Brand Ghana’s Football Diplomacy on the move: 2010 FIFA World Cup and beyond

By Jean Lukaz MIH

Among the many misdeeds of Ghana’s invisible public diplomacy, football has rose to the challenge of propping up the image of Ghana in recent times. Not only has the rate of heart attacks among fans gone down as a result of frustration from the pathological bunch of Black Star losers during matches but also the Brand Ghana pressure is high from their graduating performance in the recent FIFA World Cups Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.

Ghana’s soft power in the area of football is increasingly becoming seductive and an important determinant of the nation brand. Football has long become an European cultural export and an active part of their Public Diplomacy efforts but with the Americans getting tagged as ‘come back losers’ just as the Europeans are beginning to look like ‘imperial losers,’ the South Americans are retelling the history of civilization with their feet and Ghana is standing up to the challenge. Brand Ghana now has the burden of holding the fort for Brand Africa’s Public Diplomacy. Not even all the branding in the world could keep South Africa in the game. It’s definitely ‘impossible’ in South Africa unless you are part of the Bafana Bafana team.

Football, however, has a dual function in public diplomacy and ranks among the good, the bad and the ugly. It can make peace and war. When Pelé visited DR Congo in 1969, both factions in the civil war agreed on a ceasefire so that they could see Pelé play and the same football brought about the famous 13-day Football war between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 sparked by the World Cup.

American athletes, Russian gymnasts, Brazilian footballers, Ethiopian and Kenyan runners, all infer from the prowess of the nations’ sports brands: the latest on the block being the Ghanaian national team, the Black Stars. Ghanaian footballers have joined the roll call above and sports, one of the determinants and communication channels of the nation brand and also a tool of public diplomacy of sorts, have the characteristic of highlighting a country and its people and their abilities and values from the way its national teams compete in international contests. The only problem with sports as a sub-brand is its ephemeral deployment only at international contests. This means that for the period when there is no event the nation brand literally goes to sleep.

Several opportunities have slipped by for Ghana to leverage her nation brand on the international scene and this prompted the new leadership to set up a quasi-academic unit within the presidency to run a Brand Ghana Office that is yet to be more than a lame duck. Brand Ghana is still lurking with sleeping branded campaigns. The ‘Culture, warmth and much more brand that was developed by the tourism sector and received much international coverage has yet to receive national attention. President Obama came and left just as Kofi Annan left and came back and it was all a transient massage of our psyches. In the absence of a National Public Diplomacy Strategy (NPDS), Ghanaians have often taken the challenge to show their true colours on such occasions.

Our national colours have never been so beautiful for Ghanaians to be donned in them until Germany 2006. Even then, it was not until the Blacks stars won the third match at the group stage that the euphoria became endemic. Come the African Cup of Nations ACN/CAN 2008 and 2010 and Ghanaians would not feel the drag until the finals where Egypt was mocked by a bunch of Black Stars teenagers. Experience ultimately rewarded the Pharaohs.

In 2003, Germany started shopping for a new national brand, a series of campaigns to improve the country’s image abroad, seeking to replace the strong-minded stereotypes of Nazis and sunbed-stealing tourists with a more relaxed, trendy and even sexy depiction of its people and language. FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 did the trick. In a welcome statement the ‘Land of Ideas’ website states: ‘We want our guests to see the best side of our country (obviously not the worst side: racism!) – with the ideas of the people who live here.

Yet the Ghana is probably remembered more for booting out Czech Republic and ‘almighty USA’ than Germany’s land of ideas.

As Ghana heads for the World Cup finals taking each stage at a time, will the Government of Ghana adopt a new approach to Public Diplomacy and activate Sports or simply push a Football Diplomacy?

In order to win the rights to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup leaders of the post-1994 government and soccer administrators used sport and cultural diplomacy as enabling instruments to assert South Africa’s credentials. Nigeria, together with Iraq and other 26 African countries, had used sports for the purpose of attaining a foreign policy objective in 1976 when it boycotted the Montreal Olympic Games in protest against New Zealand’s rugby contacts with South Africa and further in 1978, Nigeria and other African members of the Commonwealth boycotted the Edmonton Commonwealth Games in view of New Zealand’s breach of the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement when she kept playing sport with South Africa.

The question is, if sports should actively become a tool of public diplomacy, must it be a government function or must it be privatized? Government led public diplomacy creates distrust in an environment where the publics are prejudiced against the nation brand. To be effective, public diplomacy must be a function of publics, not governments and the best way to practise public diplomacy is through ordinary people. Only private actors have got the credibility to make a difference. This means building relationships in the spheres of everyday life in sports, business, arts and entertainment. These forms of connection are important because they promote a two-way conversation.

Remember President Sarkozy is personally investigating the state of the French team just as President Jonathan is messing with the Nigerian team after their dismal performances during the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010. If Football means so much to governments as their Public Diplomacy tool, why would they gamble with ineffective coaches who may not necessarily share the national vision? Maybe the Italians, British and Americans would need a New Public Diplomacy Strategy incorporating football as a full-time cultural institution. Or maybe it should just be football and no politics? Have sports really a place in foreign policy? Can sports be a proactive tool instead of its usual reactive position?





Brand Ghana- Public Diplomacy

published in Public Agenda

By Jean Lukaz MIH

The need for Ghana to brand herself has never been so imminent until now. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) has already taken the initiative in the Trade Sector Support Program (TSSP) Consultative Process to take up the issue. There are a lot of recommendations as to the institutional management of Brand GHANA and the setting up of a Ghana National Marketing Commission (GNMC) is just one of them. It is about time the government took responsibility for propping up the image of the nation not only in terms of exports, tourism, and investments but also in terms of the people, culture, education, sports, governance, and other areas of strength. Living on the past glory of national achievements and outmoded associations does not project the country into the modern era. Since gold was discovered centuries ago, there is still the tendency for politicians and residents alike to associate the image of Ghana with ‘Gold’ or ‘Golden’ although other countries in Africa may boast of more of that natural resource.

