Opinions Wed, 30 Apr 2014

“The Mindset of Money has Completely Detached the Intelligence of Africans”

Where do I start? With a very deep breath, I wanna say; this is very gloomy and reprehensible attitude, and we MUST do something to turn the situation around before the next century else…...? My question is simple! Are Africans or Ghanaians terribly losing their thinking aptitude? I find it outrageous and appalling that the society in which I grew up with strong emphasis on morality and ethics, courteous culture, a friendly national welcome compliment to all visitors;  aka “akwaaba”, both formal and non-formal teachings for the ultimate respect for age and elderly, and finally a society of caring for each other- could suddenly turned into a society of “get rich quick by any means or die” if not, be completely neglected and abandoned for not having money, within just a matter of one and half decades. I just can’t believe my eyes and I have been asking a lot of questions anytime I call my folks back home in Ghana.

Then came the final moments of my long awaiting answers through texts on “whatsApp” (a modern text, talk and video App on ‘Android or Apple iOS’ predominantly on Mobile OS). It all happened about two weeks ago, when the answers for this rapid disreputable notion that money is everything in Ghana and in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa came to pass. The mentality is that those without enough possession of MONEY, are wholly nothing in the society. Really? Are we serious as a nation or a continent seeking answers for our predicament to such an extent that we narrow our thinking acumen on just one meagre resource in life? Oh! Boy, we get to be kidding!

On Sunday, April 06 2014, at about 08:21CST (13:21GMT), I sent a “whatsApp” message to a friend that I have known since junior high. As a matter of fact I know that he was raised in a family with strong ethics, morally uprightness and with strong emphasis on education. This is not just an ordinary friend, rather he’s someone who relocated in London for a while after his bachelors in Ghana, and pursued an advanced degree in Marketing and currently teaching in one of the famous and prestigious tertiary institutions in Ghana.  For him to have this kind of specious analysis and an ultimate believe in money as everything in life, was senseless to me. Then, I asked myself; how does my elder brother who currently resides in a village with no marketing degree think about money? Our conversation started nicely like this on that faithful day. Please, note that this is unedited.

‘How’re you doing “Doc”?’ It’s being a while, but I hope you guys are doing awesome!’ I asked.  ‘We are doing well. Our famous “Apoo” festival celebrations start tomorrow (04/7/2014), with a fully packed week long activities’- he replied.

“Really, I missed it a lot. I can’t remember the date, but the last time I observed it was probably in our junior high school days, which is more than 2 decades ago. So are you going to participate?” I asked.

He replied: “I wish I could participate but it’s too expensive”.

 “Expensive? How possible? What will make the participation of your own rich festival expensive? Do you have to pay a fee to participate these days? Or what’s going on?” I asked him with an astonishing tone!

He replied: “I have to buy gas (petroleum- in Ghana) in my truck and must have money to give to friends and family, and also buy all kinds of drinks for my homeboys”.

Basically, he must prove before his folks that he’s rich, capable, the boss and “in his own zone” before he could be accepted by his friends and family.  I was completely stunned by his answer, so I suggested he re-writes his budget and cross out all the unnecessary stuffs.  When he failed to yield to that, I told him categorically; “the only important things in his budget were the gas money or the transportation, food and beverage, and some few extra cedis (Ghanaian currency) for contingencies such as mechanical issues with his old truck. All the other list he plans to do are pleasant and pleasurable, but unnecessary! They are things that your friends and family will appreciate, but that shouldn’t be a hindrance and penalty for your happiness or enjoyment”. To my surprise, I presumed my suggestions disappointed him, so he came in strongly and said:

“What is festival, and what is enjoyment? If you don’t have money to do all these things that I have planned to do?” I kept suggesting to him that few drinks are ok, but he doesn’t have to force all these on his neck. That still didn’t settle well with him. So this time, I decide to shift the focus from the budget to his ‘planned participation and expectations’. So I asked him; “On the average, how much does one need to participate in the festival celebrations?” He replied that he personally needs about 500 Ghana cedis and equivalent of about $200. So, I asked again; ‘So those who cannot afford the $200 or the 500 Ghana cedis cannot be part of the celebrations’? “That’s is absolutely preposterous! Has our thinking acumen and natural intellect been deteriorated to that low level”? I asked.

Folks, at this point, his response below, which is “unedited” is the sole purpose for this article.  And here we go:

“It’s very difficult to go to my hometown these days without spending. If you are not ready to spend, then you don’t have to go there at all. You can’t go and see your old lady and nephews without giving them anything. All the good guys are still around and so you can’t eat and drink alone without inviting them. They will come around when they hear that you are in town and you cannot just ignore them. That’s the NATURE OF OUR CULTURE NOW! Especially now that they know that you have traveled abroad before and you are gainfully employed. Trust me, it’s very difficult to visit my hometown these days. What is care in Ghanaian context”?

