Business News of 2013-12-03

Major challenges impeding Ghana’s branding drive

The Brand Ghana Office has cited a number of factors which are thwarting efforts to portray a positive image of the country to the international community.

These include poor customer services, congestions at the country's entry and exit points and the negative habits of some people towards visitors.

The situation, the office said, had slowed down the 'Brand Ghana', initiative, which was rolled out about four years ago.

It said the situation was also making it difficult for some visitors to properly experience the various positive accolades that the office used to market the country to the rest of the world.

The Chief Executive Officer of Brand Ghana, Mr Mathias Akotia, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that the situation had forced the office to engage in educating the populace on the concept of nation branding and how they (the citizens) could help in that regard instead of concentrating only on marketing Ghana in the diaspora.

"What happens is that if you do not get people to appreciate some of these things and if the institutions and policies are not working and you concentrate only on branding the country to the outside world, the people will come but if they come and do not get the right treatment, they will pack and leave," Mr Akotia told the paper after participating in a Brand Ghana-Brand South Africa Dialogue on November 25.

The dialogue, which was initiated by the national brand offices of the two countries, brought together government officials, staff of the two offices, academia and members of the media to deliberate on how such actors can help create a positive image of a country to the rest of the world.

The dialogue was to herald the visit of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to his counterpart, President John Mahama, from November 25 to 27.

The two offices already have a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that allows for the exchange of ideas, expertise and technical support.

The Brand Ghana Office was established in late 2009 by the late President John Mills to, among other things, package the country's values, heritage, socio-economic and political environment to the outside world as part of efforts aimed at creating and presenting a good image about Ghana to the rest of the world.

The office has since been engaging in activities geared towards realising that goal albeit with challenges relating to financial assistance and policy directions from government.

The CEO of the office was, however, hopeful that such challenges would be addressed for his outfit to fully realise its goals.

Notwithstanding the challenges confronting the Brand Ghana Office, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Hannah Tetteh, observed that the lack of interest in the 'Branding Ghana Agenda' had also thwarted the efforts of the office.

Ms Tetteh, who is also a Council Member of the Brand Ghana Office, said such posturing made the works of the office difficult, especially given that branding a country needed all-hands on deck approach.

As a result, the minister disclosed that the government had decided to partner with the Brand Ghana Office to train the next set of ambassadors on how to market Ghana.

"In this modern time, the way to get your views across as a county is to build your country’s brand and use that to project yourselves”, she said, adding that, “that is why the President has decided to use the Brand Ghana Office to expose our next set of ambassadors, which will be announced soon, so that they can project the country in their host countries."

Like the Brand Ghana CEO and other panellists at the function, Ms Tetteh bemoaned the poor state of customer service in the country, particularly in public institutions, noting that client service needed to be taken "more seriously”.

Why countries brand

Countries brand primarily because they intend to improve their country's standing, as the image and reputation of a nation can dramatically influence its success in attracting tourism receipts and investment capital; in exports; in attracting a talented and creative workforce and in its cultural and political influence in the world.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the vast majority of countries now work with communications consultants or PR firms, though the specific kinds of guidance they seek depend greatly on the circumstances faced by the country.

Some branding campaigns seek to improve the competitiveness of a nation’s exports by linking them to positive preconceptions of the country.

The council refers to Peter van Ham, a branding expert at a Dutch think-tank, who highlights some examples in a 2001 Foreign Affairs article: “Hermes scarves and Beaujolais Nouveau evoke the French art de vivre; BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes drive with German efficiency and reliability.”

A nation’s companies can then feed back into the country’s brand image, van Ham notes.

“Microsoft and McDonald’s are among the most visible U.S. diplomats, just as Nokia is Finland’s envoy to the world.”

It could be the kente when it comes to products meant to create an identity for Ghana but not much effort has been done to push it internationally to create an identify.