As The Sun is set to berth in Ghana, the Chairman of The Sun Publishing Ltd., Ghana, Mr. Alex Asiedu, has said the newspaper is going to redefine journalism and newspaper business in the country.
During a visit to the corporate headquarters of The Sun Publishing Ltd., Apapa, Lagos, Mr. Asiedu, the trained investment banker, expressed optimism on the success of the publication given its strong capitalisation, with the right staff and promised the readers, especially Ghanaians, to expect the best.
What is the prospect for The Sun Ghana?
The prospect is great. Ghana is a very stable country where democracy has taken roots. We can further deepen democracy by broadening the media base. You have a situation where people have taken interest in our politics, social matters and economy. If we provide them with a media, such as The Sun Ghana, to voice their views and opinions on issues of politics, society and economy, at the end of the day, it helps everyone.
What is going to be the focus of the paper?
It is actually going to be general interest. Of course, you can’t talk of general interest without talking of politics, the economy and social issues. It is an embodiment of all these.
How is newspapering in Ghana?
It is a bit fragmented. Principally, the state-owned newspapers, particularly The Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Time, control the newspapers business. We have seen the rise of privately owned newspapers but they are not as well established as the government-owned newspapers. That is why I’m of the opinion that The Sun Ghana will make a difference in the media landscape in Ghana.
What is going to be the cutting edge of The Sun Ghana against the backdrop that the government-owned newspapers are doing better than the private-owned?
The foundation for The Sun Ghana is solid and well capitalised. Most of these newspapers struggle because initial capitalisation didn’t count but we are going in with strong capitalisation and we are also using technology to bring about our newspaper; that is what is going to make the difference. And also the people we have recruited. For any newspaper to work, I sincerely believe you need the right capitalisation, the right technology and the right people. These three things, we have.
How is Ghana’s operating business environment?
Like any other African country, Ghana goes through its share of problems. However, the economic institutions in Ghana are well stabilised and well founded. We believe we can build much stronger economy going forward. Once you have the right institutions in place, that forms the bedrock of any development. Ghana, as at today, has those institutions in place; we need to nurture them; we need to make sure that at the end of the day, they are fed with the right instrument to cater for growth.
Circulation figure of a newspaper is a function of the literary level among other things, what is the literacy level of Ghana and also the readership?
The literacy level of Ghana currently stands at about 71 per cent. Even if you have a higher literacy level and the newspaper that you produce is not addressing the issue of that country, the readership will not be there. It is not just about having the level of literacy; it is about also presenting exciting issues that are of interests to the people. This is where I have always maintained that whatever we do as a newspaper, we will make sure that we are feeding our readership with the things that they will want to read; things that they want to know about. It’s just like offering a product; you are not manufacturing that product for yourself, it is for the consumption of someone. We need to be mindful of that to find out exactly what the people want to read about, the issue they want to know about and take care of those issues.
Does the government interfere with the media industry?
None whatsoever. As a matter of fact, Ghana is considered to be one of the most liberal places to establish a newspaper. There is freedom of expression. This is attested to by the number of radio stations, newspapers in circulation. The government does not interfere in anyway.
Recently, many companies in Nigeria were relocating to Ghana but there were this issue of tax and other unfavourable policies. What do you make of this in relation to the company you chair?
If companies were relocating to Ghana, it was not driven by tax issue; it is being driven by peace issues. These companies find in Ghana a peaceful environment where crime is at a manageable level, where families could live in peace and these are the things that human beings are looking for. The tax issue for companies, I believe, are secondary because what is the point of having the best tax regime and not having the peace. These companies were moved to Ghana ostensibly for the peace dividends that Ghana provides. Yes, issues such as tax could come in, but Ghana’s tax regime for all intent and purposes is not different from that of Nigeria.
African countries are bedeviled with one problem or another. What is the problem of Africa?
It is all about leadership or the lack thereof. It takes good leadership to move a country forward. Singapore made it as a result of one person, Lee Kuan Yew; Malaysia made it as a result of one strong leader, Mahatir Mohammed, and South Korea made it as a result of leadership provided by Park Chung Hee. What Africa needs today is good leadership, strong leadership and it only takes one good strong person to bring about this change.
