Thursday, April 29, 2010

‘Game gbees’ coming through!

Gary has witnessed what may possibly be the birth of a million-dollar booming video games industry in Ghana.

Scratching your head at the headline? ‘Game gbee’ is the local slang for someone who is a video games freak (gbee is pronounced ‘bay’. Or something like that).

My younger brother, Stanley, was one of the 350,888 candidates students nationwide who blissfully thought the world was theirs for the taking after writing their last BECE (Junior High School) papers last Friday. The whole weekend for him was spent feeling good and video gaming.

For him, playing his much loved game consoles is a great way to release all the pent up energy exerted during the examinations. But the grandmothers and grandfathers at home are dogged in their beliefs that gaming is for vagabonds and gamblers.

This is a familiar story in many households in this country, yet it need not be so.

Last December, a very young man in South Africa saw his life change right under his eyes. Teenager Matthew Bosch won thousands of dollars in cash prizes in the FIFA 10 road show in Johannesburg. It was sponsored by Telkom, in partnership with Electronic Arts (EA Sports).

For the uninitiated, FIFA 10 is one of the bestselling video games in the world as we speak. It is also creating limitless opportunities for young people worldwide.

Untapped resource
EA Sports is a video game maker and one of the largest in the world, too. They, among other things, specialize in signing on sports figures for their very popular video game franchises. And obviously, they pay well too. On top of his club salary, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney earned more than £200,000 from EA Sports last year.

Speaking from a Ghanaian perspective, I can tell you that this nascent industry may just have been reborn in this country.

Already in Africa, some countries are established and reaping the benefits that come with this very underestimated industry. It is estimated that $11.7 billion worth of video games were sold in 2008 worldwide. That’s almost the entire amount Ghana’s economy earned in that same year. So you wonder, why do the youth of Ghana play so many video games and yet we haven’t made any money at all from it?

All you see are young boys and girls at home, in street corner game centers and shacks playing their favorite game consoles like Xbox, PS3, Nintendo and so on. But last Saturday, a group of young entrepreneurs were part of what might just be the light at the beginning of Ghana’s video games revolution tunnel.

Alisxta Innovation put together the first ever National Qualifiers for video gaming in Ghana and the winner will play in the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) in May at the Disney-Land in Paris, France.

According to Qwecy Amissah of Alisxta, the aim of the tournament series is to “use technology to bridge the gap between the Youth and National Development by cultivating their talents and competitive spirit. Our desire is to develop a professional eSports environment which will cater for the future and well being of our players.”

eSports and the other jargon
Chances are that if you are thirty years or below and reading this article, you have a pretty good idea what video games are. Or maybe not. Whatever the case may be, eSports is electronic sport. People also like to describe eSports as a general term to describe the play of video games competitively. Others call it competitive gaming, cybersports or even V-Sports.

At the Spintex Road in Accra where the first gaming tournament took place, over a hundred enthusiastic young men and a few enterprising ladies thronged for the first Ghana qualifier. Subsequent ones have taken place at the University of Ghana and at Busy Internet last Saturday.

These young people, whose ages ranged from 16 onwards, (that’s the age limit set by the organizers) argued that gaming is not a waste of time as many think. Granted, some games have received a lot of flak for their violent nature and at times, explicit content.

But it does not take away the fact that there are thousands of kids in other parts of the continent and around the world who have chosen gaming as money-earning jobs. They combine this fun (and educational) pastime with school, so it’s a win-win situation. Doing that would be a challenge in Ghana, where video gaming is traditionally seen as a pastime and even as a ‘ruffian’s thing’. This is just a perception and nothing could be further from the truth.

Kwecy Hayford, also of Alisxta Innovations says ‘organizing the gaming conferences has been a wonderful experience. Moving from one venue to the other and seeing that each tournament was unique. I believe we are setting the stage. Awareness is being created for gamers in Ghana.”

As we speak, several high profile (pseudo-)governmental agencies have embraced the concept, acknowledging its potential as an alternative way of leisure and learning. Dorothy Gordon is the Director General of the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence – Accra Institute of Technology and Innovation (KACE-AITI) and she is fully behind this concept. I am told she knows a lot about eSports for someone well past the middle age mark. Considering the KACE-AITI is under the Ministry of Communications, this would be a serious coup if the gamers can enlist her outfit’s support.

