Un-plugging the square pegs from the workstations in our offices: “Man Know Thyself”

Most of us are familiar with the idiom “a square peg in a round hole” . This expression conjures images of misfits, deviants, fish out of water, mavericks etc.

Many of us can easily point out social misfits. And yet we fail to discern ‘job-misfits’. Yet several organisations are full of people in jobs/roles they are clearly unsuited for  leading to low levels of productivity, job dissatisfaction, stress, burnout etc.

Over the course of my 18+ yr career , I have come to realise that most (if not all) of the roles you will be exposed to in a typical Corporate Career – at the risk of over-simplification- will fall in the 4 ‘buckets’ below;

– A ‘starter'(in the mold of an intrapreneur/ exploring white space opportunities)
– A ‘fixer’ ( in the mold of a turnaround expert/ major problem– solver)
– A ‘builder’ (in the mold of one who helps sustain or consolidates growth)
– A ‘chiropractor'( think of re-alignment/re-positioning  )

The ‘chiropractor role’ should not be confused with the turnaround job. It is more than semantics .They are two distinct roles with different skill-sets/expertise.

I am yet to meet a person who has continuously excelled (i.e.in the top 10% of their peer group) in all 4 roles on a consistent & sustained basis.

I have had the pleasure of experiencing  all 4 roles and I certainly know , ceteris paribus ,which roles I am better suited for ( and indeed thrive in) and equally where I am least likely to make a significant impact. Can you say the same for yourself?

Worth taking a cue from the ancient Greek aphorism: “Man Know Thyself”

Make the right choice(s). Experience fulfilment & success

Real Coaches , Real HR/ Talent Managers & well-meaning Line Managers , we are all involved !

#self-awareness , #self-discovery  #potential  #empowerment

Stephen Appiah: A portrait of a gifted patriot- by Lomot Nartey

Do you see a man diligent and skillful in his business? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men (Proverbs  22 :29)

 A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men ( Proverbs 18:16 )

On Saturday 27th June 2015, I joined thousands of Ghanaians at the Accra Stadium to bid a soccer farewell to the former Black Stars Captain, Stephen ‘Tornado’ Appiah after 20 illustrious years of a career that began in Accra, flourished in Serie A (Italy), reached its pinnacle in Süper Lig (Turkey) and ended in Super Liga in Serbia. And what a spectacle his testimonial match turned out be. The proverbial prophet, in this rare case, was given a fitting honour in his own country. A reported 30,000 fans showed up to lend their support. And a glimpse at the crowd spoke volumes not just of ‘Tornado’s broad appeal, but perhaps even  more importantly, it offered an insight into the depth of his humanity ;from fishermen to ‘fishers of men’, law makers to law enforcers, fuel pump attendants to oil magnates, local administrators to  ambassadors, all major spheres of society were represented.

The game itself, which was blessed with a ceremonial kick-off by the President of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, turned out to be entertaining, despite the 2: 2 draw -especially in the second half, courtesy of the calibre of players on hand. They included  4x African Player of the year, Samuel Eto , 2013 African footballer of the year, Emmanuel Adebayor and our own Asamoah Gyan, Africa’s all time leading scorer at the World Cup(6 goals in 3 World Cup Appearances). For most fans, the highlight of the game was when Stephen Appiah, the ex Juventus star scored his team’s second goal, in ‘Pirlo-esque fashion’ from a well taken free-kick. The goalkeeper of the Black Stars X1, Sowah was completely wrong footed as the ball sailed into the top right corner of the goal post. That moment of genius was priceless and served as a reminder of the legend of Stephen Appiah. It deservedly received a rousing applause from players and spectators alike. Perhaps the only other moment which produced a similar reaction from the crowd was when Adebayor and ‘Baby Jet’ decided to show off their dancing skills to  Gasmilla’s ‘Telemo’, the hottest track in the country today.

But undoubtedly, the biggest honour (to Stephen) on the day came in the form of the presence of all 3 (living) Ghanaian Presidents under the 4th Republic. Two well known political opponents, Ex President Jerry John Rawlings and Ex President John Agyekum Kuffour and the incumbent President John Dramani Mahama – were united for 90 minutes at the altar of nationalism to pay homage to a symbol of tireless commitment and fierce dedication in the service of Mother Ghana.

To attract 3 Presidents to a farewell match is truly historic and in many ways speaks to the measure of the man, Stephen Appiah.

How does a soccer player nurtured on the streets of Chorkor rise to such significance and end up not only playing before Presidents, captains of industry, political juggernauts, religious leaders and but along the way also earn their perpetual respect and admiration. How is it that in spite of having a less prolific scoring record and winning less silverware at international level with the Black Stars, Appiah is the only player who is able to tug at the heart strings of the Ghanaian public in a way no other player has in the last 2 decades?

I believe we can glean a lot from the 4 C’s of Appiah’s life: Character, Conduct, Commitment and Consistency.


The renowned sportswriter, Heywood Broun once asserted  “Sports do not build character .They reveal it”. He believed games had the power of unmasking one’s true personality. This has subsequently being validated in research studies. The sporting world is replete with examples of gifted people with notoriety but only a handful possess the ability to undergird their giftedness with character. In my view, this is one of the things which differentiates Appiah from his peers. Chief among the many positive character traits he possesses is his humility. Whether interacting with the man on the street or with dignitaries, he always remains humble and shows an uncanny respect for each individual. There is a saying “you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for Him”. By that measure, Tornado stands tall. Appiah himself says, in response to this aspect of his personality”. I’ve always been like this”. And this is certainly not a case of ‘talk being cheap’ .Several callers on a phone-in sports programme I listened to corroborated this- recalling how he always made time for people– whether to say ‘hi’, sign autographs or ‘bless people financially’. And these acts were always done in a genuinely friendly manner. It is this humanity that endears him to so many people.



Appiah is self-disciplined and a consummate professional. He is also a strong believer in team unity being a catalyst for success, and he leads by example on this. Little wonder that his reign as captain of the Black stars co-incided with some of the best displays of ‘espirit de corps’ and performances from the team.

It is fitting that it was he who led Ghana to her maiden crisis-free World Cup appearance in 2006. It is widely believed that the widespread indiscipline and cloud of disgrace that accompanied the Black Stars at the 2014 World Cup would never have occurred under his watch as captain. The Speaker of Parliament was echoing the thoughts of millions of Ghanaians when he told Appiah during the latter’s visit to Parliament ahead of the testimonial match: “Your absence in Brazil speaks for itself in terms of unity and discipline and later asked. Whatever skill that you have in you that enabled you achieve that purpose, that unity in camp, try to put that at the disposal of the current Black Stars.”


If there is one noun you can count on appearing in a paragraph on the qualities of the Tornado, it has to be commitment. Whether in a club or national jersey, one was always guaranteed to see the steely qualities of determination and fierce commitment on display, 100% of the time. His former Black Stars colleague and Italy-based player, ‘Agyemang Badu recently said of Appiah. “His commitment and dedication to the cause of his club (i.e.Udinese) remains a major topic in the club” .

