Upon Arrival to Accra, Ghana: “
I have only been in Ghana for 12 days, but already I feel changed by my time here.”
I started my week in Ghana filled with energy about the impact I could make to my partner organization, the Ghana Coalition for NGOs in Health. This
coalition serves as an independent body to unite NGOs in Ghana to work towards its vision of a “nation free of disease and ill health.” While acknowledging
the ambitious goal of the Coalition, I started out feeling prepared to address my client’s needs because I had been trained on the culture and
business-norms of Ghana and had experience developing communication strategies in the past.
After interviews with stakeholders however, I realized that the challenges facing the Coalition expanded far beyond our scope of work and included
structural hurdles that created a significantly different business landscape than the one I am accustomed to in the U.S.
Internet is not widely available, and even when it is available it is costly and requires a computer or smart phone to access. Even in Accra, the capital
city, a rainstorm or rolling blackout can knock out your internet for several hours. Because of this, email can be an unreliable mode of communication.
Cell phones are a useful alternative to email, however hurdles include limited information that can be shared via SMS text and the ad-hoc and cumbersome
nature of calling large groups of people.
While I had come into the program aware of the relational culture in Ghana, I did not fully grasp the extent to which this is engrained in business norms.
Even when people are from the opposite side of the country, they meet to discuss business, to obtain project metrics, or to conduct trainings. All of these
practices are more efficient and data-rich in person, but they are very costly, and may be hard to justify to donor organizations from other cultures.
So far, my team of three – one person each from PIMCO, Dow and PwC – has conducted interviews with stakeholders including government organizations (Ghana
Health Services), other coalitions (Ghana Aids Commission), and Coalition member NGOs that deal with healthcare topics including HIV/AIDS, reproductive
health and family planning, tuberculosis, cholera, immunizations, nutrition, and mental health. Our mission while in Ghana is to provide a communication
strategy with technology recommendations to improve communication flow and data management. In just a week and a half, we are well into our analysis and
have determined that by the end of June we will deliver:
A clear value statement that will enable the Coalition to effectively develop its brand.
A formalized communication policy that defines stakeholders and communication processes, with the goal of improving message consistency and
delivery for internal and external stakeholders.
A defined implementation plan with KPIs to measure progress.
I have only been in Ghana for 12 days, but already I feel changed by my time here – Ghana has a rich history and proud culture, and it has been thrilling
to live and work in Accra and engage with organizations that impact so many lives across the country.