The Ministry of Youth and Sport has also agreed in principle to put its weight behind the scheme and several reputable companies like Busy Internet, Vibe FM, GoCreate, Lantouch, Solution Oasis, Metro TV and TV3 have also helped spread the word.

All this means that when the concept of commercial gaming catches on and takes off, there’ll be a massive change in orientation that can change people’s lives. This, certainly, cannot be bad.

Diversifying the future
The gaming industry will grow to frightening levels in Ghana. That is, if a few things are put in place. The infrastructural foundation needs a little tweaking. There are really not organized unions and groups like Alisxta who have specialized in putting gaming tournaments together. There is the temptation to think that any event company can do this. Wrong. It is for those who understand, love and above all, respect the principle of gaming. That is why it seems to be a sector that appeals to the youth, because most of our elders simply don’t get it.

But maybe when the much anticipated GamePlay magazine is launched, everyone will get the message. According to the publishers, GamePlay is the complete guide to everything gaming and eSports. Every GamePlay edition features the most current information on gaming, eSports, entertainment, gadgets, and tournament selections in Ghana. It would also have easy-to-use listings of game shops by category and dozens of fabulous coupon savings and prizes of Portable gadgets (iPods, PsP, phones and so on)

It will also cover various areas related to video games including industry sales/revenue figures, number of video game players, console penetration numbers, gamer demographic data, and other trends and data related to the video game industry in Ghana.

The magazine is yet to be launched, but like many other ventures, it needs support. It is universally accepted that once some major money-backers and stakeholders are garnered to inject more resources, commercial gaming in Ghana is a ‘go’. There’ll be raffles, promotions and all sorts of marketing programmes to push the interest, and money, back into the pockets of investors.

Am I selling the idea to you? You bet I am. If you are venture capitalist or business adventurer and reading this, do not wait for me to say ‘I told you so’ in a few years. Ghana will be the next technological hub in terms of eSports, so say the guys from Alisxta. And to borrow a slogan from EA Sports: Challenge Everything!

Just like in the old days when your parents would never have allowed you to play professional football, video gaming would soon reach that zenith in Ghana. When this happens, the grandmothers and fathers at home will start pushing for my brother to spend time behind the console because at that time, it will be very financially rewarding.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gunning for Ghana’s internet glory

Gary looks at what Ghana’s sports-minded business entities are missing online.

Every day, thousands of Ghanaians around the world trawl the World Wide Web for information about their favourite sports teams, businesses and entities based in Ghana. Since most of these entities are football clubs, most of the allusions in this feature would be in the language of football.

If Ghana is serious about foreign direct investments (FDIs) then we should look the way of improved conduct on sport-related businesses on the internet. Entrepreneurs should not also think that there is no money to be made in this era of the credit crunch, for we now know that in 2008 Ghana’s economy surged by over seven percent. This, at a time, when the world was supposed to have been nose-diving faster than Talal Fattal’s Sporting Mirren did in the last Glo Premier League.

Followed by thousands here in Ghana and owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Chelsea FC won its first major trophy of the new season, not on the pitch, but by beating Premier League rivals Manchester United to the inaugural SportBusiness Ultimate Sports Websites Award 2009.

The awards were introduced by SportBusiness Group to recognize the increasingly important role that an effective online presence plays in all areas of sport and commerce. These range from attracting and engaging fans to delivering profile for sponsors and cost-effective revenue generation through ticket and merchandise sales.

Chelsea won the overall Award by a single point.

Was there a Ghanaian sport website? Are you kidding me? Of course not.

As at June 2009, internet penetration in Ghana was estimated by the International Telecommunications Union to be a mere 4.2% as compared to 8.7% in Africa. And according to the same statistics, only 997,000 of Ghana’s estimated 23,887,812 population have access to the internet. The next national census would soon be due, and then I can revise my population figures accordingly.

Very soon the country with its sub-regional neighbours would be interconnected with undersea fibre optic cables. This development is expected to increase internet connectivity and access in Ghana. That begs the question of how Ghana’s sports business entities can tap into this watering hole.

What Ghana’s sports business websites need

Internet marketing is now a major, multi-billion dollar industry. Yet the Ghanaian sports industry is on the leeward side of the money makers.