And what he does for club, he equally does, if not more, for country. One of the lines in our National pledge reads: “I pledge myself to the service of Ghana, with all my strength and with all my heart”. When I muse on this, Appiah’s image of dedication and patriotism looms large on the screen of my mind. The GFA Chairman, who is on record to have said that Appiah is the best captain he’s worked with cited his exceptional character and in particular his dedication as being second to none. Others like ex Black Stars International Willie Klutse also acknowledge this. He is quoted as saying “He (Appiah) is a unique character.  I have never seen a player with such commitment and passion for his country. What he has done both on and off the field cannot be matched by anybody.” Such praises are not only salutary but encouraging to hear –especially at a time when we hear recurring reports of footballers who frequently put money ahead of their commitment to the nation.



Appiah has consistently being a top performer especially for country. At U-17, U-20 and with the senior national team, the Black stars, he has produced stellar performances and several game-changing moments. This midfield impresario could always be counted on to do the job; whether in the tough loss against Spain during the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1997, or when controlling the midfield as he did authoritatively, with Essien in Ghana’s famous 2-1victory against the Czech Republic at the 2006 World Cup, or when leading by example, as he did when he stepped up to convert the game-winning penalty in the 2: 1 win against the USA in 2006)

Appiah, the nonresident Ghanaian ambassador to Turkey

I experienced first- hand the power of the Appiah legacy during my 2 year stay in Istanbul. As a Ghanaian soccer fan, I was aware Appiah had once plied his trade there, but I certainly did not realize was how much goodwill he had left behind in Istanbul- which I became a beneficiary of, courtesy of our common heritage.

As a black yabanci in Istanbul, the question of my nationality, understandably, served as intriguing trivia. I heard Nerelesin? a number of times .And when I responded, Ghana ! the reaction was wonderfully predictable; the person’s face would light up, followed by a yell of Appiah, Appiah along with gesticulations signaling appreciation of his contribution . My corresponding reaction was equally predictable; like a skin rash, a tidal wave of smiles will run across my face and a warm glow would spread across my heart and soul. The feeling was one of national pride- borne out of the knowledge that one of the sons of Ghana has represented the flag so well; so well that I was basking in the afterglow of his positive impact. Throughout my stay, thanks to Tornado’s legacy and goodwill, I often felt like a giant even in my minority state. I was later to learn that others had received several favours (e.g. free meals and an upgrade on a flight) on account of their ‘Ghanaian-ness’

I once asked a Turkish friend, Ediz ( a Fenerbahçe fan)  why Appiah was so loved in Turkey. His response was, “He was a good all round player- strong and skillful, packed a good shot and scored goals. He was also determined, worked hard, was well behaved and friendly”. In that response, Ediz captured the essence of the 4C’s of Appiah’s life.


It is a joy to see one use his/her well-honed God-given gifts to serve their nation and generation. But it is an even greater joy when this is done with dignity and humility . Appiah is a fine example of what service to a nation entails.As a country, we need to leverage this asset and the goodwill he carries for the benefit of our sports development agenda. It is my firm belief that this gentleman could serve the nation in a number of offices in the near future; e.g. as a Sports ambassador, Goodwill ambassador or even as a leadership consultant to selected national sports teams.





A chance encounter with the Tornado; Stephen Appiah

A chance encounter with Stephen ‘Tornado’ Appiah



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The  2010 World Cup in South Africa is remembered for many things; some are historic: it was the first ever World Cup tournament on African soil.It also produced Spain’s first ever World Cup triumph:some are novelty-related: it introduced the world to vuvuzelas. And there was some heartbreak too: who can forget the penalty miss by Ghana in the dying minutes of their quarter-final game against Uruguay? But most of all, it is widely remembered for a flawless spectacle. Sepp Blatter, who has presided over 4 World Cup events awarded South Africa 9 out of 10 points for successfully staging the games. He told the nation “You have shown the world that you can achieve anything and its time now that you show the rest of Africa that it can achieve anything..”.This exceptional organisational capability- demonstrated by Africans- is the enduring legacy of the 2010 World Cup. So exceptional was this achievement that emerging economies like Brazil now seek counsel from Danny Joodaan, CEO of the 2010 World Cup Organising Committee to help fine-tune preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup. In essence, South Africa has become a source of Global best practice.

I was fortunate to experience  the World Cup on African soil and completely agree with Mr Blatter’s assessment. What high standards were on display during the period!  The organising team put in place a superb logistics infrastructure to guarantee a memorable experience; from transport arrangements for soccer fans, hospitality services for the c.500,000 tourists and the visible security apparatus deployed town to ensure a crime-free environment. The newly built stadia –many of which are iconic architectural masterpieces- were simply mesmeric ! I visited 3 of them (Loftus, Rustenberg and Soccer City) and at each stadium the commitment towards excellence was re-enforced. It felt great to experience a truly World Class event brewed in the African pot. Not only  did “we” prove  many sceptics wrong, but  even more important was the immense psychological impact  the experience produced across the continent. From Soweto to Sikasso, Durban to Dar-es Salam, Polokwane to Paga, KwaMashu to Kibera, the flame of self-belief was re-ignited and the words of the great visionary Dr Kwame Nkrumah… that we as Africans are “capable of managing our own affairs” echoed through the mountains and valleys of the continent.

2013: AFCON

Fast forward to 2013, and once again I find myself at the heart of another soccer fiesta in South Africa: the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations tournament, dubbed “The beat at Africa’s feet” .As we get ready for the final game today, I am reflecting on the past 3 weeks and I have come to the conclusion that not only has this year’s beat not reverberated with the ferocious passion and rhythmic consistency of 2010, but even more worrying for me is the relative decline  I have witnessed in the organisational standards since the 2010 event. Across the entire “end to end soccer experience chain” there have been several instances of  declining  standards


It all began with the limp pre-tournament publicity campaign. The only major piece of communication by the host nation was a series of “last -minute adverts” on SuperSport ( satellite TV) 2 weeks to the start of the biggest  soccer tournament on our continent!  Then, there was the complex ticketing system which ironically ended up stifling accessibility of tickets in spite of the relatively affordable nature of the tickets. I was shocked to hear the Minister of Sports explain that “they are (now) trying to take  learnings from 2010” into account in dealing with these challenges! One would have expected this to have been done earlier! 

The other disappointment was at the Opening Ceremony. In my view, it failed  to live up to the promise of a dazzling music and dance spectacle. Played out under a canopy of rain showers to a sparse crowd, the African-themed event offered little inspiration. On more than one occasion, one could even spot signs of disharmony /incoherence in some  of the choreographies. I couldn’t help wondering whether it was a case of lack of attention to detail or not having enough time to practice as a group.

