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Opinions Wed, 20 Feb 2008

We can break the Cycle of Family Poverty

We have come a long way as Ghanaians and we now have to make a conscious effort in investing money for our future and the next generation. As a society, we have from the past relied on our extended families to help take care of our children. I have to be honest with you, Globalization and Modernization although are good, they have their unattended consequences that we have to grabble with. The fact of the matter is that the African is moving from selfless and communal type of life to a more complicated life style which sociologist cannot define. One may say that we cannot admit that we have the tendency to possess the trait of rugged individualism but we are slowly but surely changing as a society. I would thereby admonish my fellow citizens to find a creative way to put some money aside in a fund for their children’s education.


It is interesting to note that almost every Ghanaian would complain of the lack of funds but when there is a funeral we would always sew a new cloth. I must confess that sometimes as a people we have misplaced priorities. Education should be the number one concern for our children but most of us do not act right. We say we are poor in Ghana but with my experience living in both Ghana and United States, I beg to differ. I believe a lot of Ghanaians would disagree with me but the truth is that Ghanaians are rich but are not aware of how fortunate they are. My mentor, Mr. Albion Mends Jr. wrote: “Why are we so rich and yet so cash poor?” He calls that a puzzle in a paradox. The problem that we have as a nation is that we want to drive a Mercedes Benz or live in a mansion at East Legon or Cantonments and have a fat bank account before we will admit that we are rich. The earlier we start saving money towards our children’s education the better. How can we move ahead as a country and develop like the industrialized nations? We need to take pragmatic measures towards savings. One may ask that how can a poor person save? The answer is that poverty is a state of the mind. “Poverty mentality” will not lead us any where.. I remember, when I used to live in Ghana, I used to work four different jobs. There are so many jobs in Ghana but some people would complain there are no jobs. I used to be a taxi driver after my normal office hours, used to supply stationery and sold food supplements. I believe that as Ghanaian you can still work extra hours to save not only for your children’s education but also for your retirement. We need to think of “wealth transfer” as a way of helping our families to move up the economic ladder. It can be done as we learn to invest in what is necessary. I am not trying to advertise for Mutual Fund Companies, Insurance Companies or the Ghana Stock Exchange. These companies and the Banks have come to stay but we always think that these institutions were created for the very rich but there is a saying that “little drops of water makes a mighty ocean”. Please, put my advice to test and contact your local bank or broker to discuss any kind of investment. I can assure you that in the next ten years you may be smiling.


I must confess that as Ghanaians we must try to cut our coat to our sizes because we like to show off unnecessarily. It still makes me sick when I talk to someone who complains of no money but the next minute to find this same person in a drinking bar. This is what is known as “Ye nom nsa a wo se shirt mentality” meaning that if we are drinking what has it got to do with a buying a shirt.


Our greatest enemy in Ghana is extravagant funerals. Once upon a time, there lived a man who was poor that he could not find money to buy food and died of hunger but after his death we saw how his children spent millions of cedis just to show off to their friends that they were rich. What good does it profit a dead human being to be laid in state with all these pomp and pageantry? My mother always says that once she is alive she must enjoy but when she is dead we should not send so much money on her funeral but rather we should use the money to care of her grandchildren.

I would like to conclude by saying that we as a people should make a conscious effort in saving money for our children and our future. All these so called industrialized countries have made progress because their citizens saved money. I can assure you that savings is one of the surest way to help us break the cycle of poverty.


I rest my case.

Boye-Doe, Kofi
Criminal Justice Department, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas


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Columnist: Boye-Doe, Kofi