I have been intrigued by the uproarious and rather ethnocentric reaction of a section of Ghanaians on the intended establishment of Ashanti Airlines, reportedly by the Despite Group. My astonishment gets even greater when I consider that a business decision by a private entity on the naming of its airline would generate such unwarranted concerns.
The beginning of the establishment of any business entity often instigates in me great feelings excitement and trepidation at the same time. While it heralds the prospect of growth and an important leap in a person or an entity’s entrepreneurial journey, I am also morbidly aware of the monumental challenges that naturally accompany the process of building an enduring business in our country. Some airlines that were previously launched with splendour are now either moribund or completely ceased operations. These would include Antrak Air, Star Bow and the Ghana International Airlines. Again the intended establishment of Babyjet Airlines by former captain of the Black Stars Asamoah Gyan and announced by the President, Nana Akufo-Addo has yet to get off the ground. The unglamorous narrative of these airlines notwithstanding, other airlines like Africa World and Passion Air established less than a decade ago are still flying high with prospects for greater growth.
I prefer to see Ashanti Airlines in the light of a would-be African Aviation giant that shall achieve dominance in the sub-region and the African continent. I have supreme optimism in the prospect of its success and I couldn’t be happier by us showcasing it as a significant Ghanaian and African corporate success story in a few years. My optimism is rooted in what I consider to be intrinsically strong elements of the yet to be established airline.
Firstly, the name ‘Ashanti Airline’ is consistent with what the Despite brand has always represented. The Despite Group established Peace FM in 1999 and chose to broadcast all of its programs in Twi, the language of the Ashanti people. A decision that fascinated many at the time, has become a phenomenal success over the years and spawned at least four (4) other radio stations and television station, all of which still broadcast in the Twi language.
Indeed, according to geopoll.com, the radio stations of the Despite group have the highest listenership of radio stations in Ghana. It would therefore be an obvious incongruity to choose a name which is not consistent with these hugely successful brands built over more than two decades. A good brand is a function of time and consistency in communication, style and corporate identity. It is only prudent that they stay that course.
Ashanti is a Global brand. The Ashanti Kingdom is arguably one of the oldest, most enduring, recognisable and influential kingdoms in Africa. Ashanti symbolises wealth, rich culture and a heritage that has been passed on from generation to generation. Ashanti is hugely popular among Africans in the diaspora and many who have sought to identify with their African roots have either chosen, adopted or given.
Ashanti names as part of their new identity. These include Representative Kweisi Mfume, Erykah Badu, American singer Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas, former lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School, Akua Ejisu and many more. Ashanti is also the home and origin of the Ashanti Goldfields Ltd (now known as Anglo-Gold Ashanti), one of the earliest African companies to ever get listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The global recognisability of the Ashanti brand is self-evident and could only bolster the image of any entity that bears that name.
This places the airline in a good position to transcend the Ghanaian market and gain successful entry into many other jurisdictions.
The choice of Ashanti Airlines also makes business sense. The Ashanti Region is the most populous region in Ghana and the daily air and road commute for transport and airline companies averages around 15 and 40 respectively making those routes the most profitable for these companies. Ashanti people are known to be industrious, shrewd and leaders in Ghanaian industry and commerce. Some of the most preeminent industrialists and business leders in Ghana have been Ashantis e.g. Poku Transport, Boakye Mattress, Appiah Menkah, J. K. Siaw (founder of Tata Breweries, later known as Accra Breweries Co., now known as Guinness Ghana Breweries Ltd) are just a few. This airline would only be further in the narrative of Ashanti industry and most certainly appeal to a significant proportion of the Ghanaian business demographic who are in essence the actual target audiences of the airline business.
So while any commentary on the establishment or operation of any business is inevitable, it is imperative that we only consciously engage in commentary that builds, nurtures and constructively advance the course of that business. Vituperative murmurings such as what greeted the intended establishment of Ashanti Airlines are unhelpful, unwarranted and most probably inconsequential.
I look forward to a time in the immediate to not too distant future when we shall have the emergence of entities like Dagbon Telecoms, Ga Mashie Cement, Ayigbe Confectionaries, Ahanta Zomi, Bolga Dog Burgers etc. all of which shall grow into formidable and transcendent brands.
NOTE: The writer is a lecturer in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the University of Professional Studies, Accra.
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