The spending on search engine marketing (the fees advertisers pay to have their adverts shown on search results and websites) is now measured in the billions of dollars rather than millions. As it stands, only few Ghana-based or Ghana-centered football related businesses have fully functioning, monetized and competitive websites that attract heavy web traffic.

I stress on fully functioning, monetized and competitive because many Ghana-based football entities have websites that have either been disconnected or are dormant. Notable examples include the sites of the teams that placed first to fourth in the last Glo Premier League. Giants like Kumasi Asante Kotoko, Accra Hearts of Oak, Heart of Lions and King Faisal as well as emerging forces like Tema Youth and Bechem Chelsea all have inconsistent websites.

In the past, popular websites like, and Yaw Ampofo-Ankrah’s have all gone extinct due to various factors. At the heart of these are the lack of fresh and relevant content, the non-appealing styles of these sites and/or the myopic ambitions of the proprietors.

The business-minded person may set up a website with the aim of making some money. Yet, some have expressed an ingrained fear of building transaction-based football websites that can sell football or sports related materials to the world.

Despite these concerns, study upon study shows that many internet consumers now have the confidence to transact purchases using the web. And, in any case, with the recent introduction of the Verified by Visa (VbV) system by GTBank and a few other issuer banks to reduce the incidence of fraud and later disputes, one cannot give excuses for not doing business over the web from Ghana.

A modern, well presented website is now expected for any serious sports business and organization. A sports business website should explain the products and services offered or, in this case, it should tell the user what the organization is about and what it has to offer in as little time as possible because internet users are not known for their patience. The site should also provide background and general contact information about the sport business.

A website can also allow online transactions of team kits, memorabilia and any other things peculiar to the entity that owns it. A more accessible sports-related website can make the surfing experience better for everyone.

What our sports businesses are missing
The recent SportBusiness Awards I spoke of earlier concentrated on six categories: Content, Community, Style, Monetization, Partnership Activation and Attracting New Fans. Accumulated scores across the categories determined the overall winner of the Ultimate Sports Website Award 2009.

Manchester United’s site ( took the honors in this category. A critical look at this site shows that there is a constant effort to ‘create news’ such that even when nothing seems to be happening, the site has fresh ideas at all times. Readers may be skeptical about the potential for similar success in Ghana. That is unfounded.

If anyone cares to listen to the radio stations on an average day in Accra, it is clear that there is so much happening out there that the media houses sometimes complain of having too little staff to do all of it. Player registration information, league scores and tables, charts, historical records, important notices, opinion polls, player statistics and game-by-game information, management decisions, annual and fiscal reports and a whole gamut of miscellaneous data can be put on a standard sport business website.

In internet jargon, a community can be loosely explained as a collection of enthusiasts of a subject or event. In this case, I mean the ability of a sports website to attract like-minded people to stay and discuss matters of mutual interest with fellow aficionados while making money on the time the users spend.

Speaking of Ghanaian football websites, I am hard pressed to find any communities that are more vibrant than those of, and These are user-friendly, click-and-go portals that have good timely content that can be used by all and sundry (although more can be done to improve the grammatical correctness of both websites).

The impact of such websites on the football or sports fan is obvious: they would always recommend such sites to friends and return for more. One other site that is also doing well is

The style of a sports or football websites needs not be garish and over-decorated. Simple and straightforward is the way to go. Chelsea FC also won the Club/Team Awards in the Style department of the SportBusiness awards and you may log on to their page ( to see why.

The site caters for the different levels of fan-bases that the Chelsea FC team attracts. Navigation is fluid, not convoluted and winding. This means that whether a fan works with the British Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street or operates an internet café at Mamprobi in Accra, one could find that the site adapts to your tastes. Crucially, the site is compatible with several platforms.

In Ghana, devices such as mobile phones are in widespread use for web-surfing but less so for Personal Digital Aassistants (PDAs) and in-car browsers. Yet for even the technologies that are commonly used to access the internet in the country, we find that many of our sports related websites are inaccessible to these browsing technologies.

Websites should be flexible enough to display on devices such as those I’ve mentioned, while degrading gracefully to work with older technologies such as the good old Pentium 2 computer at that rundown café behind my grandma’s home at North Kaneshie. As many web surfers are embracing broadband internet access, the numerous web designers we have all over town need to remember that a considerable portion of their clients' audience still use slow internet connections.

As I speak, Ghana Telecom’s figures show that a large chunk of their subscribers use less than 125kb download connections. Unduly delaying access to the content of a website can put visitors off and businesses risk losing custom as a result.

For every sport business entity, this is one of the most important aspects of having a website. In basic terms, website monetization is the ability to use your site to make money online. And anyone who has followed Deloitte’s yearly ‘Football Money League’ would not be surprised that Manchester United won the monetization category of the SportBusiness website awards.

Manchester United’s site makes use of carefully researched data on internet users’ behavior patterns. The site has cleverly placed adverts in strategic locations and makes sure that it is virtually impossible to miss the colourful and relevant adverts they place all around the site. Conversely, the problem Ghana’s sport-related sites have is that the adverts placed are either not relevant to the visiting users or even if they were, are not strategically placed so that they can be found with ease.

As it is now, I am quite impressed with the use of such current ad-placement techniques by the popular Ghana-centered websites, Myjoyonline and especially Ghanaweb.

Unlike just a year ago, these websites have made sure that users cannot ignore looking at (and more importantly, clicking) the various ads displayed all around the sites. According to Alexa, the web analytics site monitor, Myjoyonline has a daily page viewership of 65,585 and an estimated Daily Advert Revenue of $199.

In addition, Alexa says the website is worth an estimated $145,400 and is the tenth most visited website in Ghana. These are not bad figures at all and also go a long way to show that if run professionally, a strong internet presence by Ghana’s sports businesses could be very profitable.

Other Ghanaian-based businesses must build competitive sites that can make money otherwise the venture of building a website is sadly, wasted. Having a great website without having monetary returns is like weeding a farm daily without ever returning with any food.

Partnership Activation
Every business has partners and associates of one sort or another. In the world of sport business, the increasing nature of globalization means that no one website can operate in a vacuum as the world is one giant web of inter-connected talented people.

In winning this category, the Manchester United website was able to make a substantial amount of profit for its corporate partners, especially Nike and AIG. The sums quoted were in the tens of thousands of dollars and this shows that raising capital for third parties has become so central in web-building that it is a wonder Ghana’s sport businesses have not caught on to this lucrative train.

The human angle
In the end, every website must be manned and accessed by human beings. A casual glance at what Ghana has to show for sports-related websites shows that on the world level, the nation is generally an apology on the World Wide Web. It is either we keep things too complicated or too simplistic and under-ambitious.

Yet, the numbers of computer science students Ghana produces yearly means that this must not be the case. If the club website of Manchester United is worth an estimated $1.85 Million, we can do the same. The reason is stunningly simple: human beings run theirs, so human beings can run ours, too, for profit!

Looking forward to change
The development of sports websites has been meteoric in the past few years. Today they are at the very core of many sports clubs and events around the world, providing a 24/7 interface with fans and creating a real sense of community and belonging and reaching every part of the world.

The best websites have changed the way that the world of sport relates and reacts to its customers, who are the fans. Crucially, Ghanaian sports teams and entities should not feel that the concept of building money-making websites is foreign and alien to this country and the continent. That’s false, because sites in other African domains such as North Africa and South Africa are utilizing modern trends to make money.

And, let’s face it, by having an accessible site football related businesses and organizations can gain respect and good publicity. If I may say so myself, the opportunities that have been open to me since I decided to dedicate proper time and effort into my weblog is a case in point. When this feature sees the light of day in the B&FT, then it is another milestone gained from that blog.

I strongly believe that the lack of vision, ambition and the will to take risks are the self-imposed obstacles Ghana has put in the way of its own internet dominance in sports business.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spiking sporting success the forex trading way

Gary bumps into some forex trading advocates who believe that Ghana's sporting industry needs a shot of risk to make the jump from paucity to plenty.

I have been told that my columns are usually easy to read and flow seamlessly. Today, I crave your indulgence to twist your mental faculties a bit, for forex trading is as simple as it is complex.

Fifteen months of governance have come and gone in this NDC administration. As usual, it is that time of the year where the government has to account for what it has done in the past year.