The Continent Effect

A country like Ghana that is surrounded by war-torn countries may pride herself of the peace that she is enjoying but hardly will any person knowing about the turbulence in the sub-region isolate Ghana from West Africa for any particular purpose. Just like the Great Lakes wars, West Africa is now suffering from a collective negative brand. It is also worth noting that all the countries in the sub-region have got quite common attractions in terms of what nature has to offer coupled with tribes that spill over into each bordering country with quasi-common attitudes and culture. Africa as whole seems to suffer from media fatigue just like the conflict-prone and famine-stricken regions that are no longer receiving any more attention from the international community. AIDS, famine, civil wars, and now corruption have remained potent attributes of the Brand Africa, and the images are sharp…all the attributes but one cause death! None of the positive aspects of the countries on the African continent or its sub-regions enjoy any publicity from international journalists that are in dire need of funding for their selfish causes. No donor will give money for a spot to roll out a feature on development in the Third World. Aid agencies have also developed expertise in the art of using the negative emotional brand to raise enough funds for their purposes. Continue reading ‘Brand Ghana- Public Diplomacy’


Ghana’s Tourism Dream (1)

Last Wednesday, the Ghana Tourist Board launched an ambitious tourism marketing strategy aimed at making Ghana the most preferred tourism destination in West Africa.

Taking off this year through 2012, the strategy is to brand Ghana as the Cultural Capital of West Africa (it does not say so explicitly, though), using the tag-line, “Ghana: Culture, Warmth and Much More’.

By the end of the campaign period in 2012, Ghana hopes to have shot past Senegal as the most preferred tourism destination in the sub region, attracting one million visitors annually, up from the present 600,000.

As all the speakers at the launching ceremony acknowledged, the task is an enormous one, and it will require dipping deep into our resources to achieve the target. Difficult, yes; but from what the Times has witnessed over the past 20 years (that is, since 1985), the target is achievable.

In 1985, the then government listed tourism as one of the five key areas of economic activity. From that time, tourism development has never looked back. Continue reading ‘Ghana’s Tourism Dream (1)’


The Ghana Brand

What comes to mind when people hear about Ghana?

The popular saying is that Ghanaians are warm and friendly.

These are very good attributes in enhancing the image of a country.

But the question IS, Are these attributes enough to make Ghana one of the top brands in the world?

As a country, we have to realise that we are competing with about 193 other countries around the world for a share of the global cake.

At any given time, there is a limited amount of wealth circulating around the world and every country would want to have a greater share of this wealth to improve the standards of living of its people.

The competitive element here is very high and it will take more than “friendly dimensions” to become competitive on the global market and build a sustainable brand.

The starting point of developing the Ghana brand should start from its people, that is, Ghanaians themselves. Continue reading ‘The Ghana Brand’


Brand Ghana

Branding takes a lot of time and effort and therefore must fully be craft to stand for something in the hearts and minds of key audiences, expand and drive business opportunities or perpetuate loyalty and preference. Countries that start with poor or unknown reputation will be limited and marginalized in the world of limitless opportunities. Branding is key to the success of any country and Ghana shouldn’t think so hard to figure out what to build our brand on >>>>>more

By Deladem Agbanaglo


Bono says Ghana “rebranding” Africa

By Peter Cooney

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When Barack Obama arrives in Ghana Friday for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president, it will be the new face of America meeting “the new face of Africa,” says Irish rocker and anti-poverty activist Bono.

In a New York Times column Friday hours before Obama arrives in Ghana, Bono wrote that if America’s first black president were making a sentimental journey to Africa, “he’d have gone to Kenya,” the birthplace of his father.

“He’s made a different choice, and he’s been quite straight about the reason,” Bono added. “Despite Kenya’s unspeakable beauty and its recent victories against the anopheles mosquito, the country’s still-stinging corruption and political unrest confirm too many of the headlines we in the West read about Africa.

“Ghana confounds them,” wrote Bono, the U2 frontman who has long campaigned against poverty and AIDS in Africa.

“Quietly, modestly — but also heroically — Ghana’s going about the business of rebranding a continent. New face of America, meet the new face of Africa.”

Bono said the West African nation was a well-governed state where power changed hands peacefully after the last election and which was also weathering the global economic storm.

“No one’s leaked me a copy of the president’s speech in Ghana, but it’s pretty clear he’s going to focus not on the problems that afflict the continent but on the opportunities of an Africa on the rise,” wrote Bono.

“If that’s what he does, the biggest cheers will come from members of the growing African middle class, who are fed up with being patronized and hearing the song of their majestic continent in a minor key.”

Bono noted that he himself had often talked of the crises and tragedies besetting Africa, “but as the example of Ghana makes clear, that’s only one chord.

“Amid poverty and disease are opportunities for investment and growth — investment and growth that won’t eliminate overnight the need for assistance … but that in time can build roads, schools and power grids and propel commerce to the point where aid is replaced by trade pacts, business deals and home-grown income,” wrote the singer.

Bono said Obama could speed that process by taking aim at corruption in Africa.

Citing the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. government’s main development fund set up by former President George W. Bush, Bono said U.S. aid dollars “increasingly go to countries that use them and don’t blow them.

“Ghana is one. There’s a growing number of others.”

(Editing by Giles Elgood)