Ghana: Addressing The Consumer Preference For Foreign Goods To Local Goods Challenge
There have been a lot of recent calls on Ghanaians to patronize local goods and services to help local manufacturers and service providers to be able to stay in operation and contribute towards national economic development. These calls have come as a result of the low interest Ghanaians have shown in patronizing local goods and services and the related challenge it posses on the country's industrial development and ultimately economic development.
Indeed, patronizing local goods will create jobs to the growing youth, result in industrial expansions and enable domestic industries to compete with their counterparts in the advanced nations.
As a way to promote the consumption of local goods, most household items as well as cars used by various foreign embassies here in Ghana are brought in from their home countries as a matter of deliberate policy to patronize their home made products. Indonesian public officers are also made to wear locally produced fabrics to work twice a week.
Unfortunately, the reverse is the situation here in Ghana. Ghanaians have developed a strong taste for foreign products to the extent that we regard anything that is produced in another country as of high quality and high value than the ones that are locally manufactured. An example is our attitude towards locally manufactured rice. Even though rice is grown in the country, most Ghanaians prefer to eat 'perfume rice' as it is normally called; rice that is imported from abroad, even though research have shown that the locally produced rice is more nutritious.
The result today is that Ghana has become a huge market for dumped products from Europe and China leading to factory closures, unemployment and poverty.
But the question arises whether people in the country just choose not to patronize local goods or there is a 'problem' somewhere.
A number of reasons account for the current situation where Ghanaians prefer imported goods and foreign services to their local counterparts. There are certain factors that are responsible for why most consumers in Ghana show little interest in local goods.
Economic factors such as product quality, price, and product availability favor Ghanaian consumers' preference for foreign products.
The general notion among some Ghanaians have been that locally manufactured goods are inferior to imported and foreign manufactured goods in terms of performance and quality to the extent that some local manufacturers have sometimes resorted to claiming foreign origins for their products so as to attract the public to purchase them.
This 'unfortunate' and wrong school of thought has come to stay and gained grounds in the Ghanaian society because most local goods & services that have been brought to the Ghanaian market by local industries in the past have indeed in most cases left much to be desired. Some of these products have fallen short in terms of durability, packaging, among other factors.
In addition to the widespread belief that locally manufactured products are inferior in quality to the foreign/imported goods, complaints of the high prices of locally-made items are also rampant. Many Ghanaian consumers complain that goods that are produced domestically are costly, compared with other products of same or higher quality that are imported into the country.
Another factor that has encouraged consumers to patronize foreign goods against local goods is poor marketing of most local products. This factor has many facets, the major ones being concerned with the status of marketing in the manufacturing firms, management attitude towards consumer orientation, poor product planning, pricing and promotion.
Effective marketing management is essential in the process of building up a favorable image for any product. The absence of consumer orientation on the part of producers appears to have contributed to the alienation of the Ghanaian consumer from the products, and thus the resulting preference for imports.
In the past manufacturers have had a wrong view that consumers accept or buy anything they are being offered in the market particularly in this part of the world. This assumption has led to gross marketing failure of many local manufacturing organizations. The consumer is a personality whose behavior is governed by different and varied influences such as: his society's beliefs, attitude, his past learning, experience, perception, his expectations among other factors.
These factors form his taste, choice and product preference. There is therefore the need for local manufacturers to examine those factors that influence and affect consumer buying decisions, with a motive of finding ways of producing high quality goods to satisfy the needs of consumers at moderate prices.
This will help reduce the situation where there is high preference for foreign products over locally manufactured goods. Improving the quality of our local goods will help local manufacturers to increase their market share both locally and globally. This will also help change the perception people have about local goods.
To further make our local goods attractive for local and even foreign consumers to patronize, just like some industries in foreign countries have done, there is the need to improve the branding and packaging of our locally manufactured goods to make them attractive to the consumer.
Most goods produced in Ghana are usually not patronized by consumers not because they are of low quality or too expensive to buy, but because of the way they are packaged or branded or both. To gain consumers' interest to buy locally manufactured goods in order to help expand local industries as we are advocating for, manufacturers have to do more in the packaging and branding of their products & services.
In as much as Ghanaians are encouraged to patronize local goods, local industries and manufacturers have to improve the quality of the goods and services they produce and offer to the market in order to attract consumers to them.
Ghanaians also have to change their attitudes towards local goods and support the industries by patronizing local goods. This will result in the creation of jobs to reduce the current high unemployment situation and also lead to the expansion of our local industries to a level where they can compete with their foreign counterparts.
Industrial expansion is for the benefit of the nation's economy and it is in this interest that producers and manufacturers have to produce high quality goods at reasonable prices, orient consumers about their products and the benefits they will derive from using the products so as to change the 'everything made in Ghana is bad' mindset of some Ghanaians, create sustainable brands for their goods and services so that consumers will be attracted to buy local goods.
We all as Ghanaians need to do what we have to do to achieve the level of economic development that we desire. Patronizing local goods will greatly contribute to the development of our country and that is why we have to ensure that we create an atmosphere where people will feel comfortable to patronize local goods for the benefit of the nation's economy.
Charles Yeboah Frimpong
University of Ghana
Member, The Institute of Chartered Accountants (Ghana)
Tel: +233 -246 542 642