Our book club, Global Minds Book Club, based in Turkey is recommended in this article
Our book club, Global Minds Book Club, based in Turkey is recommended in this article
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 non–resident 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.
2010: WORLD CUP
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.
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
I REST MY CASE AS ISSA HAYATOU AND MYSELF DO NOT SEEM TO BE WATCHING THE TOURNAMENT FROM THE SAME “BOX” .
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.
A view of Thembe’s house from the pathway leading to the entrance
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
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.
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)
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)
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 )
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
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
The ‘X-factor’ of success
GMBC is still going strong.It is now a 52 member group. You can check out /join our FB page (see link below)
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
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.
CHANGING DYNAMICS OF CONSUMER-BRAND INTERACTION
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’
HOW SHOULD BUSINESSES RESPOND?
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 !
‘ Window of the World’ is a unique theme park located in the city of Shenzhen in China. It contains a dazzling display of over 100 replicas of famous tourist attractions in the world. Visitors to the park, are therefore, in a sense, able to catch a glimpse of key sites across all major continents, in just a few hours . I have a similar window here in Turkey, thousands of miles from China.This window is located next to a seat on the 5th row in an Isuzu bus which I ride to work everyday. Through this window, I am able to observe- from a birds eye view- fragments of everyday life in Istanbul, the megapolis in which I live. Accounting for c.15% of Turkey’s population and c.30% of Turkey’s GDP, Istanbul is also theeconomic engine of the country; as Istanbul goes, so does Turkey go. My daily bus trip therefore provides me-for forty precious, uninterrupted minutes -with a remarkable opportunity to gaze into the soul and feel the ‘heartbeat’ of Turkey.
Our jouney begins in Caddebostan District, through which Bagdat Caddesi, a prominent high street on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, runs. This street is considered by many to be the corollary of the Istiklal on the European side of istanbul in terms of glamour and importance. It is a relatively quiet morning as we set off , but don’t be deceived! The quietude and paucity of pedestrians on the streets belies its vivaciousness at night. Fast forward to the evening, and these spacious sidewalks will be teeming with crowds of people who pour into the neighbourhood to indulge in a variety of pleasure pursuits from the mundane; Caddeye cikmak, to more daring activities like tatoo-piercing and tai-chi. On a good day, our bus ride should take 40 minutes, however in a city whose traffic jams are as famous as her doner kebabs, the journey could possibly last an hour!. I place a bet with the traffic gods before we set off
As the bus strolls along Bagdat Caddesi , I observe that the ground floors of most of the residential buildings in the neighbourhood are being used for commercial purposes. All around us, the fruits of Turkey’s trade liberalisation policies and policy reforms are splendaciously displayed ; there are chains of haute couture boutiques, interior decor studios,pharmacies and car dealers displaying luxury cars from Mercedes to Ferraris. Local Turkish retail brands proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with their international competitor brands; for example, Halkbank is located next to HSCBC bank, Kofteci offers tasty grilled meatballs as a local alternative next to its neighbour, Pizza Hut and Kahve Dunyasi eyes its international competitor Starbucks from a safe distance
Vice and Virtue
My journey is barely ten minutes old when my eyes are besieged by a most paradoxical scene; the kind Hollywood loves to conjure. It is an uneasy dance of distant opposites performed by a set of twin towers; Vice and Virtue who stand in close proximity to each other – only separated by a distance of less than 100 metres.Virtue is represented by the Kiziltoprac mosque. Built decades ago, it stands fearlessly , even if now dwarfed by some of the new buildings in its vicinity, and gently exudes an aura of holiness .The tall spire on its minaret seems to point towards God whilst the attached metallic crescent from a distance, appears to serve as a moral compass guiding the citizens of this Muslim-dominated country. Virtue looks , with righteous indignation, at the unholy face of Vice (represented by an E-R-O-T-I-C shop) in the landmark commercial building across the street.Nestled in the middle of this building, the EROTIC shop woos her patrons with a seductive ‘playboy ’ brand logo and prominent red neon lighting signage-which seems to, with each flash of strobe lighting, to calculatedly imprint its image onto society’s conscience. Indeed the entire episode is a conundrum which lingers in the contours of my mind long after we have left the vicinity.
Soccer, a ‘religion’ ?
An image from 20th September 2011
By 7:35am, our bus whisks past the iconic 55,000 capacity Fenerbahçe stadium , home to one of the biggest football clubs in Turkey. Fenerbahçe FC has a rich history and over the years has introduced the football public here to a galaxy of stars like Nicholas Anelka( currently of Chelsea), Roberto Carlos (Ex Real Madrid star ) ,Ariel Ortega ( Ex Valencia star ) and of course my fellow Ghanaian , the charismatic Stephen Appiah who led the Black Stars of Ghana to her maiden World Cup appearance in Germany in 2006. As I have found out over the last year , Appiah is celebrated by the Fernabache faithful and hence, has now become a convenient potrait to point to when faced with the task of ‘painting a picture of Ghanaianess’ to my local friends.
