Global economy is in a gradual transition from the agricultural and labour intensive economies to a “knowledge-based economy.” What this means is that, economies are increasingly becoming dependent on knowledge which is gaining recognition as the driver of productivity and economic growth.

The key component of a knowledge economy is a greater reliance on intellectual capabilities than on physical inputs or natural resources. It is these capabilities that enable competitive organisations to integrate improvements in their various stages of production or service processes taking into consideration their customers’ interests, views, perceptions, beliefs and any other concern that might have influence on their performance.

In a knowledge-based economy, where organisations seek for information to outperform their competitors, the anchor on which they thrive is their ability to communicate, hence the need for public relations practitioners.

The dynamics of the 21st century presents opportunities for the public relations profession to thrive as more organisations realise the need to communicate their story. Companies, nonprofit organisations, religious bodies and governments continue to struggle with shifts in economic conditions, competitions, security concerns and public opinions that require interpretations to earn public understanding and trust.

For an organisation to suggest or think that it could survive the intense competition without public relations is just like driving in a reverse gear, particularly in a knowledge-based economy. Every organisation certainly needs a professional who will interpret the philosophies, policies, programmes and practices of management to the general public and also convey the public’s concerns to management.  Public relation as a management function evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organisation with the public interest, and plans and executes a programme of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.

In this information and competitive age, it is pathetic to think that the job of a PR professional is limited to writing speeches, issuing press releases and inviting the media for programmes.  No wonder some oranisations still think anybody at all could handle such tasks and so don’t find the need to look out for professionals.  For some, PR is just about creating visibility, so once the company’s name is out there; there’s really no need for a PR practitioner. If this is really the case, will an organisation like Graphic Group Communications Limited (GGCL) have a dedicated office for its PR affairs? Why wouldn’t GGCL just use the Daily Graphic, the largest selling newspaper to champion its visibility agenda and do all its PR tasks?

The time has come for trained PR practitioners to prove to their employers that they are capable of studying and understanding attitudes, public moods, public needs and public aspirations as well as counsel management on such issues. Our PR practitioners must by their actions and deeds prove that they understand that PR is a two-way communication affair that seeks for areas of mutual interest to establish mutual understanding based on truth, knowledge and full information.

They must through their strategies prove to management that before they could gain the required attention, understanding and acceptance from target publics or audience, they ought to be involved in managements’ decision making process. No matter what the size of an organisation, it is believed that a PR department is only as good as its access to management.

The fact is, if PR practitioners are waiting for invitation to be part of management decision making process, then they should just forget it. There’re no empty chairs around the decision making table! You’ve got to prove your worth and establish your relevance to earn a ‘seat’ at that level.

I eavesdropped on a conversation between two women   in a taxi cab and felt sorry for the other woman they were talking about.

Though the temptation for me to interrupt in the conversation was very strong, I was able to restrain myself. It was when these two women alighted that I realised I was not the only one listening to their conversation. The taxi driver then remarked, “Women are their own enemies!”

Their conversation bordered around a friend of theirs who has succeeded in making the husband a ‘fool’ because the man does everything in the house whiles the woman stays out claiming she’s working. Now that she has put to bed, the situation is worse as the man does the washing, goes to the market and cooks.

They wondered why the man should cook and wash when the wife is there and questioned the reason he had even married her. For them, the woman is behaving like a man, and because she is in a better financial position and taking care of the home, she’s disrespecting her husband. In their case, the ‘disrespect’ here is that the man is the one doing most of the household chores a woman is supposed to do. From their conversation, it’s obvious that the man is not complaining and is happily doing all those things he shouldn’t be doing.

I somehow identify myself with the man these ladies were talking about because I have also had my fair share of insults. I live in a compound house and mostly do the washing with my wife. Because of that, women in the house, both young and old openly insult me and claim my wife has cooked for me some stuff that has made me an ‘imbecile.’  They cannot withstand the sight of me doing chores that they feel women should do and because of this, they continuously insult my wife and I.

I had the worse encounter when I went to the market to purchase foodstuffs. I overheard a woman describing me as a ‘man-woman’ and a ‘chisel-man’ who doesn’t want the wife to do the shopping for fear that she will keep the rest of the money.

Can I blame these women when the society we live in is so much stratified along gender lines and has defined roles for men and women which has become the acceptable norm?  Women and men are continuously presented in stereotyped manner and that has affected our perceptions concerning our responsibilities in the society.

The society is consistently and subtly represented as male-dominated in all spheres of life whiles issues concerning women are trivialized and made to look insignificant. Women are seen as home-makers, care-givers, dependent, incompetent, subservient, domestic, inferior and sexual objects whiles men are presented as powerful, responsible, tough, adventurous and sexually aggressive.

This portrayal reinforces the stereotypical gender roles and draws a mental barrier that serves as checks on what is considered as normal or abnormal with respect to responsibilities in a home. These views certainly place some level of psychological restrictions on both men and women and hinder them from exploring and excelling in other roles.

Our society has failed to realise the changing developmental trend where women are taking up roles and responsibilities which were previously the reserve of men, and men now accepting roles previously thought were solely meant for women.

There are more women attaining higher educational status and now occupying job positions that were male-dominated. This glass-ceiling, a situation where women are denied opportunities just because of their gender, is being broken and should be reflected in the way we behave in our society. Now men are also willingly taking the caring roles and participating more in domestic activities in the homes.

It is time the media, church, schools and other socialisation agents appreciate the fact that those days when people’s performance in a particular field or home were premised on one’s gender were gone.

Our society must begin to reflect the changing trend and break that stereotyped barrier, and this must be the responsibility of our socialisation agents which had been at the forefront of creating such a stereotypical standard. The media has a greater role to play in this regard.

Based on this, I cannot say women are their own enemies, because they are just exhibiting what the society they live in has made them to be. So for them, when a man is washing, whiles the woman is gone for a job assignment, it’s ‘unusual’ hence there’s something wrong with that man.

In the same manner, when a woman is spending her money in taking care of the home, she’s also considered a ‘fool’ because she’s not supposed to do that, as society had made them to believe.

‘Industrial area’ suggests that the locality is planned and well structured for the purpose of industrial activities and development. For this reason, areas designated as ‘industrial areas’ are usually distanced from residential communities taking into consideration their environmental and social impact.

Tema heavy industrial area which is recognised as the industrial hub of Ghana is rapidly losing its ‘industrial’ attractiveness. Authorities are not unaware of the situation but as usual and typical of Ghanaians, will wait till the situation gets worse before they will begin to look for solution.

Squatters are taking over the place on daily basis. Currently, there are over 100 unauthorised structures spread around the industrial area. Most of them are located right in front of Ernest Chemists and scattered along that area.

On the road to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) office in Tema, just before Reroy Cables Limited, there’s another set of slums along that route.

When workers close and are heading home, you now see these ‘illegal residents’ also retiring to their base, that’s their slums. Early in the morning, you see them cooking and doing the usual residential activities very comfortably.

The fast pace at which slums are being put up in the area is very worrying. Authorities in charge of the Tema heavy industrial area are waiting for this to become a national concern before they will raise alarm to take action. By then, as usual of us, the country will now begin to look at how to relocate those people and seek for funds for demolition and resettlement exercise.

Should there be a fire outbreak in these squatter settlements, one can tell what could befall the industries situated closer.  Recent market fire outbreaks have become a national concern to the extent that government has now sought for expertise assistance to forestall such.

Need we wait for the industries at the Tema heavy industrial area to be outgrown by the slums before authorities take a critical look at the situation and possibly begin to look out for experts to advice on that?

Other illegal activities associated with squatter settlement will begin to pose threat to the industries and deter others from locating within that area.

Apart from the growing slum situation is the deteriorating road network. Good road network is a major boost for industrial growth and creates easy access for suppliers and distributors.

The road that leads to the DVLA office at the heavy industrial area be it from the Aflao link or the Tema main road is very terrible.

There are ‘man-holes’ scattered all over the roads. They cannot be described as ‘pot-holes’ because they are larger and vehicles are trapped in them on daily basis when it rains. The road in front of Tropical Cable and Conductors Limited also becomes impassable during the rainy season.  This certainly affects businesses located in those areas.

It is my hope that this situation does not reach the level where it has to take the personal intervention of the president to seek for solution to these obvious concerns of industries operating within the Tema heavy industrial area.

Do we have business conscious leaders at Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) and Tema Development Council (TDC)? I believe if we have, they will realise the far reaching implications of these worrying development in the area and would have taken proactive measures, especially with respect to the squatter development.

 

Growing up as a young boy at Adabraka, the hub of entertainment centre in Accra, night prostitutes were a sight of entertainment! The manner they position themselves, display their ‘assets’ and even call potential clients.

As ‘boys boys’ we usually sit in front of our house and watch deep into the night counting the number of times some of the prostitutes  are picked and identify those who are ignored. We even bet on them.

I grew up associating prostitution to dark of night but I was proved wrong at Madina Market. Who’ll expect to see broad daylight prostitute in a market centre? Of course you really can’t see them but they can locate you! The market centre as I learnt is the best cover up because nobody could really suspect that.

I bumped into a fair, beautiful slim lady as I was strolling in the market looking out for path that could lead me out to anywhere in Madina. I really wasn’t sure where I was going.

The lady looked at me straight in the eye as I apologised and walked away nonchalantly. Just as I was about to make a turn to another route I met this same lady. There was an instant eye contact and we naturally smiled at each other. She said, “you again!” and I responded, “you too.”  That’s how we started our conversation.

She asked if she could help me, and ignorantly, as I do respond to such requests, I said yes and requested “offer me the help you have available.” She was beautiful and I really wanted to engage her in conversation because she spoke good English. Not knowing, that was enough clue to her that I’m not new to ‘the trade’ hence she felt more relaxed now leading me through the market.

She asked how much I could offer for her help and I asked how much she would charge. I took so much interest in this, not being sure of how it will end. The next question from her dazed me and strangely scared me.

“Do you have a condom or do I get you one,” she boldly asked. For the sake of this blog, I’ll call her Nina.

I feigned interest and said get me one. I thought Nina was now going to get the condom so that at least by the time she returns I’ll be gone. I was wrong; Nina had packs of condom on her and like a sheep being led to the slaughter house my walk-about in the market ended in a kiosk. I really intended to run away but something else was telling me to get the best out of this.

The kiosk was surprisingly not too hot as I thought. There was a standing fan and a student mattress on a bed well dressed. Don’t be surprised this was at the busy centre of the market at 10am in the morning. We bargained and agreed on Ghc 18 for one round.

I gave her Ghc 20 for the time I spent with her. We had a lengthy chat based on the promise that I wouldn’t record her; neither will I expose what she and her friends have been surviving on for the past two years.

It’s when I got out of the kiosk that I realised it was under a tree, the reason inside wasn’t hot. As a matter of fact, unless you’re told by someone who’d been there it’s impossible to tell that’s what goes on there.

Guys, when you bumped on a lady at Madina market next time, don’t think it’s by accident; it’s a planned strategy to call for attention.

Have you ever been in some kind of trouble where you felt there’s no hope until you hear someone’s worse story and suddenly felt very hopeful or optimistic? It’s like the story of a man who was crying because he had no shoe until he met another man who has no legs.

For the second-hand cloth traders at Madina Market, they could have still been weeping for their loss but for the Melcom disaster that occurred two weeks after fire destroyed their goods worth several millions of Ghana cedis.

The painful part of this was the fact that the fire occurred at a period when all the traders had imported more goods in readiness for the Christmas and New Year festivities. The fire which gutted the middle section of the Madina Market razing down 50 sheds occurred last year October 22.

The Achimota branch of Melcom Shopping Mall collapsed on November 7 last year killing 14 people.

“We were inconsolable because we had gone for loans to restock our goods but when we heard of the collapse of the Melcom building, it dawned on us we’re still alive,” said Mary Anorh, recognised as a leading member of the secondhand traders.

She said when they heard that people had been trapped in the Melcom building and started counting the dead, most of them felt somehow better knowing that once there’s life, there’s hope.

Alhaji Sulemana, a spokesperson for the second-hand traders said out of the 225 traders, 123 of them are back. He explained that for now, they are starting afresh but believe that life is the most important thing for them.

“If not the Melcom disaster like some of us would have given up this business because we felt doomed,” noted Alhaji Sulemana. “We really sympathise with those who lost their loved ones but for us that tells us we still have a chance to make it.”

When you walk by Madina Market and you see neem trees in front of the market, do not mistake them for shades or for their aesthetic values alone. Like trading shops that people have ownership, some traders have claimed possession over the trees.

Each neem tree you see in front of the Madina Market has an owner just like the trading shops.

Though neem trees have several uses which include pest control, health care, veterinary medicine, it is yet to be recognised as a ‘commercial’ tree for traders, especially those cited at trading centres like markets.

One is easily attracted to items being sold on trees than those in the shops and it seems traders are not oblivious of this.

“Passersby get easily attracted by the displayed items and approach us to negotiate before they even realise some nearby shops have similar items,” disclosed Mr. Kofi Appiah a trader who sells on a neem tree.