But perhaps one of the most visible areas where  standards have dropped is  the quality of some of the pitches used in the tournament. Not too long ago, the honour of “the most talked about stadium” in the world  belonged to Maracana(Brazil) or Wembley(UK), but over the past two weeks, that title has been usurped by the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit .Once a well manicured pitch used during the 2010 World Cup, the stadium (which hosted 1 AFCON semi-final game) has degenerated into a sandy ,bumpy pitch –reminiscent of “parks” I played on as a kid. It was shocking to see some of our global football superstars  scampering around on  a pitch of that quality in the  full view of billions of TV viewers. Emmanuel Adebayor  had this to say about the pitch “It’s a disgrace to our continent, we can do better .And he is right ! Why should such a pitch be used for a tournament of this stature, let alone a semi-final game? Even worse has been the quality of some of the officiating over the last two weeks. We have been treated to some of the most bizzare officiating in a major tournament. Referees are  either in the news for issuing  yellow cards to the wrong culprits( a case of mistaken identity), awarding extremely soft penalties or ignoring blatant infringements. A Tunisian referee has already been suspended for a “below par” performance in the semi-final game involving Ghana and Burkina Faso

The public has also not been spared the epidemic of falling standards; some of the fan parks which used to blaze with energy in 2010 have also suffered the same dreary fate. There is little vibe at these places and stimulating on-site activities are virtually absent. A colleague recounted his experience on a recent visit to the Durban North Beach Fan park. “There used to be a real vibe at these places ; a series of giant screens, throngs of people and even facilities catering for the kids. “You could use this trip as a family treat”.

 The above list may not be exhaustive, but I certainly think it’s wide-ranging enough to beg a fundamental question: do we have 2  sets of Standards ? One(a higher one) for  hosting a World tournament and another(lower one) for hosting an African tournament ? I know it is an uncomfortable assertion, or perhaps even too harsh a thought for consideration , but this is indeed the perception(whether fair or not) held by those who have had the opportunity of experiencing both tournaments in South Africa.

Let me state upfront that I am  not ignorant of  some of the potential contributing factors: For one, South Africa stepped in as a late replacement  to take over the hosting of the tournament  from a crisis-mired Libya-the original hosts. Also it  does not take a genius to recognise that the AFCON 2013 budget will pale in comparison to the gargantuan budget allocated to the World Cup. But any attempt to sweep this issue  of falling standards under the carpet of  inadequate funding misses the point. The two words:“Standards” and “Budget” are not  siamese twins. The former is part of a “value set”/mindset and the latter a “resource”. Whilst a big budget is certainly  an enabler to delivering   World Class standards,  absence  of it must not be used as a licence to “drop standards”. There are many instances ( in the football world and beyond) where teams and organisations with limited resource have still delivered very high standards of excellence.

The fundamental question remains: Is it ok for African footballers to use a “lower grade” pitch  -something which would probably not even qualify for use as a training ground during a World Cup tournament? How come so many of our African referees are under-performing on the biggest stage ? Should African fans have to endure poorer quality Fan parks? 

The African may live in a so called “3rd world”, but is certainly not a 2nd Class/ 3rd class citizen and should not  under any circumstances be subjected to a different/ lower standard. There is only one standard-World Class: which South Africa spectacularly demonstrated to the world when they staged the biggest football fiesta in 2010 .This standard is the only one that should continuously be applied to every other event ( Regional or World). Any gravitation towards  compromise or lowering of standards should therefore be aggressively resisted .

The truth is by setting a World Class Standard in 2010, South Africa raised the bar for ourselves and gave others the right (and rightly so) to demand nothing but the best from us. That is the self-fullfilling prophecy of success; it breeds further expectations of success. It is undoubtedly an arduous challenge but nevertheless a noble –and achievable one.

 My hope is that when the AFCON 2013 organising team finally bids the world good bye today(Feb 10 2013), and they  re-convene to do some “collective introspection” and appraisal  they will arrive at a similar conclusion. Hopefully that conclusion will in turn lead to a  commitment  to re-calibrate the standards back to the high point of excellence which the  2010 World Cup bequeathed to the nation/ continent.


As I write, CAF(Confederation of African Football )  has just released a favourable report on the tournament . The Sec -Gen told the media “We are greatly satisfied with the hosting of this tournament” .  The boss Issa Hayatou is reported to have said  that the tournament has been of the highest quality and a huge success


Experiencing South Africa through its people: A pen potrait of a BOP consumer -By Lomot Nartey


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One of the joys of being a Marketer is that in the course of my “Corporate Nomadic” journeys, I get to learn a lot  about a country from interactions with various consumers . I recently had  a series of illuminating conversations with a low income(Bottom Of the Pyramid) consumer in South  Africa. I have captured some of  the highlights in the post below.  It is worth noting that in  South Africa, c.40% of people are unemployed /underemployed and live below the poverty line, so Thembe is a “real” representation of South Africa’s reality.

8th November, 2012     Durban, South Africa

It is raining heavily.  It is one of those days you prefer to spend  in the comfort of acosy bed  rather than driving 20miles across town . But this is no ordinary day. We have an appointment with our sisi,  Thembe  at Kwa-Mashu (a township in  Durban, South Africa) . Our first encounter had been a memorable one and we couldn’t wait to  see her again. We braced the bad weather and drove across to  the township. Upon arrival,, we noticed a few things had changed since the last visit;  the most noticeable feature was the metamorphism of the once dry & sandy pathway into pockets of puddles and muddy stretches. But we quickly devised our navigation strategy; tiptoeing through the mud, side-stepping the puddles nearby  and then performing a few  trapeze acts in order to descend the steep and slippery landing staircase into Thembe’s compound.  I was only  hoping that the rains had not succeeded in invading Thembe’s mud-house.

Thembe's house at Kwa-Mashu  A view of Thembe’s house from the pathway leading to the entrance

Kwa-Mashu-20121102-00099           Kids near the public toilet

The good news on arrival at Thembe’s was that the house was rain-free! The not-so-good news however was that she was sick- and It  was noticeable. Gone were the  coloured sweater and beaming smile with which she had bid us farewell only a week ago .In their place was a  sad-looking countenance  complemented by a  greyish-black  jacket and a  pair of black velvet trousers. She  explains, through our translator, that she has a tummy ache  and had visited the hospital earlier in the day . And to prove this,  she shows us a plastic bag full of prescribed medication.

 In spite of her  sickly state, Thembe  engages us  in conversation.  We begin by  recounting events of the past week . It turns out that unlike us, Thembe’s “week-end” is limited to  Sunday, as both Friday & Saturday constitute “  Sabbath days” in  her current persuasion. She is a member of the Zulu Nazareth Baptist Faith Church,  founded by  Shembe who is  believed to be ”THE WAY! Shembe seems to  have pride of place in this house; as the  only wall hangings/posters  are dedicated to him.  We later learn  that  Thembe has not always being a devotee of this church. Her faith journey began elsewhere- at an Apostolic Church,  but she later  converted to this persuasion for 2 reasons :due to the fact that the church  practices both ancestral and “western” religion, and tends to be less evangelistic than the Apostolic mission.  As she continues with her testimony , you get a sense that her faith has also been cemented by  a divine healing experience (from a stroke) which she credits the church for. The Marketer in me  can’t help admiring how  the SHEMBE brand  has successfully won over Thembe  by satisfying three of her key needs : spiritual( meeting her need for a joint “traditional“+ “western” religious experience ) , physical ( providing  a cure for the stroke she experienced ) and  emotional ( it helps to have  a boyfriend from the same faith! ) – classic marketing principles, which  in this case, have been brilliantly executed!

