Stakeholders Advocate Strategic Communication as the Foundation for Nation Building

Stakeholders at the DCS@50 public lecture have encouraged the use of strategic communication as the foundation for nation building. The public lecture is the first in a series of lectures and forums being organized by the Department of Communication Studies (DCS), University of Ghana, to mark its year-long golden jubilee celebrations.


Delivering the keynote address on the theme, Communicating development beyond politics: Can the tenet of strategic communications help in a digital era?, Mr. Kojo Yankah, Founder of Africa University College of Communications and the Pan-African Museum,  argued that  "digital communication is not synonymous with the principles of strategic communication." Mr. Yankah described Ghana’s current information eco-system as one inundated by information disorder because of advances in digital communications technologies and the pervasive use of such technologies.

He asserted that since information "is transferred with speed and cannot be watched and evaluated in real-time," it was nearly impossible to have control over how it was used.

Mr. Yankah proposed six key factors to take into account when determining what strategic communication actually entailed: the messenger's credibility and qualifications, the message, the recipient of the message, the channels of communication, the timing of the message, and the anticipated impact and evaluative measures of the message shared.

During a panel discussion that followed Mr. Yankah’s keynote address, Dr. Mustapha Hamid, CEO of the National Petroleum Authority, observed how partisan political communication, mainly driven by digital technologies, was promoted in public discourses, and stated that the lack of a coherent national voice was a difficulty for nation-building.

Madam Esther Cobbah, CEO of Strategic Communication Africa, compared strategic communication to Nkrumah's struggle for independence by drawing on historical precedents. To her, understanding how Nkrumah strategically overcame  obstacles to get Ghanaians to a point where the country could achieve independence is note worthy. According to her, strategic communication comprised nothing more than purposefully collaborating with others to accomplish a goal for the people that resonated with them.

 "You must engage people's minds in order to understand them and communicate effectively with them. Understanding their needs is important in order to tailor your message and bring about the desired change”, she continued.

Madam Kathleen Addy, the Chair of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), explored the issue from a political perspective and highlighted how political parties have used digital technologies in their communication to only nurture partisan goals.

She posed a few concerns while lamenting the present situation, "Who are the individuals communicating for political parties? Can we trust the messengers? Are the people happy with them and understand what has been shared?”

"The government’s communication department should have programs in place where they can meet connectors, present all ideas to them and seek their views, then modify the issues depending on the feedback given before exposing the ideas to the general public," she suggested.

Madam Cobbah encouraged Ghanaians to begin considering how they could use digital media in a way that worked for the country.  “It will be difficult to hold anyone accountable unless we examine how social media may be used to improve the nation", she added.

Madam Addy spoke about how the NCCE is making use of current events to strategically promote national development. One of such efforts is the Commission’s collaboration with the Miss Ghana pageant to engage contestants to use their platform to connect with the public to sensitise them on their civic duties and to promote national development.

Dr. Abena Animwaa Yeboah-Banin, the Head of the Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, reaffirmed the need to recognize that the problem persists and that tracing or controlling it would be more difficult than usual because we were living in the "infodermic age," which she defined as "a pandemic on how information is seen, channeled through digitization and propels fake news and misinformation."

The forum was moderated by Madam Baaba Cofie, Managing Partner at Mahogany Consult, a a Public Relations, Events and Change Management Consultancy in Accra, Ghana, who is also an alumna of the Department.

Story By: Emmanuella Amoafo Asante, MA Student, Department of Communication Studies