How could you assess the Nigerian government and its role in Africa development?
Last quarter of last year, I was invited as part of delegation to attract investments into Nigeria. Someone asked me, why are you rooting for Nigeria and not Ghana? I told the person, if Nigeria did not make it as a country, the sub-region would fail. The reason is very simple: Nigeria has a population of about 170 million. It is the greatest country in terms of GDP; it surpasses South Africa. It simply means that if Nigeria doesn’t get its acts together, the rest of Africa will be in trouble more specifically, Sub-Saharan African. That is why it is important we all come out to do things in a manner that would bring about sound development in Nigeria and for the rest of the sub-region.
Nigeria is very important to the continent; its development or the lack thereof affects the rest of Africa. If things are not going on well in Nigeria, Ghana will be in trouble. This is so because when Nigerians are leaving Nigeria, they will not settle in Benin because it is a French-speaking country; they will not settle in Togo because it is French-speaking; the closest place they will settle is Ghana. If there is trouble in Nigeria, it simply means Ghana is in trouble. That is why we have to put our hands on the table to make sure that things work out well in Nigeria.
How can Africa move forward?
I’m a firm believer that Africa will move forward contrary to what some people think. The reasons are: If Africa doesn’t make it, the rest of the world will be in trouble. The national resources that we provide, if they are not harnessed, we cannot feed the industries outside of Africa. For example, the UAE is making sure that agriculture in Kenya takes shape and it is successful because the UAE doesn’t have the capacity to grow agriculturally, they must depend on countries like Kenya. That is why Africa is important in the general scheme of things.
However, if you look at the energy or power situation of the continent, Africa only produces about three per cent of the world energy total production. If Africa today were to have sufficiency of energy, we have to spend about $300 billion and this amount is growing. There lies the opportunities. I sincerely believe as we have the right institution and our leaders get the right message we will be able to bring in the requisite investments to move the continent forward. Years ago, there was a deficit in telecommunication in the continent because we were strictly dependant on telephone land lines but mobile telephone took over and today, mobile telephony penetration in Africa or in some African countries surpasses that of some European countries.
If we are to walk together to bring about changes in technology whereby we can produce power at a fraction of the cost, thereby reducing the gestation period, we will be able to move along the line of what the telecom industry achieved. Africa offers a great opportunity.
What is the secret of Ghana’s political stability and what should other countries learn from Ghana?
Ghana was the first black African nation to attain independence in 1957. There is this pioneering spirit that Ghana always carries. Ghana went through a lot of military coups. It got to a point where the people asked themselves what is it that we are looking for. People got fed up and came together and said, we need to build stronger institution, we need to rely on ourselves because that is where it starts from because without that we are not going anywhere. I believe some African countries are beginning to realise this – that you need strong financial institutions in place. Once these institutions are developed, which is the case in Ghana, things will begin to move in the right direction.
Humanly, everyone wants to be happy, everyone wants to have peace and when there is peace, things move in the right direction and that is the case in Ghana right now. Other countries in Africa will emulate.
Online publication is posing a great challenge to print, how do you intend to tackle this challenge?
We might develop both in tandem. How many people today have access to Internet? Yes, it is growing but can we leave behind those who do not have access to the Internet and profess to be moving forward without them? You can’t afford to do that. I’m of the opinion that we need to take a dual approach – online publication and also the print medium. We cannot divorce one from another.
What should Ghanaians expect from The Sun?
They should expect nothing but the best because we have recruited the best; because we are bringing the best technology to bear, we have provided a strong foundation in the form of the company being well capitalised. Ghanaian should not expect anything less than what I have just said. We will labour to their expectation.
Why the interest in newspapering?
I had not thought about it until my friend, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, approached me and said he had looked around and the most suitable person to chair The Sun Ghana Publishing is Alex Asiedu. Since then I have become a very big fan of the print media simply because I have come to realise its potency in transforming people. What we need in Africa is transformation, we don’t need conformity. We need to transform, to change the mindset of people. I believe one of the best ways of doing that is through the print media; that is the reason of my involvement in The Sun Ghana.