Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's Farmer's Day tomorrow! New Ghanaian Cedi in 2007?

While all Ghanaians in the formal sector take a holiday tomorrow, you might want to remember to follow the banner held by this farmer, and support poulty farmers in Ghana. Some reflections on the new Ghanaian cedi -- to come out in July 2007 -- will be very much, erm, reflected on. Till Monday!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Hunt for Red, Erm, November...or Trials and Tribulations of Banking with SG-SSB

In a style reminiscent of my ATM frenzy in May, where I spent hours looking for a working ATM, I spent the better part of the afternoon trying—yet again—to get money out – this time not just from the ATM, but also from the banking hall itself!

I save with SG-SSB, and wanted to get some money from there—only to be caught in some serious and heavy traffic around the so-called "Circle" road that leads up to BusyInternet for around forty minutes(!). Not to speak of the myriad of shortcuts that only led to…more traffic:-( When you start dosing in traffic and that heat emanating around the capital between 1 and 2 pm, then you know you’ve been in traffic for more time than necessary. It’s a good thing I had my sunglasses to hide behind my dosing;-)

Seriously, though, I cannot for the life of me understand why I had to chase all the SG-SSB banks in the ‘hood. I went to my own branch—only to be told that I couldn’t even withdraw money from my account because there was a memo on it about ATM transactions from…another branch!

When I went to that other branch (Accra Main), which happens to be that of the picture I took, I spent a good thirty minutes shuttling between looking for the lady who wrote the memo, and the be-spectacled and pin-stripe-suit-clad manager (a very easygoing middle-aged man who was very affable) of the branch who broke between twi and very good English [he spoke twi with most of his bank staff!] who elucidated the whole mystery for me

The explanation pissed me off no-end: what had spawned the memo, which had by way of condition "no withdrawal" of sorts, was something that could have taken a phone call to fix: at the time that the bank had withdrawn charges (15,000 GH Cedis [by July 2007, it will be 1.5 [new] GH Cedis] for the use of the ATM card, I had insufficient money in the bank. Very soon afterwards, I got some money in. The problem, then, was a non-starter. All the bank had to do was to simply debit my account with the appropriate charges!

As a result of this, it cost me a good three hours roaming round that part of the capital, and incurring a hefty sum of 190,000 Ghanaian cedis, which is around €17 for a good three hours. That the taxi-driver had seen me going from bank to bank…to bank did not help me in shielding me from what I still consider to be an exorbitant sum. At least, I should have been charged 150,000 cedis maximum. He was complaining, looking all-pensive about that initial sum, saying he will be "hot", etc, so I was compelled to give him an extra 40,000—very much to my chagrin.

Long and short: remind me to remind you to (a)have sufficient money in the savings account next time, and (b) maybe, re-consider saving with this bank.

If that sounds cruel, well, just to add that I liked the manner in which the manager had a walk-in policy; that was very encouraging. You don’t get that at my main bank of ECOBANK.


Monday, November 27, 2006

As the Week Opens in Accra: Al-Jazeera’s ‘Witness’ programme gives me Mental Pabulum on Mali

I had the priviledge of catching AL-Jazeera English that is transmitted free-to-air during certain hours of the week on Ghana’s Metro TV. It being Sunday, I hardly expected to catch it—let alone watch an insightful and thought-provoking programme, Witness hosted by former BBC Iraq correspondent Rageh Omaar about the plight of those Africans who illegally make it to Spain.

It was very close to home, because ‘Africans’ in this case was none other than my ECOWAS francophone neighbours—the Malians!

Throughout the programme, I kept on pondering over the psychological compulsion for Malians to go to Spain for a better life. Even when Reuters photographer Juan—a surprisingly compassionate man who made his way all the way to Mali to see the family of one of the Malians who survived the ordeal in those waters of Spain, and with whom he had become close, some of this Malian’s family members maintained Malians had “no choice”, and that it is their “destiny”, and that "les prieres de ses parents ont sauve notre fils".

