Accra, March 18, GNA - Ghana faces one of its greatest international assignments in 2008 when she would host the 12th Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which comprises 192 countries with 400 secretariat staff with its Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. About 3,500 participants including Heads of States, Heads of UN Agencies and a horde of media practitioners would descend on Ghana to struggle to be the first to transmit their scoops and hot stories to their headquarters.
For the 10 days that conference would last the Ghanaian hospitality industry would be put to test. The participants would have to stay in first class hotels, and must be fed with juicy, hot and succulent meals, which must be at their beck and call. Prompt demand and polite response must be the answer. Security must be superbly vigilant and conference facilities must conform to exquisite UN standards.
Living by the adage that he or she who is battle ready never gets caught unawares and that when the one with the deep eye socket sets out on a journey to a funeral he or she must start crying from afar so that by the time he or she got to the funeral grounds his tears would be flowing, so has Ghana put her hands on the plough wheels and is on the move. She has already started her plans towards the conference and Mr Allan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade and Industry, has called for the immediate setting up of a joint planning committee with the representative of UNCTAD and the host nation because one-armed-man cannot hold the horns of a buffalo.
The year 2008 appears to be far away but in view of the magnitude of work to be done it is so near that if preparations and planning did not begin early enough there would be lapses. After listening to the challenges the nation faces from a three-member UNCTAD Technical Mission to assist the host nation on what was involved and required in organizing the conference, Mr Kyeremanten gave the assurance that Ghana would rise above the challenges. He was speaking at a mop-up meeting the UNCTAD Technical Team held with Ghanaian officials during their four days visit to the country during, which they inspected facilities and sensitized the host country about the scope of what was needed to bring the conference to UN standards.
The team toured the Accra International Conference Centre and suggested the putting up of temporary structures around the premises of the Centre. The team also inspected seven hotels with four or five stars ratings and expressed satisfaction with their operations and their premises.
Ms Jo Elizabeth Butler, Head, Intergovernmental Affairs and Outreach Service Secretary of the Trade and Development Board, UNCTAD and Leader of the Technical Team, said enthusiastically that the conference was bound to bring immeasurable benefits to the Ghanaian economy and offer the Ghanaian Media the opportunity to sell Africa to the world. She said; "it is a wonderful opportunity to have the conference in Africa and especially in Ghana. It will bring immeasurable benefits to the host nation and Africa as well".
The two other members of the UNCTAD delegation, who also gave some suggestions on specifications on the conference facilities, are Mr Christopher MacFarquhar, Chief Editorial and Documentation Unit Intergovernmental Affairs and Outreach Service and Mr Simeon Kyossev, Chief, Meetings Coordination and Servicing Section. Although the actual date of the conference is yet to be fixed, April 2008 is being considered and under a theme also yet to be framed. With the goal of UNTACD to forge the link between trade and development the Conference would bring business to the nation's jewellery industry, and for the fact that Ghana is a leading producer of gold much would be expected from that sector.
Those in the artefacts business are expected to have a windfall. Delegates would definitely patronise their products. This is buttressed by UNTACD's aim of helping developing countries to derive development gains from trade, investment and development opportunities, and to participate fully in the world economy.
Invariably Ghana's tourist attraction would have to have touches and repackaging of its promotional activities and Ms Comfort Opoku Ware, Acting Greater Regional Manager of Ghana Tourist Board, who had already received a thumb up from the UNCTAD visiting technical team for acumen in providing incisive insights of adequacy on Ghana's hotel facilities agreed there was much that was needed from the hospitality industry that would give absolute satisfaction to the delegates. If the appetite of the delegates had already begun to over flow then they would have to take Mr Kyerematen, the Minister's assurance that Ghana would rise to the occasion. Ghana has more to offer and that the sweetness of the pudding is in the eating!
Ms Butler said tourist attractions such as the crocodile pond at Paga, the Kakum National Park, the Wli Waterfalls and many others would derive backward linkages from the conference. While the peripheral issues would promote and make the conference interesting and not a drab one that is bogged down with speeches and statements, it would be important for the delegates to take time off and to enjoy the real Ghanaian hospitality.
The Ghana Dance Ensemble, Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) should begin new compositions or the rehearsal of the old tunes while Borborbor Groups would have to be getting their white handkerchief ready to entertain the international guests.
Mr Kyerematen agreed that he would have to have ministerial sector working relationship with the Tourism Ministry. The other areas the organizers would be looking at are the local transportation system, mail delivery, local commercial printing, first aid, document control and distribution, remote translation, conference room servicing, security measures in and around the conference centre and appropriate media centre and support services.
For instance the press and the media centre must have a capacity of 300 persons and to be equipped with more than 80 PCs and about 20 network printers as well as WiFi connections 802.211b for individual laptops with Internet facilities, with pay phones and pay faxes. The media centre should be opened for 24 hours throughout the conference period and has to have all the facilities that would facilitate the work of journalists including broadcasting editing facilities for TV feeds. In all after series of technical meetings both in Geneva and in Accra and when the agreement on the conference would be signed between Ghana and UNCTAD, the Accra International Conference Centre would become a UN territory for the duration of the conference.