The Kumasi Wood Cluster (KWC) and the Ghana Timber Millers Organisation (GTMO) have introduced an innovative marketing communication strategy to help the private sector capitalise on opportunities in the European Union (EU).
The initiative, titled “Message House,” will communicate measures Ghana has put in place to meet the EU criteria for wood and wood products.
The strategy was developed in collaboration with the government and civil society organisations.
The move falls under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), a bilateral timber-trade agreement between the EU and timber-exporting countries outside the Union. It is a key element of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) signed over a decade ago, aimed at addressing illegal logging.
Speaking at a workshop in Accra to discuss the communication strategy, the chief executive of the Domestic Lumber Traders Association, Kofi Afreh Boakye, said the initiative will help the private sector to market itself.
He said Ghana has met the sustainability and legality requirements for wood to be exported to the international community, especially the EU.
According to him, in the past, a miscommunication of those processes and the absence of information on sustainability resulted in doubts among majority of EU countries over the sustainability of Ghana’s timber products.
“The Europeans are more concerned about how sustainable Ghana’s legal wood system is and this is a platform where we can tell the whole world that we are not only interested in legality but also sustainability,” he said.
Stakeholders were updated on effective messages the private sector will need to promote and communicate better the essence of Ghana’s legal timber on the European market when licencing is ready.
Meanwhile, KWC and GTMO are implementing a six-month project titled “Development of private sector-focused messages for Ghana’s FLEGT licence communication strategy.” The project is funded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation-EU FLEGT Programme.
This is to make available facts and figures to support messages to be carried by Ghana’s overall FLEGT licencing communication.
When ready, exporters of timber and timber products will have to meet certain criteria for FLEGT licences to be issued on the products they export to Europe.
With this new communication strategy, licences issued under the FLEGT-VPA will be worthwhile. As part of the project activities, a photo catalogue, Ghana Wood Digest, of exported timber products, company facilities and national infrastructure have been designed.
Also speaking at the workshop, the former Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Adjei Yeboah, stated: “It is very important that our messages are strong enough. We are not just talking about an industry.”
“It is good we are doing this and I pray we would be able to articulate it well to the international community,” he added.
He further debunked assertions that Ghana was not doing things right in the past, necessitating the creation of the “Message House.” He the emphasis was initially not placed on communication sustainability.
In his contribution, the executive director of KWC, Mr Gustav Adu, recommended to the Forest Industries Association of Ghana and the companies to use the communication strategy to promote FLEGT licenced timber products.