Ghana's Minister of Information, John Akologo Tia, briefed the media on what his government has been doing in the past year. He mentioned that inflation has dropped from 18.1% in January 2009 to 14:23% this past February. He also made it known that the Gross International Reserves of the Bank of Ghana has grown from U.S. $ 2 billion at the end of 2008 to U.S. $ 3.2 billion at the end of 2009.

And then, with a smile, he proclaimed that 200 newly registered companies with the GIPC are expected to create a total of about 18,789 jobs for Ghana. John Akologo Tia: "Investment inflows have already started coming in appreciable volumes, and as government continues to promote the competitive advantages of the country to the investment world, the country's job market will continue to expand and absorb the growing number of skilled labor."

Finally, he ended with a flourish that the oil and gas sector has already employed about 1000 people, and is expected to quadruple the next two years with appropriate training for the youth.

And so what?
I was explaining what the Minister's proclamations meant to two foreign nationals I had just met at the Busy Internet cafe in Accra. After listening quietly, one of them, Dan asked me: "So does that put money into your pockets?"

I had to admit, grudgingly, with a shake of the head. No matter how impressive the figures are it does not impact my pocket directly. For the purposes of this article, the figures certainly do not really dent the fortunes of sportsmen and women either. Where two or more men are gathered, football and sport is usually present. So the discussion Veer (naturally) in this direction and then Dan asks me if I have heard of forex trading.

Actually, I have. Whether I fully get it is another matter. But what has that got to do with sport? Daniel explains that if Ghana can encourage its sports industry leaders, sports-loving youth (especially graduates who love competitive sports) to take a little time to learn forex, our sporting fortunes would change. Why is that, I ask?

That is the cue for the start of Daniel's mini-lecture: "Foreign currency exchange (or forex) market is the largest trading market in the world. It yields an average turnover of $ 8.5 trillion daily." I almost do a double-take at the amount he mentions. I ask him if he means that $ 8.5 trillion is sitting there and waiting to be taken?

"Actually, yes and no That amount is there but not for the taking as you put it. It is an amount that is by forex traders TRADED."

Daniel goes on to explain that despite the perception that yields forex money quickly, there are a few lessons to be learned first before getting into it.

So, for the average sports industry leader or sports person, my friend prescriber that since many of them have a rudimentary knowledge about buying and selling, this should not be too difficult.

The best part is that, according to Daniel, the best traders of forex are not necessarily those with business education. He readily admits that this kind of orientation would give a person an edge but argues that it is mostly about following a set of rules in addition to common sense.

He warns that 7 out of 10 traders keep losing money in the forex market, while the rest of the 30% work freely from their home and earn millions annually. What makes the difference between the two types of traders? Well, the top 30% are those with forex skills and knowledge. So that means that if we take our Ministry for Sports, for instance, an education in forex trading can help change their orientation such that a fraction of the monies allocated to them in the national budget can be traded as forex.

This is a simple way of making money by analyzing and utilizing the various risk factors that everytime good business person knows. But in the long run, the best forex traders keep it simple.

This means that for whatever amount of money sportsmen and women want to trade, they have to avoid being carried away by excitement, greed, anxiety or fear. Keep it simple. It works like magic.

Why trade forex?
So, a few days after I had written the preceding paragraphs, I have been cajoled into three 2-hour courses in forex trading at the Busy Internet cafe, where I met Daniel initially. Though I found the ideas and monies involved dubious and absurd initially, I must admit that it is a whole new world.

Personally, I feel that the ability to trade forex would immensely empower our sportsmen and women who are usually paid pittances for what they love doing. We all know how these people, especially the footballers, and are cheated of their hard earned money wrung suspect by team owners and agents. In forex, you take control of your own finances. You can easily beat the returns from mutual funds, hedge funds or managed funds

So, start-up costs are low when compared with day trading stocks or futures. With a minimum of 200 Ghana cedis even, one can start trading forex. Or if you are lacking in self-confidence (which should not be the case after the courses), the experts can do it for you.

Then again, do remember that forex is the largest financial market in the world, not so it is like there are some sports administrators with access to the money are seated somewhere and waiting to deny deserving sportsmen of their earnings. And then there is the added bonus of the fact that it is convenient, as forex markets trade 24 hours a day. There is no waiting for the opening bell, like we see in the case of the Ghana Stock Exchange or similar ones worldwide.