As Thembe explains some of her church’s traditions and practices (e.g. one is expected to only establish a place of worship in their personal (and not rented) property , members are only expected to  consume  food in ambient state during the Sabbath) ,I try  to tease out her views on MODERNITY. She describes herself as  a modern woman and  offers her preference for processed food (vrs traditional food) as a key justification for this. As one accustomed to hearing examples of  hi- tech gadgets being highlighted as  justification for modernistic lifestyles, I have to confess I find  Thembe’s  take on modernism  very intriguing, if not simplistic . However  the more intriguing part of our discussion  was yet to come. It occurs when Thembe  talks about her favourite food ( rice and minced meat) and adds that her boyfriend sometimes plays Master Chef to her at home ! The statement  triggers what sounds like a chirrup of derisive  laughter from one of the guys standing outside the house. Some of  the listening women want to know more about Thembe’s boyfriend- who certainly doesn’t seem to conform to  “traditional expectations of a  Zulu man”.  I can’t help musing over “this  paradox of modernity” . On one hand, Thembe and her boyfriend espouse several Zulu cultural values , but in a space regarded, culturally,  as “an exclusive female arena” –i.e. performance of  household chores ,  her boyfriend  operates with arguably a “more 21st century” mindset of “shared responsibility”  !

“Celebration” of Simon(Thembe’s boyfriend) takes us to the origins of their romantic relationship. There is a glowing smile on her face as she vividly  recounts  their  1st date. The venue was “The Workshop”,  a vibrant hotspot  next to the flea market in the CBD. She still remembers the drink and savoury(pie) they enjoyed together. They  exchanged phone numbers  and  after a few phone calls, their  relationship took off. Indeed the only tinge of sadness  throughout this conversation on her boyfriend ,emerges when she recalls the loss of their new –born  baby(which occurred in her late teens) but this is soon replaced with the joy of talking about her 13yr old son( from an earlier relationship)who presently lives at her parental home  . We also  decide to share some of our dating experiences. My Gen Y colleague starts off by sharing her  experience of  “meeting” her husband on Facebook ! We giggle at this revelation, but Thembe is unable to relate, as the Digital World is unfamiliar territory to her. She has never experienced that “world”.  Fawzia and I promise to introduce her to “this other world” in the coming weeks. She relishes the idea, and  so do we!

We later discuss the concept of “financial security”. Thembe works from time to time (offering different domestic services) but she regularly invests in a funeral insurance plan. She makes monthly  payments of 80Rand (and has been operating this for c 1.5yrs) . The  benefits  cover purchase of coffins,  mortuary expenses, cost of digging of a burial spot and provision of a bus  service for mourners.  As she  carries out her  translation duties, Ntsiki (our translator)volunteers  additional insights into funeral practices of some Black South Africans:  She tells us that “ people would rather buy a new dress for a funeral celebration than for a wedding” . I listen quietly as this story resonates strongly with  my Ghanaian experience too. My colleague, Fawzia(a Muslim) who has been listening quietly until now, looks stupefied.  I can almost guess  her next question : Why do people spend such an elaborate amount of time and money on funerals ? How do I explain this belief system to Fawzia? That, for adherents of ancestral worship( or indeed ”superstitious folk”) –who by the way, cut across income groups- death is regarded as a transition from the present earthly life into the land of spirits and if proper rites and ceremonies are not performed, the spirit of the dead person may not be able to join the ancestral spirits?  That this is  the  key motivation for ensuring funerals are appropriately organised . But is that  a justification for the lengths some people will go to  “celebrate” death at the expense of “life” ?Where does one draw the line between “appropriateness”  & “extravagance”? I decide against launching into these explanations…we can discuss over tea later at the office : )

 Before we leave, Fawzia, in fulfilment of an earlier promise made to our  sisi, presents a selection of beauty /inspirational magazines to her. Thembe, who doesn’t  have any magazines at home is extremely thankful.  Her face glows as she feasts her eyes on Destiny & Oprah Magazines .She tells us the timing of the gesture is bang on .. and  that she is “already starting to feel better”  . She  plans to spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the magazines.   Whilst  we may not have cured Thembe’s stomach- ache,   we are glad  to have provided  her with another form of “therapy”-escapism. In her own description of her afternoon plans, you sense these magazines will allow her  to disconnect  from her current  reality and  “escape” into another world –even if momentarily . This realisation  enables us leave Kwa-mashu with a smile on our faces !

PS:  In appreciation of their time, we presented  food & personal care products as well as clothing items to our sisis

Chicken Controversy in South Africa…..! By Lomot Nartey


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Welcome to the “Rainbow Nation”

After about 9.5 hrs on the Turkish airlines flight , I arrived in South Africa. The weather on arrival was  less warm than in Istanbul where I had just come from, but certainly not cold enough to douse the warm glow in my heart;something which a trip to this country always produces. The truth is, of the many countries I have had the priviledge of visiting, none of them conjures quite the same passions like the “Rainbow Nation”.  My love affair with this country reached an all-time high during the 2010 World Cup event. With all the eyes (and ears)of the world focused on the continent, the host country “pulled out all the stops” to ensure it was an unforgettable African experience. I, like the thousands of foreigners  who  visited the country, was enamoured by the hospitality of the locals, blown away by the sounds from the Vuvuzela trumpets and mesmerised by the  feast of colours on display.  And now here I was again, to experience this pulsating energy, not just for a week or a month, but for over a year! Welcome to the latest address on my (corporate)nomadic journey!

Chicken wings fanning the flames of Xenophobia..

As my luck would have it, the week of my arrival  co-incided with a widespread discussion on the sensitive topic of  “Xenophobia”(with Ghanaian’s at the heart of it!). The conversation had been triggered by the ban of the latest TV advert from Nando’s ( the fast-food chicken franchise).Described by Nandos as an advert to  celebrate diversity, it had ironically being banned by tv stations for the “ opposite reason”-  the fear of the ad inciting Xenophobic attacks. Explaining this, Kaizer Kganyago, a spokesperson for South Africa BroadCasting Corporation (SABC) -one of the first to refuse to air the ad,  said “For the mere fact that it has a xenophobic undertone we decided not to show it. Nando’s may say that it is trying to promote diversity but what we are concerned about is that the public might interpret it differently.“With foreigners being attacked in South Africa, our concern is that it might re-enforce that… We are in no way interested in commercial gain over the public’s interest,” Similar concerns were cited by MultiChoice’s DStv  and M-Net channels who pulled the ads off after briefly airing them.

Is the advert as “risque’ as  the authorities say it is?

