Feature: President Akufo Addo as ECOWAS Chair  is a sub-continental masterstroke

Akufo Addo--President of Ghana

In the light of the deep emotions I evoked in a recent opinion piece I did, let me start by saying that all the opinions I put forward are mine and do not represent any of the local or foreign institutions I am affiliated with.

I write this opinion piece in the light of question I came across on LinkedIn two days ago where a LinkedIn member sought to question President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo’s appointment as ECOWAS Chair for one year, in the light of the fact that he was going into Presidential elections in December 2020, and therefore he wondered what would become of the Chairmanship if he lost? .

I will visit the issue of electoral fortunes in another article, but for now I just offer some perspectives on why the ECOWAS choice is a brilliant marketing choice, whether or not the NPP is victorious in the December 2020 polls in Ghana. I offer my marketing justifications at three broad levels:

  1. Global recognition of President NADAA’s early handling of the COVID-19 crisis in Ghana.
  2. President NADAA’s own Philosophical Position on ECOWAS
  3. The Leadership of Brand Ghana in the ECOWAS Sub-Region

Personal brands matter just as much to Presidents at they do to Ghana Club 100 or Fortune 500 CEOs.

A personal Brand is what comes to the mind of others whenever they think of you. and in fascinating article by Nicolas Cole entitled “How Donald Trump’s Personal Brand Won Him The Presidency: A case study for the ages” he argues quite eloquently that Trump in his presidential bid, very deliberately, secured his position, built his name, and spread his message in a way that worked effectively in 2016.

CEO or Presidential Brands (for countries or sub-regional groupings like ECOWAS) also bring successes to the organisations they lead by using their brand charisma to draw the right resources to the organisation to facilitate its success. Without CEOs like Walt Disney or Steve Jobs, it’s hard to imagine that their brands would have found as much success as they did.

So what does Brand NADAA bring to the ECOWAS Leadership?

  • Global recognition of his early handling of the COVID-19 crisis in Ghana.

In spite of the well documented efforts of President NADAA to lead Ghanaians in the fight against COVID-19, the most iconic turning point was his famous “We know what to do to bring back our economy back to life. What we do not know how to do is to bring people back to life”. Several global figures commended that statement with the Director General of the WHO for instance tweeting @DrTedros : “Thank you for sending such a powerful message to the world, my brother @NAkufoAddo, President of #Ghana. Together, for a healthier, safer, fairer world! Together against #COVID19!”.

In a recent July 2020 article in Nations and Nationalism, entitled “COVID‐19, nationalism, and the politics of crisis: A scholarly exchange” Eric Woods and friends debate the question Will the COVID‐19 pandemic lead to a rise in nationalist sentiment? They contend that when expressed as a political ideology, nationalism holds that territorial communities called nations are necessary for human flourishing and that each nation should therefore be accorded a degree of autonomy in determining its own affairs. They argue further that ethnic nationalism is a key variable shaping the responses of many states to COVID‐19 when compared with previous pandemics such as H1N1, and that the most likely impact of COVID-19 will be to amplify existing ethnic and national cleavages.

Given the severe strain COVID‐19 has placed on nations globally and the general tendency to look inward for solutions to this health and economic nightmare, it would seem that the appointment of President NADAA is opportune in the light of the hope he could inspire not only in the management of the pandemic in the sub-region, but also in keeping excessive nationalist sentiments at bay, which sentiments could cripple the effective functioning of ECOWAS.

A NADAA leadership could better consolidate the efforts of ECOWAS countries in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is spite of a fact that a July 2020 Brookings paper now places Ghana as the fourth highest in COVID-19 cases in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In spite of the above mentioned arguments about nationalism, I argue that the NADAA personal brand holds the potential to draw resources to ECOWAS to assist in the sub-continental fight against COVID-19.

  • President NADAA’s own Philosophical Position on ECOWAS

In a September 2017 Speech to the UN, President NADAA noted that cooperation with regional and continental groups such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union was vital for achieving peace and security on the continent.  Conflicts plaguing countries including Libya, South Sudan and Mali he argued would be more effectively resolved if the international community supported the efforts of Africa’s regional and continental organizations.

A Presidential Brand that already shows such demonstrable commitment to the success not only to sub-regional groupings like ECOWAS but also recently showed commitment to the Africa Union as well by leading efforts to have the headquarters of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat Building cited in Accra. In the address to commission the building NADAA noted that Ghana, as caretaker of the Secretariat, would put all the requisite facilities at its disposal, so that it could run as a world-class organisation.

A President with a world class mindset is certainly a good choice for ECOWAS Chair in these most turbulent times. A President with a global mindset and is committed to the success of regional and continental block associations will certainly use his personal brand attributes to support the success of ECOWAS.

  • The Leadership of Brand Ghana in the ECOWAS Sub-Region

I am the first to admit I was a little confused about the recession of the Brand Ghana Office and the subsequent efforts by several government agencies to promote the Ghana nation brand. Ghana Export Promotion Authority has some ideas on positioning Ghana globally, GIPC also has some ideas, and the Ghana Tourism Authority has also championed the Year of Return and so on and so forth. In spite of the seeming lack of cohesion, a rhythm to the fragmentation developed with the iconic Year of Return campaign.

The “Year of Return” campaign was launched in September, 2018 in Washington, DC and Nana Akufo Addo invited all people in the African Diaspora the world over to visit Ghana since we’ve opened our “arms even wider to welcome home our brothers and sisters in what will become a birthright journey home for the global African family. This dark tourism event became the most iconic nation brand/tourism effort Africa had seen in decades with all the global media outlets like CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera etc. all running several news features on this iconic campaign. This campaign almost became the de facto Ghana nation brand campaign and offered an example for other West African countries to emulate.

This prominence brand Ghana received could easily be the umbrella for sharing all the best practice in Ghana with the pioneering financial sector reform work of the Bank of Ghana, Securities and Exchanges Commission, and the setting up of global brand manufacturing plants like Volkswagen etc. Brand Ghana has many profound lessons to offer to ECOWAS in the general areas of financial service reform, investment promotion, COVID-19 Management with the work being done in Noguchi, through leadership seminars at the University of Ghana Faculty of Law and the University of Ghana Business School etc. etc.

In short President NADAA is a brilliant choice for ECOWAS Chair because brand Ghana has much to offer in building a stronger sub-continental grouping which can position it well to compete with its global sub-regional competitors.

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