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The next President must travel with creatives

The image of a nation is often a reflection of its culture and arts on the international stage. The next President of Ghana can pioneer a novel diplomatic approach by including artists, musicians, and actors in official delegations.

This move will not only showcase Ghana’s commitment to its cultural heritage but also highlight the wealth of talent within the country. Artists have the unique ability to transcend linguistic and cultural barriers, making them ideal ambassadors for Ghana’s rich traditions and contemporary creative expressions. Such a strategy could enhance diplomatic relations, attract foreign investments, and boost international tourism.

The President travels to many economies to deliver sustainable solutions to Africa’s transformational agenda. Most often, these trips are accompanied by political diplomats, businessmen and other representatives of relevant sectors of the Ghanaian economy; including health, education, mining, agriculture, energy, construction, etc. The time is ripe for new African leaders to take a holistic look at how other developed economies are leveraging the arts and culture industries, to bolster economic freedom and export culture as an economic asset.

It is worthy of noting that since the creative industry is one of our most responsive industries, it is essential, especially during high level engagements by world leaders, to platform some very important cultural players in the country as an opportunity of breaking business and connecting them with high powered economies. This in many cases will result in fruitful business negotiations in areas of arts and culture, to possibly rake in the desired foreign direct investment and capital injection into that space, to support governments expenditure for the sector.

Just as the President travels to create opportunities for other business sectors, it is imperative that the same opportunities be presented to the creative industry to maximize their returns, not only for business, but for cultural exhibitions and marketing. In fact, the President can propose to these world assemblies in some of these trips, to let Ghanaian bands, poets or drama/theatre troupes, entertain the world leaders during recess and long breaks or in the evenings of the summit.

A son of the soil, Chief Moomen, a playwright and poet, independently had an opportunity to export Ghana’s theatre arts to the world, where he called on member states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), during the UNESCO World Conference, to make good use of the Framework for Culture and Arts Education, a policy that is intended to provide more effective ways of teaching arts and culture.

This has given credence to the fact that, the nation has a bigger opportunity to present such platforms to creatives to market Ghana, during the Presidents state visits across the world.

Many economies are developing creative and artistic clusters today. Historically, in Ghana, these were viewed as offshoots of economic activity — leisure rather than work. In addition to being significant and profitable economic activities, these are very much capable of providing well-paying, satisfying jobs. Today, the story is different. The creative industries can be explained as the cycles of creation, production and distribution of services or goods. These industries include but are not limited to advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, performing arts, publishing, research and development, software, computer games, electronic publishing, and TV/radio. As per the “United Nations Development Programme” (UNDP), the industry has been classified by their roles as heritage, art, media, and functional creations.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, production and consumption of creative content experienced an opportunity for a sudden sharp increase. The same impacted the functioning of developing countries as their economies remain partially informal.

The informal economy comprises of activities that have market value and would add to tax revenue and GDP if they were recorded. As emerging markets and developing economies such as ours grow, informal labor is increasingly recognized as an obstacle to sustainable development. Hence, the creative economy is a feasible development option where innovative policy and regulatory responses and related inter-ministerial action can help boost these industries which in turn can help accelerate the overall national economic growth.

World leaders like America, who are way ahead in making fortunes with creatives, even have executive orders to promote and protect the creative industries.

In September 30, 2022 the United States Presidency made a remarkable statement in policy direction as captured in “Excerpts from the WHITE HOUSE” and it states;

“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Policy:  The arts, the humanities, and museum and library services are essential to the well-being, health, vitality, and democracy of our Nation.  They are the soul of America, reflecting our multicultural and democratic experience.  They further help us strive to be the more perfect Union to which generation after generation of Americans have aspired.  They inspire us; provide livelihoods; sustain, and bring cohesion within diverse communities across our Nation; stimulate creativity and innovation; help us understand and communicate our values as a people; compel us to wrestle with our history and enable us to imagine our future; invigorate and strengthen our democracy; and point the way toward progress.

To that end, my Administration will advance equity, accessibility, and opportunities for all Americans, particularly in underserved communities as defined in Executive Order 13985 of January 20, 2021 (Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government), so that they may realize their full potential through the arts, the humanities, and access to museum and library services.  Additionally, we will strengthen America’s creative and cultural economy, including by enhancing and expanding opportunities for artists, humanities scholars, students, educators, and cultural heritage practitioners, as well as the museums, libraries, archives, historic sites, colleges and universities, and other institutions that support their work”

Vice President Kamala Harris who visited Ghana last year, came with actor and film producer Spike Lee, Actress Sheryl Ralph Lee, among other creatives. The US Vice President and her government were deliberate in adding creatives to her entourage.  How many times does our President travel to conferences, and opportunities abroad and requested to add the creatives and their leaders to his entourage? These are deliberate actions that’s backed by Executive Orders, to make some commitments in championing the arts and culture developmental agenda of this country. When government become deliberate on this matter, history will be written to commence the new growth and direction of Ghana’s creative sector in the sub-region.

In Professor John Collins’ book Nkrumah and Highlife, he wrote that: “several highlife bands accompanied Nkrumah and represented Ghana at Pan African and international events. One particular case was that of the Tempos, who visited Guinea just after its independence in 1958 when, as E.T.” It can be replicated today.

Nkrumah’s aphorism that “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all other things shall be added,” Thus, without political independence, there was no channel the African could go through to transform the society. In in like manner, without a positive attitude towards arts and cultural independence, there is no way a nation can develop and make positive returns on its heritage as a tool for national development.

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