Quite whether the prayers of parents saved this Malian prompts speculation that God must, assumedly, not have been listening to those who were also praying.

In my view, it was sheer luck, because the conditions by which they travel are horrendous. The boats—makeshift as they are—cannot withstand strong currents. Regrettably, they end up being a death trap.

Quel raison existe-t-il pour quelqu’un de sacrificier sa vie comme ca , si c’est pas le pauvrete ?

I wondered why they felt so isolated and so poor to run off to Spain…when they could easily come to Ghana, for example ? If Ghana’s Anglophone neighbours from Liberia can come to Ghana, why can Malians, at least, not make it to, say, Senegal, another ECOWAS country that is doing very well for itself? Failing that, why not trek to Ghana for opportunities?

I also, frankly, felt ashamed: here I was just a few hours flight away from Mali, yet I had to see an international news station’s broadcast on the plight of my OWN ECOWAS neighbour! These are the kind of documentaries television in Ghana should be showing, especially if the ECOWAS project is to go anywhere.

I am particularly impassioned and encouraged about this as an ECOWAS issue, especially also because on Sunday morning, the news that predominated was the need by Ghanaians to learn the French language. To the extent that, in late October, as the Chronicle paper reported: ¢85m Alliance Francaise office complex commissioned at Takoradi

According to the article: "Ghana as an English-speaking country finds herself in the midst of French-speaking countries, and trading could only be better if the language of French was well-spoken here as well."

The exhortations by government and civil society alike to learn French was as a way of facilitating ECOWAS and African integration.

It’s not a bad idea, but I still think and believe the "ECOWASness" in the region will remain very much a tenuous concept unless serious education of conditions in the region and the fruits of being an ECOWAS national are sufficiently and comprehensively communicated to all ECOWAS citizens.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Darkness Falls in Accra(2), But Regulatory Commission Responds

Ghana's flagship regulatory commission, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) is no stranger to this blog--neither are complaints of darkness falling in the capital contemporraneously associated with what I have described as execrable service delivery by Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).

If that all sounds heavy-handed to you, you might like to reflect a bit on the fact that yesterday evening, for no apparent reason--or so it seemed--lights went off around 9.30pm, whilst we were in the middle of watching All that Glitters on TV3. How we were unamused!

When the electricity came back on, it was around 11.50pm, just as Tv3's Gardener's Daughter was at a stage when it was exciting;-)

Seriously speaking, I called that evening to be told that there was -- yet again -- "a fault" and that the ECG people were on their way to the estates. That was around 9.45pm. Must have been a long trip for them to have taken a good two and a half hours to fix the problem, when they have experienced it many a time!

Anger and frustration aside, I contacted PURC this afternoon, on account of the fact that they had switched the lights off at 5.50am this morning. When I called my parents around 3.05pm, it was still off!

Philip, of PURC, contacted me around 3.22pm to tell me that a conductor was broken and that they were on it. This was after having called me at 3.17pm to tell me that he was trying to get in touch with them. He assured me electricity should be back on around 4.30pm. I have yet to call, but I suspect by time I get home around 6.30pm, it should have been restored;-) Fingers crossed!


Monday, November 06, 2006

As the Week Drew to a Close in Accra: Thoughts on Spintex Traffic; Utility Prices; Lessons of Belgian Energy Liberalisation for Ghana

Originally uploaded by ekbensah.
It was polo immunization week, and as a result, as I heard on Tv3 evening news on 31 October, there was not going to be any load shedding (read: "of the scale there has been").

In any event, I cannot help but wonder whether the load-shedding exercise is not one too many, having outlived its usefulness. First, the holiday of 23rd October was granted a load-management-free day by the government. Now, this: a good four or five days, where electricity won’t go off for 12 hours.

The mind boggles.

Suffice-to-say, uncharacteristically, there have been some positive developments lately than anticipated:

  • traffic is flowing better on the famed spintex road, where scales of the bottleneneck level of last week is being scuppered by the deployment of more police in “strategic” points that have the tendency to cause traffic, and therefore need regular and consistent monitoring and direction by traffic police.

