Protests against racism have erupted around the globe in recent weeks, sparked by the murder of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota, in the United States.
This act of racial violence serves as a timely reminder of the racial inequalities that persist for black people around the world, African diasporas being no exception.
In fact, Ghana, which has been a leader in connecting this diaspora to its African roots through tourism, commemorated the life of Floyd with a memorial service in Accra. The service was arranged by Ghana’s Year of Return committee, in partnership with the African Union of Diasporan Forum.
The Year of Return – 2019 – was a tourism campaign to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in America. It was an instance of “roots tourism”, which appeals to travellers to visit a destination on the basis of their ancestry.
Beyond the education and personal transformation that many travellers gain from this type of tourism, could it also be an opportunity for racial reconciliation?
My study of one recent group of African American roots travellers to Ghana suggests this may be a possibility. The study explored how the trip affected these travellers’ sense of identity and their commitment towards social justice initiatives.
Exploring roots in Ghana
In August 2018, I joined a group of 10 African American travellers on a 10-day trip to Ghana where we visited historical sights, as well as cities, villages and nature preserves. I interviewed the travellers before and after the trip, in addition to conducting observations and a focus group during the trip. I asked them about their expectations of the journey and how the experience had affected their identity. I also asked if it made them more likely to participate in social justice activities such as protesting, getting involved with social justice organisations in their communities and speaking up about social injustices in their professions.
Travellers revealed to me that the trip helped them to conceptualise slavery differently, and this led them to a deeper understanding of race relations in the United States. For example, one traveller said that prior to visiting Ghana, they felt a “certain anger towards white people”. But visiting Ghana and specifically the Cape Coast dungeon exposed them to learning more about all of the actors in slavery – (white) Europeans and (black) Africans.
Travellers also shared how the trip helped them to understand more deeply their identity as both African and American. For example, one participant said:
I have these identifiable characteristics about me that link me to this place. I hope to go home and be able to exude that like a light off me, without being afraid or ashamed; we shouldn’t be fearful of who we really are.
This quote exemplifies how identity formation through roots travel can lead to a form of reconciliation within travellers themselves.
Another traveller said they realised after the trip that roots tourism, if curated well, could be an avenue for cross-racial communication and understanding. They said they had noticed a clear difference between white and black tour groups at the Cape Coast dungeon. One was more romanticised, and one highlighted more of the horrific details of slavery.
This traveller said the romanticised experience was common at many former slave plantation heritage tourism sites in the US. These types of narratives only perpetuate experiences reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. But if transformed, these experiences both in Ghana and the US could act as a platform for racial reconciliation.
One traveller described their own internal racial reconciliation by saying:
We are all human. I wish that we lived in a world that could really and truly embrace that, but we don’t. So, for now, I continue trying to spread the love and be unashamed about who I am, which is a mixture of so many things, some of which do originate in Africa, and I am proud of that now.
These types of experiences through roots tourism represent an opportunity for the creation of peace and reconciliation. Travellers can learn together about the collective emotional trauma resultant from slavery, the misinformation that is often passed down about slavery and how these issues can be discussed openly.
Travel and tourism are not often linked to social justice. But the research shows that tourism does in fact provide a platform for this. Travellers in my study said their trip to Ghana empowered them to make changes towards social equity in their professional and personal lives. They described actionable change along with expanded mindsets. For example, one traveller mentioned getting involved with empowering black musicians in their community. Another started contributing financially to empower female business owners in Ghana.
Roots travel experiences also shine a light on the continued everyday racism that people face as a trickle-down effect of slavery. Participants described how societal racism in the US had made an impact on their lives, and how travelling to Ghana had emboldened them to search for clarity of identity and self, as well as social equality.
The research already shows that tourism can promote peace, transformation and cross-cultural understanding. But it’s a good time to ask how the travel and tourism industry has contributed to racism and how that can change.
The incumbent Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo has held on to power following the release of official results. Tensions are rising in the normally peaceful country as his opponent calls foul play.
The Ghanaian electoral commission on Wednesday declared incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo the winner of the country's presidential election.
The 76-year-old Akufo-Addo from the center-right New Patriotic Party (NPP) beat his opponent and predecessor John Dramani Mahama of the center-left National Democratic Congress (NDC) with 51.59% of the vote. It is expected that this will be his second and final term in accordance with the Ghanaian constitution.
More than 13 million ballots were cast out of a total electorate of 17 million and across 38,000 polling stations throughout the country. Voters also chose 275 lawmakers for the national parliament.