“There is nothing like caring for people in Ghana anymore. If you care about somebody, then you have to show your love by giving them SOMETHING-material gift not just a hug! Nobody will take you serious if you go empty handed and tell them that I’m here to visit you, because I miss you and care about you. Not in Ghana, my friend! The only way you can show your appreciation to people these days is to give them money and other material things. As for me, if I don’t have money to give to my family, I will NEVER VISIT them. I hope you get me now. That’s how the society you left behind has come to be. It’s far better to avoid going there with nothing to give to friends and family and humiliate myself, by just showing up with nothing in my hand to “dash” to people. I can’t, and will never do that. I would rather stay home. Well, I’m in conference marketing in Cape Coast, so we’ll talk later, ok? Thanks”.

‘Wow! Wow’! Wow! That’s all I could say rhetorically. I perfectly agree with his analysis and conclusion. I’m a Ghanaian so at that point I knew he was being sincere! I know the fact that he is an honest person because, he hardly talks to me this way since I had known him. Besides, I have heard similar stories from other colleagues on many occasions but have not paid attention to its significance and ruthlessness. 

At that moment, I knew I have a herculean task to figure out something and come up with a remedy that can help dispel this bad notion which’s gradually destroying our society. I know it was going to be tough and controversial but I promised him that in few weeks he should be ready to read the full text of my thoughts about this ‘tormentor’, and here we are today.

So my question is: Where does all these illogical thinking come from?  And who introduced it to this poor Ghanaian society? Can everybody in the society be rich or has everybody in any society at all ever been rich at the same time and same period? How can a society which used to be inspired and highly motivated, but unfortunately has been struggling to achieve some successes, be filled with this kind of delusions? If everyone in the society has to be rich, what then is the meaning of different talents?

Folks, it all bores down to a society where majority of the people feel there’s no hope! Whenever people feel miserable in life, their thinking abilities become restricted and subsequently unresponsive to change and innovation. That’s exactly what’s going in most sub-Saharan African countries. The thinking aptitudes of the continents citizens are gradually thinning and weakening towards money, money and MONEY but nothing else! This’s really pathetic and we must pull all available resources together to fight and change this wrong and immoral path.  

In Finance and economics, we always talk about the poverty trap or these days, especially in finance we call it the scarcity trap. In simple terms, it means that when people have very little, they undertake behaviors that maintain or reinforce their future disadvantage. The general principle is that if you have very little, you often behave in such a way so that you'll have very little in the future. Unfortunately, people who behave this way have no idea. That’s exactly what’s happening in most African society, especially in Ghana and Nigeria. Majority of the citizens have very little possessions so their erroneous thoughts are that: by concentrating on just one particular resource and getting it all by any means will make life better. Really? That’s never true.  If that’s how you think, then trust me, you’ve been caught up by the scarcity trap! Time will not allow me to explain the technical financial implications of this theory which so many Ghanaians especially, the youth are not even aware or don’t even know of it, except those with knowledge in finance or Economics. You know why? , they’ve been ‘blinded’ and just don’t see nothing wrong with it.

Let’s face this:  how come their counterparts in the developed world don’t think of money today, money tomorrow, and money forever by any means? When the youth in the western world are working so hard to develop and come up with the various ‘Apps’ we have today, or some new technology, African youths mind are programmed to think; money, money and Money, why?  To be honest with you, the youth in America in particular, are always dreaming to attend one of the eight Ivy League schools which are: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University, or in the UK: such prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics (LSE) and others. You know what? Their reasons have nothing to do with money. It’s about prestige because, the term Ivy League has connotations of academic excellence, selectivity in admissions, and social elitism not Cash or money, please! They dream and think that once they gain admission and graduate successfully, then all the other benefits will come with these achievements.

What do we see in sub-Saharan Africa, especially Ghana and Nigeria? I’m sorry to say that the youths in West Africa in particular are thinking of “sakawa” a derogatory term I heard about 8 months ago during my short visit to Ghana. It simply means “get rich through blood money or fast track your success by any means possible”.  You know what? I don’t blame them, because they have lost hope! Our leaders have woefully failed Africa and continue to fail us. There’s no thinking among our leaders in Africa at the moment… This is sad, and it makes me wanna ‘puke’ just like that! The mentality of African leaders is that without foreign aid or help, we can never ever make it or survive as a continent.  So all policies are geared towards begging, begging, and BEGGING from the west (colonial masters) and China. Lord have mercy on all the dummy African leaders, please! Did the west create Africa as a continent for our survival to be placed in their hands? Why do we have to think that without them we cannot survive? Just ask yourself this question: does America depend on Ghana for survival? If you’ve answered that question, keep it to yourself for now: Time will tell when we do need the answers!

In Ghanaian context, I may be as poor as hell, but guess what? My family holds me in high esteem, for real! There’s no family decision made without informing me. Is it because I’m rich? Hei no! Then what’s it? It’s because, they think I’m knowledgeable and truly, knowledge is power! It’s all about the way your carry yourself, the way you set your expectations and goals right, as well as your purpose in life. It’s not about having enough MONEY to give to people!

Folks, I perfectly understand that the sweep of demographic change has transformed the relationship between the family and the economy-and vice versa. About three decades ago, child-rearing contributed to the family labor force and could be easily combined with income- generating activities such as farm labor and industrial home work. It also consumed a large share of economic resources. But times have changed, of course! And we all live in the capitalist economy where one cannot underrate the power or the importance of money.

I do not intend to talk about finance or economics however, money is really good, and could make like very comfortable if managed well.  There's a study out there which was reported by ‘Business Insider’ on December 18, 2013- reported by my good friend Nicholas Carlson- http://www.businessinsider.com/ that money does buy you happiness, but only up until a certain point. It says that after you make $75,000 per year (in America) for example, increasing your income is not going to make you any "happier. I know that the truth about wealth and happiness is more complicated than any study can say. Obviously, the topic of wealth and its relationship to happiness is complicated and conversations about it are laced with judgment. And that's why it’s so fascinating to read outrageous thread posted by my friend describing the misconceptions the Ghanaian society attaches to money these days.

Research shows that when rich people are about to die, they become less proud of their wealth. The relationship between money and happiness is surprisingly weak, and to me, this may stem in part from the way people spend it. Because people don't spend it right, they end up not knowing the basic scientific facts about money and happiness. Most people don’t even know about what brings it and what sustains it and as such they don't know how to use their money to acquire it.

My point is that contrary to the thinking of the Ghanaian society today that money is everything and nothing else, I’m sorry to tell my fellow Ghanaians: MONEY does not make you happier, relationships do. Ask some rich people and they will tell you that, when you become rich, you normally take it for granted, like we normally take having great parents for granted. In fact in the developed world, being rich means the money has brought you a pursuit. And having a pursuit which is very important to you is not the same thing as having happiness. I know from Managerial Finance that the correlation between income and happiness is positive but modest, and this fact should puzzle us more than it does. Why? Some believe that money buys happiness, well, that’s true to some extent, but unfortunately, it buys less than most people think, so to me if this is your thinking that you wanna die for money by any means, or forfeit your daily activities that bring you happiness as my friend claims it’s happening in most African communities these days, then it’s just a sheer ignorance. If it is so, then you may be living in a fool’s paradise.


Folks, Money isn’t everything in life! There are people who are able to commence with their lives without money. There’s a saying that “opportunity and right information make people successful” Visiting a family members and providing the right information for their needs, is far better than giving them 50 Ghana cedis momentarily. There are more aspects of life than just money. Most people just need a hug in times of need and difficulties, not just money.  Please, don’t abandon your family simply because you do not have enough material wealth to offer them. That’s a deceptive mentality and squat thinking.

If money is everything, I can guarantee you that many people would not be able to survive. I have a lot of friends who are not rich or wealthy in any standard, but the level of their knowledge and exposure to the international community cannot be matched to most rich people in my community in Ghana. In any meaningful life, money is not enough to make you happy. It only can buy what you want and need, but money cannot buy happiness and family. There’s nothing important than love and family. Even if you are wealthy, you are likely to waste your time on how to manage your money. Unfortunately, you can't buy time with your money, or the time that you lost with your family and your friends.

Fellow Ghanaians and Africans, money is good in all aspects but when you concentrate or focus on it so much that you wanna neglect all other equally important things such as love, family, friends, and social activities that we all enjoy doing; just because you don’t have enough, then in my conclusion, your mind, and thinking as well as your natural intellect is relinquished, detached and worthless. That means, you can hardly think of any growth and progress. Please, let’s quickly rise up and defeat this mediocrity thinking- that money, money, money, and MONEY is everything in life. Thank you.

Peter Osei-Adjei

President and Coordinator-Web Communications

"Overcoming the Power of Vested Interest Among African Youth"

Fort Worth/ DFW, TX

poseiadjei@yahoo.com , poseiadjei20@gmail.com
Columnist: peter Osei-Adjei