  • petrol prices have gone down, albeit marginally

  • However – and in Ghana, there is always a challenge to grapple with – utility tariffs have gone up.

    I cannot for the life of me understand the underpinning logic of the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) Chairman, Mr.Pianim, claiming that “tariff adjustments will help ease the intense pressure on the national kitty.”

    Check this: Pianim is Chairman of a regulatory utilities commission and he speaks like a free-market man, who believes that competition in the industry is the best way for Ghana’s water and electricity. Just because the government allowed themselves to be hood-winked by the over-balance of perceived "efficiency" of the private sector in water[Rand, water], he believes the same can be applied for electricity?

    What type of vision is this by a CHAIRMAN of a utilities regulator?

    Besides, the logic is flawed: multinational companies are more interested in the efficiency of service delivery than the raising of tariffs, for the sake of it. You can raise the rates all you want, yet when the capital—not to mention the country—experiences sporadic electricity supply as evidenced by my rant last week, when I opined last week that Accra is "in the dark ages", which company is going to be interested in investing in that sort of shoddy and egregious service?

    My sentiments are further buttressed by the case of my surrogate home, Belgium, where the energy sector is about to be liberalized as of 1 January 2007. I sent a note to my colleagues about this development the other day:


    Comparez les prix avant d’agir


    La ministre bruxelloise de
    l’Energie, Evelyne Huytebroeck,
    a invité les consommateurs
    bruxellois à ne pas se précipiter
    dans le choix de leur fournisseur
    de gaz et d’électricité,
    deux secteurs dont la libéralisation
    interviendra, pour l’ensemble
    des particuliers, le 1r janvier

    As liberalisation takes off 1 January 2007, the Minister of Energy has at least set the stage such that Belgians have a fair idea of what they are getting their heads into. Liberalization will enable them to choose a gas or electricity provider, and there is a website ( which enables Belgians to choose provider.

    There is even a free brochure being worked on and a free number for those who have queries…

    Undoubtedly, not to forget countervailing measures and pressures against liberalization, our Ghanaian counterparts could learn some serious lessons from micromanaging an already-bad situation!


    A family friend back in Belgium, whom I also copied this, wrote back saying that associated with this liberalization, will be the Suez-owned Electrabel, which is Belgium’s premier electricity provider, no longer providing the meters for the electricity reading, but it being delegated to "an independent meter reading company."

    Furthermore, it transpired that one of the companies that are waiting to jump onto the liberalization bandwagon has said this:

    “Alexander Dewulf, the CEO of the Belgium branch of Dutch multinational Nuon, says "we will not be present in Brussels because of risks relating to unpaid bills." (from:

    All part of the juicy package of privatization.

    Don’t you just love it when companies accentuate profit over the people?

    I have a sneaky suspicion that what’s happening in Western Europe is bound to happen in even more pernicious ways in countries of Africa if they’re not mindful of the dogmatic and Pavlovian response to the posse that come with deregulation, privatization and liberalization, without adequate and sufficient regulation.

    Suffice-to-say, though, that Belgium Energy Minister, Evelyne Huytebroeck (Greens), has mitigated things to the effect that she is emphatic about “not yield[ing] to pressure from the energy supply industry” (from:
    Her stance is this:

    "We'll go ahead with the liberalisation of the energy market anyway. If the utility companies don't want to supply domestic customers they won't be able to carry on supplying firms. The licence to supply energy applies to both domestic and commercial customers"


    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Darkness Falls in Accra (1)

    Accra is in the Dark Ages.

    Ever since the load-shedding started, the country’s electricity provider ECG, has decided to ride on the back of the "load management programme" by continuing to deliver increasingly execrable service.