Five people were killed in election violence. Otherwise, Ghana's poll on Monday was carried out largely peacefully — a regular achievement for the West African country unlike for some of its neighbors that have seen violence following recent elections — although the process was mired by accusations of fraud before the official results were released.
Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Jean Adukwei Mensa praised election workers for operating the polls smoothly, and openly, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The NDC rejected the results of the election and said they planned to appeal the electoral commission's decision, Haruna Iddrisu an MP for the party told AFP.
The results of one constituency remained disputed, however Mensa said that even if all remaining votes went for Mahama, it still would not change the overall outcome.
Long-awaited results, but carefully counted
The electoral commission took several days to tally up the votes and had urged for patience while they were "working around the clock."
Around 12,000 observers were present for polling day and reported only a handful of incidences of intimidation. "While there were some challenges, these challenges were isolated and did not undermine the process's overall credibility," a coalition of observers said on Tuesday.
Ghana has successfully carried out democratic transfers of power for almost two decades and stands in contrast to neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone where violence disrupted recent electoral processes.
The two leading candidates signed a symbolic agreement on Friday to resolve any disputes in the courts and to avoid possible violence amid the tensions of the close contest and the country's first economic contraction in decades.
Over 60,000 security personnel had been stationed at polling stations to maintain order.
Accusations of fraud
Tensions rose on Tuesday evening as the contesting Mahama warned his opponent not to "steal" the election, accusing the sitting president of using the military to intimidate voters.
"You cannot use the military to try and overturn some of the results in constituencies that we have won. We will resist any attempts to subvert the sovereign will of the Ghanaian people," Mahama said at a press conference in the capital Accra.
Akufo-Addo's information minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, was quick to condemn the accusations as false and "irresponsible."
The candidate's comments mirrored those of US President Donald Trump who lost the presidential election in November but accused his rival of stealing the election.
Failure to accept the electoral commission's results could cast a shadow over the country's democratic credentials.
Both sides claim success
Before the electoral commission came out with its tallied results, the NDC communications director, Sammy Gyamfi, told DW that the commission wasn't doing its job correctly, "but they would fail because they cannot change the will of the people. We don't want to push anyone into any early celebration. We are on course, we have 140 parliamentary seats, safe and secured."
John Boadu, general secretary of the NPP told DW of the implications of accusations coming from the NDC: "Creating insinuations creates a lack of credibility on our whole election process … We are happy to announce that for the next parliament it is obvious from the results declared across the constituencies that the NPP will still maintain a majority in parliament."
(Reuters, AFP, DW)
Ghanaians go to the polls Monday with incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo and former president John Mahama as front-runners.
Akufo-Addo’s party has campaigned mainly on his education initiatives, while Mahama’s has focused on job creation and attacking his opponent's record on corruption. But the familiar faces have also made voter apathy an issue.
Ghana's government this week announced Monday, Dec 7, would be a public holiday - to help get voters to the polls to choose the next president.
Despite more than 17 million registered voters and 12 presidential candidates, authorities are battling voter apathy with familiar front-runners from the last two elections.
Incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is facing off against his predecessor, John Mahama of the opposition National Democratic Congress’ (NDC).
Mahama won in the 2012 election and then lost to Akufo-Addo in the 2016 election.
Kojo Asante, with the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, says there is fatigue, mainly among the middle classes.
"The first few hours is always a good indicator of whether people will eventually go out," said Asante. "If they see the crowds are behaving and then they get feedback that it is very easy to go and vote and so, then they might eventually still go out, even if they had decided not to."
Despite the challenge, Asante says their pre-election survey shows Ghanaians are concerned about issues such as improving infrastructure and employment.
The survey pointed to positive responses on the ruling NPP’s handling of COVID-19, power supplies, and education.
But the public was less impressed with Akufo-Addo’s record on inflation, inequality, and corruption. Attacking Akufo-Addo on corruption was a focus of Mahama’s campaign, along with job creation. But risk consulting group Songhai Advisory’s Kobi Annan says both men have underperformed in office.
"It's a difficult choice for a lot of people. Neither of them have performed fantastically during their terms of office, and I think it will come down to primarily sentiments around things like education, corruption, job creation. I think job creation and education in particular - those affect more people day-to-day than corruption does," said Annan.
Under Mahama’s presidency, there was an energy crisis, corruption scandals and a currency devaluation.
In 2016, the NPP won by about one million votes and with high expectations for Akufo-Addo to stamp out corruption.
