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Opinions Sat, 26 May 2007

2015, only eight years away ...

2015, only eight years away, how heavenly it’ll be for Ghanaians, when we shall be a middle-income economy? May 21, 2007 Resurrected ghosts seen in Ghana and heard screaming, “Aplanke, give me back my tro-tro fare” while verifying if the Ghana success story is not a traditional “development” phantasm but founded on solid ground Ghosts of a generation earlier have been brought back to life in Ghana. The idea-intensive nation-building discourse that characterized our founders’ time has given way to mindlessness fantasies in our period. Dressed in the cloaks of the ghosts but without their mental software as these ghosts are wandering in our minds occupying our active brain regions, our ability to transition into the future from the past has skipped the contributions of the living. We explain the present in past tense as ghosts know only the past.


Do we have a national challenge, like Akosombo falling in height? Blame the ghosts. Didn’t we eschew ancestral worship for Christianity, Islam and other faiths when we accepted to be baptized or other forms of initiation into those faiths? In offering the past to answer for today’s effect, are we placing all ghosts on equal ground – as they can’t answer for themselves – or are some on high ground so that we all can see and idolize them while vilifying others, especially those whose families are currently not on the big throne – “[Chief ghost] bankrupted Ghana”? And when we substitute the future for today, on what ground are we standing to see that future? Has the grand pavilion at the Trade Fair site collapsed, due to poor maintenance? Offer the future, even while we cannot collect the debris. Present them with plans for, not a maintained Trade Fair site, but Trade Fair City, with hotels, shopping mall, all that our leaders have seen in Shanghai ; hotels for traders who trudge in from Kwamekrom to Trade Fair City where they’ll exhibit their cassava starch, kokonte or amala flour, Akrantee bush meat, and one man thousand. They’ll sell these at the Trade Fair City mall that will replace Makola. 2015, only eight years away, how heavenly it’ll be for Ghanaians, when we shall be a middle-income economy? Ananse reminds the Trade Fair City advocates that malls and hotels are facilities in a linked production-market-service chain systems of middle-income economies - they are not wished in isolation.

We all rejoice in being told that we, as a nation of a people, are doing well – economically, politically, and socially. Figures, basis of substantiating claims, are read to us about ourselves by donors and relayed by our own relevant bodies; donors - who must show their financiers that they are delivering, who constitute the source of the strategies as well as Government financiers, who design the tools to measure implementation progress, who hold the big gong-gong to announce far and wide the result of their proffered approaches - feed the readings of the feel good meter into the mouths of our yak-yakking ‘leaders,’ who then use our own relevant bodies (funded by the donors, used by donors to conduct local measurements) to spread the feel good meter reading – that Ghanaians are feeling good! We wake up one morning and suddenly Ghana has met key milestones such as components of the half-way mark to a heavenly state – MDG - ahead of schedule. These figures are used by local mouthpieces, oblivious to the real condition on the ground on which they stand or that which is standing near them, to tell us that we are on track to reach middle-income status in eight years.

Is the Ghana “success story” founded on solid ground or it’s just the traditional “development” phantasm?

As even a medical doctor can’t tell better than the patient how that individual feels, Ananse is compelled to seek the truth, from no one else but the subject: are YOU feeling good in your pocket, under the pillow, or on the roof ceiling, wherever you keep your new Ghana cedi? Our own George Ayittey, a ‘distinguished economist’ at American University in Washington DC, has referenced the several occasions when the major donors got the “success story” meter reading very wrong: they would place African countries on the list of those making “progress” only for some of these names to disappear a few years later from the “success story” list. At what stage of the growth curve does the upward swing become irreversible? So that ours too does not become a sputtering engine, like our tro-tro that sputter and stop; you get off and push until it hits a downward slop, gains momentum and sputtering on before giving up finally; then you insult the mate, “aplanke, give me my money (tro) back!” And you trudge along till the next tro-tro comes along. Don’t worry; you are trudging toward Trade Fair City where you will get value for your kokonte flour and cassava starch.