The training (called technical analysis) that is given you to be a forex trader works very well and the market trends Sun respond to what you do. This means that the sportsman earns Whether or fails is in the power of his / her mind

The great part of all this, from my point of views sports as a business advocate, is that one can make money working only a few hours a day or week on one's computer. This is so cool, considering that the training of sportsmen schedules are hectic and crazy and this gives a leeway to make some 'spare cash' on the side in their leisure.

The only drawback that I see as a hindrance is that despite the fact that one can trade from anywhere in the world, an internet connection is must. Yet, Daniel assures me that one need not worry too much because you can regulate the trade of forex on an as-you-go basis.

Caveat Emptor
The Latin phrase above means 'buyer beware'. Despite the glitzy nature and perception that forex trading creates, I feel a responsibility to let you know that really, going to the trouble of investing currency is certainly not for everyone.

People who have no clue how the currencies affect other aspects of the financial world are certainly not cut out for the forex market and this is where most people make a mistake. You absolutely have to be honest with yourself before getting started in order to make a good decision.

That is why I said at the beginning that our leaders should take up the mantle of forex trading and not the ordinary sportsmen and women yen, many of whom honest Do Not have a clue as what country uses the. But if you are sportsman, sports administrator or sports enthusiast reading this and feel that you have got the kicks, why not? It might just work for you. Daniel and his guys at Awasce Konsult certainly think so.

Infectious confidence
Daniel's excitement at making converts to his world of forex is contagious. Soon I find myself hooked. As I go through the course, step-by-sniffing-step, I will do well to keep you updated about my progress (or Whether I will leave the whole thing prematurely). But as they say, the first impressions look good.

The bold predictions that forex trading can increase Ghana's earning power in sports by up to 12% is laudable but I guess we need to keep a cool head, analyze this whole thing before meticulously Devoting our important taxpayer funds into the whole scheme.

This piece first appeared in the the Business & Financial Times Ghana.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The $1 million craze called paragliding

I went over to the Kwahu Ridge to see what the entire rave about paragliding is about and feel that the hype is justified.

Four years ago, a series of meetings were held to discuss the potential of Ghana’s hilly and mountainous areas to be harnessed for profit. The idea was to join government and corporate muscle to make a new sport on the Ghanaian scene grow.

The sport was paragliding and the Special Assistant to the Minister for Tourism at the time was Mr. Ferdinand Ayim.

Talks were swiftly transformed into action and the Easter of 2006 was penciled as the time for the first ever officially-recognized paragliding event in Ghana to be held. On his way to the place where the event was scheduled to take off, Ferdinand Ayim drove his car into a tanker at Osino, near the Kwahu Ridge area.

It was a heartbreaking death that stunned the nation. But by his death, Ferdinand Ayim became a different kind of savior to be remembered at Easter because his passing on made sure that the living could not forget the reason why it happened. And so, a year later, the ‘Ferdinand Ayim Atibie Paragliding Festival’ was held in his honour.

A fabulous activity
Nowadays when you say paragliding in Ghana, the next thing that springs to the minds of many is ‘Kwahu Easter’. I saw this year’s edition myself. I felt the euphoria. So this piece is not based on hearsay. As I saw it, hang-gliding/paragliding is an air sport powered by light aircraft that allowed participants to fly like birds. It is a bit different from parachuting but I do not think the over two hundred people who took part in this year’s event would mind at all.

A glider resembles a large kite and the rider hangs from it while descending from a height. With this year being the fifth edition in the series, the organizers have had a lot of experience with putting it together. Sabrina Krewin is an American who coordinates the activities and marketing for the festival: “This is not the first time that this is taking place so we were quite comfortable with putting it together. Being the first time the Ghana Tourist Board coordinated the event, as opposed to the Ministry of Tourism who we have been working with previously, we had a few challenges but it has been a resounding success.”

In just a few short years, the Paragliding Festival has become an integral part of the annual Easter celebrations in the Kwahu area, which is the most popular holiday season there. The festival attracts both Ghanaians and foreigners alike for days of spectacular aerial fun, ceremony and music. This year’s four days were busy for all involved and I must rate the success of the event highly.