But in the weeks leading up to this year’s election, the opposition NDC made corruption allegations against Akufo-Addo. Ghana’s anti-corruption special prosecutor resigned just three weeks before the election, alleging political interference.
While Akufo-Addo denies any corruption in his administration, analysts say it’s hard to know if the claims will impact the vote.
Regardless of the result, or voter turnout, analysts are expecting Ghana’s election to be fair and peaceful – as with the last two elections.
Maame Gyekye-Jandoh is head of the University of Ghana’s Political Science Department.
"Emotions may run high, but based on these past precedents, these past good precedents, I believe that the election will be peaceful, and the results will be considered credible and legitimate," said Gyekye-Jandoh.
The University of Ghana published a voter survey that gave the NPP an estimated 11% lead over the NDC with five percent of voters undecided.
Universal Music UK has announced the launch of 0207 Def Jam, a new frontline label and the UK home of the iconic Def Jam Recordings label, with a stellar cast of execs including the appointment of highly respected industry executives and Ghanaian London-born twin brothers, Alec and Alex Boateng as co-Presidents.
0207 Def Jam, which takes the first part of its name and inspiration from a telephone code in London as a nod to the music, culture and art the UK is famed for, is partnering with the legendary Def Jam label which has shaped and propelled cutting-edge hip hop culture around the world for over 35 years.
Alongside his brother, Alex takes the helm after 10 years at Universal Music UK, most recently as president of Island Records’ first Urban Division which has played an instrumental role in shaping the current and sustained trajectory of UK Black music.
After taking the role in 2018 he oversaw UK campaigns for Drake, Tiwa Savage, Buju Banton, Nav, Giggs, Unknown T, Ray BLK, M Huncho, Tekno and Miraa May whilst also spearheading the campaigns for George The Poet’s debut book release, British film, The Intent 2 and UK based clothing brand/label Lizzy.
Alex is a member of Universal Music’s Task Force for Meaningful Change, which was created as a driving force for inclusion and social justice. He joined Universal Music in 2010 in a digital role at Island Records before going on to hold positions in marketing and A&R, a period which included campaign launches for Tinchy Stryder, Drake, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj as well as A&R for artists including JP Cooper, Sean Paul, Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal, Donae'o and Big Shaq. He started his music career balancing a marketing degree with DJing, multiple shifts at radio and running his own marketing and promotions company with his then BBC 1Xtra colleague G Money, moving on to consulting roles with Atlantic Records, Polydor and AATW.
Alec joins 0207 Def Jam after seven years at Warner Music, most recently as co-head of A&R at Atlantic, where he collected a clutch of industry awards and played a pivotal role in the commercial and cultural success of acts who have defined their era, including the emergence through to her chart-topping dominance of Jess Glynne, the revolutionary rise of Stormzy, Burna Boy’s rapid ascent to global superstar as well as the likes of WSTRN, Rita Ora, Kojo Funds, Stalk Ashley, Preditah and many more. A seasoned broadcaster, he also spent over a decade at BBC 1Xtra where he hosted the breakfast show for several years and a series of other specialist shows with a focus on breaking new British music. Alec remembers a passionate deep-rooted love of music as a child, evolving into DJing and leading the award-winning UK mixtape team Split Mics before halting university after he was headhunted to cut his teeth in A&R. First, he worked with Ministry of Sound and then began operating his own co-owned music company alongside the late industry lawyer Richard Antwi. Together, they oversaw a plethora of success with Wretch 32 and worked with artists such as Popcaan and Gyptian amongst many others.
Alex’s former Island colleague Amy Tettey will be joining the team as managing director after 11 years, the past four as finance director, at the Universal Music label where she worked across the entire roster of Island artists including everyone from Amy Winehouse to Drake and Dizzee Rascal to Giggs. Alongside Amy, Jacqueline Eyewe and Char Grant join as marketing director and A&R director respectively. Jacqueline - previously senior marketing manager at Atlantic where she spearheaded the marketing of Black music - has been deeply rooted in contemporary Black music and culture for the last decade. She joined Atlantic in 2015 where she has worked with artists including Stormzy, Burna Boy, Lizzo, WSTRN, Kehlani and Cardi B. Char, whose 10-year career has been immersed in artist development and management as well as songwriting, joins from BMG Music Publishing where she has published the likes of Giggs, Ghetts and producers P2J, TSB and AOD.
