Monday, July 6, 2009

President Obama's visit electrifies Ghana

As the countdown to the arrival of US President Barack Obama enters the home straight the authorities have stepped up their preparations to give the charismatic US leader a warm Akwaaba.The ceremonial streets in Accra have been garnished with bill boards bearing the portraits, giant and small, of President John Atta Mills and the US President.Ceremonial streets, major intersections, national monuments, imposing buildings along major streets, and electricity and telephone poles have all been decorated with either the photographs of the two presidents, or Ghanaian and American national flags. A tour of the city by the Ghana News Agency has revealed that gradually, the streets are lighting up for the third consecutive historic visit to Ghana by an American President.Former President Bill Clinton was the first American President to begin "what has now become a tradition," by visiting Ghana in 1998. Ten years later former President George W. Bush continued the strong Ghana/US relations with a visit. Now, President Obama, barely six months after his inauguration, is visiting Ghana, his first to sub-Saharan Africa, to honour Ghana for her strong democratic credentials. The visit is likely to draw a huge crowd from across the country, more than was the case when former President Clinton visited Ghana. From the airport into the city centre various corporate institutions and organizations have sponsored billboards showing the smiling faces of both President Mills and Obama.Some of the organizations competing for recognition along the streets with the portraits of both President Mills and President Obama include Ghana Commercial Bank, Zenith Bank, GLO Ghana, Friends of Obama and Vista 2000.Fabrics with the portrait of President Obama alone, with the inscription Akwaaba, and others with the first couples of the two countries (President Mills and Naadu; and President Obama and Michelle) went on sale a few weeks ago. A song has also been composed in honour of President Obama, there are souvenir t-shirts, key rings and mugs, among others in town.Clearly, Ghanaians are excited about the Obama visit, which begins on Friday, July 10.Details of the official itinerary of the US president are yet to be out but the two leaders are expected to hold bilateral talks on cooperation among other developmental issues.He will visit the Cape Coast Castle and address a huge outdoor gathering at the Independence Square on Saturday.Some political analysts say the U.S president's visit comes at a time when relations between the two countries are at an all-time high. In an interview with Ghana News Agency in Accra, the President of Apinto Traditional Council in the Western Region, Nana Kwabena Angu II, described the visit as a very good marketing opportunity for Ghana. "It's making me and other traditional leaders feel very proud to be Ghanaians at a time when the U.S president is visiting as the official entry point to Africa," he said.Nana Angu appealed to President Mills and the Economic Management team to take full advantage of the visit, saying "apart from the fanfare, I would expect that they would discuss several things". "As you know relations between the United States and Ghana are at what I will call an all-time high. There are a lot of initiatives by the U.S., which are geared towards Africa's development, and we're poised to take advantage of them."The White House has also described the visit to Ghana as a means to strengthen its relations with "one of our most trusted partners," whiles the Ghanaian Government described it as historic and significant in all dimensions.Mrs Juliana Azumah-Mensah, Minister of Tourism, has noted that President Obama's visit presented a chance in a lifetime to push tourism to the third highest foreign exchange earner for the country. She told journalists in Accra that last year's earnings from tourism stood at US$1.4 billion, placing fourth to cocoa, gold and remittances."But with Barrack Obama's visit and other tourism activities in the pipeline this year, the sector is expected to generate between 16 to 20 per cent more revenue than it did last year and thereby take its rightful place as the third highest foreign exchange earner," she said. She said President Obama's visit promised to give the world a glimpse of Ghana's golden culture through the eyes of the 300 international journalists coming to cover the visit."Our heritage and culture tourism resource will be given a massive publicity worldwide so Ghana must take advantage of it and hang out all her best wares to be captured by the cameras," she said.Mrs Azumah-Mensah urged players in the domestic tourism industry to highlight the tourism opportunities that exist in Ghana to enhance domestic earnings for economic growth.

No comments: