Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why I Love Accra--Genesis

A&C Shopping Mall at day, East Legon Posted by Picasa

Being in Ghana, it is sometimes easy to forget that our next-door neighboursare not so at peace as this country appears to be. It was, for example, hard to believe that, as reported in the Daily Graphic of Friday 22 July, the so-called refugees from Sudan and elsewhere attacked our so-called "Ussher Fort", which is, um, named after the well-known R&B singer;-)


Ofcourse it isn't:-)

Point is: these putative, or so-called, refugees saw fit to attack the policemen, and break their mobile phones. Bad mistake -- anywhere!-- to attack policemen--let alone in Ghana!

In any event, the situation turned quite nasty, with newsmen and others callling fro police reinforcements.

This--in Ghana!

Ofcourse, that's a pretty naive taking of the whole thing; social unrest in a developing country is no indicator of the countr'y political climate. We live in a democracy--or so we are told by all and sundry--so a little discontent here and there, as long as it's well-managed by police, does little to disturb the prevalent peace in the country.

Incidentally, here's the cover of today's Graphic newspaper for good measure:

"Daily Graphic" banner title(27/7/05) Posted by Picasa

you may have seen that there are riots at Weija. You can read the story here


National Health Insurance Scheme ad in Daily Graphic Posted by Picasa

But on the positive side, almost every day, I am reminded of why I love living, working and, um doing naughty things in Accra.

For the past few weeks, I have done what is akin to extensive 'research', googling "ECOBANK" and "ECOWAS".

I have had the priviledge of doing research, lately, on the celebration --or lack thereof--of 30 years of the West African regional organisation, ECOWAS.

Ecobank, the West African bank! Posted by Picasa

Like ECOWAS, ECOBANK is, in effect, a trailblazer in Africa. It is the only bank in Africa that has thirteen agencies in 12 ECOWAS countries, including one in non-ECOWAS Cameroon. It has West African shareholders, and is operating at par with the British-owned Barclays, and Standard Chartered, which are two prominent foreign-owned banks in Ghana. They say the Brits save with Barclays and Standard Chartered. You tell me:-)

ECOBANK is the sixth largest bank in Ghana.

Their website, however, SUCKS big time. The last time it was updated was 2003. Though the information on their site remains rudimentary, and still useful, the two banks above put the ECOBANK site to shame. I have written, over the past two weeks, several emls to the webmaster to update, but nopthing has been forthcoming. As I am not one to give up, I will continue to hammer home the point of the site--even if I have to write a complaint to Graphic's letters. Now, that's an idea!

Ona more serious note, their inability to update their website may be seen as a reflection of their competence, which would be wrong, but in this 21st century, I am sorry, a website for a bank is primordial! Particularly for the competitiveness of the West African banking industry, it is paramount that they get their website in synch with Ghana of 2005 and the ECOWAS countries in which they are based.

For three years running, ECOBANK has won the best bank in customer service (see image of ECOBANK above), and ICT. They have ATMs littered over the country, and their interest rates are eyebrow-raising. I have certainly been waxing lyrical about them to many of my colleagues, and friends. Point is: they are a very interesting bank to save and manage your money with, and for me, ECOBANK is indicative of why West Africa has great potential--and would go far if ALL the ECOWAS neighbours consolidated political will in the West African regional efforts.

But, ofcourse, ECOBANK is a fraction of the reason why I love living and working in Accra. One of the reasons is that there is SO much to do here, plus the plush greenery makes people like myself appreciate the city even more. To be honest, another reason is the so-called A&C Shopping mall that has, as it were, hit the ground running since early June--in East Legon.

You will find a picture of it above this entry, but here's an idea of what they offer, seeing as it's difficult to read:

  • Textiles shop

  • Wine Shop

  • I-Net Internet Cafe

  • Computers & Electronics

  • Allure Beauty Palace [Hairdressing, massage, etc]

  • Body Shop

  • Shoes

  • Cards

  • Books

  • Men's wear

  • Boutique

  • Pharmacy -- hi-tech {US import}

  • Restaurant

  • Clinic (general practice}

  • Mobile Phones

  • Forex Bureau

  • Travel & Tours

  • Coffee Shop {pancake crepes at 20,000 cedis--yum!}

  • Children/Teenagers wear


  • Maxmart is also there (see below):

    Lebanese-owned Max Mart, A&C Shopping mall, East Legon Posted by Picasa
    The mall is owned, I hear, by a Ghanaian couple who lived and worked in the US, is on a beautiful compound, with trees and a modern carpark, with ATM and petrol station. Like any Western mall. Really classy.

    All A&C needs is a website!!!

    I write this like such things are, these days, rare in Accra.


    When I arrived from Brussels on 31 July, 2004 to start work on 2 August at my current workplace in this job, I would not know that Ghana's currency would remain so stable ($US1=ø9000}, neither would I know that Ghana would go through very peaceful elections in November 2004; nor that inflation would be stabilised, despite petroleum price increases, at around 15%-16%.

    My paternal grandfather, E.K.Bensah I, who opened the first motorway in Ghana (Tema motorway) (in his capacity as Minister of Works and Housing***), and one of the firsts in Ghana when Ghana obtained its independence from the British in 1957, must be turning in his grave with ambivalence.

    Ambivalence because though he was an Nkrumahist (Convention People's Party), which the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) then tried so very hard to overturn, he will be happy that elements of the Nkrumahist tradition of Ghana continuing to be the black star, and leading in (West) Africa remains.

    It's definitely good to be back home!

    ***E.K.Bensah I being asked to remove a quotation from President Kwame Nkrumah's statue:

    OCTOBER, 2004
    429 There were a few occasions when the churches openly protested actions that
    they believed to be blasphemous, during President Nkrumah’s administration. In
    particular, the churches were unhappy with the messianic ascriptions that were used in
    adulation of the President. After his statue of about 20 feet had been erected in front of
    the Old Parliament House in Accra, with the inscription, “Seek ye first the political
    kingdom and all other things shall be added unto you”, the Christian Council, found it
    necessary to challenge this. This was because the inscription was an adaptation of the
    biblical quotation, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and
    all these things shall be added unto you.”
    The Christian Council of Ghana sent a
    letter, dated 28
    April, 1958, to the Minister for Works, E. K. Bensah, asking him to
    remove the quotation from the statue of Dr Nkrumah and substitute it with a non-
    biblical inscription.
    Threats were issued from the government that such an action from
    the Christian Council was an offence against the provisions of the Avoidance of
    Discrimination Act. The government further tried to silence the Christian Council by
    accusing it of carrying out a political agenda. On 1
    July, 1960, the programme for the celebration of Republic Day included
    the pouring of libation to solicit spiritual protection. The Christian Churches
    considered this as idolatry and unacceptable and therefore protested against it, even
    though Ghana was a secular State. The churches felt that if spiritual protection had to
    be sought, then it had to be according to Christian practice and teachings. There were many instances in which people sought to deify Dr. Nkrumah. In
    fact, there emerged a cult of President Nkrumah that was nurtured by the CPP. Part of
    the practices of this cult in its deification of Dr. Nkrumah was to ascribe several
    appellations to Nkrumah. Such appellations included “Osagyefo”

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