Eager to satisfy my curiosity and draw my own conclusions ,  I ventured into cyberspace to view the “banned  advert”( the beauty of today’s inter-connected world ( to the dismay of autocrats  and censors) is that once an ad is banned on tv, it invariably finds its way into the ocean of  mostly unedited “youtube” channel).  Now before I comment  on the Nandos “Diversity” ad , it’s important to point out that the local Nandos operation  is not new to advertising-related controversy. One could even  argue that Nandos  appears to deliberately ‘court’ controversy with some of its humorous but controvertible adverts(for e.g In 2009 it was forced to edit the Julius Malema parody advert(i.e “Election Interview  ad).More recently, its “Last Dictator Standing” tv advert(2011)  featuring a lonely President Mugabe at Christmas reminiscing on yester-years in the company of ousted tyrants like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafihad to be taken off the airwaves due to reported threats to staff in its franchise operations in neighbouring  Zimbabwe.

nandos+diversity-630x250   Opening scene

Now to the ad itself:  The 52 sec copy opens with a scene showing African immigrants illegally  entering  South Africaat one of  her borders. This is rapidly followed by a male voice-over (VO)who rhetorically poses a question: “You know what’s wrong with South Africa?…“It’s all you foreigners,”. He goes on to request all  “foreigners” defined broadly to include nationalities like Cameroonians,  Pakistanis, Somalis, Ghanaians, Nigerians, Europeans and ethnicities like Afrikaners,Tswanas, Zulus etc) to return to ”where they came from”: As each “foreign group” is mentioned , its people simultaneously disappear in puffs of smoke. The only person left at the end of the advert is  a Khoisan, who proudly says: “I’m not going anywhere. You *$@#* found us here,” The copy ends with  the  pay-off line: “Real South Africans love Diversity”.. just before 2 new mouth watering additions to Nando’s  menu appears on  screen( See a link to the advert at the end of this article)

Nando's Diversity TV commercial TV advert SABC bans SABC ban refuses declines Nando's TV ad 001   Closing Scene

My “50 cents “on the Nando’s copy

  After seeing it,  I have formed my own views on the copy :  Firstly, I  sympathise with those who harbour some fear that the copy may inadvertently lend itself to “Xenophobic- misinterpretation”. There is merit in that argument. Not too long ago, a citizen survey carried out across member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)  “found South Africans expressing the harshest anti-foreigner sentiment, with 21% of South Africans in favour of a complete ban on entry by foreigners and 64% in favour of strict limitations on the numbers allowed”. Today, as the country continues to wrestle with high unemployment (some unofficial sources put it over 30%)  there is a strong sentiment among locals that foreigners are partly to blame for job losses. It is one of the underlying motivations behind the wave of Xenophobic attacks which has gripped this country over the years. As recently as July 11th 2012, it was reported that over 500 foreign nationals had been displaced in xenophobic attacks in Botshabelo in Free State. Even more worrying is the Government’s inability to curb  this . Perhaps there is no more damning assessment than that provided by fellow African leaders. South Africa received the lowest possible rating(implying little/no progress )  in its handling of xenophobia in a 2011 report by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Monitoring Project.  Against this backdrop, it is not inconceivable for some media owners to be overly cautious of granting the use of their platforms to televise an advert depicting foreigners disappearing in widespread  “gun-powder- like” incidents.There is a fear that such acts may be taken literally – both figuratively & metaphorically- by opportunists looking for a tonic to perpetuate /re-enforce the notion of foreigners being an economic /social threat.

My  2nd viewpoint borders  more on a “technical assessment” (from a marketer’s viewpoint) The Nandos ad is a very good one! It is evident to me that the advertising idea and subsequent witty execution are intrinsically linked to “Celebrating Diversity” – I don’t see it any other way. The ad itself is engaging , memorable and by dealing with a relevant but sensitive social issue, it generates  a strong emotional response. And  like other controversial ads, it also stands the risk of polarisation( in particular because of the way the executional idea was dramatized on screen). But the truth is, truly Great ads are rarely(and should not seek to be) “safe ads”. Rather most of these ads, challenge conventional thinking, push /re-define existing category and even cultural boundaries and  provoke conversations . The Nandos ‘Diversity” ad in my view,is particularly exceptional on the social change front, as it  succeeds in pricking the conscience of a nation by asking “Ever wondered what the “Rainbow Nation” would be like without the cultural diversity we enjoy”?.By doing this, it challenges each person not to take for granted  the very essence of what makes the “Rainbow” nation” uniquely great.

What some netizens are saying…

I sampled some opinions of South African ‘netizens’ who had watched the advert and subsequently expressed their views online(see below)

Comments from those “who like” the advert

The advert is clever, not at all insensitive, and topically placed in a country where race is used as an excuse for everything that goes wrong. The worrying thing is the Broadcasters who are now using the ASA as an excuse to excercise their own form of censorship on freedom of expression and speech. Sad times for constitutional rights in SA and even worse to come!“ ( Contributor: Seymour Howe)

“ I think the ad is brilliant and has a social message at the same time. South Africans are too sensitive and find everything racist or offensive and for that reason will never be on par with the advertising industries in America and the UK. I know a few people in the industry whom have relocated overseas because they feel there is much more creative license abroad” (Contributor: Jane)

“I think the ad is brilliant(Everybody ought to be offended)… William Bird (i.e.:Director of Media Monitoring Africa (MMA).  commenting on Nandos (that sells chicken) lol… Irony! We hear endless moans about the South African skills shortage and brain drain and yet we have all this censorship and restriction…” (Contributor: Rych Brown)

Comments from those(few) “who disliked” the advert

“I believe the ad is of no actual importance ,they could have use other ideas in depicting their chicken but the concept of this one is poorly manage even the way nigerians are presented in it as the Mafian,i think it’s deplorable. They actually need to ban it, it’s xenophobic and ridiculous” ( Contributor: Onapajo.alooma)

Final words

At the heart of the Nandos ad ban is the fear of fuelling new waves of Xenophobia. Whilst legitimate,  the reality of the challenge at stake is that due to the multi-faceted nature  of Xenophobia (with deep socio-cultural and even psychological roots) any attempt to completely  uproot this canker  will require a concerted effort . The fact that the South African Government’s efforts to address this  have been assessed to be largely unsuccessful is enough proof that we need to go beyond the corridors of political power. There has to be a proper (even passionate) national dialogue on the issue using all available channels. In that respect, I see the Nando’s ad as one such ‘channel’ . Granted that in Nando’s case, the issue is being exploited for  commercial gain, but nevertheless the company should be credited for creatively bringing this national issue up for discussion again. And rather than  placing an outright ban on the advert, the media houses should have leveraged this opportunity to play the role of a “national moderator”  (for e.g putting forward  an Anti-Xenophobia  statement before and after each airing) to help “kickstart  a national conversation” .  Rather, that noble role of a national dialogue instigator has been fortuitously (but admirably) seized by the “netizen minority”  .  

I am now calling on every Ubuntu- loving African reading this to  continue the conversation started by the ‘netizen minority’ .  Over a braai in the estates or townships; apartments or shacks , or even at hair salons/ barber shops around the country, let’s  first celebrate  the  bedrock of diversity that makes this country a “Rainbow Nation” and then have an honest, reflective conversation about the negative impact of  Xenophobia  in South Africa  and its potential repercursions on the larger continent  if left unchecked. Fnally, after the sober reflection, lets make a commitment to ourselves to  contribute in our “own small way” towards uprooting this canker

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R7vu9SuxaQ  (509,397 views as at 14th July )


Finally, I did it ………………..! By Lomot Nartey


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3RD JUNE 2012: After sitting  for more than 200 days on my ‘Certainly Must do list in Turkey’,  I finally put a cross through Item No 3 .