    Yesterday, on an evening that was not supposed to experience load-shedding at 6pm, the lights went out, eliciting a collective sigh of resignation and frustration all-rolled-in-one. Calls were made, and it transpired that there was "a fault" in one of the stations near the motorway of Tema. Later, I found out that it wasn’t quite near the motorway, but somewhere around Tema. Not to mention the lack of consistency in the lies (you don’t even know where the genesis of the so-called fault is?) but to buttress all that is the frustration associated with feeling the lights will come on soon when you call, only to find out that the problem has not finished being worked on!

    So it was that I would call around 7pm, only to be told that by 9pm, it would return. Dinner came and dinner went among intermittent sounds of generators in the silence, and we still experienced no power. By 10pm, my family and I were too tired to do anything, and so sleep overcame us not too long after that.

    Suffice to say, my habitual evening walk with my pet dog, Fenix, revealed an estate engulfed in darkness, with a few generators left and right thundering into the night…and through out it.

    Without a doubt, mosquitoes that work in the night had a field day, but I couldn’t help wondering who was truly bleeding us dry: the mosquitoes – or Electricity Company of Ghana?!

    ; ;;;;;

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Of Funerals, and Reflections of a Long (Ramadan) Holiday

    It began last Friday with what many people consider to be a long holiday.

    It was no intention of mine to make it any longer than it had to be – what with the ending of Ramadan fasting for our Muslim friends in the country being granted as a holiday – as I abhor four-day holidays like the plague, but nonetheless, it helped me obtain insights not just into myself, but into other social aspects of living in Ghana.

    nice, aerial view of the Tetteh-Quarshie interchange (right)

    The reason for the absence on Friday 20 October was for nothing less than the funeral of my maternal cousin. In tones reminiscent of the funeral I attended last year in April, I found myself marveling at the roles and utility of funerals in this country.

    As far as my experience with Ghanaian funerals go, there is no hard-breaking news there: it’s a template of crowds – both family and well-wishers – clad in mostly black, and looking pensive, contemplative, and distraught. Funerals inevitably remind us that one day, the same fate shall befall us, but at times, I spend more time looking around at the hypocrisy in the air.

    Barring my divulging of any personal family politics, I think it is sufficient to refer to that aspect that is, as F.Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the human condition in his classic the Great Gatsby, is always "quivering on the horizon". You have to always bear in mind in places like these that there is the maternal and paternal side of the family that is either battling for territory as to who should be seen to have organized things, like the poster, the names on the poster; the food; the reception; the eulogies, whatnot—or not.

    My parents and I tend to belong to the latter category as we do not think this is what funerals should be about, but, you know, our family is far from the only one that is beset by this most asinine of considerations.

    Another thing I realized was that I love the Central region, and it is not because we go to the family house there once in a while, but it is truly so green and so relaxing to travel on, especially now that the roads to that region having been improved considerably. The journey now takes something like 1hr,15 mins, as opposed to the 1hr30/35 mins that predominated travel times in 2004 and 2005.

    On our way back to Accra, from the Central Region, we were stopped by police. We were amazed that police were doing random checks on a Sunday! Wow. In any event, what interested me more about having been stopped than the police officer stopping us was the greenery of the palm trees that had lined up on both sides of the road. Isn’t that just beautiful?


    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Why this Terrible, Morning Traffic on the Spintex Road?

    I live some ten minutes away from work. I'm on the infamous Spintex Road, which I have blogged about many a time, and where you can even find my video of how dark it gets on that road, which I took in April 2006 here.

    All that said, I cannot for the life of me understand why since yesterday, when I left home around 8.05am, I would arrive at work--some ten, fifteen minutes max with light traffic away--at 9.55am!!!!!

    This picture is just to give you a snapshot of the scale of the traffic this morning. It was the same yesterday morning, too.

    I suspect the culprits are the feeder, back roads, which people are using, which block the main Spintex road that this picture was taken on.