Ananse appreciates the macro focus of our donors and national leaders, but the translation of macro to micro level is rather wobbly: it is easier to control money circulation or conduct elections than insuring that people eat, the sick are cared for, majority educated, birthing process and baby made safe and sound, lands irrigated, services delivered in slum areas (where the growth is not happening in Accra, where Trade Fair City is), and so on. While the macro lens is picking up sentiments of positive growth in our economy, here’s where we’re at the micro or real level today: doctors and nurses on ‘strike’ demanding to feel good too, just as the figures portend they should be feeling; our hospitals have remained ‘death traps’ since the term was coined in 1979; factories laying off workers as the darkness period extends into the daylight hours with Akosombo falling; new-born babies are detained at hospitals as mothers cannot pay their delivery charges; needed: 23,000 school teachers, which means nearly half a million pupils are not being taught (well) assuming 25 pupils per teacher, and at the higher level they will be ‘in-out-out-out; and our village people and urban poor fend for themselves like in the dark ages – drinking concoctions for medication, edro!


We are substituting thought for an increasing propensity to contract foreign loans, because we measure progress by amount of money borrowed, never mind its productivity. Thus Government is planning to take a 25 million dollar loan (that’s not much; it’s only 25 million new Ghana cedis, much less than when we counted the cedi in a different numbering system) so that Parliamentarians can have researchers. The rumor is that a ghost said: “What a daft idea? to borrow for salaries of workers that will not generate revenue directly – how do you repay the loan?” From honorably yelling ‘yeah-yeah my lord’ and selling cassava starch at the Trade Fair City, stupid. Instead of having ghosts on the payroll, should not the living be paid to do the job – the living at the ministry where ghosts are paid? Should not the 25 million dollar loan go into the sputtering engine (infrastructure) like engine oil so that we don’t trudge along but have a good trip? Should the 25 million not go into shoring up our learning infrastructure for our in-out-out-outs and in return they serve as assistants to Parliamentarians, gaining knowledge for their dissertations and vital workplace skills?

“Be patient, you are not alone” - in trudging, facing energy crisis, individual economic hardships, or inadequate learning infrastructure. If anything, we are told, “you are better off than others in the sub/region, so stop the whining; look, the others do not have Trade Fair City except Jo’burg. Did you know that, according to donor figures, Ghanaians have longer artificial light when compared to many countries on the continent? We’ve already taken you to new heights therefore give us an ayeekoo,” and Kwamekrom chants in unison, “Ayeekoo dear leaders.” Not only are these challenges real in Anansekrom and Anansekope, but we do not seem to be grappling with them. Simplistic solutions emanate from the yak-yaks to the extent of calling on our former European colonizers to come back and adopt us at, ironically, the time of the grand festival marking the historic independence from same five decades ago. How ironic, that the Central Region, cradle (and now king size bed) of our formal learning – the mechanism to solve problems – would be first to realize that we ain’t achieving for our people (micro) as we’ve failed to link learning to human development, even as macro (Accra suburb) looks good? Some of our great men and women have passed through the Cape Coast educational system: Kofi Annan, the late Chief Justice, and others, yet we hear Cape Coast has one factory, which produced Ameen soap, and we proudly celebrate the Anomabu-Cape Coast area as a birthplace of formal education. We should give Ameen soap a special place at the grand pavilion of Trade Fair City. We have demonstrated our inability to link positively education hotbeds and development in the area, macro to micro.

Should we build a solid economy differently from how Christians (perhaps other faiths) are taught by the Lord to build homes that will stand the vagaries of (inclement) weather? – before you dig or lay the first brick, consider the resource needs, choose a good location, preferably a solid rock, never discard any broken brick until you’re done as it might be the cornerstone. Failure to heed these principles results in stumps, “incomplete.”