If you think they are selling on the trees because they cannot afford a shop, then you are making a mistake. They are rather being smarter. Selling on trees does not attract any tax as those who have shops and pay taxes in the market.

“All we pay here is the daily toll of 20 pesewas. But if I tell you that we make sales than those in the shops I hope you won’t inform the authorities here?” remarked Collins, another trader on a neem tree. “People buy our goods more than those in the shops so we hope to keep these trees for ourselves.”

Prices of items hanged on the trees are relatively cheaper than those in the shops. A male jeans hanged on a neem tree goes for 20 Ghana cedis but same jeans in a shop nearby sells at 25 Ghana cedis.

“People are quick to realise that our prices are cheaper than our colleagues in the shops. Sometimes they compare the prices before coming back to us to buy ours,” stated Collins.

Of the five Ministers approved by Parliament on Friday, February 1, 2013, Nana Oye Lithur, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection attracted the most attention.

Even at the vetting session, she spent the most time, close to three hours answering barrage of questions, not on how she intended to make her relatively new ministry relevant to our development agenda, but on homosexuality and her advocacy to protect the rights of homosexuals.

One other thing we as a nation lose focus on was the fact that Gender, Children and Social Protection is a new Ministry and the opportunity could have been used to really examine what Nana Oye Lithur was bringing on board. Surprisingly, the critics ignored her qualifications, experience and competencies and only held on to her stance on homosexuality.

Doesn’t this depict how we as a nation focus on the ‘minor’ issues to the neglect of the ‘major’ concerns that really impede our progress? Third Report of the Appointments Committee captured interesting ideas Nana Oye raised regarding witches camps, the “Kayayei” phenomenon and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) yet  not much was heard about such.

Hon. Mahama Ayariga, MP for Bawku Central, who is the Minister of Communication and Media Relations in his contribution to the debate on her nomination on the floor of the House, called for a rights-based approach to protect the vulnerable in society. He noted that though no Ghanaian has the right to engage in homosexual conduct, there is the need to avoid prejudices against people who engage in it.

Member for Builsa North, Mr James Agalga lauded Nana Oye Lithur’s performance at the when she apapeared at the Appointment Committee. He stated that her position had legal basis quoting article 17 and 35 of the 1992 Constitution, which frowns on discrimination based on sexual orientation, adding that the nominee’s position was in consonants of the laws of the country.

Member of Parliament for North Dayi, Mr George Loh, said as a lawyer, Nana Oye swore an oath which enjoins her to be fair to all manner of people without exclusion hence her position on the vulnerable is justified.

The other four Ministers approved by Parliament were  Mr Akwasi Oppong-Fosu for the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang for Education, Dr Joe Oteng Adjei for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and Dr Edward Omane Boamah for Ministry of Communications.

Before their approval, the Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Mr. Ebo Barton Oduro applauded the performance of the nominees, saying they gave a good account of themselves and their curriculum vitae fully satisfied the requirements set out by the Committee.

Interestingly, a member of the Appointment Committee, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, NDC Member of Parliament for Asawase who expressed his displeasure at Mrs. Lithur’s stance during the vetting session walked out of parliament to subtly show his indignation.

These days when news of car thefts is on the ascendancy, where armed robbers trail people to rob them of their cars making people feel insecure, Madina Market Car Park provides a contrary atmosphere.  

People comfortably park their cars at the Station without any form of identification checks or receipts and leave the car keys with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (A.M.A) Guards. Upon return for their vehicles, these guards are able to recognise the owners and assist them drive out in an orderly manner. Toll charged for parking is just One Ghana cedis irrespective of how long the person stays.

 One expects to see a strenuous security checks, especially as the car park is just by the market, designed for people who patronise businesses within the busy enclave of Madina.

Whiles observing, I couldn’t believe how people easily entrusted their vehicles to these mere A.M.A. guards without scrutinising them to even know their names. Interestingly, these guards were also comfortable with the car keys without seeking to know the names of the owners.

“We have to collect the keys because we do drive some of the cars to make way for others. For instance, when you’re leaving and the one parked behind is still in around, we have to drive to make way for you” Daniel Nortey, A.M.A. guard explaining the reason they do keep the keys.  

As for Enoch Bartels, since the inception of the station, he cannot park anywhere else so far as he has business to do in the market. “Even sometimes when I don’t have anything to do within the market and I’m in town, I drive here to park and  then pick commercial vehicles for my other rounds and come back for my car when I’m done”, says Bartels. He has a shop within the market.

