Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, who is in Accra Ghana for the UNWTO Regional Conference on Enhancing Brand Africa for Fostering Tourism Development took center stage yesterday, Monday, August 17, soon after the official opening of the conference by H.E. John Dramani Mahama, the President of the Republic of Ghana.
H.E. The President who addressed the conference on the need for Africa to move forward in its tourism development spoke after Mr. Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General of the UNWTO, and Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts of Ghana, and the Mayor of Accra, Dr. Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, who had themselves spelled out the potentials of Africa in the world of tourism.
The opening ceremony also saw Dr. Elham M.A. Ibrahim, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union (AU), deliver an address on how the union was following the demand by member states to move on tourism. She also spoke about the 2014 meeting that had taken place in Seychelles on the proposal for a Brand Africa. Dr Elham Ebrahim of the AU congratulated Minister St.Ange of the Seychelles for being present at this Accra meeting, because she said it was Seychelles who had been at the forefront of the drive for a Brand Africa.
The keynote address of this opening session was delivered by Zain Asher, Anchor at CNN International, who spoke from her heart as a person with African roots about what is Brand Africa.
The Seychelles Minister, St.Ange, then joined Anita Mendiratta, the Lead Consultant of CNN T.A.S.K., who was moderating this first session on the first panel on “Challenges and Opportunities of Brand Africa” and its impact on tourism. Other panelists included Walter Mzembi, the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe; Chris Diaz, the Marketing Director Kenya Airways and Director of the African Marketing Confederation; Cherae Robinson, the Founder of Tastemakers Africa from the USA; and Thebe Ikalafeng, the Founder and Chairman of Brand Africa from South Africa.
This panel with Anita Mendiratta questioned “What is Brand Africa?,” “What are its main challenges and opportunities?,” and “How does it influence on tourism competitiveness and vice-versa?”
The hour-and-a-half session saw points discussed on perception and stereotype views on the African continent discussed, and the way forward moves analyzed. “We can remain in our silos as we are today. Seychelles is doing well by itself pushing its very own ‘Seychelles Brand’ forward, but is this good enough for a continent that has everything? The word Africa is the brand by itself, but the question is how does Africa consolidate that brand, and how does Africa place all its unique selling points forward for the world at large to realize that we are a continent with 54 countries?” said the Seychelles Minister, who is regarded as a master in press matters, and this was highlighted by Anita Mendiratta of CNN T.A.S.K.
Minister St.Ange said that Africa as a block had failed Africa when the Ebola outbreak was declared. “We did not communicate as a continent and instead allowed the world to communicate for us. We should have appealed to the UNWTO and to the AU to make statements that were informative and factual. This is what we need to address, and today, I say thank you to the UNWTO for organizing the Africa Ministers Meeting in Madrid to discuss communication when a crisis is on hand. If one of us has a problem, our version of the matter will always be taken as a cover up, but when a recognized body makes the statement, the message will be heard,” said Minister St.Ange from the Seychelles.
This session that was live in front of a packed conference room, closed with all panelists agreeing that Africa needed to work with Africa and an appeal was made for the AU to allocate an appropriate budget for tourism and for it to meet Tourism Ministers of Africa to look at tourism ,because this meeting was today long overdue.