The rise of infections and deaths from COVID-19 has led to a ban on events and gatherings in Ghana. So important and critical was this announcement that it was deliver by the President himself as part of his updates on the COVID-19 management update.
Understandably this is a major setback for event professionals, suppliers, support services and celebrants as well as their loved ones. Perspectives on the matter have been many and varied and this is my addition to the discourse in our collective interest, wellbeing and growth.
The scope of impact
It is worth establishing the fact that the events industry is a very significant one and a critical contributor to the country economically, socially, culturally and beyond. Contrary to popular perception, contemporary event professionals are highly formally educated with many holding tertiary qualifications and beyond from other conventional fields of study.
Many have as well trained and qualified professionally in events specializations locally, regionally and internationally and some even serve as trainers and consultants to corporate, institutional and international clients and organizations.
Additionally, the number of people involved in the value chain of events is far beyond what most will imagine. So let’s outline a few segments of events business:
- Professional MCs
- Planners and coordinators
- Décor houses and design specialists
- Photo and videographers
- Drinks and cocktails vendors
- Lighting specialists
- Balloon works
- Car rentals
- Destinations and locations
- Gifts and parcels
- Clothing designers and accessories
- Protocol and ushering
- Makeup and accessories and the list continues
Now factor in the ancillary and support services such as:
- Transport and haulage
- Vendor supplies
- Training and supplies etc.
There are easily thousands of people actively living on the revenues of events who also support their dependents from the proceeds of same. This could easily translate into multiples of five-figuer number or people.
Many events organizations are duly registered legal business entities who pay taxes and regulatory levies such as VAT, Corporate Tax, Income Tax, SSNIT contributions etc. This is by no means neither an insignificant segment of the population nor a nominal contributor to GDP.
Event professionals are actually organized and I am aware of two associations: Events Professionals Ghana (EPro) and Event Vendors Association of Ghana (EVAG). In effect, events is lives and business, as such the economic impact and negative effects of the ban (as well intentioned as it is) on the wellbeing of professionals and stakeholders cannot and should not be swept under the carpet.
The COVID-19 Reality
No one is casting doubt on or diminishing the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, our families, our communities, our nation and indeed our world. People are dying, dying so fast we don’t even have the luxury of time between deaths to properly mourn our losses. Within the last three days for example, five people I know personally have perished to COVID19 and/ or its complications. As perfectly captured in an anonymous quote I saw recently, “the numbers have become names and the names, that of our family and friends.”
Event professionals being in Ghana as well, these are our family and friends too. Infact some reports indicate that we have lost some within our fold. This is to say, the glaring need to take serious action to prevent further havoc is not and cannot be lost on us.
Who is to blame?
The challenge of many professionals I have interacted with since the ban is the impression in the public domain, intentionally or inadvertently created, that the spike in COVID-19 cases is attributable, only, to events over the year ending season activities. It is obvious that there were many gatherings of varied nature: funerals, parties, celebrations, religious activities and yes the elephant in the room “political activities”, no pan intended.
Let me add quickly, that as I have always responded to such, the fact that one aspect of activities is diminished in responsibility does not condone or absolve the other activities that may have led to the spike on their part in it.
Yes, night clubs, beaches, restaurants etc were operating fully in the glare of authorities but also many events hosted and managed by professionals completely lost the plot on observing the right protocols. I admit that even I was part of the problem if even it was just turning the eye away.
Many events had some level on adherence prior to entry into the venues, but thereafter it was free for all with not a care on the part of many organizers, celebrants and/or guests. Indeed, on some occasions when professionals sought to apply some enforcement, guests descended heavily and vehemently on them holding no punches at what they saw as an attempt to deny them of their right of joyful expression and enjoyment; albeit at their own risk and peril.
So in effect we have all been part of pushing the extent of damage we are all suffering and truthfully we must all bow our heads in some measure of shame. Nevertheless, the buck stops at the door of authorities on whose lap the mantle of lawful enforcement and punishment for non-adherence falls. After all, the reason for such authorities is the inherent acknowledgement that where there is no reward or punishment for adhering to and breaking rules, they will almost always be broken and with impunity.
The way forward
I cannot value my economic gains over that of my own life and that of everyone; for that simple reason I wholly support the ban. My challenge is with the “until further notice” aspect of it which cripples the entire industry from any basis of planning for the future. I am sure there is science to evaluate the impact of measures announced when enforced appropriately over time and thus should help with some projection on timelines.
Also, just as other business categories were identified and supported with public funds to cushion their loss of revenue and keep them afloat, the events industry can be evaluated and relevant segments most vulnerable could be supported if not as a whole.
One cannot over-emphasise the need for enforced adherence to measures aimed most critically at preventing the continuous spread of COVID-19 and thus reversing the trend of damage so that we can all focus on getting what is left of our lives and business back in order and towards productive growth.
This is a matter of life and death and no one is more responsible for that than ourselves. The protocols are simple; Mask Up! everytime and everywhere, wash your hands with soap and sanitize frequently, avoid crowding and at best stay or work from home as much as possible. Build your immune system by eating well, properly exercising and with the appropriate use of Vitamin C, Zinc and other supplements as advised by medical professionals.
To my fellow professionals and people in Ghana, quoting our President, “this too shall pass.” Maybe this is the time to improve ourselves, build new skills and capacities and diversify our businesses, let us take advantage of it.
Finally, in the spirit of the intrinsic principle of our business as events professionals, let us share cheer, order, faith, hope and above all love. Ours is to let the dreams of people come alive, and in this dark season their only dream is to stay alive, let us make it come true for them.
The writer Kabutey Ocansey is a leading Professional Event MC under the brand Kabutey My MC, based in Accra-Ghana and delivering excellence globally. Awarded GEIC Event MC of the Year, 2019 and NCA Most Outstanding Event MC, 2020 he marks 10 years of highly acclaimed service across corporate, social, entertainment and religious events and hosting presidents, international VIPs and many others and is revered as mentor of MCs across the continent.