Incoming Minister for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts shouldn’t shy away from tough decisions – JOT Agyeman
I have listened with rapt attention and watched with eagle eyes as nomination upon nomination is made by His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana. The one that most interests me and the one for which I write this article is the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Creative Arts.
Over the past 60 years, dare I say since our Independence, the Creative Arts Industry has not received the much needed support, even though it has the potential to be a top foreign exchange earner and a conduit for creating jobs for our people. The industry, contrary to popular believe is a whole lot more than Music, Dance and Drama. It encompasses a wide range of creative skills and innovative brilliance. It embraces the Fashion Industry, the wood carvers, the artisans who toil daily crafting some of the most beautiful ornaments. It involves the shoe makers, the smock weavers, the soap makers. It involves the poet, the playwright, the stage hand. The expanse of the industry is colossal.
A few years ago, I questioned the relevance of a two million cedis Government ‘stipend’ for MUSIGA and also questioned the creation of a Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts Ministry. It will do us a whole lot of good if Musiga President Bice Osei Kuffuor and his cohorts publish accounts of what the money was used for. I believed then and still do that like the Tourism Authority, the Creative Arts Industry should have a separate secretariat focused on the Industry. You can call it the ‘Creative Arts Authority’. It will also be worth reading if the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Creative Arts, tell Ghanaians what was done for the Creative Arts Industry since the Ministry was set up. I am not referring to the sham of carrying almost 200 people to Seychelles at the tax payers’ expense only for them to go sightseeing or the flying of several people to the United States of America on another trip which profited us nothing. The errors of the past are worth learning from and as much as I welcome the Minister designate Catherine Afeku to the Ministry, if she receives approval from Parliament, I wonder whether she has the wherewithal to change the waning face of the industry?
For starters, she will be faced with several weak associations such as the Actors’ Guild, The Ghana Cultural Forum, The Ghana Academy of Film and Television, Musiga, Film Producers Association of Ghana, a nonexistent Ghana Fashion Designers Association and a host of others. She will have in her care organizations such as the National Commission on Culture and the National Theatre of Ghana both perceived to have very serious challenges. Is she capable of doing the job? I guarantee you that she is and she will have our total support. However, the new Minister should not shy away from making the tough decisions. She must not also kowtow to public pressure. She should discontinue the practice of selecting ambassadors for the Ministry and I dare say concentrate on the things that matter. Ever since I left Secondary school, the Tourism Industry has always had the potential to be our top foreign exchange earner. That was some 30 something years ago. The industry is still at the same ‘potential’ level. There has been little or no significant push to get it to the top of the Foreign Exchange Earners ladder.
I have also been intrigued by the lobbying and repeated calls from social Media and elsewhere to get certain people appointed as deputies for the Ministry. One name comes readily to mind. I know Mr. Socrate Safo quite well. I have worked with him on one of his productions and we have been friends for a few years. His insights into the Creative Arts Industry and its workings is not in doubt. My concern however, is the industry is more than Television and Film where Mr. Safo is certainly an expert and I cannot say for certain whether as Deputy Minister he would be effective enough to deal with the other areas of the Industry and deputize for the Minister in her absence. As much as I know how Mr. Safo’s passion for the Industry will certainly play in his favour, I cannot say for certain that being a deputy for the whole Ministry will be the right move for him. I may be wrong and it all depends on what our President is looking to achieve at the Ministry. Socrates has my support either way but he will have to channel his efforts rather quickly to learn and become acquainted with the other Creative Arts sections so he is not seen as being one sided. The position of Deputy Minister can be a lonely one especially when you know what to do and what should be done yet you have to take orders from your Minister. I doff my hat to Madam Dzifa Gomashie Abla. An amazing deputy by all accounts. Her support for the Industry was brilliant, She was there to support at all times. It did not matter who or where. The new deputy can learn a thing or two from her.
The focus for the Ministry should be to look for ways where jobs may be created for the youth. The industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs. The reliance on traditional events such as NAFAC, Paragliding at Kwahu and so on should be curtailed and new creative and innovative ways to complement activities of the Ministry introduced. The New Minister has a tall order but I am sure she is poised to step in and get things rolling. Let’s give her the much needed support and assistance. She needs it!
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