Unleashing and Unearthing the Tourism Potential of Ghana

Wed, 3 Sep 2014 Source: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Unleashing and Unearthing the Tourism Potential of Ghana for Economic Growth and Development

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi 25th August 2014


Readers are warned that this write-up will take an eclectic and non-thematic general approach of discussing many contemporaneous issues in Ghana, other than tourism, and as such, readers should brace themselves up, and bear with the scatter-brain nature of the writer. This has been necessitated by many waters which have gone under the bridge in recent times in Ghana. Having said so let me croon you Ray Charles’, ‘Here we go again, one more time’. Enjoy the ride.

Ebola or no Ebola, Ghana, as an aspiring top middle income country in the Sub-Saharan West African region, must continue to sustain her rapid economic growth rate recorded a couple of years ago.

That phenomenal GDP growth rate, hovering between12% to 14 % per annum, was touted as the fastest in the world, and it caused consternation around the world, and we became the cynosure of all eyes, especially as the macro-economic achievements were disputed by some of our very own citizens who vigorously protested that they did not feel the micro-economic impact of the said gains in their pockets, as they struggled hard during the same period to put food on the table in their homes. That said, let us be on top alert, and be vigilant about the deadly Ebola virus which can set the clock back on our economic growth gains, if at all we have had them.

Critics and bystanders question why during that phenomenal growth, unemployment rate did not go down but rather bulged. That economic growth rate, if true, should be sustained on all fronts of economic development in order for us to create jobs for the teeming youth who are pouring out of our high schools and tertiary institutions. If jobs are not created for them now, then we face the spectre of the wasted generation whose human capital investment would have gone down the drain, and we should be creating a recipe for an Arab Spring, not only in Ghana but also in most developing countries in our ECOWAS sub-region.

What do we hope to do with the 70% of our WASSCE students who could not make it this year to the universities or other tertiary institutions? Is a 30% pass rate not a symptom of failure of our educational system? Why are the authorities not accepting this stark and naked fact that they have failed in delivering quality education, and are vociferous in defending the indefensible? Rather, the Honourable Minister in charge should set up a Commission of Enquiry to probe the causes of this dismal performance. Either the teachers did not do their job well enough, or the students did not learn hard enough, or they did not have the relevant textbooks, or the failure rate could be put down to some other factors which could be responsible.

This horrible national apparition calls for radical job creation measures to absorb the multitude of high school students who failed the WASSCE exam during their time at the SHS. The more jobs are created, the more spending and higher levels of aggregate demand and consumption, which can bring about the Keynes’ celebrated multiplier effect. We ought to think in ‘n’ or multi-dimensions to nail this debacle of youth unemployment in the coffin.

There is urgent and imperative need to introduce welfare payments for the unemployed and old age people in Ghana as part of poverty intervention to prop up levels of consumption in the economy, and also to stimulate and support job creation. Paying the dole is a way of sustaining industries and creating jobs. Also, we need to introduce weekly or fortnightly salary payments to all our workers to increase the turnover or turnaround of our GDP. Some people may make capital out of this that the velocity of circulation might increase, fuelling inflation. That should not be the case if productivity goes up.

But then, increase in the velocity will also increase the volume of transactions and output, if the relevant production units respond appropriately. For the GDP to respond creatively to shorter periods of paying salaries, it will depend on the creative instinct and entrepreneurial drive of the people to exploit market opportunities, backed by access to venture capitalists and business angels such as 3i. It will also require removing bureaucratic bottlenecks in the system which increase the cost of doing business, such as excessive delays and paperwork when seeking approval from regulatory bodies.

The famous Equation of Exchange was propounded by Irving Fisher and supported by the Cambridge School, and later the Chicago School led by Milton Friedman, in the form, PT=MV, where P represents the general average price level, T represents the volume of transactions generated in the economy, M is the amount of money supplied into the system by the Central Bank, and V is the speed or velocity at which money changes hands. If we make P, price, the subject of the equation, we obtain P=MV/T, and assuming V/T is held constant, then the causal link is only between P, price, on the one hand, and M, money supply, on the other hand. Thus, inflation can be controlled by controlling the money supply through wage-freeze, credit squeeze, increasing the cash reserve ratio (CRR) for banks, increasing the bank minimum lending rate (MLR) to encourage savings and discourage borrowing, asking banks to make special deposits, among other monetary instruments.

