Ghanaian Businesspeople Asleep at the Wheels, Nigerians Notice
Dale City, VA, Nov. 16, 2001
If the dim impression some Nigerian businesspeople have of their counterparts in Ghana reflects the reality, then Pres. John Agyekum Kufuor’s designation of his tenure as the “Golden Age of Business” in Ghana will remain an empty slogan!
In a brief encounter with a group of Nigerian businessmen recently in Philadelphia, PA, the consensus from the five professionals was that when it comes to doing what needs to be done in the business world, “Ghanaian businesspeople are asleep at the wheels.” It turned out that two of the five relatively young Nigerians have business partners in Ghana.
“I have an office in the Cantoments area in Accra; when I go there and want things done business-wise, my partners tell me to slow down. “They say, slow down ‘Oga’ and before I know it, we are sitting at the Pleasure Beach Hotel and the day is over,” one businessman told this reporter. He said, “In Nigeria I get home at one or two in the morning, in Ghana work is over at 5:00 p.m.”
Amid laughter and ridicule, the group of Nigerian businessmen agreed that Ghanaians are too relaxed when it comes to getting things done in course of the working day. “The whole country is like a big bus in which all the passengers are sleeping, except the driver,” one member of the group pointed out. He noted that the way Ghanaians do business is just like the way they drive, compared to the situation in Nigeria.
According to the last speaker, in Nigeria, most people drive as if they want to get others off the road. But he noted that in Ghana when one driver gives the indication of overtaking another, the later stops and motions the former to pass. He pointed out also that in Nigeria most people do their best to be at home by 10:00 p.m. because of fear of danger from the flow of traffic at late night. “When I am driving home at one in the morning, any driver in front of me does so at his own risk,” he said, amid laughter.
Laxity among Ghanaians, according to one fellow of the group, is indicated again by the manner in which they treat their cars. He said he had witnessed in Accra how young men would park their cars unlocked with the engine running, music blaring and would be inside a night club dancing. “In Nigeria, when my driver parks my car, I take the key from him because if I leave the key with him somebody can put a gun at his head and take him and the car away,” another person in the group explained.
When one member among the group introduced himself as an engineer “into construction,” I asked if he would consider looking for contracts in Ghana, if he had equipment? He responded in the affirmative but cautioned he would think twice before doing that. He explained that his experience in Ghana has taught him, “You cannot get a job finished in time because of the way people work in Ghana.” He talked about how construction workers spend more time standing around talking as opposed to working.
These young Nigerian businessmen were in Philadelphia to attend “U.S.-Africa Business Summit”, Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, organized by the Washington, DC-based Corporate Council on Africa, CCA. This organization is made up of American corporate entities doing business in Africa. The purpose of the Summit, attended by Ghana’s Minister of Trade, Kofi Kunadu Apraku as well as the Deputy Minister of Works, Ms. Tagoe, was to facilitate business relationships across the Atlantic Ocean, this time, not towards Europe, but Africa.
Perhaps it was no accident that I ran into a relatively large number of Nigerians at the Summit. I also met a lot of South African businessmen, especially whites. These could be a reflection of the size of the economy in Nigeria and South Africa.
As hard as I looked, I could count the number of Ghanaian businessmen at the Summit on my fingertips, so to speak. The Ghanaians included Mr. Kwabena Darko who was introduced as the person who produces chicken eggs in Ghana, Mr. Ebenezer Mireku, Managing Director of Asuo Peabo Ltd., a quarry business and Mr. Michael Wilson, a Trade Development Consultant with addresses in Geneva, Switzerland and Accra, Ghana.
In a lengthy conversation with Kwabena Darko, sipping Coca Cola drink, I learnt a lot of profound contradictions associated with business development and the low productive capacity of Ghana, primarily resulting from government economic policies, personal envy and antagonism from public officials. Mr. Darko said he was a founding member of CCA, an outgrowth of Africa Business Roundtable. He lamented that depreciation of Ghana’s currency during the past decade or so, has been responsible for part of the low productive capacity of the country, where most production inputs are imported.
In response to my question about the necessity of organizing the Summit in the United States, as opposed to Africa, a businesswoman from Guinea thought, relative to the US$1,400 conference fee, it was a way for the American side to make money. However, the Nigerian businessmen thought otherwise. According to a lawyer among the group of Nigerians, since the American side has the money, “We have to come here and bait them, it’s like going fishing; you have to have a bait before you can catch fish.”
Another Nigerian businessman likened traveling to United States for the Business Summit to a man trying to woo a woman. “When a man meets a woman for the first time he tries to entertain her, take her out to lunch or dinner, before you invite her to your house,” the Nigerian businessman said of how African businesspeople have to treat their American counterparts. “Because they have the money,” he intoned.
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