Alec and Alex report to Universal Music UK Chairman & CEO David Joseph. He says, “Bringing the Boateng brothers together at 0207 Def Jam is an important moment in British culture. Alec and Alex have always done things their own way with success always quick to follow. They have already assembled an exceptionally talented top team with a clear vision for this exciting new chapter in the history of one of the world’s most famous labels”.
Jeff Harleston, interim Chairman & CEO, Def Jam Recordings said, “It is a perfect fit having Alex and Alec at the helm of 0207 Def Jam. Their creativity, artist relationships, and connection with culture are all key elements that have made Def Jam such an important label for over 35 years. I have no doubt that Alex, Alec and their team will only make the label and the brand even stronger.”
Alec Boateng, co-President of 0207 Def Jam says, “Music, art and artists really, really matter. I’m super excited to play a leadership role in this brilliant new space we’re creating for amazing music and talent to live and evolve. A space which will support both our teams and our artists to be the best version of themselves.”
Alex Boateng, co-President of 0207 Def Jam says, “Especially in these times, this is a real privilege. I'm proud our collective journey now includes partnering a legendary label with a style that only London and the UK can provide. Looking forward to watching and guiding where the music and art takes the journey next.”
When Ghana turned to democracy in 1992 after many years of military rule, there were expectations that the people would choose their leaders. Ghanaians also expected to see a closer relationship between citizens and the state, making members of the legislature more sensitive to their needs.
But the country has yet to entrench some key aspects of democratic governance. One example is the disconnect between the people and their representatives in parliament. Public opinion surveys conducted by Afrobarometer show a wide gap between the two. For instance, between 2002 and 2013, an average of 85.8% of Ghanaians had no contact with their representatives in parliament.
Ghanaian voters indicate that their legislators spend little time in the constituency. Even when they do, they tend not to listen to the concerns of voters. This gap is a problem because modern democracy relies on representative institutions. The very foundations of democracy could be shaken if citizens do not feel adequately represented.
I found that a major contributing factor to the gap between legislators and their constituents in Ghana is the strong presence of patronage networks in primaries within the parties. The way the two main political parties, the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress, select parliamentary candidates for general elections makes it possible for patronage networks to hijack electoral processes.
Internal party competition
Parliamentarians in Ghana, as everywhere else, do not emerge out of the blue. Political parties have established procedures for selecting candidates. Internal party primaries have been the main avenue for selecting parliamentary aspirants since the early 2000s.
But the very nature of these internal competitions creates a cohort of legislators who can easily circumvent voters’ “punishment” if they don’t perform.
To become an MP in Ghana on the main parties’ tickets, aspirants must apply to designated constituency committees and be vetted by the regional and national party. Where more than one aspirant passes this stage, they are presented to the party’s delegates at a conference for a deciding vote. The small number of delegates who vote in these internal contests is a recipe for patronage. It’s easy for aspiring candidates to buy the support and loyalty of these delegates.
In recent cases, some aspirants have gone as far as buying cars to woo the delegates. Internal party primaries in Ghana are usually devoid of programmatic appeals. A candidate who campaigns solely on programmes and doesn’t issue any material benefits will most likely lose. A candidate whose campaign relies solely on handing out material goods is likely to win even if his or her campaign contains zero programmes.
Therefore, the ability to award personal favours like pocket money, school fees, funeral donations, television sets and so on to party delegates becomes the exclusive focus of these party competitions. The road to parliament in Ghana gets smoother for the highest bidder than for the candidate with the most elaborate policies.
This places the power to determine the future of an MP in the hands of party delegates, not the electorate. After all, winning the primaries means a free ticket to parliament in many constituencies.
This is more so because more than 60% of the 275 seats in parliament are safe for either the New Patriotic Party or the National Democratic Congress. The huge number of constituencies that are dominated by either of these two parties give MPs the incentive to concentrate more on local party delegates than the entire constituency voters. The voice of constituency voters, therefore, gets trumped by that of the party delegates.
What is the way forward?
To make constituency votes matter, the focus should be on reviewing internal party contests which determine who stands as an MP.
In emerging democracies, there are hardly any national laws regulating how parties select their candidates. In Ghana, the constitution says political parties must ensure that their internal processes conform to democratic standards. But there’s no legislation spelling out how they should choose their candidates.
Ghana could follow the examples of Germany, the United States, New Zealand and Finland in regulating internal party competitions. The focus should be on the inclusivity of mechanisms to select candidates within parties. For example, all party members or even the entire constituency of voters can participate in the selection of candidate MPs.