    If you can check the two figures in fluorescent clothing in this picture, they are police traffic officers who are supposed to be directing the traffic. Where they are standing is the feeder road, which private cars and tro-tros alike use to feed into the main Spintex road. It leads to the Lister hospital area, where, regrettably, my very good friend Mrs.Nana Amma Osei-Ahenkorah spent her last days in late April this year, culminating in her passing over on 1 May...

    I tried to be clever by taking this picture from the rear-view mirror, or vizor, and this is the clearest I was able to get. Can you see the line trailing allllllll the way upwards?

    Question, now, is what to do about such execrable traffic conditions. My visceral take is to deploy more police on the ground so that they can equally discipline those commercial vehicles, like the one in the first picture, that try to force their way when everyone else also wants to get to their destination on time!!


    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    A Snapshot of an "E-Media--Delivery & Gathering of Information with ICT" at West Africa's Landmark ICT Centre

    Yes. I do believe that if you're a regular visitor, you have already seen this picture, or something like it here. Trumpets blow, pls. It's the so-called "Ghana-India Kofi Annan ICT Centre of Excellence". A cumbersome title indeed, and a cumbersome URL, to boot!: Truth be told, however, it is the sub-region of West Africa's quintessential ICT Centre, with state-of-the-art computers, and a place, where there is regular ICT hub-bub-ing, of sorts;-)

    Here is the entrance into the building. You first have to go through a narrow gate (I guess to register your presence, 'cos when you don't, a man hisses at you (classic call to strangers in Ghana) motioning you to pass through). I took this picture yesterday as I made the intrepid step to attend the open "seminar" on "e-media". On the panel were reputed journalists from Ghana's local scene (you can check out the names here) in radio, newspaper editting, including the Africa correspondent for the BBC Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, and former editor of Ghana's premier Saturday paper Daily Mirror...who is also my former boss at work!;-)

    Here's a snapshot of the audience who appeared to be listening intently to ideas on whether the new tools for the media (mini-disc; Cool-Edit software; video camera with laser backup discs(!); etc) will as much as hinder us as they will help journalists improve news-writing...and the journalist!! (given how blogging is threatening to take over the qualified jorunalists)

    To the right is Dorothy Gordon, DIrector-General of the ICT Centre, and to the left is Kwaku Sakyi-Addo. His brief profile is enviable: Kwaku Sakyi-Addo is a freelance journalist working part-time for BBC World service as a television correspondent. An experienced journalist and television presenter in Ghana, Sakyi-Addo has conducted many roundtables for the media in his country. Sakyi-Addo is interested in using journalism as a means for improving the lives of persons involved in the urban agriculture food production chain. from:

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    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    RE: On US Rappers (Jay-Z), Sweat Shops, & Water Privatisation!!

    With the hype of Jay-Z coming to Ghana in October, worth reminding you of his connection to sweatshops, which he appears clueless over.

    Can I get an "encore", pls?;-)

    From: E.K.Bensah II (TWN-Africa) []
    Sent: mercredi 16 ao�t 2006 11:36
    To: Subject: On US rappers, and water privatisation!!

    UNITED NATIONS, August 9 -- Kofi Annan and two UN agencies appeared Wednesday with rapper Jay-Z to talk about access to water. The news, such as it was, is that water is good. Inner City Press asked Shawn Jay-Z Carter two questions, about water privatization and about the Associated Press charges, unrebutted in the public record, that his clothing line Rocawear used sweatshop Southwest Textiles S.A. in Cholula, Honduras. Video here, at Minute 20:30 through 23:19.

    On the water privatization question, Jay-Z said, "that's just bureaucracy, I don't have any expertise in that," adding that he's about raising awareness. Later he praised Coca-Cola for giving money for play pumps; Coke is under fire for overuse of water in India as well as in Colombia.

    Privatization? Never heard of it.

    On the request that he address Rocawear's reported use of sweatshops, and whether the company still uses Southwest Textiles, S.A., Jay-Z said, "Still? That means that they were."


    tags ; ; ; ;;;;;;;;

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    Ghana's Protocol Car Arrives at World Bank Office in Accra...