Ananse yearns for this phantom of “success story” to be borne out, even when the storm comes, for we have chosen the solid rock to build on, and we have resourced the construction of that growth economy. For Anansekrom and Anansekope, we are not starting anew; we already have our foundation, thanks to a vilified ghost declared Africa ’s most adored son in one thousand years - our schools, Government structures, departments, research organs, bush paths or roads, rivers and streams, and all. But these are facilities, not the systems that they were supposed to be. Therefore, as one facility had taken specimen to foreign lands and determined that the bird-flu had arrived, rumors wide that the bird-flu had arrived, the veterinary services in the local area was reported to be unaware. Later the same day, the high official himself would reveal that yes, the bug had landed. We’ll not know if there’s been any ingestion from consuming our beloved fried chicken, a heavenly dinner feature, but no, all the chicken pieces had been imported. Two years earlier, the high official had chewed and poured for Parliament about our state of preparedness to mitigate the bird-flu, should it show up, but when the real bug arrived, chew and pour did not translate. The aspect of integrated services, one arm knowing what the other is doing through communications, had failed; Parliament had failed to detect that the minister was only doing chew and pour at that time because they did not have research assistants to detect chewing.

The buzz word among our donor community is, appropriately, ‘capacity building.’ What is needed is a visionary and inspiring leadership, hence the ‘leadership crisis’ of our region is part of the development cliché. We are not now going to invent new farmers, but when we think about increasing food production, we forget who has produced our food crops, just like the cocoa grower; instead of enabling (capacitating) those who work the land to produce more, efficiently and securely, we conjure a new breed of farmers - Parliamentarians and university graduates to go into farming. Ministry of Anansekrom national orientation, after institutionalizing Chinese language as Donkokrom lingua franca, has inculcated a new spirit into university graduates of agriculture: to touch the soil, hold a hoe and machete, get blisters on their hands, and trudge home the produce, huh! Or those professionals would be absentee farmers or farm managers – because Aveyime and Dwawenya are part of the “success stories.” They will leave Parliament and the research laboratories to go into farming, and Parliamentarians and researchers will be replaced with those we traditionally refer to as ‘farmers.’ Ananse believes that, contrary to macro thought, if Ghanaian small-scale farmers can grow cocoa as the leading export commodity for so long, the same can produce its food crops to that level; else you don’t know Donkorkromkope, the boom town where children purchased from impoverished Gomoa communities in the region that includes Cape-Coast, the education hotbed, are put to work – fishing, our own sweat factories. What is necessary is enabling various organs of the one body to do their work and do it well – access to improved tools and infusion of investment capital, enforcement of institutional rules, doing relevant research and diffusing the findings to those who should use them, learning from global best approaches, teaching us how to apply research findings, changing our work ethics, providing incentives for behavioral changes, and enforcing sanctions regimes otherwise, etc., chew and pour.


It is a failure to link formal learning with economy and productivity that has made wobbly our house otherwise built on as solid a ground as was possible. That ground, if you take cocoa production, from the nineteenth century until today, continues to service our economy. But times have changed although not necessarily that we must uproot our house and relocate, like our nomadic families; instead, we need to renovate, a constant phenomenon in keeping structures like the grand pavilion standing and made stronger for more than a hundred years.

In the wake of the declaration of private sector as our engine of growth, Government intends to import (how many?) energy efficient light bulbs. This must be reminiscent of the GNTC ghost when we’ll queue up to buy these light bulbs; or they’ll be distributed by politicians as the next general elections draw near? This time, they won’t buy votes with matchboxes – they’ve gone high-tech, more fanciful – they’ll give us kanea (light). And, who doesn’t like light, except the devil itself? These light bulbs are already in the country, imported and marketed by Kwahus even without Government providing tax-breaks. Ananse reminds Government of its role – to make flat the land so that importers do not face bumps when their goods arrive in the country; to set the standards of what qualifies as the magic bulb; and, which importers qualify for the subsidy, etc. Government can provide excise duty policies that make it feasible for the private sector to engage in trade, but Government is not Makola; leave Makola to our market women and the Kwahus; don’t bring back the ghosts of GNTC, when we were whipped in the queues before we knew what was on sale.


Anansekrom ministry of national orientation, the behavioral change institution, will insure that we obey our vow to not publish, broadcast or read about ghosts except where their intervention would inform us about what worked and what didn’t; beyond that, we shall not pay our ghosts consulting fees but use the money to pay the living so that we don’t blame ghosts for our ills.

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Columnist: Draft Kofi Annan 2008