Economists call it the paradox of under-development. The thinking is, why spend money on an event which, to all intents and purposes, is “pure entertainment” when pregnant women are dying in labour for lack of medical essentials; when patients are sleeping on bare hospital floor, and where there are schools under trees.
This seems to be the thinking that informed much of the conversation around Ghana’s hosting of the fifth version of the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) from 21 through 24th November, 2018.
Yet how do nations create wealth, in the first place? For example, how does Dubai get all the money to develop health care, education, industry et al? For a country that sits on wells of crude oil, it sounds paradoxical that it relies, less than 10 per cent, on this commodity for all the magic associated with that country’s phenomenal rise to prominence. The answer is, Dubai is tourism.
Until the re-basing of Nigeria’s economy which shot it to the top in Africa, many “poor” Nigerians were said to have described as frivolous, the US$200 million bail-out which President Goodluck Jonathan gave to that nation’s entertainment industry.
Yet it was this shot in the arm that entrenched Nigeria’s position in the African movie industry. The movie industry’s fortunes put Nigeria’s economy ahead of South Africa.
All over the world, especially among African countries, the competition is heating up. People sometimes think that tourists are going to come anyway. Most of them do not quite understand the level of competition between destinations and the transferability of destinations in the minds of consumers.
Why is South Africa going to great lengths to please, with those mega festivals that have become must attend by tourists from all over the world, including Ghanaians?
Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, has 12 major festival brands. Together, they fetch 312.6 million pounds sterling in Direct Economic Benefits. Denmark, Iceland, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Jordan, Iceland and Singapore will confirm that this kind of investment, frivolous as it may sound at first, never goes waste; that a modest investment can yield a solid return.
“Arts and culture events, festivals and exhibitions, worldwide, are what promote tourism,” Mrs Catherine Abelema Afeku, Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture sums it up. She calls it “the bread and butter and the spine of tourism. If you don’t promote these in your country, you don’t get the traffic”.
On the basis of the heated discussions in the Ghanaian traditional and social media during and after AFRIMA in Accra, I sought an interview with her on the whats, whys and wherefores of Ghana’s decision to host AFRIMA.
On coming into office in 2017, she says, she and her team had a sit-down to look at the best possible means of projecting Ghana as West Africa’s events destination. They noted that while in the immediate post-independence era, Ghana was positioned as the mecca for Pan Africanists and freedom fighters, today, the language of soft diplomacy has shifted. Music, the arts, movies constitute the new language.
The team found, also, that people, including Ghanaians, traveled to Europe and USA to do all kinds of awards, including the BET. Mrs Afeku points out, “this is the reality of today: when you live in a global village you cannot focus on ‘you’. This is especially so now that we in Ghana, are inviting the world to come to Ghana for the Year of Return”
So the agenda was to position Ghana as the place to be in West Africa for major festivals. Ghana already had a plethora of potentially great events, such as Vodafone Music Awards, Citi FM’s Music of Ghanaian Origin (MOGO), among others, but these events were locally focused and had not been packaged for international appeal.
This, says the sector Minister, “is also what informed our decision to invest in the Black Star Film Festival and Chale Wote street art festival”. The aim is to help them to grow into international events.
“So we went scouting. Our eyes were on festivals with an international appeal but with an African flavor that rival the BETs of this world.”
That is when they stumbled upon AFRIMA.
“We took a leap of faith and we went to see it. We did our due diligence and we were comfortable. Though the original idea may have been floated by a Nigerian, its composition was pan-African. The core group that founded it included a Camerounian, a South African and a Ghanaian. Mind you, this has the endorsement of the African Union.
The first thing the Ministry did was to take the proposal to Cabinet and got a Cabinet go-ahead. Ghana then put in a bid.
In May 2018, the African Union (AU), with a team from the International Planning Committee and former awards recipients, came to Ghana for the unveiling. It was a three-horse race between Ghana, Angola and Equatorial Guinea.
The results were announced in September: Ghana had won.
How much did it cost Ghana to host the event? For the hosting rights for three years, government paid US$250,000.00 – that is, US$83,000 each year. Plus the cost of hotel accommodation, stage, production, publicity, accommodation which came to US$450,000.00, the total expenditure was US$700,000.00.
What has Ghana gained from all of this? As a hospitality industry observer, I know of direct and invisible earnings. Delegations from every nation in Africa, except Djibouti and Somalia – 835 artists and production crews – were here for one week. In tourism calculations, it is their expenditure on food, curios, transport, among others, that determine the direct economic benefits.
Over 20,000 people attended the Music Village event at the Independence Square. I am still checking from the records if this figure has ever been recorded in any musical extravaganza in Ghana.
The biggest invisible earning, for me, is that the Tamale-born star, Fancy Gadam, got signed to an international contract. A producer who was in the country on a scouting mission, discovered Fancy Gadam and fell in love with his act.
Have we, as a nation, considered the huge invisible earning from the sheer international exposure? Take the Nigerian female film star’s tweet about her great experience at Ghana’s Airport Terminal 3. That was an endorsement we couldn’t otherwise have afforded.
Question: Will there be another AFRIMA in Accra? Sector Minister Abelema Afeku says: “Certainly! We’ll host AFRIMA for three years”. From the grapevine, it may not necessarily be direct government or state involvement.” Already, private event companies are knocking on the door.
AFRIMA 2018 is now history. If you ask me, that was a truly pan-continental African event.
Source: Paa Kwesi Esuon