While it  had been fairly easy to accomplish the other items on the to do list’, Item No 3 remained elusive for various reasons.  Yet as the clock wound down on my stay in Istanbul, my determination to accomplish it only increased. I knew I had to do it now or spend another year enduring the pain of watching the gods of procrastination bask in joy at my expense. In the end, this concern, coupled with a desperate need for a good massage to calm my stressed nerves (which had endured multiple torture tests the entire week; from realtors, cab drivers and 3rd party agents alike) helped make Item No 3, “Mission Possible’!

So, after reading a few visitor reviews online, I settled for  Çinili Hamam, tucked away in the old and densely populated municipality ofÜsküdar  .I scheduled an appointment for the 35TL  package( sauna, exfoliating scrub  and bath) and early the next morning , at about 730am’ I boarded a taxi from Marmara Suadıye to Üsküdar  . As we drove through a sleepy but still chic- looking Bağdat Caddessistreet, I wondered how my first experience would leave me feeling. We arrived at about 8:15am (as we had to use an alternative route in lieu of some roadblocks , according to the taxi driver) to  an even quieter Üsküdar:  if Bağdat Caddessi  felt sleepy, Üsküdarwas comatose.

A few cars were parked outside the Hamam when we arrived.  I momentarily paused to read the signage: ‘Historical Turkish Bath for men..1640 ‘ it read. Upon entering, I noticed a brief historical account of the place ( in Turkish along with an English translation) . It read : The Çinili Hamamı was built in 1640 as part of a mosque complex ordered by the Valide Sultan Mahpeyker Kösem, wife of Ahmet I (r. 1604-1617) and mother of Ibrahim I. Kösem Sultan was one of the most powerful women of the Ottoman 17th century and gained unprecedented influence in political decision-making when acting as regent, which she did three times, for her son Murad IV, and her grandson Mehmed IV. She made enemies as well as allies and was murdered in 1651 at the age of around 70…It was built as Çinili Mosque, library, police office and hamam. Çinili hamam was made for Çinili Mosque’ s construction workers. The tiles had been stolen by the burglars. But Hamam’ s owners were sticked to its original concept as using blue tiles. Hamam has still its own charm……’’

Unsurprisingly  there were very few patrons at that time of the morning. The interior looked clean and certainly had an air of significance about it.  After a few exchanges with  the elderly male workers in the ‘lobby’, I was ushered into one of the changing rooms. In circumstances which could best be described as “half-privacy”, I  stripped to my underpants.   I traded my clothes in for the ’peştamal’’ ( traditional towel ) With the towel firmly wound around my waist, and room key in hand, I was ushered into the hot/steamy room. A truly historic place, its 17th century architecture towered  grandly above me . All was not rosy though,  as for a brief period, I felt some discomfort -in the form of a quasi claustrophobic  effect-  precipitated by inhalation of  stale and stuffy air .

 I stretched myself across the  heated marble  stone (göbek taşı ) in the centre of the hot room, with my head facing the dome shaped ceiling. The warm rays of the morning sun shone through the chiselled holes in the ceiling. Gradually, as the flow of dry, hot air continuously filled the room, my body temperature rose, resulting in beads of perspiration forming all over my body. Indeed the aim of this session is exactly that: to sweat, release dirt and toxins from the skin in preparation for a good wash. I noticed several empty rows of personal bathing rooms bordering the marble stone- save one, which was occupied by a sexagenarian whose hairy arse disturbingly stood  in my horizontal line of vision, whenever he rose to douse water on his torso. To my far left , on the marble stone  lay another gentleman(in his 40’s) who was clearly relishing the sauna-like experience. Thankfully  he spoke some English so we engaged each other in a brief conversation.  He was a regular ( weekly) visitor to the place and he re-assuringly  explained to me the relaxing feeling he experienced with each visit. After some exchanges on Ghana and marital status, our early morning conversation abruptly turned to beauty /grooming. I complimented his fellow Turkish women  and their apparent dedication to their beauty grooming regimen ( something which I had noticed especially among  Istanbullites). He concurred and went on to explain  that the mixed heritage of Turkish people  was central to their perceived beauty. The real surprise of the morning was when the married man with two children confessed a secret fantasy: he harboured a desire  to date an African woman (although he added  this was likely to remain an unfulfilled wish, in his married state).  Our limited vocabulary(in his case English , and in my case  Turkish) prevented me from probing further to arrive at the underlying reason behind his fantasy. Somehow  my new friend’s comment gave me a ‘deja vu’  feeling-as I had heard a similar comment from a local taxi driver, only the previous day.

In all, I stayed on the marble stone for about 15mins and then got ready for a dry massage ( no soap ).It was then I realised that the 35TL I had paid to the cashier was  only for a self-service. I would have to pay an extra amount for a professional masseur. Having come all the way, I was keen to experience the ‘whole nine yards’, so with translation help from my new found English -speaking Turkish friend, I negotiated to pay an additional 10TL fee for this service from one of the veteran masseurs: Recep Bey .He led me to the bathing section. Seating me on a short marble stone, he reached for  kese ( a rough mitt ) or exfoliating sponge nearby and with no disinfectant in sight, he proceeded to douse it in water, and  used the same to scrub my body.  At that point the hygiene & health hazard bulbs flashed repeatedly in my head , but determined to experience the authentic Hamam -across all facets,  I suppressed these thoughts and submitted myself to the exfoliation process. And boy did he do a good job! With each rub from the experienced Recep Bey’shand, reels of dirty skin cells rolled off my arms and thighs in a way I hadn’t seen before. At intermittent turns he would grunt with a triumphant smile to indicate self-satisfaction with the task. After the  5 min scrub, I was given another 5 min of a  foamy bath (I felt like a kid in my yellow baby bath again:)

Afterwards , Recep Bey  took me back to the göbek taşı for the professional Turkish massage.Unlike the earlier, relaxing experience on the stone, this  second encounter was a lesson in “no pain no gain”. I was made to first lie with my face-up, followed by face-down. He gave me a thorough massage. As my bones crackled from the twisting  of my head, hands & feet in opposite directions, I regularly let  out loud  grunts which echoed in the hamam and attracted  smiles of amusement from a patron who looked on from the comfort of a nearby Finnish sauna room (attached to the historic Hamam)The massage lasted for about 5 mins and I was returned to the bathing section where I had a final wash with warm water from the basin

Now fully satisfied,  Recep Bey took out a clean “pestemal”which he held, stretched-out, waiting to wrap it around my body. He instructed –via strong non verbal cues – that I first do the ‘full monty’ and  thereafter allow him to tie the towel around my waist. Unenthused,  I stood in defiance,  insisting that he rather  hand me the “pestemal” to wrap around my lower body myself.He shook his head again in disagreement. After a few perplexing seconds, I gave in to his command to complete his “work”. He wrapped the dry cloth around me and led me back to the changing room. I later offered Recep Bey 15TL for his service.

I had left the joy of experiencing a Turkish Hamam to my very last day in Turkey. And  what a send-off it turned out to be! For 45mins, within the walls of this 17th Century Hamam, I soaked myself , not only in heat and soapy water, but  in Turkish history and left  feeling refreshingly clean and stress-free. I was now ready to put my calm nerves to the test with a c.2hr drive through the crazy Istanbul traffic, to  the airport to board my final flight



A Book Lover’s Turkish Delight – by Lomot Nartey


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Softly, but audibly, tracks from Babyface’s Grammy Nominated Album, ‘The Day’ can be heard playing from an apartment in Caddebostan, a Muslim suburb of Istanbul.   His soulful voice is occasionally punctuated by sounds of clinking glasses, crunching of potato chips and  animated voices in a variety of foreign -accented English . It appears there is a form of social intercourse taking place behind these doors. 

You may be tempted to think the setting described above is a party. But we’ll soon find out the real reason.  After 20 minutes, the door to flat No 13 in Kismet Apartment swings opens to reveal  the source of the foreign intonations ; the group seated in the living room (mostly in their 30’s)  is made up of Americans, Turks, a Trinidadian, a New Zealander and a Ghanaian.  The Ghanaian host gently interrupts the conversations and  welcomes everyone to the real reason for the gathering : Kitap tartisma

If the above description is inconsistent with your image of a book club, well you are right, because Global Minds Book Club (GMBC) was never designed to be like “the stereotypical Book Club”

To fully understand GMBC requires re-visiting the circumstances under which the group was formed. Thrust into Istanbul , a chiefly Turkish-speaking environment in 2010 , I soon  found myself, after  4 unsuccesful attempts to learn the local language, thirsting for a social platform to engage like-minded , English speaking people in a lively intellectual discourse on literary material and relevant global issues: albeit in a relaxed manner.

After a fruitless search for a Book Club which fitted this profile, the old adage, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ kicked in and decided to do something I had never done before; establish a thriving  and unconventional Book Club! Armed with tips from the internet and a good measure of self-belief, I set off to ‘make it happen’. But I first had to overcome some “hurdles”. I was reminded a few times of how unattractive a proposition like this will be for Turks; and for good reason too ! Consider this; according to a survey reported in Hurriyet Daily News, 61% of Turks do not have time to read books .Of even greater concern for an English –speaking book club, is the fact that the country ranks 43rd out of 44 on the English Proficiency Index (EPI) – the first index to compare the English speaking abilities of adults in different countries across the world

I was undeterred. Spurred on by a handful of “convicted people” from the InterNations Expat community, I launched GMBC in October 2010, and at our very 1st meeting , our status as an unconventional group was established: 70% of people who came were Turks !  From an initial attendance of 9 people, the number of regular attendees would almost double before the end of  my assignment in Turkey !

For most of my 2yr stint in Istanbul,  leading  GMBC  became one of  my foremost passions. In the process, I developed myself both personally & professionally: not only was I able to build a diverse social network , but I also improved my cross-cultural understanding . But perhaps more than anything else, the greatest benefit was how this group  helped me further appreciate and improve my lateral thinking skills

If I had to highlight  some of the underlying reason’s behind GMBC’s success, I would classify them into 3 broad groups: HOMOGENEOUS, HETEROGENEOUS and “X’  FACTORS


  • Needless to say, the mutual passion for books among the highly committed members was an obvious factor. Closely linked to this, was the genuine desire on the part of each member to respectfully exchange views and perspectives with others on different subjects.
  • We each shared 3 key values:  Diversity, Mutual Respect and  a ‘Global mindset’  


  • Almost paradoxically, GMBC grew in spite of its HETEROGENEITY.  Far from having a uniform readership profile, it was an eclectic mix of readers; seasonal, avid and voracious readers.  Compounding this was the fact that relative sizes of the 3 sub-groups was in a perpetual state of flux as new members joined /and a few also left.  Sustaining group interest served as an exciting  challenge for me
  • Contrary  to popular book club wisdom which tends to idealise single sex grouping, ours thrived as a mixed group. In addition to fostering healthy interpersonal relationships, our mixed profile was a key contributor to the breadth of diversity in our book selections(see a cc. of the  Jan-Jun 2012 Reading Calendar below)

bk club

The ‘X-factor’ of success

  • Beyond the above, in my opinion,  the biggest  driver of sustained appeal(for both new and existing members)  was the relaxing /cosy atmosphere  which we went to great lengths to create  at each  meeting. This is the primary reason behind holding meetings in either members’ homes/ comfortable outdoor locations, e.g a poolside and a  park during summer. The environment within which the discussions are held makes a BIG difference. Burcin, a Turkish lawyer at White & Case law firm summed this up succinctly after participating in her first GMBC meeting ‘’..it was so refreshing to have such an intellectual conversation in a relaxed atmosphere ’’

GMBC is still going strong.It  is now a 52 member group.  You can check out /join our FB page (see link below)


Discussion on Tipping Point; definitely one of our most stimulating discussions

Whoever said you can’t have a ‘serious’ literary discussion in a ‘picnic envıronment’ :)?

You will be the same person  in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” — Charlie “Tremendous” Jones 

Power to the People -by Lomot Nartey!

Nb: This article was published in the Daily Graphic(No 1 Daily newspaper in Ghana )  in Dec 2004

Let me begin with a confession. I almost dropped this title for a less ‘controversial’ one. I use the word ‘controversial’ because as a citizen of a country(i.e. Ghana) where almost everything (including football) is politicised, I was aware (and concerned) of the possibility of this piece, being subjected to the same political scrutiny. In the end I chose to keep it, simply because I couldn’t find an alternative that captured the soul of this piece quite like ‘Power to the people’.

The concept, ‘Power to the people’ was made popular by ex-President J.J Rawlings in the early 80’s when the then PNDC Govt came into power. The idea behind ‘Power to the people’ was to develop and implement a decentralisation programme, designed to mobilise citizens to actively participate in the decision-making process.Some 20 years on, a rapidly growing phenomenon across our airwaves can best be described as a contemporary expression of this ‘Power to the people’ concept!Over the last couple of months, I have observed, across various media channels, that there appears to be a growing number of complaints/concerns being levelled at consumer-marketing companies on a number of issues, (“bad adverts’, product/service quality, etc) on a regular basis; and I have subsequently noticed that a few days or weeks after these complaints are aired, most of the affected companies take action. It is this growing phenomenon-when consumers speak out on issues, and companies respond promptly-sometimes at a huge cost (millions of cedis) to these companies, which I refer to as ‘Power to the people’.

