RE: Ghanaian Engineers And Scientists, Do They Have Low IQs

Thu, 26 Aug 2010 Source: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene

Year in year out, Ghana churns out thousands of economics and business graduates, from our universities and polytechnics; and even many more through professional institutes. Further down the education ladder, business and economics students make up almost 50% of our senior high schools’ populations. Colossal proportions of our educational budgets are spent on educating these economics and business students, yet Ghana’s economy has remained in the abyss so long that even one baby step of economic achievement is met with tambourines and palm fronds.

So I ask, where did we go wrong, spending so much on these economics and business graduates, yet our economy continues to be saddled with challenges disproportionate to our efforts towards averting them?... I know by now each person within the economics and education brackets is clenching his fist, ready to swing at my face like a punching bag...hold on!! I am not that ignorant, this is a rebuttal to dual postgraduate degree holder from the UK who questioned the IQ’s of Ghanaian scientists because he sees choked drains in Accra, Kente weavers still using spider crafts, people pounding fufu with mortar and pestle etc.

Yes, all these observations are true, but just as one economics graduate cannot wake up and give businesses low interest rates, and our country low inflation etc, so can a KNUST civil engineering graduate not dive into the Odor and start desilting it. A mechanical engineering graduate would set up a workshop in his backyard, design a breakthrough knitting machine, spend about $50,000 building the first machine for exhibition and then he can clench a commercial deal with Ghana’s manufacturing giants so that he can crawl back his investment. Right? But that is only an ideal scenario, the graduate does not have a backyard for starters, he will go hungry for the 2 years of his research and development, and should he sail through with building a successful prototype, he doesn’t have $50,000 to build it. Even if he has $50,000 to build it, who will he be selling the machine to? The weavers in Bonwire? The safest thing for such a graduate to do will be to drop his CV at Zenith Bank, with a hope of getting bread on his table the day after.

For writers like Francis Kwaku Egu, if you shoot 1 out of 10 deer standing on a hill top, go home, reload your gun and come back 4 hours later, you will have 9 deer left. Granted that his weak and ill-informed outbursts at Ghanaian scientists and engineers are true, then how come every top scientific or engineering university outside Ghana has at least one excellent Ghanaian Engineer or scientist to boast of? Top Engineering firms in the UK, USA etc all attest to the immense contribution and the creativity of the Ghanaian scientist.

So one asks why such excellence is not replicated locally? It is because in the countries where the same scientists excel, the nation’s leadership long identified science and technology as a driving force of their economy, and created the space and platform for such to thrive. In Ghana, decisions about technology are not taken by scientists, they are taken by politicians. I could site countless examples within the last couple of months that do nothing but ridicule scientists and engineers in Ghana.

If one is abreast with current issues in Ghana, one might have noticed a recent call by our Minister of Finance, urging parliament to pass a deal for financing a housing deal, by South Korea, with the advantage of it being the benefit of “technology transfer”. I can bet my last coin on the fact that the minister, who concluded on this, does not have the slightest clue, what technology the nation even desires to be transferred nor what the technological gaps in our construction industry even are. This is the reality people live with in Ghana, he is a PhD holder in economics, yet makes a decision for what gaps need to be filled in our construction, whereas a careful look at what CSIR has done so far, shows a whole different picture. That said, our minister of works and housing is a Lawyer, who also concludes that Ghanaians use “too much cement” in building. These half-baked utterances, with no relevance whatsoever to the realities in the scientific world do nothing more than relegate the meaningful contribution any scientist can make in Ghana.

If louder mouths and off- the-dome thinkers, who do not have a clue what science is and can do, are the ones to drive a nation in the area of science and technology, then why would we expect anything better than its current state? As far back as 1995, Ghana’s CSIR made the breakthrough in the Biogas Technology, for domestic gas supply. To date, how many institutions patronised the technology? Within 15years, can you imagine how much fine-tuning could have been done to it, to date? BRRI unveiled the technology for making cement additives, from clay, more than a decade ago. To date, no single government, not NPP not NDCs ever assisted them to commercialise it. The machine for pounding fufu has been done more than a decade ago too, so have numerous others.

What must be understood here is, if it is not a country’s priority to drive its economy through innovation, science and technology; a science graduate can only do so much. As I write this now, I read the news of the spillage into our upper regions, through the overflow of the Bagre Dam in Burkina-Faso. As an Engineer, I appreciate how simple and straightforward it is provide a lasting Engineering solution to it, so we don’t have to get here again next year....but as a country, the idea is to dispatch NADMO year in, year out to erect tents and distribute balls of Kenkey to displaced persons. If that is what the country wants, what then can an individual do if he is an engineer? Self-finance a flood alleviation scheme? Or spend six months of designing one, give a proposal, so that it can be shelved by the ministry in charge?

There is a world of difference between what you can do as individual scientist, and how that innovation can be made relevant to a nation’s development. Once that is appreciated, no individual will have the rights to publicly ask if Ghanaian scientists have low IQ’s without assessing their own IQ.

Eugene Boadi-Danquah

Columnist: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene