From being adjudged the Most Active Tourism Minister in West Africa at the African Travel Times 2018 Awards to now a Minister of State at the Office of the President, assigned to the Office of the Senior Minister, Catherine Afeku’s tenure as Tourism minister will be remembered as a mixed bag.
Hated by many and loved by only a few, Catherine Afeku had a herculean task of turning around the fortunes of a sector with enormous potential but which has received little attention from successive governments.
Her journey to becoming the sector minister did not start on a smooth note - President Akufo-Addo ordered an investigation into reports that the nominee for the Tourism Minister and her husband, were defendants in a case of breach of contract in 2007. She was eventually cleared.
After her appointment in February 2017, she faced the gigantic task of fulfilling the New Patriotic Party’s 14 key promises to the tourism and arts sector. Crucial among them was the promise to build a large theatre for each region, with the exception of Accra.
There was also the promise to establish a Creative Arts Fund to make available funds to modernise and develop the creative Arts industry in Ghana.
While many industry persons welcomed the NPP’s manifesto pledges as clear plans to breathe a new lease of life into the sector, others were very skeptical of Catherine Afeku’s ability to make that a reality.
Tagged a sweet talker, she seemed much more focused on tourism than the creative arts, evidence of that being the appointment of over 30 personalities as ambassadors to spearhead the “See Ghana, Eat Ghana, Wear Ghana, Feel Ghana,” campaign. The initiative has not really yielded any real result.
Personalities like SP Kofi Sarpong, D-Black, Nana Kwame Ampadu, Daddy Lumba, Fancy Gadam, Agya Koo, Lucky Mensah, Reggie N Bollie and Sena Degadu have done very little since their appointment.
Agya Koo launched his Agya Koo TV to promote local movies. Very little success has been chalked up by his TV. Daddy Lumba’s promised launch of his Daddy Lumba TV never materialised.
During her vetting, Madam Afeku made known her plans to create some 500,000 tourism-related jobs.
Mrs Afeku at a Meet The Press event at the Ministry of Tourism in Accra in January 2018 disclosed plans to build Akwaaba hotels to boost local tourism.
All these are yet to be achieved.
Entertainment critics such as Ola Michael and Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo publicly criticized her for what they say is her poor handling of the matters in the sector.
The Evalue-Gwira MP was described as a ‘travel freak’ who embarked on fun trips while the woes of the Creative Arts sector deepen.
Reacting to the allegation in an interview with JoyNews’ Maxwell Amoofia, Catherine Afeku appeared not offended by the criticisms.
After Joojo Cobbinah’s explosive documentary on the deplorable sanitary conditions at the Cape Coast Castle, Mrs Afeku launched an inter-ministerial task-force to fight open defecation around the Cape Coast and Elmina castles.
She even declared that a name-and-shame approach will be used to curb the menace.
But her biggest criticisms will come from Ghana’s decision to spend a total of $4.5 million on the organisation of three editions – 2018, 2019 and 2020, of the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA).
She was her criticized for channelling such an amount of money on a foreign awards scheme when the money could have been used to support initiatives such as PANAFEST and the Chale Wote Street Arts Festival.
Her biggest achievement, even though she was once again criticized for this, was the Full Circle Festival which saw over 40 American celebrities storm Ghana in December last year.
That event saw big names like Boris Kodjoe, who was appointed Ambassador of Film for Ghana, Nicole Ari Parker, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Anderson, Jidenna, Ebro Darden, Michael Jai White, Gabourey Sidibe, Cynthia Bailey, Bozoma Saint John, Jay Morrison, and Mike Hill sell Ghana to the world.
During her tenure, Ghana made it to number four on CNN Travel's '19 places to visit in 2019' especially as Ghana marks 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in North America – The Year of Return – this year.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo disclosed while delivering the 2019 State of the Nation address to Parliament that plans are far advanced for the construction of a theatre for the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi.
The president also said a theatre for Eastern region is almost completed.
Barbara Oteng Gyasi
With barely 20 months to the 2020 elections, the president has axed Catherine Afeku from office. In her place will be Barbara Oteng Gyasi, Member of Parliament for Prestea Huni-Valley constituency.
Industry persons are waiting with bated breath to see what Barbara Oteng Gyasi has to offer the sector.