There are several ‘complaint channels’ open to the consumer today; you can ‘pick your choice’, as we say in Ghana.For example, there are radio phone-in programmes like ‘Ka na wu’ on Radio Gold and ‘Feedback’ on Joy FM. And if you prefer to channel your views via TV, Consumer Watch (which has been off for a while now) on TV3 serves as a potent vehicle. On the other hand, if you are one of the estimated 500,000 internet users-who have access through shared Internet connections- homes, offices, through friends and cyber cafes you can log onto Ghana Consumer Complaints website to ‘download’ your comments. And as I was researching on this subject,I came across yet another ‘complaint channel’ in the form of the Ghana Consumer Watchdog Organisation. The objective of the group, according to their advert is ‘to protect, advice and secure the interest of the Ghanaian consumer. Ghanaian consumers are certainly spoilt for choice.

The latest vehicle that is being employed by consumers in the ‘Power to the people” age is the SMS text messaging facility.And with over 1 million mobile phone subscribers (and still growing) in Ghana, it is fast becoming a convenient weapon of choice for consumers. One radio programme that is fuelling this trend is ‘a piece of your mind’-an SMS text based programme on JOY FM.This programme which has been on air for the past 6 months or so is hosted by the 2003 Ghana Journalist of the year, Komla Dumor. Listeners are invited by Komla to send SMS text messages on ‘anything’ to an advertised Spacefon number during the period of the morning show. The response, so far has been overwhelming. According to Joy FM, over 300 text messages pour in daily. Listeners comments have revolved around both ‘hard’ issues like the CNTCI loan, sanitation in Accra, the presidential debate as well as ‘softer ‘ones like Komla’s beard, President Kuffour’s singing abilities etc.This rapidly growing trend has several implications for consumer-marketing companies. I will dedicate the rest of this piece to this discussion.


Initiatives like ‘a piece of your mind’ are already changing, and will continue to alter, the nature of consumer-brand interaction significantly.Gone are the days when a consumer had to take a pen and a piece of paper to write a letter of complaint, buy her own envelope and stamp, and walk to a post office to post this letter. And if she was lucky enough, the letter will be read and responded to by the relevant company. In today’s digital age, all the consumer has to do is to pick up his/her mobile phone and either send a text to ‘a piece of mind’or call into one of the numerous radio phone-in programmes, and within a matter of seconds, millions of people get the opportunity to hear her story. If it’s a case of a bad experience with a brand, you can be sure it will take a good slice out of long-built brand equity! There is a popular maxim, which cautions that when a person has a bad experience with a product or service, he/she is likely to tell 4 more people about it. Well, that was in the pre-‘SMS text’ era. Today, courtesy of programmes like ‘a piece of your mind’ a bad experience could be shared with millions of people in Ghana at once!

If you think the above scenario is scary, consider this.With the advent of SMS -text based radio programmes, consumers will no longer wait to express their feelings about your product/service to you ‘after the experience’. Right in the middle of a ‘brand experience'(relaxing their hair in a salon, eating a meal at a restaurant, drinking beer at a bar, watching an advert on t.v,) in Bibiani,Akatsi, Ada etc the consumer can literally pick his/her mobile phone and text away his/her complaints. How about that for ‘instant feedback’.

As I stated earlier, not only are consumers voicing out their opinions even more today, but more importantly, companies are responding swiftly to these complaints. Consider the following 2004 examples (names withheld);A few months ago, a toothpaste advert was withdrawn shortly after consumers complained about the ‘suggestive nature’ of the advert. After consumers complained that an advert on a billboard near Opeibea House was ‘too elitist’, the material was swapped for something else.In the ‘Power to the people’ era, entire roads are rehabilitated at the behest of consumers. Do you remember the famous Osu ‘Chicken Licken’ road? Indeed as I write, an Outdoor structure at Osu is in the process of being re-positioned (at a cost to the company)-again after consumers complained about its present precarious position. These are just a few examples.

‘The consumer is king’ cliche is indeed a very apt phrase to use in describing today’s consumer. Today’s consumer, has the advantage in this ‘war’; Choice. In every product category, abundance abounds.For example in 2003, the number of washing powder brands on the market was 34.Today a consumer can choose from 56 brands. In a category like Hair care, there are about 500 products making all sorts of claims in an attempt to woo Ghanaian women onto the beauty ship. In the mobile phone arena, you can choose from 4 phone operators. So be careful, companies, consumer choice is rapidly increasing! If she complains and you turn a deaf ear, she will walk out on you. With divorce rates already high, it shouldn’t be that difficult for a consumer to ‘divorce a brand that is unwilling to listen to her’


Let me state upfront that I don’t profess to hold the ‘magic wand’. Far from it. My goal is to create awareness of this rapidly growing phenomenon and to challenge consumer-marketing companies to begin to seriously ponder over how to deal with it.One thing is certain, ‘business as usual’ methods will not work! Companies will have to develop a new modus operandi-along with new competencies like agility and speed  in this era!

Carelines should not be seen as ‘optional’ additions on product packs. The consumer today is more aware of telephone numbers/mobile numbers for radio phone-in programmes like ‘Ka na Wu’,’ a piece of your mind’, etc than they are of brand carelines ( where they exist). And this is simply because these lines are promoted more vigorously than brand carelines. How many times does one see a careline advertised along with the product or service concerned in a TV, radio or press advert ?In a situation where a consumer for example has a bad experience with a product, which is easier to do, to channel your complaints through the media houses or to search the yellow pages for the phone no. of the local Manufacturer/Distributor? And provision of carelines is just the first step. Ensure that those who operate these lines are not recruited from the ‘I’m doing you a favour’ school of receptionists. They must come across as enthusiastic, well-informed, and professional brand ambassadors.

More importantly, the plethora of media vehicles available in the ‘Power to the people’ age calls for a similar multi-faceted solution from consumer-marketing companies. Telephone numbers and even internet addresses are not enough. It may be worth considering a faster-and more convenient option like an SMS text ‘careline’ to complement existing lines. It certainly makes life easier for the consumer whose selection criteria for several things include ‘convenience’.

I conclude with the following scenario; imagine it’s the first day of the week and you’re already on your way (i.e.driving) to work. Your radio is tuned to the Super Morning show and Komla as usual is going through some of the SMS text messages sent in by his numerous listeners. He reads the following text messages in the hearing of thousands of people in Ghana.

”I ate Brand X (a newly launched product) last week and the very next day I had to be treated for food poisoning” You the driver, happen to be the Brand Manager

”Massa, I finally visited Restaurant X after seeing their advert 3 times on t.v and guess what, the soup I ordered came with a cockroach”. You the listener happen to be the proud owner of this new ‘joint’.

”’I used Relaxer B in the salon on Saturday (the day of my best friend’s wedding) and I ended up burning my scalp seriously”.You the listener happen to be the Manufacturer.

Hmm, what a way to start the week !

Now the above scenarios are not far fetched . Similar stories are read on a regular basis. And the next one could involve your product or service. The ‘Power to the people’ era is here- and here to stay if I may add. Companies will have to start thinking seriously about how to cope with this phenomenon

  I wrote this piece(slightly edited since)  over 7 years ago, before the start of my nomadic life .It will be interesting to hear readers’ views on the current state of affairs in Ghana .Are companies now better eqipped to  promptly address consumer complaints ?

   Share your 50cents !