Kobla Amenyo (not his real name) comes from Anloga, an Ewe speaking town situated on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea. In his quest for greener pastures, Kobla moved to Accra 10 years ago. Since then he has found a good job in Accra, found a wife and has three children.
Last year he returned home for the first time in a decade to visit family, spend some time with friends he left behind and talk to them about the opportunities in Accra, only if one looks deeper.
But that is not the best part. Kobla chose the month of November to go back home. Why? Because that is the time the people of Anloga and its surrounding towns and villages including Keta, Tegbi, Woe, Atiavi, Atorkor, Whuti, Srogbe, Alakpe, Afiadenyigba, Abor, Vui, Dzelukope, and others celebrate the iconic festival Hogbetsotso.
Celebrated on the first Saturday of November, Hogbetsotso is one of the almost 50 festivals celebrated across the country. The festival is used to celebrate the rich history, culture and norms of the Anlo people.
Kobla took his entire family to witness the ceremony. Since the enstoolment of Togbui Sri III as the new Awomefia, Paramount Chief of the Anlo Traditional Area, in 2011, the people of Anlo have come to love their festival once again. The revival of the festival has not only brought Anlos leaving in the disapora back home but has brought back the love the Anlos have for their culture, norms and history.
It is not only the Hogbetsotso festival that has seen a revival. Several festivals in the country have either been expanded or revived entirely due to either the demand or increased patronage by natives of such lands and ethnic groups.
And talking about revival of festivals across the country, one institution that deserves applause for its support of festivals is the telecom giant, MTN. For over a decade, MTN has consistently supported traditional festivals from the Greater Accra Region right up to the Upper West Region of Ghana.
With cash donations, souvenirs, call credits and sometimes the organisation of grand durbars or and concerts, MTN has given support to at least 15 festivals every year, for the past decade and the number just keeps rising.
Though some festivals are large enough to self sustain their organising, without MTN’s support for some, they would either have been poorly organised and not hyped enough or withered into oblivion entirely.
Some of these festivals lack the needed resources in marking them with the adequate pomp and pageantry which has led to some communities suspending the annual ritual and doing them as and when there are enough resources or others scaling back on the level of celebrations.
In 2017 alone, MTN supported 20 festivals with cash donations, airtime and assorted drinks, hampers and souvenirs. These donations did not include the organisation of concerts after main durbars are held and MTN own festivals that cut across the country.
Within the months of July and August, 2017 alone, MTN supported 10 festivals from the north to the south, east and west.
The festivals were the Kaka Hippo Festival, for the Chiefs and people of Wechiau, in the Upper West Region; the 80th anniversary of Asafotufiami, for the Chiefs and people of Ada in the Greater Accra Region; Ohum Festival, for the Chiefs and people of Akyem in the Eastern Region; Kuntum Festival, for the Chiefs and people of Essikado in the Western Region; and Akwambo for the Chiefs and people of Swedru in the Central Region.
The rest were the Homowo Festival, respectively celebrated by the Chiefs and people of Osu, La and Ngleshie Alata with its headquarters in Jamestown, all in the Greater Accra Region; Akomase for the Chiefs and people of Awutu Senya and Awobia Festival, celebrated by the Chiefs and people of Awutu Breku, all in the Central Region.
In addition to these donations, MTN also organises health walks, football galas, costume carnivals and several others to make the festivals memorable and one to look forward to every year. In presentations made to the various traditional councils, MTN reiterated its commitment to supporting the culture and traditions of the ethnic groups in the country with its digital strategies and innovations.
As a technology platform, MTN usually carries out data activation throughout the festive period at vantage points to give valued customers an experiential feel of the benefits of MTN’s internet and data services which include fastest 4G LTE services.
It recently launched a new entertainment platform dubbed ‘MTN Shortz Challenge’ to push its digital evolution agenda for the country. ‘MTN Shortz’ is an innovative video challenge which is mostly accessed via MTN Play website. It showcases short films and themed clips produced to entertain.
As though the 2017 support is not enough, MTN has increased the value of its support to regular festivals and has also increased the number of festival it is supporting this year. According to its 2018 plan, MTN will be supporting and has already supported some of the regular festival with total value of almost GH¢250,000 including cash donations, airtime and assorted drinks.
Festivals such as Apoo Festival, Techiman, in the Brong Ahafo Region; Zekula Festival, Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region; Bonwire Festival, Bonwire, in the Ashanti Region; Gonja Youth Jamboree, Tamale, in the Northern Region; Sallafest, Kumasi & Tamale, Ashanti/Northern regions; Sallafest, Takoradi in the Western Region; and Aboakyir Festival, Winneba, in the Central Region, Mankuma Festival, Tarkwa, in the Western Region; Senzule Festival, Kuntum, in the Western Region; and Akwambo Festival, Swedru, in the Central Region have been and are are being supported.
Others such as Tafo Ohum Festival, Tafo in the Eastern Region; Kloyosikplemi, Somanya; and Suhum Odwira, Suhum all in the Eastern Region; and Gbi Festival, Hohoe; and Agbemevor/Kente Festival, Kpetoe, all in the Volta will be supported as well.
These supports do not include the telecom company’s own quarterly festivals such as MTN TwinCity Fest, Sekondi-Takoradi in the Western Region; MTN Ashantifest, Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region; MTN Suncity Fest in the Brong Ahafo Region; MTN Savannah Fest in Tamale, Bolgatanga which serves the Northern/Upper East/Upper West regions; and then the Christmas activities in the Greater Accra Region.
Appreciation of MTN by traditional rulers
To underscore MTN’s support for the festivals, the chiefs of Efutu in the Central Region, earlier this year, courted MTN to support heavily this year’s Aboakyer Festival by streaming it live across the world. President of the Efutu Traditional Council, Nenyi Ghartey VII, pleaded with MTN to help make the Aboakyer Festival ‘travel’ across the world to showcase the rich and historical culture the people of Efutu have.
Nenyi Ghartey VII made the appeal when MTN donated cash and other items to support this year’s Aboakyer Festival. “The Traditional Council appreciates your unrivalled support towards the festival. You have been very consistent towards our course and we are grateful.”
“One thing lies on our hearts: stream live the 2018 Aboakyer Festival. Many people have heard of our festival but because of the distance, they are unable to make it here. You can help us reach them so they can appreciate the culture we have,” he appealed.
The chief recounted the enormous opportunities the festival opens for the people of the Efutu and wants more of such opportunities to be opened if the festival is branded properly and showcased to the world.
“As we celebrate this our unique festival, we are putting a number of our people in business as they participate in providing diverse services to the numerous guests and it is in this regard that, we call on all to ensure a peaceful celebration in their own small way to supplement our continues dialoguing for a successful celebration,” he said.
The Chairman of the Kobine Festival Planning Committee of Lawra in the Upper West Region, Naa Gyetuo Naab last year, commended MTN Ghana for continually supporting the Lawra Traditional Council for the past seven years. He pointed out that “MTN has done a very marvellous work by making the Kobine Festival special and colorful” with the in-kind and financial support it has been giving to the traditional area.
Naa Gyetuo Naab was very thankful to MTN Ghana, saying the chiefs and people of Lawra appreciate the excellent efforts of the company over the seven years that it has been reaching out to them. He also entreated the people of the Lawra Traditional Area to reciprocate what he termed the wonderful gesture of the MTN to enable it to continue the partnership with Lawra.