Therefore, it logically follows that if money supply is doubled, prices also double. Thus, on the one hand, the Supply-side economists will set monetary targets of manipulating the interest rate and dirty floating or managed exchange rate, as well as providing incentives to producers to grow the economy, assuming full employment, while on the other hand, the Keynesians or Demand-side economists advocate for interventionist approaches of manipulating government fiscal policies, consisting of deficit-financing or increased government expenditure through internal and external borrowing, to undertake massive public infrastructure and to arrest unemployment.

That is the current worrying scenario which Standard & Poor and Fitch have used to downgrade the credit-worthiness of Ghana. Deficit-financing was what Lord Maynard Keynes proposed as recipe for overcoming the 1929 Great Depression, and it worked, hence the birth of Keynesian Economics. This approach should be used selectively, only in severe times, but it has been used in Ghana over the last six years of the NDC-led government, hence our current quagmire caused by excessive budget deficits due to excessive government borrowing through the Central Bank and the money and capital markets. This leads to crowding out effect on private businesses, and worsens the inflation rate, interest rate, and exchange rate.

The NPP camp, led by Kufuor, went for the fiscal and monetary discipline approach of assuming full employment, based on the Friedman/Thatcherian Supply-side approach in Ghana, while the NDC camp are obviously toeing the Keynesian under-consumptionist Demand-side model, though precariously and without the required brakes on. Our current colossal national debt of 24 billion dollars has raised a furore in some circles because these circles see the gargantuan debt as a sign of failure by the NDC-led government.

This debt burden has ballooned from 9 billion dollars in 2009, growing at an average of 2.5 billion dollars per year, over a period of 6 years, yet despite 267% increase in the debt yoke, not many jobs have been created so far for the youth. ‘Where has the money gone? Show me the money and what it has achieved?’, seems to be the refrain of many a Ghanaian.

Or has a chunk of this debt gone into sinecure jobs in the civil service for cadres and foot soldiers, or into the unsustainable SSSS (Single Spine Salary Scheme), or into infrastructure for the oil and gas projects? The SSSS was meant at salary harmonisation, unification, and enhancement. Observers believe the scheme has been a titanic disaster with regard to the many concerns raised in many quarters by stakeholders, who have complained bitterly to no end that the scheme has been applied haphazardly across the board, causing distortions, inequities and media kerfuffle. The complainants say that the slovenly-applied scheme lacks vertical and horizontal equity, and that the Graham-led group had better go back to the drawing board to streamline issues.

However, things may not be as neat as they seem because in the first place, our assumptions could be faulty. Besides, there are several leakages in the system, and the peculiar behaviour of different economies are due to political, economic, social, technological, legal, ethical, and environmental factors. Thus one size does not fit all.

With electronic payroll systems, paying workers weekly or fortnightly should not be a major problem. That arrangement should even create jobs for our IT businesses. We should move away from ‘business as usual’ and break new ground by thinking outside the box in the most innovative ways to add more value to GDP. BOYS ABR3! It is utterly disheartening and disgusting to see many school leavers roaming about aimlessly in droves in the streets and neighbourhoods, with nothing purposeful to do.

Some of these unemployed youth are likely to take to untoward past-times such as prostitution, drugs, armed robbery, among other wayward and anti-social activities. Some frustrated ones take to becoming stowaways on ships or trekking across the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert, with the hope of going for greener pastures in Europe. Unfortunately, most do not make it as they are robbed by desert marauders, and some die of hunger, starvation, exhaustion, dehydration, and being killed by desert tricksters who fleece them of their monies and valuables. Some end up being imprisoned in jails in North Africa, or they join the boat people on the Mediterranean and may be lucky to be rescued by Italian patrol boats, and quarantined on the small island of Lampedusa, where they are interviewed, screened and processed for further action.

