Moderated by Rick Badie
Cultural ties link Ghanaians with African-Americans. So does the growing promise of two-way trade. Our lead column highlights current and potential business investment opportunities between this region and the West African country. The second column explores “Internet bullying” and outlines what businesses can do to manage and protect their online reputations.
Building economic ties with Ghana
By Matilda Arhin and Cynthia L. Blandford
Ghana has been on our minds a lot as a business and travel destination. Thanks to great partnerships, three distinguished Ghana government officials have visited Atlanta over the past 60-days: Joseph Henry Smith, Ghana’s ambassador to the U.S.; Trade Minister Ekwow Spio-Garbrah and the minister of energy and petroleum, Emmanuel Kofi-Armah Buah.
Ambassador Smith announced during his visit that Ghana brought in more than $3.5 billion in foreign investment on 189 projects in 2014. While in recent times, Ghana has experienced an increase in public debt and slow growth rates for some commodities, it still is recognized by the 2014 World Bank Doing Business Report as the “Best Place for Doing Business in the Economic Community of West African States Region.”
Ghana is rich in peanut production and the University of Georgia is already exploring partnerships in this area. UGA’s Amrit Bart, assistant dean and director of global programs, recently presented a model hatchery and women’s empowerment initiative to the Ghana ambassador.
UGA has also developed a concept entitled “Bringing Talent and Agricultural Knowledge to African Youth” to help spur support to the next generation of farmers by developing 4-H programs that engage youth, foster life skills and leadership development.
Over the past 10 years, trade between Georgia and Ghana grew 102 percent. Over the past 5 years, Savannah’s exports to Ghana grew 90 percent and included poultry, autos, lumber, meats, paper and other products. There is a tremendous opportunity to increase both imports and exports that should be explored. A sister port agreement is being considered as well as a sister city with Savannah to help strengthen ties between Ghana and Georgia. Liberia and the Georgia Ports Authority established the first sister port agreement a few years ago; Ghana would be the second African country to do so.
Over the next five years, Ghana will receive $498 million from the Millennium Challenge Corp., a bilateral U.S. foreign aid agency, to help bolster the power distribution system in the country. This could include on-grid and off-grid renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro and aquaponics. With the oil and gas sector growing, my hope is that companies such as Georgia Power and the Southern Cos. could provide leadership to expand relationships between Ghana and Georgia in these areas.
Ghana’s Vision 2020 growth plan is also exciting, as it will help drive the private sector through innovation and value-added products in food production, manufacturing and energy. Emmanuel Kofi-Armah Buah, the minister of energy and petroleum, seeks Georgia investors to assist him with his vision to provide opportunities for investors, including refineries.
The 25 million people of Ghana and the government are open to working with the people of the Georgia and welcome their investment in agriculture and processing, cotton and textiles, food processing, forestry, healthcare, horticulture, mineral processing, oil and gas, tourism, utilities, airports and seaports, railroads and more. Ghana’s people are friendly, are about business and want to increase the relationship between the U.S. and Ghana. As trade minister Ekwow Spio-Garbrah stated recently, “Atlanta is the African-American capital of the world.” Ties can be strengthened with the African-American community in Georgia as well.
Georgia can position itself as the hub for doing business with Africa by using Ghana as the gateway to Africa.
To further collaborative efforts and in partnership with the Ghana Embassy, the Ghana International Chamber of Commerce and Global Strategies for Good LLC, are planning a trade mission to Ghana for spring 2016. For more information, please call 678-632-2362, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.ghicc.org.
Matilda Arhin is president of the Ghana International Chamber of Commerce. Cynthia L. Blandford is honorary consul for the General Republic of Liberia.
Manage “business bullies” on the ‘Net
By Joe Ledlie and Rich Escoffery
A wise friend once said: “Having your own business is like having a sick child. You never stop looking in.” Business people know that’s also true of a business of their own as well as one that has been entrusted to them to manage.
“Looking in” now also means logging in.
Half of all respondents in a recent survey by Bright Local said they used the Internet at least six times a year to check business reputations. And 88 percent said they put an Internet recommendation on par with a personal recommendation.
Hospitality and retail are major targets for online critics. So are medical, dental, and professional service firms. Plastic surgeons catch their share of online slights too.
Small businesses know the importance of positive and negative reviews and some are caving under the pressure. An Atlanta barbecue restaurant was caught in the crossfire a few years ago after it decided to post a picture of a customer who did not leave a tip. That decision led to hundreds of negative reviews on its Yelp page. It is now closed. An Atlanta-based chain of restaurants had to call in help after receiving some complaints on their Facebook page about service, prompting others to chime in.
Putting stock in online reviews is necessary due to their broad reach, but the most important action for fighting online attacks should really occur long before the negative reviews start.
Here’s the new business axiom for the Internet: “Use It (the Internet) or Lose It (the reputation).” That means defending your enterprise against an Internet attack. But it also means getting out there in advance to manage the Web to your benefit.
The good news for almost every business is that traditional media outlets are now obliged to feed a 24/7 Internet monster; they’re crying for your news. Community websites add to the demand.
A new hire, a promotion, a speech, a sponsorship (even of a community baseball team), a new office or plant site are all news now.
On the downside: online attacks happen. Whether it’s a negative review by a one-time customer or someone with a grudge writing on your Facebook page, sour reviews have to be dealt with, either by you or an outsider you call in to help.
Sometimes a simple protest or a flood of dilution by the “good guys” in your corner is not enough. In those cases, a legal expert can help. If you do decide to contact a lawyer, keep these things in mind:
- Most postings can be addressed without filing a lawsuit.
- If you don’t know the identity of the critic, a lawyer can use the legal process (a John Doe lawsuit) to uncover his or her identity.
- Before you file a lawsuit, understand your goals. It may be more realistic to get the offending posting removed and ensure that nothing else goes up, rather than winning a big judgment against someone who might not be able to pay.
Above all, remember this: Business bullying is unhappy, even enraging. But it’s only something to be managed. And you know something about managing.
Joseph M. A. Ledlie is president of The Ledlie Group.Richard M. Escoffery is a partner at Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson.