SEE GHANA, EAT GHANA, WEAR GHANA

Ghana 2018 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Catherine Ablema Afeku, Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Arts, on the top projects in the country in the works, her plans to boost the agricultural sector, and increasing tourism traffic.

Catherine Ablema Afeku
BIOGRAPHY
Catherine Ablema Afeku is a Ghanaian politician. She is a member of the New Patriotic Party and the Member of Parliament for the Evalue Gwira Constituency in the Western Region. She is currently a cabinet minister in the Nana Akuffo-Addo administration. Prior to being appointed Minister of Tourism of Ghana in 2017, Afeku worked with the World Bank and Stico Petroleum in Kenya, where she served as a business development consultant. She was also employed at the Inlingua School of languages in Brescia, Italy. In the early 2000s, she became a Government of Ghana spokesperson for infrastructure in the John Agyekum Kufour administration. She obtained an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management of DeVry University.

What are your priorities as the new Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Arts in Ghana?

The tourism sector is what we call the rough diamond of Ghana. We are blessed with the new administration's vision to promote tourism as one of the economic pillars for growth, job creation, and diplomacy. There are three priority areas we are working around the clock on to realize its potential. The first critical one is hospitality training. The entire nation sees tourism as a viable economic activity; however, we need skilled personnel in that sector to promote service. The manifesto of the New Patriotic Party had specifically stated that we will build a state-of-the-art hospitality training school with with five satellite campuses modelled on international best practices. The second priority is the development of the creative arts. We have many business hotels, though no leisure hotels for tourists. We have also embarked on an ambitious project to construct affordable, elegant hotels across the country to showcase the ethnic handicrafts, arts, and décor of Ghana. We have registered the patented name as GH Akwaaba Hotels, and these will seek private partnerships because growth is built via the private sector. The third and final priority area is Marine Drive, a project that has been on the drawing board for 60 years. When it takes off, 241 acres of coastline will be developed to house hotels, boardwalk, marina, cruise ships, and theaters. It will be a designated tourism enclave that will take off between October and December. These are the three main projects, though there are others that were halted as a result of these three developments we are focusing on.

How does the ministry plan to enhance the agricultural sector?

The first month I took office, we ambitiously started a project called See Ghana, Eat Ghana, Wear Ghana, which spells the word sew and indirectly promotes fashion of the Ghanaian culture and fabrics. Eat Ghana ties in directly with agriculture because we encourage the hotels to promote Ghanaian cuisine, thereby promoting homegrown produce such as tomatoes, peppers, and cocoyams from Ghana. Everything that is grown in Ghana can be served western style at our five-star hotels. Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world next to the Ivory Coast, and we want to promote cocoa consumption and its health benefits. This will indirectly benefit farmers, our government, and GDP. We will also build a cocoa museum; plans have been drawn up and we are now awaiting financing.

What were the highlights of the 2017 World Tourism Forum?

That is one of the biggest selling points for Ghana; MICE is big business, and Ghana is strategically positioned in the ECOWAS zone. The World Tourism Forum was a platform to share with investors from all around the world what Ghana has to offer, and they were overwhelmed by the hospitality. It was the first-ever summit in Africa, and we were chosen over other large tourist countries on the continent. With the collaboration of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior, we will work with the Vice President's office to ensure that e-visa becomes a reality to improve tourism traffic. One of the projects that links in with our top three is an iconic building to tell the world that Ghana is the center of the world since we have the longitude and latitude of 000.

How are you working to make entry easier?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working tirelessly on this such that hopefully by 2018 Ghana should be seen as a country where e-visa is available, and that will improve tourism traffic. Also, the airport expansion is a major boost, and we are working with the Ministry of Aviation to make sure there are more terminals and more flights. We only have 34 international airlines coming into Ghana and it could be 50.