This article has been informed by this backdrop of the menace posed by the high levels of youth unemployment in Ghana. Of late, internal and external factors have conspired to adversely distort and worsen our major economic indicators. GDP growth rate has slumped from a high of 14% two years ago to about 8%, inflation has escalated to 15.3%, and the cedi exchange rate on the foreign exchange market has plunged to an abysmal level of about 3.3 cedi to the dollar, a depreciation haemorrhage of a whopping 24%. Interest rates have been on the upward swing, and unemployment rate among the youth must be hovering between30% to 40%. Such a gloomy economic scenario calls for quantum leap or a paradigm shift by those at the strategic apex of governance.


It is in the light of this dismal scenario that we have to unleash Ghana’s potential as a regional power hub of tourism. Countries such as the UK, Switzerland, Israel, among many developed countries, have for many years now concentrated more on enhancing their service sectors or ‘soft industries’, in order to reduce the impact of manufacturing activities on climate change due to pollution. They are now into the quaternary sector of knowledge industries, spanning ICT, education, financial services, light engineering in software and hardware in the Silicon Valleys, among others. We must refocus and move away from the traditional robber economies which are tied to the extractive industries of farming, mining, lumbering, hunting, quarrying, and fishing, among others.

The advanced countries have drastically cut down their activities in the primary and secondary sectors, as they import most of their needs in those sectors. Excessive engagement in the primary sector leads to environmental degradation, deforestation, spoliation of natural beauty of primeval forests and pristine flora and fauna, an increase in carbon footprint, among other climate change issues. Presently, we face the menace of ‘Galamsay’ or illegal gold mining by the youth in the forested areas, and along the banks of our major rivers like Offin, Pra, Densu, Tano, and Birim. Some of the youth are employed by Chinese immigrants who engage in small scale mining.

We need to create sanitation brigades to clean up our cities and towns for them to attract tourists and avert the outbreak of diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, malaria, dysentery, diphtheria, bilharzia, among others. We need to reinvigorate our metropolitan and municipal councils by adequately funding them, equipping them, and supervising them to deliver on their remit. There is urgent need to reform, revamp, and review our local government system under the 1992 Constitution. This is long overdue, and it is retarding progress.

There are many aspects of the current Constitution which are found wanting, especially in the critical area of separation of powers. Our local government system has become dysfunctional because of political control and manipulation. If the District and Municipal Assemblies are decentralised and made viable business entities, I hope they can deliver services efficiently and effectively as more political space would have been created for them to perform and accelerate growth bottom-up. Most developments come from bottom-up approaches, hinged on the concept or principle of subsidiarity and localisation of development issues. The advanced countries have reached where they are today because of their strong local government institutions.

Our leaders have to crack the whip to ensure that ward councillors and assemblymen are working to meet their targets of keeping their areas clean and that services are being delivered timeously and in good quality and sufficient quantities. Here, we think of quality and sufficient quantities of public toilets and baths, schools, water supply, waste management, law and order in the markets, regulation of street vending, cleanliness at our abattoirs, among others, including street and drainage cleaning, street lighting, town planning, city and town beautification. In the distant past, after independence in 1957, our public institutions such as the PWD and Town Councils were functional, and lawlessness was minimal. We had the sanitary inspectors or what was then known as ‘tankase’(sanitary inspector) system in place.

With increase in population, and high turnover in reigning regimes, our functional institutions which we inherited from the colonial masters have been abused, adulterated and hijacked by quacks and pretenders. There is little semblance of professionalism and patriotism left in these public institutions because of corruption, greed, politicisation, nepotism and other ills which have besieged our country of late. Kwame Nkrumah left us a nation of ‘work and happiness’, but what do we see since his overthrow in 1966? Nonchalance, mediocrity, parochialism, selfishness, tribalism, extreme indolence, among other ills, have become the order of the day, and the people of a proud and rich nation wallow in poverty, planlessness, uncertainty, high unemployment, and economic malaise.

I think this is where we need turnaround change strategies in place, by using tourism as the leading sector to kick-start our economy. Before we embark on positioning ourselves on the market, we need a vision which should be articulated by a master-plan, a kind of seven year plan, which feeds into something like Ghana Vision 2030. In such a plan, emphasis should be laid on massive investment in public infrastructure such as first-class trunk roads, revamping of the derelict, dilapidated and vandalised railway system, and construction of airports and first class shopping malls in all the regional capitals. We also need to broaden our human capital investment in our youth by offering more vocational courses in tourism, hospitality, business and commerce, beauty care, catering, tour guide management, event management, local crafts, modern languages such as Chinese and Japanese, among others.

If I were the President, I would close down some ministries such as the Ministry for Gender Affairs, and introduce new ones or re-introduce previous ones to support our fledgling tourism industry. I would establish an exclusive ministry of Capital Cities’ Development and Beautification as a stand-alone ministry, Ministry of Horticulture, Parks and Gardens, Ministry of Diaspora, Networking and Inward Capital Flows, Ministry of Culture, Indigenous Crafts and Arts, Ministry of Sanitation, Waste Management and Public Cleanliness, Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Knowledge Management, among others. Our tourism can be developed along many prongs and pillars. One pillar would be our rich cultural heritage, which can anchor cultural and ecological tourism.

We can establish several cultural villages along the Akwapim Ridge in Aburi, Akropong, Mamfe, Larteh, Mampong, Awukugua, Akonedi, among others. We can also establish others at Bonwire, Laribanga, Salaga, Dormaa Ahenkurow, Sefwi Wiawso, Elmina, Akim Oda, Mankesim, Asasewa, Asamankese, Koforidua, Jasikan, Krobo Odumasi, Ho, among others. At such centres, they can showcase our local cuisines, fabrics, artefacts, festivals, rituals, legends and oral tradition. They will demonstrate our cultural ways of life to visitors, and take them through our rites de passage such as Dipo or teenage initiation of the Krobo. In Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Volta, and Central Regions, they could hold durbar of chiefs to depict our rich royal regalia.

In the Upper West, East and Northern Regions, they could hold rehearsals of mock battles on horseback, or play a local version of the game of Polo. The northern regions are rich and replete with crafts such as wooden statuettes, leather-ware, iron-smith, and basketry.

We could properly package and sell our rich kente, fugu smocks, Adinkra, Birisii, and other inimitable fabrics. We could revive PANAFEST in a big way at Cape Coast, Abura Dunkwa, Fomena, Dodowa, Nsamankow, and Salaga, which have historical connotations such as the British-Ashanti battles, slave raiders, Samori and Babatu, our colonial governors, Sir Garnett Wosley, Sir Charles McCarthy, Sir George McClean, Commander Hill, among others. Our famous festivals could be put on the tourist calendar.

They include Damba, Dagbon, Hogbetsotso, Homowo, Ohum, Odwira, Akwasidae, Okyir, Ahobaa, Aboakyir, Kundum, Akumase, Gomoa Two Weeks, Kwahu Easter, Kotokro, Fetu Afahye, and Asafoatse. Special government grants should be earmarked for the people of these areas to incentivise them to put up splendid shows. Along the coastal areas such as Keta, Anloga, Winneba, Apam, Elmina, Sekondi, and Otuam, they could hold boat racing regattas for tourists.

The roads to such areas should be first class roads to facilitate easy travel of visitors. The Ghana Tourism Board should capture data on lodges, hotels, inns and motels in such places and classify and catalogue them for easy reference by tourists. Each regional capital should have at least one five star hotel and several subsidised state lodges and hotels to boost both domestic and international tourism. Venture capitalists should be wooed to invest in such infrastructure. We can revive the State Transport Corporation to provide luxury transport to tourists.

It is well and good that with lessons learnt the hard way, our government is seriously contemplating establishing a national airline as a flag-carrier to promote our tourism. Perhaps, we can learn valuable lessons from Ethiopian Airlines, and establish strong working relationship with them to learn from best practice. Perhaps, we could hire them as neutral and independent entities to run our proposed airline.

Our carvings, crafts and handicrafts are very charming and world-class, but they are not properly packaged, positioned and promoted as they lack brand visibility.