An open candidate selection process would provide less incentive to reward a few party delegates and neglect the constituency. With more participants, candidate MPs wouldn’t have enough money to buy everybody. This would force candidate MPs to campaign on the basis of policies that benefit the entire constituency. Also, to be reelected, MPs would have to build a good relationship with their constituencies, not with internal party oligarchies.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Thursday announced a 28 per cent hike in Cocoa Producer Prices for the 2020/2021 crop year.
Thus, effective October 1, 2020, the producer price for cocoa moves from the previous crop year’s GH¢8,240 ($1.41) to GH¢10,560 9 ($1,817.92) per metric ton. A bag of cocoa for the coming season would sell for GH¢660 from 2019/2020 producer price of GH¢514.
The President made announcement when he launched the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western-North Region during his three-day working visit.
He told the gathering that “by this new producer price, we have kept faith with our commitment, under the international arrangement with Côte d’Ivoire and global stakeholders, by awarding to our farmers the full $400 per metric tonne Living Income Differential.”
Ghana and Ivory Coast, who together produce over 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa, in the quest to overhaul global cocoa pricing, introduced a $400 a tonne Living Income Differential (LID) in July last year on cocoa sales for the 2020/21 season.
“By this substantial increase in the producer price, we are also delivering on our 2016 manifesto promise to reward handsomely the hard work of our cocoa farmers and their unequalled contribution to the economy of Ghana over the years,” President Akufo-Addo emphasized.
The President noted that the unstable nature of cocoa prices on the world cocoa market remained one of the biggest challenges to ensuring payment of decent farm-gate prices to cocoa farmers.
He was not happy that Ghanaian and Ivoirian cocoa farmers earned a meagre $6 billion from a global chocolate industry of over $100 billion.
“Government believes that value-addition to our cocoa, and the search for new markets, will make us more money than all the aid given to us by all the donor countries.
“We shall gain some dignity, and spare the donors the fatigue we have all heard about,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo was gratified that the Strategic Partnership between Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, which is manifesting itself in a joint cocoa production and marketing policy, was already paying dividends.
“Today, I am happy to announce that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are receiving a Living Income Differential of $400 per ton of cocoa, which is an additional earning from the world market price for our farmers.
“The Living Income Differential is going to guarantee some stability to the producer price of cocoa and sustainability of the industry in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire,” the President said.
In its early days, Ghana’s COVID-19 response was heralded as a success story. Its perspective was captured in a statement by Ghana’s president when he announced Africa’s first lockdown on 28 March:
We know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life.
It was a viral sensation.
But the ovation is fading and the West African nation’s case count is surging.
Ghana isn’t the only African country that initially appeared to have COVID-19 under control. Others, like South Africa, were also praised for taking early, decisive action. But the recent surge in coronavirus cases in Ghana, and the inability of the country’s health system to cope with it, were seeded by the outlook, oversights and omissions in the easing of its lockdown.
The partial lockdown of Accra and Kumasi, Ghana’s principal cities, bought the government time to prepare for the onslaught of the virus. The nation needed to be ready for testing and contact tracing, providing personal protective equipment for health workers and dealing with patients in need of acute care for COVID-19. And it had to make provisions to sustain all these as the epidemic evolved.
But the extra time would only be afforded if the lockdown actually slowed the spread of the virus. So in deciding when to ease the restrictions, knowing the degree of this impact was of the essence, as was progress on those public health and health system reinforcements.
Ghana’s timing was bad.
The government announced an end to the lockdown on 19 April. Yet data published by the Ghana Health Service did not offer conclusive evidence that the objectives of the restrictions had been met.
It was unclear whether the spread of COVID-19 had actually slowed – and by how much.
Some references were made to the health system and public health improvements in announcing the end of the lockdown. But details were opaque. Within 10 days of President Akufo-Addo’s national address, the Ghana Medical Association was attributing rising health worker infections to poor distribution of protective supplies.
Existing facilities for intensive care were still being expanded when the restrictions on movement were lifted, and authorities were still scouting locations for new isolation centres.
Ghana’s limited testing capacity also needed to be expanded, as the entire public health response depended on early case detection. Plans for new and expanded laboratories were still being drawn up when the lockdown was ended.
The authorities touted pooled testing as an answer. Multiple samples were grouped together and tested. The samples in each pool were individually retested only if a pool returned a positive result for COVID-19. If the pool was negative then it was assumed that all the samples in it were negative.