Indeed, to say football is a passion here, is a gross injustice to the depth of emotional attachment Turks have for the game. A more apt descriptor will be unbridled passion. I recently saw a wire on yahoo with a question; ‘Which country is the most passionate about footie’? The ‘best chosen answer’ was Turkey. I couldn’t agree more. I had the privilege of witnessing a local derby (Fenerbahçe vs Besiktas ) in 2010. Nothing could have prepared me for the atmosphere in the stadium.Perhaps, possessed by the spirit of one of the Black Stallions on its Porsche sponsor logo outside the stadium, the interior was an eruption of passion- of volcanic proportions.Thanks to the good accoustics in the stadium, we got an earful of the songs and taunts spewed out by cavorted fans of both teams.However, the unique feature which cemented my view of the unbridled passion for the game, was what seemed to be carefully constructed cages to keep supporters from hurling objects at each other. It is important to add that women are as passionate as their male counterparts. Females are reported to regularly account for c.20% of attendance at this stadium. On 20th September 2011, the world had a chance to see them in ‘full flight’, when the football club set the unusual precedent of allowing 41,000 women and kids to witness a league game . Describing her fellow ‘Eves’, a female member of the Fenerbahçe executive board said at a pre-match interview ‘’The women know all the chants. The same anthems, the same chants will be sung.” Unsurprisingly, after the success of the event, Fernabache now plans to introduce a women-only spectators’ area.
Hair: The crowning glory
By now the number of passengers in the bus has swelled to 15 –majority of who are female. My trained eye, observes that the ladies have well-kept hair. From my rear seat, I count rows of rich manes of long black ,dark brown and blonde hair strands resting comfortably against the respective seats . As I admire each woman’s ‘crown of glory’, I look outside in time to see one of the key factors which helps to explain the beautiful hair on display( and indeed the mega $564.6m Turkish hair care market -as per EuroMonitor data). There is a plethora of salons dotted along the landscape. I would have counted over 30 hair salons by the time we reach our destination ! The profile of the salons; both affordable neighbourhood salons and high end options ,offers a key insight into why the Turkish woman on average tends to visit the salon much more than her European counterparts- and perhaps serves as one explanation for the lovely hair I see on the bus . I also read somewhere that the Turkish woman on average shampoos her hair about 4 times a week-facilitated in large part by the comparatively lower hair shampoo prices here. My only regret is that unfortunately my window view does not help me unravel the underlying motivations for these seekers of beautiful hair. That’s a question I may need to watch Mel Gibson’s ‘What Women Want’ again, to get answers for
Just before 8:00am, I am temporarily dislodged from my musings in the world of Turkish beauty, into a diammetrically opposite world of sadness, colourlessness and death; the Karacaahmet Cemetery at Uskuduar. Built in mid-14th century, the cemetery reportedly sits on the largest burial ground in Turkey. Some of the marble epitaphs and mound-shaped tombs ( I later learn that some of these tombs contain inscriptions with the Ottoman arabic script ) serve as interesting relics from Turkey’s great Ottoman past. In an eery way, the stillness in the cemetery echoes that in the interior of our bus-where people are by now either fast asleep,listening to music or like me musing.The only semblance of life in the cemetary seems to be from the tall ,majestic cypress trees and shrubs which combine to sprinkle natures colour,whilst remaining steadfast in their role of being perenially protective guards to the over 1 million souls buried here. As we leave the cemetary behind, my warped mind, which is now fully awake, chooses to focus on the irony in the contrasting images I have just witnessed; that on the same soil where homosapiens are immobilised in tombs and denied their reproductive capacity , plants , through photosynthesis, are able to flourish, reproduce and sustain their own species…on the same soil.