The difference corporate muscle makes
Adom FM, an Accra-based radio station that is part of the Multimedia Group radio and TV empire, climaxed its tenth anniversary by partnering the Paragliding Festival. The result was a clear demonstration of the power of the media. Conservative informal estimates show that the media blitz increased the overall festival patronage by about 12 percent. Publicity in the print and electronic media for this year’s edition is the biggest seen in the series.

In past years, other notable sponsors of the event have included Kasapa. This time it was the red of Vodafone that took the mantle of sponsorship, while Pepsi continued its association with the event.

The companies would not disclose how much they pumped into the festival, yet the bottom line is that the amounts were clearly not enough. Don’t get me wrong, any money is good money but the companies could have done better for such a fantastic money-making machine.

Sources say that 1 million dollars per annum is not an overblown assessment of how much paragliding can bring into the nation’s coffers.

After sorting out the accommodation, transportation and miscellaneous bills of the pilots who came from more than ten countries to fly the participants, as well as the usual petty cash that goes round in events of this magnitude, much of the rest of the revenue is profit.

Now consider that access to the paragliding area costs 5 cedis while a 10 cedi charge is on each vehicle. The real flight itself would set you back 50 cedis. When you multiply that by the number of people from around the world who would troop in to take part should this be made a weekend sport, you get a feel of what the nation can make. On its own, the Paragliding Festival has the potential to make about thirty thousand dollars annually if turned into a weekend sport at Kwahu alone. Add that to the revenue to be accrued from activity-based events that would revolve around the festival in the area and, if well done, corporate involvement as well. The conclusion is clear that 1 million dollars is easily achievable.

This is especially so as other sites have been seen to have similar weather conditions suitable for the growth of the sport. Hohoe in the Volta Region and Gambaga in the north are known to be future destinations for Paragliding.

Paragliding is perhaps often viewed as a higher-risk sport than it actually is. Nonetheless, there is great potential for injury for the reckless or ill-prepared. The safety of the sport is directly influenced by the skill and sense of the pilot. I am told that almost all paragliding accidents are the result of pilot error. Paragliding equipment is very well built and, if properly cared for, will almost never fail and that is why training is necessary.

Getting there
The potential earning power I mentioned earlier would not just drop into the national coffers, no; investments have to be made. According to Sabrina Krewin, proposals would soon be sent to all stakeholders involved to discuss their plans for a smooth take off of paragliding in the country.

Meanwhile back at the festival grounds in Kwahu, certain things were visible. All the people involved in the real work of paragliding were white. Not a single Ghanaian was part of the putting things together. The organizers strongly believe that this has to change.

“We have proposed a 4- to 6-week Flying School training programme to train indigenous pilots in the art of flying. We’d like to have this in October this year, preferably in Tema in the Greater Accra region,” said Krewin.

Already this seems like an idea many are keen on.

When I spoke to some Ghanaians who took part in the flying as passengers, they expressed their delight in partaking in the Flying School programme. That would be awesome because then it would mean that Ghana can soon join the elite community of paragliding nations.

I have assured that it is not difficult and is actually rewarding as the organizers claim the experience of flying ‘changes ones whole outlook to life.’

International attention
The goal is to get Ghana’s paragliding events as part of the calendar of internationally known paragliding ‘places to be’. Some of the well-known ones are the X’Alps Red Bull Challenge, Wagas Festival (France), Flypa Festival (Spain) and so on.

It is estimated that of the tourists who visited Ghana last year, most of them are engaged in sight-seeing only and it is widely accepted that an increase in tourist figures can be achieved with an equal increase in the number of activity-based events. This means that having a place like Cape Coast Castle, for example, is not enough.

The theory is that to make more money out of a place like the Cape Coast Castle, live cannons (for example) should be made available to tourists for them to have a feel of what colonial life was like. Of course, it will not be free.

The same idea drives the Atibie Paragliding Festival. Hundreds of people have made the Kwahu area their focal point for the yearly Easter festivities. Yet, with the sport of paragliding available to augment the spectacular landscape of the area, it means that the many local and foreign tourists would not leave Kwahu with only large helpings of fufu and ‘akrantie’ in their bellies. The food would last for a few days but the memory of competing with birds in the thermals above would last for a lifetime. And that is not an exaggeration.

More information on potential deals and sponsorship opportunities can be had from the Ministry of Tourism, the Ghana Tourist Board or the website for the Ghana paragliding fraternity which is