Pool testing is useful where there is low viral prevalence, and much less so in a large outbreak. If capacity for individual testing wasn’t significantly increased before pooled testing reached its limits, Ghana’s ability to detect and manage cases would be severely compromised.
Early in the epidemic, authorities adopted a testing target as the benchmark for ending the restrictions on movement. The objective was to locate some 34,000 travellers who arrived in Ghana between early March and the closure of the border on 22 March; to identify and trace people they had come into contact with; and to test these travellers and their associates for COVID-19.
The “enhanced contact tracing” exercise, as the president explained on 5 April, would inform future action. By 19 April, 1.27% of some 51,721 people – just over half of those targeted – were found to be positive for COVID-19.
This result was used as the primary evidence that Ghana’s disease burden was small, and that the epidemic had been substantively contained.
But that testing wasn’t representative. It ignored community spread, which had been documented as early as 20 March. It seemingly underestimated the risk of a large outbreak from undetected cases; how quickly that might happen; and the impact on the still limited laboratories, the still inadequate public health infrastructure, and the still underprepared healthcare system.
The reduction of the volunteer contact tracer workforce after the lockdown exemplified the authorities’ rhetoric that the worst of COVID-19 was over.
Eighteen weeks into the outbreak, Ghana’s COVID-19 response is buckling under the weight of reality.
Counting the costs
Data released on 6 July, the 117th day of Ghana’s COVID-19 epidemic, laid bare the state of affairs. The cases confirmed over the week leading up to that date made up nearly a quarter of Ghana’s total count at the time. The 992 reported on 3 July remains the West African record.
The 642 new cases confirmed on 6 July raised the nation’s tally to 23,464, from 1,042 at the end of the lockdown. Included in those new cases were samples collected as far back as 9 June, a 27-day delay that shows the slow pace of testing.
This was not an anomaly. About one in seven new infections reported so far in July involve a testing delay of at least two weeks. The consequences are obvious: the growing pool of unidentified contacts may spawn even more cases and add to a bleak outlook.
The 22.6% positivity rate for 6 July suggested that Ghana’s testing regime is not casting a wide enough net to give a true picture of community spread. That statistic was as high as 30.1% on 3 July, and the average for the week ending on 6 July was 23.8%.
The medical community’s fears have also materialised. The rate of infections among healthcare workers is staggering. A total of 779 had been infected in the line of duty as of 1 July, and that number has been revised to upwards of 2,000 over the course of the month. Insufficient and inadequate PPE, slow testing, and limited institutional capacity are driving this disturbing trend.
The present state of Ghana’s epidemic is at least partly attributable to the premature lifting of the shelter-in-place order. But its future hinges on whether the nation’s strategy will remain unresponsive to the evolving realities of community spread, the limitations and urgent needs of its fragile public health system, and the daunting risks health workers continue to face.
So far the evidence is not promising.
Authorities in Ghana continue to ease restrictions. Schools have been reopened for final year students, despite public concern. Scores of students and staff have been infected. The health minister rejected calls to reconsider this decision on the grounds that it would be cowardly to reverse course. He only recently recovered from the virus himself.
A mass voter registration exercise is also under way nationwide, despite an open appeal against it by over 200 physicians who cited the obvious risk of further spread of COVID-19.
Ghana has a reputation as one of the more established democracies in sub-Saharan Africa. It has successfully organised six elections in its fourth republic, with power changing hands between the two largest political parties, the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress.
These two parties represent almost 95% of voting numbers based on past elections.
Over these elections, women have participated and been elected to positions in parliament. Some women have also been nominated as running mates and have run for the presidencies, albeit for small parties. But few have made it onto the ballot for national elections.
Until recently none of the two major parties had ever selected a woman on their ticket even though there have been calls over the years for this to be remedied.
Now one of the country’s two largest parties, the National Democratic Congress, has selected a woman vice-presidential candidate – Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyeman.
In a study I completed 10 years ago I looked at political marketing strategies to explore the marketability of candidates. The study focused on some of the past elections of Ghana and the key marketing tools deployed by the two leading parties.
Using the study as a framework, I explore the prospects and constraints of her selection. I conclude that although there were more popular candidates within the National Democratic Congress, her largely scandal-free background and strong public service record gave her an advantage.
Political marketing: what works, what doesn’t
Well executed political marketing campaigns can help parties win elections. A good example in the Ghanaian context was the 2004 electoral win of the New Patriotic Party, a repeat of the 2000 victory, though the party’s winning percentage fell from 56.9% in 2000 to 52.4% in 2004. The close 2004 contest was won in part by the brilliant marketing communication campaign led by the party’s campaign strategists. Slogans like the “so far so good” theme and “never again” advertisements reminded the electorate of the governance record of the opponents, the National Democratic Congress.