‘Healthy Life’ Park
Soon, in addition to an alert- but nevertheless warped mind, an anticipatory smile lights my face as the bus descends towards Doğancılar park ,my favourite spot on the entire bus ride. I sit up and fix my gaze through the window in time to observe the twin objects of my delight in the park; these are the bright orange-coloured public fitness equipment and their active users. These equipment are the central piece in The Healthy Life Park Concept, the brainchild of the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The objective of this ‘movement’(as I prefer to call it) is to encourage locals (especially senior citizens) to exercise on a regular basis. Since 2006, the Municipality has been equipping parks across Istanbul with locally manufactured fitness equipment,ranging from rowing machines to exercise bikes ,to treadmills and cross –training machinery. And the public response has been very positive.On a daily basis, I see groups of mostly sexagenarian fitness zealots engaged in early morning workouts . Powered on by enthusiasm and bountifully refreshed by generous amounts of fresh air from the trees under which they exercise, they swing their 60year old legs, arms and hips energetically from side to side . Judging from their visages and demeanour, one is inclined to believe that these senior citizens regularly attain the equivalent of a ‘runners high ‘ during their workouts ; producing enough dopamine to induce happiness. However, the picture painted above is only one half of the story. The other is more worrying ; most of these people are not suitably attired for the exercise sessions . Most men wear pullovers , blazers and full shoes ! The most shocking observation however is that ,the entire repertoire of exercises are self-administered. There are no manuals, nor professional instructors on hand to to guide on appropriate use of the training equipment . I can’t help thinking about the potential injuries, and even cardiac arrests, these senior citizens could be subjected to. My warped mind begins to muse again,but for the sake of these 60 yr olds, I immediately distract it, for fear of encouraging any further morbid thoughts
Operation ‘Save Somalia’
As we continue the journey, I see billboards highlighting the famine in Somalia along with an appeal for funds to help ease the pain. ‘The Save Somalia’ campaign ( as I prefer to call it)has been truly spectacular-if I am allowed to use such an expression for a philantrophic endeavour. As a Marketing professional, I have been impressed with not only the scale of this campaign but more importantly the content (visual material) upon which it revolves. Since Ramadan, no key forum/public space has been spared in creating nationwide awareness and public sympathy for the famine victims in Somalia-incidentally also a 98% Muslim-dominated country in the Horn of Africa. From the Turkish parliament where a rather inhumanely titled photo exhibition called ‘Being Human in Somalia’ was held for 10 days, to Takism (the ‘centre’ of Istanbul) and along my bus route, all Instanbullites have been nourished daily on a photographic menu of images of severely under-nourished kids with visible rib cages, mothers with children whose head circumfrences are twice their torsos,and even starved-to- death animals. Thanks to these images, the campaign has yielded positive results. According to Siam News daily, this government-led campaign reportedly raised $275m. To underscore the significance of this, the newspaper explained further that…’Turkey has donated 52 X more aid than the USA towards the Somalian crisis’ (i.e when comparing each country’s contribution to Somalian aid as a percentage of their national income). And how did the Somalian nation respond to this enormous donation?Fortunately the news report provided us with a clue; a photo of a grateful , and this time healthier looking Somalian boy, in a relief camp looks into the reader’s eye and gleefully waves a Turkish flag in acknowledgement of his saviour! My warped mind ‘smiles’ too.. and prays Allah’s blessings on the Turkish Government
‘The heard scarf’: Turkey’s ongoing ‘hot topic’
Long queues of crawling cars announce the beginning of the Istanbul morning traffic, as we turn into Altunizade . I spot a trendy upmarket shop, Armine which is located across the Capitol Mall. Armine and others like Tekbir are key players in the Islamic apparel market which is reported to be $2.9 billion (according to Turkish Daily Milliyet). These brands have grown in response to a changing religious and socio-political landscape which has in turn spawned a group of Islamist elites. It is this group that Armine’s bold, hard- to -miss advertising campaigns target. Their billboards always carry images of a conservative but highly aspirational woman wearing chic garments ; coats ,long skirts or blouses with a headscarf to complete the look. It is this headscarf that is the ‘hottest topic’ in Turkey today. It is a delicate and highly polarizing issue in a country, which in spite of its dominant Muslim population, is also constitutionally a secular state. I recently read a fantastic article on CurrentSocial.com which eloquently captures the essence of this ongoing debate, with a sensitivity that only a local journalist can manage.Dear reader, at this stage I reproduce a fragment of this article for your reading pleasure...’’From a simple headcovering, stigmatised in the early days of the Turkish Republic as backward and rural, it has become, in the last decades, a carefully crafted garment and highly marketable commodity, embodying the challenge of a new class of conservative Muslims to Turkey’s secularist elites ‘…… despite its presence on the streets, women students and civil servants are banned from wearing the scarf in the institutions of the secular state, a rule the governing AK Party, led by conservative Muslims, has pledged to end. The secular establishment fears any change to the ban could see uncovered women feel pressure to cover their heads. An attempt by the AK Party to remove the ban three years ago was blocked by the Constitutional Court and nearly saw the party closed down for anti-secular activities. Continued discussions over the headscarf mirror Turkey’s socio-economic development and the struggle over the defining line between the country’s political and religious characters’For now, the headscarf debate remains a ‘hot topic’ which several people –including myself and my warped mind will be following with keen interest.
After an hour, we arrive in Umraniye district, where our office is located. The skyline is dotted with more minarets, residential homes and skyscrapers. We see more ‘symptoms’ of this fast growing economy; new construction sites for office buildings, private real estate development etc. We finally arrive at the office at 8:20am; twenty minutes more than I expected. Once again, I have lost a bet to the supreme Istanbullian traffic gods. Both doors of our Isuzu office shuttle bus swing open to usher out Turkey’s future; its youth. One by one, male and female, they march out, confidently wielding contemporary business hi-tech gadgets, from Blackberries to IPods to I-phones. They march out to the drumbeats of patriotism, self-confidence and immense optimism – stuff that can only be seen in citizens of a nation which is acutely aware of its strategic geo-political position and importance in today’s Post -American World; with a new economic epicenter in the BRIC MIST(urkey)
For the first time this morning , my warped mind is in perfect agreeement with my usual mind as we both nod our heads simultaneously to the imaginary drumbeats from this emerging Tiger economy !
Note: All photos (except *Somalia Exhibition at Taksim) sourced from the internet