For example, one finds at the departure lounge at KIA many beautiful artefacts and memorabilia, but is it the best location when I am leaving Ghana, and I have spent almost all my money? Wouldn’t such artefacts be better placed at the hotels and arrival lounge? Our staff and security personnel at KIA are doing great in terms of being welcoming and not intimidating as it used to be the case previously, but then, there are still a few bad eggs among them who need straightening up. We should seek continuous improvement and be customer-centric. We could learn from the SERVQUAL and RATER models developed for service industries by Berry, Zeithal and Parasuranam. The personnel at KIA should exude the proverbial Ghanaian Akwaaba or hospitality in large doses, to spoil and exceed the expectations of our visitors, of course, not compromising their legal duties.

Our classic and melodious quintessential highlife oldies are evergreen and should be exposed to our tourists. These may include C.K. Mann’s non-stop albums and melee melodies such as ‘Ko me kro mu kohw3, mbaa’, Kofi Ani Johnson’s ‘Madamfo pa b3ko agya me na may3 no s3n ni’, Ekoo tse brofo, Nananom hom mfr3 yie’, ‘If you marry taxi driver, I don’t care’, ‘Work and Happiness, yes we must confess’, ‘Broni wo awu eeei’, ‘Wofa no no, oto ontua ka ee ayeei, owura no no, y3b3dan no ka eei ayeeei’ ‘Obra aa, ah ah ah obra aaa, nye woara abo oo’ ‘Anko no bi eei, ahomatsea’, ‘Our father, who art in heaven’, ‘Medofo pa adaadaa me aaaa, me nenam a mekowu’, and old tunes by bands such as Wulomei, Sky Hawks, Black Beats, Broadway, Ramblers, Uhuru, Cooler Lobitos, Hedzoleh Sounds, Black Berets, Osibisa, Kodwo Antwi, A.B. Crentsil, Pat Thomas, Kofi Ghanaba Saka Acquaye (Guy Warren), Nana Ampadu, Akwaboah, Edie Ntreh, among others. These were bands which thrived during Ghana’s Golden Age. Then we had the choral and national patriotic songs composed by the late music titan, Dr Ephraim Amu, and Teacher Essuman from Wesley College, Kumasi.

Our shrines and traditional lore at Larteh Akonedi, Antoa Nyamaa, Foofoo Pow, Obrakyere, Penkye Otu, and others can be places for research by foreign students and some of our students in foreign universities who may come along with their professors and friends.

These may be those majoring in Social Anthropology, Sociology, History, Development Studies, Ethnography, among others. Our rich cultural dances can also be tapped into, including Adowa, Agbadza, Omp3h, Kete, Esikyi, Osode, Asafo, Gombe, Fire Dance, High Life, Boso3, Adaha, Boboobo, Baya, and Azonto. These can be choreographed and our Kusum Agormba or Ghana Dance Ensemble at Legon can entertain visitors with afternoon shows. I am yet to see a revival of ‘Afternoon Jumps’ we used to enjoy in those days at Copa Cabana at Winneba, or Harbour View at Takoradi Port, or Mpamprom at Kaneshie, or Roof Top at School of Administration at Legon, in the 70s and 80s.

The view of the University of Ghana from the surrounding mountains at Aburi or Peduase Lodge, or Great Hall at Legon is marvellous, and tourists could be given city bus tours to see such memorable sights. Ghanaian language labs can be set up in all the regional capitals to teach foreigners the basics of our rich local languages at a fee. This can create jobs for the youth.

It is heartening to learn that our President has launched a youth initiative called Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) to complement the earlier GYEEDA. Some critics feel that this government has the penchant and proclivity towards institution-philia or alacrity in setting up institutions, while paradoxically; Ghanaians have become institution-phobic. We can have Youth Entrepreneurship Training Programme (YETP), Youth Employment Creation Centres (YECC), Youth Exchange Programmes (YEP), Youth National Service Camps (YNSC), among others to provide safe avenues for our youth to add value to national productivity. Our national theatres and universities can organise soirees, poetry nights, colloquiums, and other forms of entertainment for tourists.

