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Opinions Sun, 6 Aug 2006

Innovation & Technology in Ghana-: the missing element.

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation & Technology: - the missing element in Ghana.


Why does Ghana still have to rely on the developed countries for basic things such as washing machines, food mixers, wheel chairs, push chairs etc, when we have a University whose role is solely or purely for Technology, development and transfer, i.e. KNUST.


China is smart enough to pick a simple manufactured item from the developed world, get an example and copy it. The first few years the products are mediocre, but cheap. They learn, get market share, improve the product and start slowly expanding their range. After 15 years, they supply half the world with that product. We have serious questions to ask ourselves. Don’t we?


Recently, The Chinese Premier was in Ghana to open the motorway at Ofankor in Accra. One gathered that China sponsored the full construction of the stretch of road. What can our President do for the Chinese that is on par with what China did for us? Is our President also paying for a school or road to be built in China?


Ghanaians want credibility to the name Ghana. Have we heard of our President opening major establishment in the developed world? Which Ghanaian technology or expertise was part of this Ofankor road construction? Please do correct me if I have missed a grand opening of this nature at Ofankor in the rest of the world. This bring up the issue: Ghana has lots of human resources at least in certain fields, but apart from health professionals who are getting the international recognition as individuals, Ghana is unable to access international opportunities to export their expertise for profits. Cuba on the other hand does this for its doctors and India for example does in the case of IT specialist. Ghanaians could still earn the pound sterling in Ghana, if we have good business acumen like the rest of the well developed world or India a developing country like us.


Sadly, instead of Ghana Government to patronise homegrown contractors or Ghanaian consultant in Diaspora, the contract was offered to a Chinese company. This could be good to foster better relationship with China, however reflecting on this one begin to ask questions? Could it be the Chinese the project was a loan from the Chinese Government?


Are Ghanaians proud of such gesture? Is there anything in this world like a free meal as the English adage goes? No there is any! Well there must be a catch somewhere.


Ghana is one of the market leaders in cocoa farming yet we are failing to extend the product by adding value to our cash crop and happily allowing others to add value to our cocoa product. Ghana has started adding value to its cocoa, for example by transforming the product into cocoa powder for export into Europe. However, this is relatively a very small proportion compared to the overall produce that is carted away in their raw state.

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Ghana must not dare make the same mistake others have made selling off their oil reserves to the industrialised nations etc. Ghana need to recognise that it’s not just about selling for profits but conceding the key areas of management and control to these companies as that is often the issue. Ghana one believes still sells cocoa through an agent in the U.K. We have Ghanaians managing huge companies within the U.K and around the global with track record of achievement. However, one struggles to believe that none could represent the country when it comes to cocoa. This is the question the current Chief executive of the Cocoa Marketing Board could address this balance.


Given the population of China and India, the benefit of cocoa discovered by David Katz, MD, Professor of Public Health at Yale and others showing evidence that drinking hot cocoa power improves cardiovascular health. They proved that the cocoa power and dark chocolate are high in sources of natural flavanols. In general the, the higher the cocoa content of chocolate flavanols and the greater the antioxidant potential.


It is about time we market cocoa to China and India and encourage the population to drink our cocoa powder, drink morning and evening to help with their immune and their cardiovascular system. In addition, many of the people are rich enough in these countries to buy luxuries like chocolate sweets – they are the only growth markets left – the developed world is a saturated market. This would generate money to pay off debt money owed to these countries by Ghana. Increase demand (25% of world live in China), Cocoa demands is going up meaning prices also goes up and we can produce more to meet this demand. . There fore we save our precious little cedis we have and focus the money on better school building for our children the future workforce of Ghana.


Cocoa butter cream is currently made in the US and U.K. Why can’t we have made in Ghana cocoa butter hair products where we market globally instead of the other way round? Is this enough to ask our Government? We desperately need that recognition as a finishers of raw products not just consumers of others manufacturers products. Could we rise up to such a challenge?


How do we do this? We can only penetrate the Chinese market not only through economic policies, but also through cultural and social policies. It is interesting to note that today, young generation French and English students are taken in China to learn some aspects of Chinese language and culture so that they can do business with them. Chinese are now the most sorts after language in Universities right now, in the western world.


Currently, some parents are now teaching their young children as young as 5 years the Chinese language, in Canada, U.K, U.S.A and all over Asia, Japan etc. To enter the Chinese market, the instructions for the use on one’s product must be for example, in Chinese language. This enhances the promotion of sales as most could read the benefits of the products and make a purchase. Most Chinese can not read and understands the English very well. To get the market edge, we must for example encourage Chinese studies in our Universities since China is becoming a strategic economic interest.


The Government of the day must consider the alternative of loans and aids from donors. Ghana must learn to reciprocate gestures. The barter system is still happening through the world.


Ghana does not need loans or aids? Ghana borrows money for the wrong courses. We borrow money to build roads, hospitals, and schools. As a nation we should borrowed money when the money could quickly be retrieved. We should use tax money to build roads, hospitals, and schools. If we borrow to build road should we also borrow to maintain them? After independence Ghana was by far ahead of South Korea, Thailand and most of these Asian Countries. These countries are smarter than we are when it comes to loans and aids and they borrow to feed their industries. Hence, the industries employed more people with a significant outcome and in the end the industries and people paid of the loan.

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Ghana borrow money to subsidise petrol, to pay our minister, to buy car for our ministers and in the end our coming generation will have to pay these loans. My next article will look in-depth why borrowing is undermining our development. For every dollar given in aid to a developing Country like Ghana $100 is seen in returns. Aid helps our corrupt leaders to stay in power. Aid stops our leaders from being creative and innovative. Aid does not help our leaders come up with ways to create employment and to bring the good out of it people. Aids makes us depended on donors. Aid takes your pride away from us. We have all what it takes to develop except innovative leaders.