The 2004 New Patriotic Party marketing communication campaign was seamlessly integrated across radio, TV, print and outdoor with common campaign themes, thereby amplifying the effect of their media expenditure. The campaign jingles were also easy to sing along to and therefore had high resonance with the Ghanaian electorate.
Conversely, we found that the party made serious marketing mistakes in the 2008 election. This included the failure to communicate with the grassroots electorate and the perceived aloofness of the incumbent president. This created an advantage for the opposition party to regain power.
The analytical model
Political marketing success is contingent on the successful management of the person, or party, being marketed.
So how marketable is Opoku-Agyemang?
Three factors are worth exploring: who she is, her relationship with the National Democratic Congress party and the party’s ideology.
One of Opoku-Agyemang’s unique selling propositions is that she has served as the vice-chancellor of a public university. She was the first woman in Ghana’s history to hold this position. From 2008 to 2012 she was the University of Cape Coast’s Vice-Chancellor after serving as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.
This has given her managerial experience. She is also relatively scandal-free compared to other possible women candidates available within the party.
Another plus is that her presence is likely to enhance the popularity of former president John Mahama as he seeks a return to power. This is because both candidates are independent personalities with positive equity due to their past records in public service.
But there are some downsides to her candidacy. One is that there are conservative elements within Ghana that are opposed to women in leadership positions. Another is her lack of affinity for the Volta region, which is considered the power base of the National Democratic Congress. How the region feels about a candidate matters.
She is also not a widely known party figure, especially to the rank and file of her own party and even to political neutrals.
The selection of a woman alone will not enhance the National Democratic Congress’s electoral chances in 2020.
But Opoku-Agyemang has strong points. She has good standing within an important academic bloc. The University of Cape Coast saw growth under her tenure, and as George K.T. Oduro, a Professor of Educational Leadership at the school, noted in a recent article:
She is a woman of integrity and that is what she brings to the Mahama ticket.
It would seem that her brand differentiators are competence and integrity.
Study shows Satellite TV reception increases by 23% in Nigeria and 19% in Ghana in 2019 since the last study, conducted two years ago; SES (www.SES.com) currently reaches 35 million TV households across the African Continent.
SES, the leader in global content connectivity solutions, has unveiled the results of its annual Satellite Monitor survey, which reveals a steady increase in the penetration of satellite TV across Africa. The study on TV reception also shows an increase in SES reach from 33 million African households in 2018 to 35 million households in 2019.
In Nigeria, the Satellite Monitor results revealed that satellite TV reception was the choice for 11.8 million households in 2019, a 23% increase compared to 2017, and a further 4.7 million in Ghana, up by 19% from 2017. The study also highlighted that High Definition (HD) TV sets are becoming increasingly popular, already present in approximately 50% of Ghanaian and Nigerian TV homes.
Other TV reception modes in Nigeria and Ghana currently include terrestrial, cable and IPTV. According to the latest survey results, satellite TV is steadily gaining popularity as the TV reception mode of choice in both markets, with 70% of TV homes in Ghana and 33% of those in Nigeria opting for satellite in 2019 – an increase from 64% and 27%, respectively, compared to 2017.
TV reception modes (in million homes)
TV reception modes
(in million homes)
TV reception modes
(in million homes)
The Satellite Monitor results show that SES also increased its reach across the broader African continent. In addition to the growth of homes reached in Nigeria and Ghana, the study shows that SES’s satellites reach 11.6 million homes (satellite and terrestrial) in anglophone West Africa; 6.2 million satellite homes in francophone West Africa; 17.7 million homes (satellite and terrestrial) in sub-Saharan Africa; and 0.9 million satellite homes in East Africa.
“The results of our annual Satellite Monitor market research demonstrate that satellite continues to be the optimal infrastructure to deliver hundreds of TV channels and in high picture quality too, while offering an affordable solution in the transition from analogue to digital TV,” said Clint Brown, Vice President of Sales and Market Development for SES Video in Africa. “With the deadline for the analogue switch-off looming in both countries – 2020 in Ghana and 2021 in Nigeria – the 2019 Satellite Monitor findings confirm that end consumers in regions going through digital migration are satisfied with satellite TV and choosing it for its better value proposition and variety of free-to-air offerings, rather than purchasing new hardware and switching to digital terrestrial TV.”