These events should be well advertised. These events could be targeted at groups of tourists such as students and their professors. Our local musical instruments made from local materials such as reeds, bamboo, gourds, are much sought after. These include xylophones, drums, dondo, gong-gong, castanets, percussion instruments, guitars, flutes, among others. We can market these to tourists. So also we can display our inimitable local clay pots and ceramic products.

We can expose visitors to savour our local beads (esikyi/ahondze), bracelets, fertility dolls, traditional undies for our ladies (red cloth, Amonse), and the loin cloth of our men (lanta), saawe or chewing sponge, local sapo (sponge) from the loofa plant and other forest twiners, amonkye (local soap), shea butter and local creams from our palm kernel oil and cocoa pods, among others. Our local brews and alcoholic beverages come in the form of Akpeteshie, Odoka, Palm wine or Nsafufuw, Pitoo, Ahey, Tuei, and others. What about our potent herbal preparations from our herbal doctors? It can be a money-spinner.

We may narrate Kweku Ananse stories to tourists or act for them at a fee. In our cultural villages set up to showcase our traditions to tourists, we can engage in action tourism by involving them in the preparation and eating of our local dishes such as kaakro, epitsi, esaato, agbeli kaakro, kpekpe3i, yoo k3 gari, mpiho or mpotopoto, fufu na ab3nkwan, ampesi, tatale, aboboi and kontomire (or Black Star), Joloff rice, aboloo or boodoo, kelewele, kenkey, fish and shito, groundnut soup, rice, plantain and cassava, etoh or mashed yam and red oil, asanku, saabo, kokonte, akatewa soup, abodongo, asanku, fiti d3 ekyi, yakayaka, tuo zarfi, kyinkaafa, koose, fula, etc. We may ferry tourists to see our colourful market days at Makola, Asasewa, Mankesim, Asamankese, Bawjiase, Kasoa, Timber Market, Salaga, Cow Lane, Kaneshie, etc.

Recently, I dreamt that mighty hotels have sprung up along the Muni Lagoon area in Winneba, resembling the Costa del Sol in Spain, Copa Cabana in Havana, Miami Beach, Rio de Janeiro etc. We can develop our pristine beach fronts between Winneba and Cape Coast on the one hand, and the beach between Winneba and Keta on the other hand. All we need are willing investors. The Aburi and Atewa Mountains can become holiday retreats for tourists. We can show them around the cocoa plantations at New Tafo and Bunso under CRIG (formerly WACRI). We may need genuine foreign investors in the hospitality industry, and they may partner with locals to carry out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) to assess the impact of their activities on local communities and the environment in general.

We can dredge our lagoons and rivers to provide avenues for cruises by visitors and tourists. Our Korle, Odaw, Muni and Keta Lagoons can benefit from such schemes. The Volta Lake cruise can be improved with more fleet and traffic. Some of our big rivers such as Pra, Tano, Ankobra, Black and White Volta, Kulpawn, Oti, and Afram can be developed for inland water ways and canals to boost trade between north and south of Ghana in order to bridge the development divide between these two vast and culturally diverse economic regions.

Some collaboration can be done with other African countries to have some of our tourists going to see some of their big game. A country such as Zambia is endowed with bounties of nature which are too numerous to recount. Therefrom, we shall derive immensely from regional synergies and increase intra-Africa trade. The Ministry of Information can carry out documentaries on our castles, beaches and famous tourist attractions such as Wli Waterfalls, Boti Falls, Paga Crocodile Pond, ancient mosque at Laribanga, Mole Forest Reserve, Kakum Forest Walkway, Busia Beach, Krokobite, Akim Oda Biggest Tree in West Africa, among other interesting sites. These video documentaries should be marketed worldwide via the internet, and through the trade attaches at our Embassies and High Commissions abroad.

Finally, we could document places in Ghana connected with African-American Diaspora greats and others who lived in Ghana such as W.E.B. Du Bois, George Padmore (nee Arthur Nurse), Maya Angelou, Ras Makonnen, Sir Arthur Lewis, Geoffrey Bing, Hannah Reich, etc

Contact email: kwesiattasakyi449@gmail.com

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta