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19.12.2001 Feature Article

Ghana should Boost Tourism to Attract Investors

Ghana should Boost Tourism to Attract Investors
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Almost one year after Ghana's historic elections that shifted power between two civilian administrations, the expected foreign investment windfall has not yet materialized. In fact mid-year figures shows that the country actually achieved negative investment growth as compared to previous years. Among the factors responsible for our setbacks are the world economic recession that begun late last year in the leading industrialized nations as well as the limited investment dollars available on the world financial markets for aggressive investment. Nonetheless, President JAK Kuffour has done a good job by taking trips to many key countries in Europe and North America to encourage investment in Ghana. The result of his efforts would be fully measured when the current global economic downturn recedes sometime next year. Meanwhile, as Ghana waits for those foreign governments or their Multi-National Enterprises (MNEs) decide when to respond to our entreaties, we should do ourselves a big favor and aggressively pursue Small Business Investment through TOURISM. The significance of Small Business Investment cannot be overstated. In countries such as the United States and Canada, Small Business investors rather than the so-called Major Corporations form the backbone of the economy. As a result, our objective should be to work hard towards attracting a sizable number of this all important business sector through the provision of certain facilities and other essential tourist attractions. In order to achieve this lofty goal however, Ghana may need among others; a modern airport, good roads, better hotel locations, lower crime rate, good weather, and above all, a better propaganda tool to lure tourist into the country. The Small Business investors often make initial visit to many countries as tourists to explore business opportunities. When they see a healthy business climate, fifty per cent of the time, they go back again. So our major task in wooing this group may as well depend on how best we can reprioritized our development plans to attain this important aim. Among the few projects that our government needs to consider with all the attention it deserves is a new international airport. An airport serves as a first point of entry to many first time visitors to a country, so its attractiveness could sometimes influence a tourist's impression of the place. Kotoka International Airport (KIA) at its current state is sub-standard when stacked up against the major international airports around the world. For example, transit passengers cannot stay there overnight to connect their flights to other destinations. The restroom facilities are inadequate and there are no restaurants to cater for diners who are traveling in or out of the country. Space is so limited that passengers cannot walk about as comfortably as they wish and there are so few Duty Free shops to accommodate huge passenger base. Passengers still walked on the tarmac to the plane because there is no Aviary Bridge. Although the government has embarked on an extensive renovating exercise to modernize KIA, however, in our short and long-term interest, a new first class airport is inevitable. Below is an example of how a first class airport can contribute immensely towards the development of a State. A little over fifty years ago, the Atlanta City Council met to debate over the best way to open up Atlanta to tourism to attract foreign investment to the city. The council decided to build an ultra-modern airport for a starter. In the early 1970s, Hartfields International Airport was commissioned. Less than thirty years later, Atlanta is an International City that has hosted many important sporting events including the Olympic games and key conventions. Visitors that came to Georgia often cite the airport as one of their biggest attractions. Georgians even feel proud whenever they visited the airport. Today, Hartfields International Airport is the world's busiest airport (900,000 flights take off each year) bringing in more and more tourists and investors from the whole wide world into Georgia. As a GATEWAY to West Africa, Ghana should aspire at such a status by building a suitable first class modern airport that suit our hard-earned reputation. When completed, the airport might encourage many airlines to apply for landing rights and space. That could increase human and cargo traffic to and from Ghana, which undoubtedly would create jobs and also generate revenue for the country. The overall effects could be positive not only for the Ghanaian economy, but the West African economy in general. The next important infrastructure that Ghana has to revamp is our road system. We need a two-way lane (Dual-Carriage road) to and from Accra to Kumasi, Kumasi to Tamale to Bolgatanga, Kumasi to Takoradi, Accra to Cape Coast to Takoradi and Accra to Aflao. The distance between Accra and Kumasi is only 143m but presently it can take up to three hours to make that journey. With a good road system, this trip should take less than two hours at most. Business expatriates stationed in Ghana would find it extremely strenuous to make such a trip because they are simply not used to that kind of time-wasting drive back home. In the advanced economies, TIME is very precious for everybody. Therefore, we need to work hard on our road system to quicken traveling