This SES annual market research offers a comprehensive and in-depth analysis into the TV market in each country it surveys and is designed to assess the development of TV reception modes and SES’s total reach in the market, as well as to serve as a benchmark for the TV and satellite industry. In 2019, Ghana and Nigeria were the main surveyed African countries as they stand as the most dynamic and highly penetrated TV markets in sub-Saharan Africa and have been surveyed by SES since 2015.
Academic freedom is supposed to enable academics to conduct scientific enquiry and produce knowledge to be used for the public good. Academics need it so that they can meet their obligation to society. And the state has a corresponding duty to respect this freedom and protect it from abuse.
Academic freedom in Ghana started well with the establishment of the University of Ghana in 1948. Special measures were put in place to insulate the academic staff from governmental interference.
This trend was continued into independence. But it began to deteriorate when respect for liberal democracy, embodied in Ghana’s Independence Constitution, started to wane simultaneously as the country morphed into a one-party state and later into military rule.
In 1992, Ghana passed the Fourth Republican Constitution, which explicitly recognises “academic freedom”. This makes Ghana one of only 14 African countries to do so. The constitution bars the president from taking the position of chancellor of any public university. It also gives universities the power to set up their own governing councils.
But the constitution also grants the president the power to appoint a national council for tertiary education to coordinate the functioning of the public universities.
The current government is attempting to circumvent a key aspect of these constitutional provisions meant to promote and protect academic freedom in its attempt to overhaul the running of the universities with a new Public University Bill.
A memorandum accompanying the bill states, in part, that it is designed to curb “grave improprieties in the utilisation of resources” in public universities.
Based on this claim, the bill seeks to grant the president the power to appoint the chancellors of all public universities. The same applies to the appointment of chairs of all university councils. The council is basically the board of the institution. Currently, chancellors are appointed by university councils whose heads are appointed by the president.
The bill also whittles down the composition of the councils from about 21, depending on the university, to 13. The majority – eight – would be appointed by the president.
The new bill allows councils to appoint vice-chancellors. But the president’s majority stake in council membership means that vice-chancellors would in practice be presidential appointees.
Consequently, all three principal officers of a public university will be beholden to the president.
The president will also have the power to dissolve a university council if he deems there’s an emergency on the campus. The president can replace it with an interim council of his choice.
The universities’ freedom to control their own admission processes is to be replaced by a centralised application board.
These and many other provisions of the bill intrude into the university’s autonomous space.
These attempts by the government to control public universities are unjustified – not only in law but also in fact.
The country has laws that are strong enough to control financial management in the universities. And the ministers of education, finance and others have roles to play in ensuring compliance.
The solution does not lie in making a new law which seeks to control university governance through the back door.
The bill will create more problems than it seeks to solve. For example, it will mean that the minister of education will have to approve applications for grants and even the purchase of equipment to furnish a lecture theatre.
The respected Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, in its memorandum to parliament, noted that among the effects of the draft bill will be:
The introduction of direct executive control over public universities, both as corporate bodies and as academic institutions, and
The constriction of space for differentiation among public universities, for innovation, and for the drive for excellence.
It concluded that “the proposed draft Ghana universities bill is unnecessary” and should not be allowed to pass.
The University Teachers Association of Ghana, on its part, noted in its memorandum that it opposes
the enactment of a harmonised act and statutes to regulate all public universities under one platform.
In its opinion, the bill sins against fundamental provisions of the Fourth Republican Constitution and if passed in its present form, it will not hesitate to institute legal proceedings to challenge them before the Supreme Court.
The government has already shown itself to have little regard for academic freedom. Recently, its brusque interference in an impasse at a public university led to the dismissal of a vice-chancellor and dissolution of the school’s governing council. It also tried to control the conversion of polytechnics into technical universities by setting up a state education agency as the de facto governing council for the technical universities.
The bill also reflects tensions around perceived governmental interference in the removal from office of a vice-chancellor at the University of Education, and the appointment of a new one.
What will be lost
The Public University Bill, if allowed to pass, will take the country back to the 1960s. It will result in the loss of institutional autonomy, self-governance, collegiality, tenure and individual rights and freedoms of academics and students. This will in turn impact negatively on the congenial atmosphere required to promote creativity, innovation and competition on university campuses.
Ghana is considered a bastion of democracy in Africa. It has a large measure of respect for human rights and the rule of law compared with many other African countries. Its democratic credentials will suffer great harm if the bill becomes law.