A Problematic Billboard for Accra Tourist Attractions, Monuments & Branding

I am one of the many residents of Accra who experience Ghana’s rich history and heritage everyday. I come close to the nation’s most important monuments and Accra tourist attractions each working day on my trips from Teshie-Nungua to my office on shores of the Korle Lagoon.Billboard

By some design, the monuments and heritage sites are located within a one kilometre stretch, starting from the Castle junction, and up to the Ussher Fort, on the President J. E. Atta Mills High Street (formerly High Street). The only road that sees more tourists than this stretch is the road to the airport.

I’ve passed here so many times and seen them so many times I’ve almost become used to the monuments. But one new billboard erected on the way is stimulating a new interest in the iconic structures for me.

First, there is the Independence arch, and the Independence Square. These monuments—commemorating the people’s struggle and victory in the fight for independence from British colonial rule—are bathed in yellow rays of the morning sun as we travel past them, on the way to our places of work.

Then there is, nearby on the right, close to the Castle junction, the 28 February Christiansborg Crossroad Shooting Cenotaph It’s a memorial to Sgt Adjetey, Cpl Attipoe and Pte Odartey Lamptey, ex-servicemen who were shot and killed in 1948 by one Superintendent Colin Imray of the colonial police, while they were marching to the Christiansborg Castle to present a petition to the British Governor, Sir Gerald Creasy.

The three were members of the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force that fought alongside the allied forces in the jungles of Burma during the Second World War. Britain had reneged on her promise to resettle them, after she demobilised them. They were going to demand their resettlement when they were killed.

Moving on, four hundred metres away from the Independence Arch and the cenotaph, I come to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. The park which was opened in 1990 has a Mausoleum where the remains of Kwame Nkrumah,—the man who led the nation to independence and became its first Prime Minister, and later president—are laid. And yes, his wife Fathia is laid there too, beside him. Here in the park, also, Kwame Nkrumah’s books and some of his important personal items and artefacts are preserved.

Beside these monuments and places of national heritage there’s the Centre for National Culture (Arts Centre). Its local handicraft shops attract tourists in Accra. Any fine day you can see tourists there browsing and shopping.

Not far from there, on that same stretch are very important institutions of state: the Supreme Court and the central bank, Bank of Ghana, and City managers, Accra Metropolitan Assembly. You’ll find also the multi-storey high buildings which are the head offices of Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered and GCB Bank here.

Now, let’s go to the billboard that piques my interest. Naturally, there several large billboards on President J. E. Atta Mills High Street which, also, happens to be on of the city’s top ceremonial streets besides Independence Avenue where the Flagstaff House is situated. There are five or six of them at the front at the Arts Centre.

Here on the right side to the entrance is one, a large outdoor display ad screaming “Kaalu! Do it right.” (Kaalu is Ga language expression for “don’t be stupid”). The billboard, of around 14 by 40feet dimension, has photographs of middle-aged men, who have drawn their pants down, are squatted and “shitting” right there in the open. It’s so repugnant, the sheer sight of it may “reorganise” your appetite for yoor kε gari, or red-red—a meal of soft-boiled beans mixed with palm oil and gari, and is eaten with fried ripe plantain—just as it does for me.

I found out that the billboard is part of the €200million Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands, to address water and sanitation problem in selected cities, towns and communities. It’s a very good project.

But again I ask myself, “What could be the justification for posting these photos on the High Street of all places?”, “Is the Arts Centre the most fitting of all the locations in the city to plant these pictures?” “Did the AMA give approval for this billboard to be mounted where it is?”

In fact, the Arts Centre is just next door to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. But right there is the damning “Kaalu, Do it right” display, standing in proximity to the nation’s important monuments.

For a moment I thought I may perhaps be overly excited. So I tried to confirm my observation with others. So riding on a taxi to work, I asked the driver, Bobby (not his real name) just as he stopped at the traffic lights around, what he thought of the pictures. He took a long look, turned to me and said “Enye”, “It’s not good.” Okay, now I’ve confirmed my observation.

It seems to me, those who planted it there have given little consideration to its impact on the image of Accra and indeed Ghana. Just this week, Ghana hosted a UNWTO regional conference on “Enhancing Brand Africa…” from August17 to 19. There, President John Mahama couldn’t be more right when he challenged Marketing and Media consultants on the continent “…to change the narrative about the continent by painting a favourable picture… to the international world.”

Now, that single picture standing at the Arts Centre is in fact branding Accra, Ghana and the continent in ways contrary to what the president has charged us to do.

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