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PaJohn: The die-hard Ghanaian

Author: Linda Safoa Antwi
 PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson
PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson

I’m very sure we’ve all had moments where happenings in the country, especially on the political or governance front have left us in anger, wishing we could be anywhere but here; as citizens of another country.

But not for PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson, the man whose love for Ghana can withstand any negativity or scandals.

“I’m a die-hard Ghanaian. I love everything Ghana. I call myself a Pan-Africanist; I am all about the African agenda. I started wearing beads about 30 years ago before it even became fashionable to do so and I have been wearing African prints for so long. I’m not a suit person, I think I own about two suits and I don’t remember the last time I wore them. I’m all about Ghana,” he told Showbiz.

PaJohn is a popular name, especially for those in the arts, culture and tourism sector and through his exploits, which are well documented, one clear thing is that he has done so much to promote Ghana both internally and externally; from his writing days in the United Kingdom, to his various editorial roles in Ghana, his establishment of the first privately run city-wide visitor information resource for tourists, the Accra Visitor Centre, his various initiatives to boost domestic tourism like See Ghana to his current role as a Tourism Ambassador, he has paid his dues.

 PaJohn can always be seen in African print

As he tells Showbiz, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he was going to end up where he is because of his very artistic family.

“I come from a family that paid a lot of attention to arts and culture. My dad, E.K. Dadson, was a renowned actor in the 30s and 40s. He established the Axim Trio and was a founder of the Concert Party idea. He also owned the Uhuru Dance Band and was very liberal. My brother, Kojo Dadson (Home Sweet Home, Dr Love, Hotel St James) is an actor and I have another brother, Thomas, who is a musician in the UK; he is a bass guitarist, and I was involved in the arts at a very young age,” he said.

While he had intended to pursue dance, the academic side of the arts especially journalism and public relations drew him more, eventually, it was actually through writing that the awareness to promote everything Ghana came from.

“When I started writing, it became apparent that based on the things that I liked, I automatically had to promote what is distinctly ours, our entertainment, culture and obviously that dovetailed into tourism.”

After studying and working in the UK for some years, he returned to Ghana in 1995.  Then he started writing for a number of newspapers starting with the Chronicle, which was then known as Weekend Chronicle. He also wrote for the Accra Mail, was the Deputy Editor of Ovation Magazine and then in 2008, he started for the Mirror and now Bentsifi’s Tattle has become a staple in the paper.

Through his writing, he realised that tourism information was a key component in the tourism mix and that inspired the Accra Visitor Centre where tourists could access all kinds of information.

After flying solo for a while, he decided to join forces with other stakeholders. “I think it crystallised into helping build a market for tourism and one thing that we obviously lacked was effective promotion so I partnered Joy FM and the Graphic Communications Group Limited to establish the Tourism Marketing Alliance.”

The Alliance came up with the See Ghana initiative, which was to encourage more Ghanaians to be interested in domestic tourism.

“It was a media campaign to let people know that we had a lot more going for us as a country; every region provided something unique and we wanted people to go out there rather than go abroad, he explained.

Currently, PaJohn runs Native Adventures which organises domestic tours known as Wango Wango which uses his his hobbies including travel, cooking and cuisine, nature and outdoor living to provide a unique wellness vacation experience. Wango Wango as he explains it was inspired by an Osibisa song of the same name which wants to make everybody happy.

“Wango Wango caters for everybody. Whether you are a large group or an individual, whether you're planning a corporate strategy session, a team building excursion, staff restoration retreat or complete domestic leisure vacation (Staycation) packages for your family or group/association, we can design an encounter around your specific need, style and budget,” he told Showbiz.

Having been in the tourism sector for so long, he is better placed to talk about the sector’s current status.
 
“I think it is encouraging. There is a lot more definition of what tourism is now than before. In bound tourism has picked up a lot in the last 20 years and tour operators are doing much better. What’s innovative is trying to encourage Ghanaians to be more interested in domestic tourism. It hasn’t exploded yet so only a few people are participating but it will take off soon especially with a lot of promotion.”

Outside of tourism, PaJohn’s other interests lie in the Creative Arts and he has not been too impressed in the last few years. “I think the sector has retrogressed. Even in the 70s and 80s, the level of arts was so high. The revolution of ‘81 and its subsequent curfews killed it for a while as for 10 years, people couldn’t express themselves.

Although the sector picked up after that, it has gone down again for various reasons, one of them being our lack of documentation,” he said.


 The man PaJohn Bentsifi Dadson

According to PaJohn, the lack of archives where people can go and learn from has resulted in US hailing things done before as something completely new.

“It is such a shame that we don’t have reference points for young people to take cues from so the media goes overboard in describing little things. It is laughable to read some of the descriptions in some articles.

“I also think our young people are not proactive enough. We need to do more and stop being too concentrated on movies, music and this idea of celebrity,” he said.

For him, the media’s role in giving life to our creative arts and tourism sectors cannot be overemphasised. “That is why I am particularly excited that ATWAG (Arts and Tourism Writers Association of Ghana) has finally been established. I know some of the executives and their credentials. I know that they’re working hard and going forward we can remedy this and encourage documentation so that our young people would have broader world view and not only live in a myopic world view.”

 

Cooking is one of his hobbies and PaJohn puts something together on one of the Wango Wango tours

PaJohn is a product of Achimota School. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Entrepreneurship from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA). He is currently studying for a Masters in Arts (Tourism Management) at the University of Cape Coast.

For 10 years, he was the Communications Director for Charterhouse and is the Principal at Bentsifi Consultancy.

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