What we need is the spirit of innovation, and industrialisation. However, this should start from the introduction of creativity from nursery school level right into our universities. The Ghanaian School Curriculum lacks these aspects as compared to other countries. There is no need to spoon-feed students with information. Students need to be encouraged to have critical and creative ways of thinking. This would facilitate a three-dimensional reasoning in our youth.


Ghana on the contrary, lacks this ability to be feisty, take risk and be innovative from the on set in order to make a punchy impact.


A classic example is that everyone is mobile these days but then what hinders our elderly from attending functions when they become immobile? There are no Ghana made wheel chairs sold at an affordable rate on our markets. There is no purposeful shop for people suffering from any disabilities in Ghana.


Or is there any wheelchairs sold at our market, one does not know about? I’m sure that the answer would be a firm no. Wheel chairs are all made from abroad. Kokompe street welders could easily establish their own “made in Ghana wheel chairs”, if the KNUST is failing Ghanaian citizens. Thus, this group of people would gain a meaningful employment in the process. Would this be a new area to exploit perhaps? The capital outlay for such investment is not much anyway. The sad fact is our leaders prefer to import than buy to support homegrown products.


Drip stands used in hospital is another item which is simple and basic, it could easily be welded in Ghana and supplied to hospitals yet we are depending on foreign made goods. I note that a new course called Bio Medical Engineering has been developed in Legon to address this need. Would it be a theoretical or operational exercise? These are our own shortcomings, which needs to be drastically addressed. Why is that leaders do not recognise the importance of these Kokompe and the newspaper boys. Why haven’t we created a whole ministry for the group of people with that determination and resilience to succeed against the odd? The income these guys create for the nation and support their families must not be underestimated. It could be bigger than most created ministries. Ghana school of technologies all over the country must learn to harness such worth of knowledge our street engineers are contributing for and honour them during the nation award giving ceremonies as part of an annual event. These street engineers and innovators also deserve the recognition just like any body else.


Perhaps a continuous review, monitoring and evaluation of projects with the service users in mind would help Ghana to move in the right direction.


Commodes are mobile toilets manufactured here and used for the bedridden elderly who are unable to walk short distances. This could be manufactured in Ghana to sell to hospitals and the general public.

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There are so many incontinence materials that there is no need for people to be incontinent of urine any more except in extreme case.


There are uridoms (Like a condom with a firm grip to connect to the catheter bags), day catheter bags and night catheter bags for men. Thus helping to build up confidence, self-esteem and their integrity.


Companies in Ghana may seize this opportunity to explore this product because there is a market for it in Ghana and other African countries.


Being incontinent of urine is no excuse to locking oneself from the community. If the male patient applies these appliances no one would know of this problem.


There is a solution to every problem in life hence we need to be innovative and hope the Technology University in Kumasi takes into account things that matters in their strategic planning of projects through the all technological colleges and Universities. There is no need to re invent the wheel but copying a product with local materials to meet the consumer demand of the Ghanaian public must be the ethos of the technological establishments.


Made in Ghana jeans, clothing, hats, base ball hats, even hat with mosquito net on the fringes so that a night watch man could use to stop being bitten by the mosquitoes.


I see the real innovators around Kokompe markets, Ashiaman and others. They sell gas stoves, water can, coal pots, and others. Ghanaians need to think of where their past grand parents or living parent bought buy her first coal pot anyone? Was it from U.K, U.S.A or Asia? Is one right to say that it was bought from a local Ghanaian market? It is amazing when one goes home and explores all these areas looking for what is new and sees the low levels of innovation. These groups have the basic knowledge in technology, as they are not graduates but they have tangible outcomes. It saddens me that graduates in Ghana often have the upper hand whilst our Kokompe guys are made to feel inferior. Honestly, one is full of admiration for these guys as they have considered what needs to be done i.e. considered the priorities for Ghana and produced excellent products, though primitive, it practicable and accessible to anyone. Let’s not deceive us and begin and respect each other chosen career. No one should make his brother feel inferior just because they had the opportunity to further their education. Ghanaians in Diaspora please don’t forget these groups as we shop for your families as these Kokompe guys also needs carrots to continue such work of dedication and love. Thumbs up for the guys.


I’m sure if given the training; these guys could even build a car and trotro using that same common sense approach to projects. This makes me remember “the Africar “of 15 years ago – a British invention, but built of wood and a few common metal parts. This could be built and repaired anywhere in Africa on a small scale without expensive factories– the chassis and bodywork was all wood – have a small accident – the local carpenter can fix it! Unfortunately it never took off, although it met all safety standards, but it showed what could be done.

I salute this group of innovators with limited resources. These are our Chief Executives and Saviours of Ghana trade and technology.


These are the groups of people the Government may need to target and enhance their skills because they have the enthusiasm and the practical know how.


Our art and craft sectors are equally experts in their field of work but lack the marketing skills. Is there any way at all the Government could embrace such skills and harness these guys with about 3 months any business course at a certificate level perhaps. Ghana needs all these skills on its road to a real economic recovery back to our stand in the 1960’s.


Mechanics, carpenters and others may all need a brush up in business and marketing skills in order to move forward with global developments. Well, it is would be a proactive step for the Ministry responsible for the development of these group to start some tangible for all to see. Could some of the $547m and £34m aids money trickle into such developments perhaps?



Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.


Columnist: Bolus, Mercy Adede