time around the country. Moreover, the major cause of accidents in Ghana has been identified as our poor road conditions. People go out on a tour to see things, enjoy themselves, and to relive those experiences many years afterwards. Business people venture into foreign land to make profit and return alive to their home countries to enjoy the fruit of their labor. They don't intend to go and die over there. So constant road accidents and its fatalities in the country that often appear on the Internet need official attention because they can potentially block tourists' or investors' interest in Ghana. In addition to finding a solution to our road system, our government has to devise a good strategy on hotel locations in Ghana. The Saudi Arabian Sheik (Yamani) has been allocated the space at the racecourse to build a $250m Five- Stars hotel. The Novotel and Golden Tulip and other hotels are located in the busiest and congested areas in Accra. Why not ask the new developers to build their hotels and resorts near the beach area away from the city centers, as is the case in the Industrialized Countries? In Florida as well as Hawaii, the hotels span along the beaches to provide not only a beautiful ocean view for their guests but also a swimming outlet. Ghana has natural beaches along its coastline and a good weather all year round. Accordingly, it will serve us right to place hotel along the beaches for our tourists. For instant, the space behind Accra Hearts of Oak training ground at Art Centre area and beyond can be utilized for hotel development. One crucial information that we Ghanaians who live among White Americans and Europeans can share with our countrymen and women in Ghana is that White people love water, period! They worship that commodity. Hence the importance and the value of swimming pools and beach resorts in the United States and in Europe. We have exactly all what they wanted in good weather and plentiful water (Sea and River). Our only drawback is that we haven't developed these resources to fit their taste. Our financial situation is our biggest obstacle but they are very much aware of that. All we need to do is to provide a semblance of what they have in Europe and America, and surely they will come. The next item for us to contain in Ghana is our crime rate if ever we are to make any headway into the investment or tourism business. Armed robbery is a bad news for both company executives and tourists alike anywhere. We cannot succeed when regular news out of Ghana is full of armed robbery stints by thieves and other criminal activities by entrusted officials. The government has to let loose the Police Force on the offenders so as to send a clear message to tourists or investors that it is serious about fighting crime, and besides, they are safe to do business in the country. My suggestion is DECENTRALIZE our Police Force. Ghana's Police Force reports to one IGP (Inspector General of Police) whose office is located in Accra. The whole Force wears the same uniform and drives similar painted jeeps and cars. Therefore, one can hardly distinguish a Policeman from Tamale from the one from Kumasi or Takoradi. This is a recipe for corruption and fraud. Georgia has a little over 6 million people, but the State has a State Police, City Police, County Police, Town Police, Sheriffs, Marshall, Community Police in each of the 159 Counties, and even in Schools and the Transit System (MARTA POLICE). All of these forces operate within their own jurisdictions and outside any central administration. They drive differently painted vehicles with big signs on them, and report to different Police Chiefs. This is only in Georgia and NOT the whole United States. The United States has over 18,000 law enforcement agencies. That doesn't necessarily mean that corruption inside the police system in America do not exist, but the kind of petty and blatant corruption such as traffic violation bribery, subornment for vehicle registration, smuggling, etc. that are prevalent within our police system is absolutely non-existence here. For instance, a policeman/woman gives a driver a ticket and s/he either pays or goes to court to defend him/herself. The Police Force is provided with high power vehicles equipped with computers, walkie-talkie radio, mobile phone equipment, and even guns. They are charged to take care of armed robbers and drug dealers and traffic violators and the job is done. The courts of law collaborate with the law enforcement agencies to enforce the law and hand down sentences befitting the crime to culprits and offenders. Even law enforcement officials caught in corruptible misconduct are dealt with appropriately. No one is above the law of the land. The result is safe environment for everybody. Why can't we replicate such a system for the welfare of the Ghanaian people? Finally, the government of Ghana has to strive to retain a publicist in Europe and North America to propagate the virtue of touring Ghana or doing business in the country. Many countries have been successful in doing just that and we cannot ignore its efficacy. Many Americans and Europeans simply don't know much about Ghana, so some form of advertisement on TV or in the Newspapers can be very useful. Business propaganda is absolutely essential in this competitive world where so many interests are gunning for the same limited resources. We need to adopt an aggressive strategy in doing business for the sake of mother Ghana.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all Ghanaians!

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