I don't know of many banks being advertised in schools.
Tell me you don't have more than 15 at least. See my point about promotion? There is little to no serious promotion towards the local or internal tourist market about the country which I call home. And I find that absolutely infuriating! It's not like we don't have stories, events and places to sell.
Beyond these obvious choices.
We as Ghanaians have tonnes of stories to tell. Enough to make several Oscar award sweepers.
Provided we get our movie "industry" in shape.
Even I, with my sheltered unexposed life can tell. On one of my 3 trips from Kumasi back to Accra, we used the Koforidua route (due to traffic but more on that later). When we got to the mountains to begin our run to Aburi, I began to see sights. In between the trees were stunning vistas of land that looked like God's desktop wallpaper.
NO comparison!
I wondered to myself in increasing practical steps: Where is that? How do I get there? Where do I stay? How do I get around it? How do I get back? Then it hit me like a sack of potatoes. I didn't have an answer. Here I was marveling at the beauty God gave my country to enjoy and I didn't even know the name of where I was looking. And I'm a Ghanaian living here! So what about our international visitors? Even at the airport, they get a shitty welcome. Consider this: suppose you use a certain Internet Service Provider. Suppose that they barely gave you service. Suppose that they barely acknowledged you as a long time customer of theirs.
Suppose it's this completely (and thankfully) fictional company
When you take your service elsewhere, would you be inclined to return? What would you tell your friends about them? I rest my case. Now the deputy minister has acknowledged that domestic tourism is needed for the North in the link at the beginning. A fact that the rest of the world increasingly knows. All I can do is sit and shake my head. I'm not blaming just him. I blame his predecessor. And all the others ahead of him. I blame his coworkers. I blame our constant fighting for leadership positions without doing anything when we get there.
I blame Sony for a few unrelated issues concerning pricing and distribution.
Despite this let's say that we DID advertise Ghana to the world.  Right alongside the ranks of the links above. Beautiful to behold and inciting visitors near and far to come and partake. When they get to Ghana, how then do they get to the rest of the country?

In thinking up this piece I hit upon a line, the transport minister is (willfully) killing our people.  Consider this (you have 1 second to respond): Accra to Kumasi, how do you go? Done.  Eliminate air travel and what do you get?
unofficial Governmental population control
To get around in Ghana you have 2 main options:
- Air travel
- Car (owned, hired or chartered)
- Trains don't count (yet)
- Water ferries can only reach so far.
So back to the Accra - Kumasi route. You set off and what do you meet for most of the journey?
Mostly single land road: tarmac optional
For most of the journey, you are on a winding single lane road through thick forest, villages and towns. Yet, we as a people are always shaking our heads and blaming drivers when an accident occurs (usually because of overtaking). This isn't a country road from village to village, this is the main road between the 2 biggest cities in the country. Remember my line, "(willfully) killing"? Here it comes again.

The road from Accra to Koforidua passes through a beautiful mountain range as I mentioned earlier. However, most of my time there was spent thinking about the road itself. It wound around and up and down the hills more than a drunk hyperactive flying snake. And it's no exaggeration to say that EVERY corner had tyre marks from screeching stops and telltale grooves of brakes digging into the road after the wheels come off. Every corner on a road between the capital city and a regional capital.
Look at this, the Accra - Tema motorway
Kwame Nkrumah made this motorway while my dad was in high school and here I am about to complete my 1st degree and it's exactly the same. The extension that continues it through Accra to the Takoradi road was finished THIS year! I must of course note that the road from Accra to Takoradi through Cape Coast and Elmina is mostly the same as the others I've described.
Single land road: Tarmac is now standard, speed bumps in force
As I mentioned before, you either fly or go by road. There is NO train. Social studies class many MANY years ago said there was.
Many years ago
Now? I'm not even sure you can take a train to Kumasi, (checked, you can't now). There is no sea route for our coastal cities. This is not to say that there isn't a functioning train in Ghana. But seriously, what have the transport ministers of years past done?

And now here we sit as a twenty something blogger rants. I won't imagine for a minute that we have the money to build multilane motorways between our major cities along with an international standard interregional train service. I don't see serious a commitment to even try. Just as well. It's not as if we are showcasing ourselves positively anyway. We just continue peddling our national stereotypes and useless unnecessary jokes.
Efo! Some Woyome offering!


  1. painfully looong read. Funny i cldnt keep up after the 1st caption. Bravo nevertheless

  2. Wow. You hit me right there. But hey, spread the word and see what you can also do.
    Great post

  3. To be honest, hammered the nail on the fecking head. So many things wrong, yet all it really takes to get things moving is the willpower to say "All naysayers and lily livered brown nosers be damned! We shall actually implement a functional and practical road network development plan that makes sense, and ignore political winds for the good of the people we are supposed to be serving!" Needless to say, this probably won't happen. Not unless we take all the politicians to the nearest bush, and shoot them all.

  4. Really love this post though I think it's a little long! Nice to show how other places are branding themselves too. Can't discount that at all, it's extremely important to take charge of promoting Ghana and its culture and not just the investment opportunities (which are never really defined anyway. This is business opportunity in it.