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05.03.2006 General News

American interest in Ghana deepened

By GNA

Accra, March 5, GNA - American interest in Ghana has significantly intensified following the screening of the documentary, "The Presidential Tour," which exhibited the country's rich culture, interesting history and key landmarks, on the Travel Channel in the United States of America.

Mr. William Campbell, President of Discovery Networks, USA, told the Ghana News Agency in an interview that a great number of calls, mails and enquiries had been received by the Networks' Call Centre from individuals, organisations and educational institutions on how they could purchase the documentary or follow-up their interest in Ghana. "The amazing documentary was a huge success and in America, we call such an achievement a 'home run,'" he said. "People felt enlightened in terms of what they had learned about the amazing people and history of Ghana."

"They were also pleased to see a President who is so open, extremely bright but also progressive. We have had calls on how they can watch the show again or purchase it; schools are interested in acquiring it and people are interested in having the opportunity to explore Ghana better."

He said a number of newspapers also rated the show well, thus generating more interest in Ghana.

Mr. Campbell, is in Ghana as part of a six -member delegation from Discovery Networks and African Society, as guests of President Kufuor, to witness the Independence Anniversary.

Mr. Leonard H. Robinson and Ms Bernadette B. Paolo, President and Vice President of the US-based Africa Society, which collaborated with Discovery to do the show, Mr. Patrick Younge, General Manager of Travel Channel and Discovery HD Theatres, Ted Steward, Senior Vice President, Discovery Communications and Ms Myleeta Aga, Executive Producer for Discovery Communications are other members of the delegation. After screening of the programme-nationwide on Discovery Networks' Travel Channel on November 8, other Discovery-partner channels around the world have showed it for an estimated 200 million audience. The free documentary saved Ghana several million dollars that would have been spent on producing and broadcasting such a promotional programme in America and beyond.

With President Kufuor as a tour guide and a veteran American broadcaster as a guest, the documentary captured interesting tourist sites such as the Ashanti Kingdom, Elmina Castle, Kakum National Park in Cape Coast, Mole National Park in the Northern Region, Boaben- Fiema in the Brong Ahafo Region, Tafo Cocoa Farms in the Eastern Region and the Paga Crocodile Pond in the Upper East.

Mr. Campbell said it was difficult to cover the entire rich and diverse culture of Ghana in an hour programme but what was captured was amazing and revealing.

Discovery Networks, he said, believed that it had formed a unique bond with Ghanaians and that it intended to develop towards projecting the country's image to market her tourism and other potentials into a solid partnership for socio-economic development.

Using feature films, television programmes, sports, political conversations and platforms, Mr. Campbell said, Ghana could reach out to the American and other societies to counter the stereotyped negative image of Africa in mainstream Western media.

Explaining the motivation for the documentary, he said, Discovery decided about four years ago to produce the Presidential Tour programmes to give its audience the opportunity to have in-depth perspectives and information about countries, which they were unlikely to visit or know about.

Ghana is the second country after Uganda to benefit, he said, and stressed that Ghana stood to gain more because of the special role and place it had in American lives and history as a result of slavery. "Ghana's pride and role in spearheading independence from colonial rule in Sub-Saharan Africa make her story unique and worth telling," he added.

Mr. Robinson said Ghanaians in America were especially proud of the documentary and noted that two years after broadcasting Uganda's documentary, its tourist receipts from America had increased by 40 per cent and 60 per cent worldwide.

Ghana, he was optimistic, would earn more because her programme was viewed by a wider audience, including travellers in aircrafts. As an African-American, Mr. Robinson said he felt duty bound to assist Africa to tell Africa's story in a more balanced and accurate manner.

He observed: "In America, there is an absence of real understanding and accurate balanced information about Africa, even among African Americans."

"This is because African culture and history are not taught in American schools, therefore, people complete formal education without having informed perception about Africa."

Africa Society, consequently, was formed in 2001 and targeted all sections of American society for education to correct the misconceptions, he said, and added that though Africa had some issues to deal with, her story had to be balanced to reflect the positive sides. Ms Paolo stressed the need for Africa to focus on education, especially Science and Technology education to leapfrog its development. "Africa would do very well if she is able to embrace computers into all aspects of her life just as she has done for mobile phones," she noted. She stressed the need for successful Africans in the Diaspora to be good ambassadors for their countries and imbue pride and confidence in their children as Africans.

Africa Society, she said, would continue to be advocates for Ghana and Africa and seek favourable policies, financial assistance and viable partnerships to transform their fortunes.

Mr. Younge for his part, expressed the willingness of Discovery Networks to share experiences and resources with Ghana's filmmakers and producers to enable them to turn out quality programmes. They were also willing to learn from their Ghanaian counterparts on how to make cost effective programmes, for instance. Monday's anniversary parade would be screened in 84 million homes, which subscribe to the channel.

Members of the delegation, who said, they enjoyed the Ghana Music Awards on Saturday all said such entertainment programmes would be useful in marketing Ghana's image. They would hold discussions with President Kufuor, visit Cape Coast, Aburi, Mampong and Akosombo and other key areas during their five-day visit.

The Minister responsible for Tertiary Education, Ms Elizabeth Ohene, would also seek assistance from Africa Society's Fund for Global Education to improve her sector.

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