On looking round, I noticed that the Police Station is just opposite the Market Car Park. I’m wondering whether that’s not what’s really warding off criminals.

The General Overseer of Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Prophet T.B. Joshua, known for his accurate predictions and prophecies has declared 2013 as a year full of surprises.

In a watch night service transmitted live via Emmanuel Tv, Prophet T.B. Joshua noted that many great, famous, rich men and politicians will become helpless and in need of help in matters of sickness, disease, finances and death.

For politicians, the Prophet hinted that they will encounter numerous predicaments because, “they have failed to reward those who helped them to succeed. This is the year of judgment, especially for politicians who use youth to support their political ambitions without reward after winning power.”

The agriculture sector will be the most lucrative business venture for 2013. T.B. Joshua disclosed that this is the anointed business for 2013 intended to revive the world from the economic depression.

“Those in the foodstuff business will have a field day this year. Farming and agriculture will be the order of the day and will help greatly to be the source of solution this year. People engaged in it will be greatly blessed,” prophesied T.B. Joshua.

He went on further to encourage couples to diversify their source of income urging for investment in the agric sector. “Those who have been working for many years and have never been satisfied with the job and salary they receive, the limited resources at their disposal should be invested in foodstuffs business, especially those already married,” said T.B. Joshua.

T.B.Joshua further challenged the youth, especially those bent on travelling to other countries to seek for greener pastures to consider investing the little money they have into the foodstuff business. “Our youth who think of always travelling should use the money to go into agriculture or foodstuffs business because in the New Year, God will bless them. They will achieve greatness by transacting in agriculture and foodstuff and become successful in export and import,” declared the man of God Prophet T.B. Joshua.

In this fast-paced and fiercely competitive world, it is amazing to note that some organisations are still regarding Public Relations or Communication Department as an afterthought. They only see the relevance of the PR or Communication Officer when a disaster strikes or their reputation is being called to question.

For some corporate bodies, they even wait till something happens before they consider hiring a PR expert or company to handle that situation.

Corporate organisations that adopt this ad hoc approach to dealing with their reputation or crisis management cannot survive the intense competition in today’s global economy being seen as one in transition to a “knowledge based economy”. The pace with which a company responds to crisis or branding issues determines its responsiveness towards stakeholders’ concern.

Communication officers or PRO’s don’t only play a significant role in your business but are crucial to the business irrespective of the nature of the business so far as it thrives on relationship with people. It implies that, no matter how small a business is, there’s still the need to employ a communication officer to focus on establishing and maintaining goodwill. The more the company does to merit this goodwill, the easier it is to satisfy clients or customers and the better the
prospects. This is the more reason it shouldn’t be an ad hoc or a reactive creation but a proactive one involving a deliberate, planned and sustained efforts.

Churches and educational institutions also require proactive communication departments which could provide direction in tailoring messages and adopting initiatives that would excite and sustain targeted publics. It is important to exert constant effort to maintain concrete and long-lasting relationships with your stakeholders.

No wonder major media houses like the Graphic Group Communications Limited, Multimedia Group Limited and TV 3
have dedicated Communication Departments that monitor, plan and strategise on how to sustain and extend their targeted publics regardless of the fact that they have the media platform to reach out to the general public or address any issue relating to their reputation. These media houses know that people act based upon their perception of facts hence by managing, controlling or influencing such perceptions, they would be able to initiate sequence of behaviours that will lead to the attainment of their organisational objectives.

Apart from realizing the need for communication or public relations officer, it is appropriate to appreciate the fact that such a role is a strategic management function and not just a means of reaching the media as and when issues come up. When people think of communication officers or PRO’s, often the first things that come to their minds are publicity and press releases.

What most people don’t know is that it is a management function responsible for evaluating public attitudes, identifying the policies and procedures of the business or organisation with the public interest and helping evaluate trends, anticipate emerging opportunities and utilize change. It is about managing internal and external stakeholder relationships in a strategic way.

It is high time corporate organisations, churches and educational institutions were told that communication department, that’s if they have any, is an integral part of a formidable management system that facilitates the attainment of their
objectives. They need professionals to handle such offices. By taking full advantage of communication professionals’ skills as a public advocates, businesses can better understand how decisions affect customers, what customers concerns are and how to maintain mutually beneficial relationships between the organisation and the general public on whom it depends on for success and survival.