    This would hardly be news had it not been for the fact that this ostensibly-odd-registered number plate (by Ghanaian number plate standards, where there are TWO letters indicating the region (AS/GR/GT/GE/BA, etc...), followed by four digits, and a single letter) is the number plate--so I am told--that the security services and protocol use [SPD=Security? Protocol Department?] to dispatch high officials and pleni-potentiaries. That's ambassadors and international civil servants to you and me;-) The "GV" at the end of the plate is a give-away. In Ghana, any car whose registration number begins with "GV" is short for "Government Vehicle".

    The serious-looking man is a protocol officer, holding the hand of a visibly-aged former Interim President of Liberia Her Excellency Ruth Sando-Perry who was in Accra for Africa's first-ever [three-day] "International Media Summit", which saw former CNN anchor Tumi Makagbo in Accra facilitating a session, as well as obtaining many photo-ops(see picture to the left).

    I managed, with my discerning camera technique[;-)], to capture her on Tuesday evening as she walked away from a photo-op. For some reason, Ghanaians are not that enamored about a former CNN anchor being in town...

    The outside of the World Bank office in Accra, in a rather plush compound, replete with the characteristic Ghanaian greenery of palm trees, coconut trees, et al.

    Finally, just to prove I was at the summit, here's a picture of yours truly...doing something;-)Stretching a cheesy grin, I do believe;-))

    In sum, a series of pictures to apologise, of sorts, and explain the absence the past few days...

    Have a good weekend!

    technorati tags:

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    7 Minutes Before the Start of Day Two of the first International Africa Media Summit

    Conferences like these are rarely for the faint-hearted: there's a good dose of solid, interesting, and often-times voluminous documentation to take home; not to mention a phalanx of elegant and gorgeous hostesses who, regrettably, look like they are clones of each other, what with the beautifully permed hair and the identical dressing. Do they honestly have to have teh same hairstyle?. How will you be able to tell the difference when you want to ask one of them about the fluctuating air-conditioning in the room?;-)

    In any event, the summit started off with countries on six/seven rountables, with I believe Joy FM/BBC's Kwaku Sakyi-Addo opening the summit, and asking random people seated in front of sheets of paper of an AU country to describe the country, off-the-cuff, which they saw on their desk.

    People described Sudan; Botswana; Mali; to name but three, and all very good general descriptions. The uncanny thing about it all was that the descriptions were ALL positive.

    Not bad for a conference that aims to dissect a "re-branding" of the continent.

    Ofcourse, that suggests that it had already been branded!

    Off to be part of Day Two...

    (regrettably, former CNN anchor Tumi Makagbo failed to turn up for yesterday's afternoon session; neither did John Sarpong--CEO of Africast; nor Dr.Messan Mawugbe, CEO of Centre for Media ANalysis; nor Thorsten Stamer, Managing Director of Africa Media Warehouse, who actually was there in the morning. I saw him this morning, too.

    WOnder why that session was cancelled without any explanation.

    It's starting...

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra:: Regulation? What Telephone Regulation?; CAN 2008 is Here...Almost; More Ghana Rain

    The week opened with a lot of speculation on who would be the next coach of Ghana, after they survived an “ordeal” of a nine-man-committee. Would it be Claude Le Roy, former coach of DRC; Cecil Jones Attuquayefio, or the elusive Troussier? It turned out that Troussier would fail to turn up, citing family problems. This would be the second time he would do a non-show since 2004, prompting speculation by some sports journalists on CITI97.3FM, and elsewhere that he was probably expecting to be handed the job on a silver platter.

    Yesterday, the speculation was rife almost everywhere that Le Roy would get the job. Regrettably Sir Cecil Jones was being tipped by some as the second-place man, which is both odd and not, considering he’s a Ghanaian national, but also remembering that after Doya’s “success” in taking the Ghana Black Stars to Germany for FIFA2006, maybe a foreign coach might just bode well for the team…and the country.

    Rain, and More Rain
    As I write this, I cannot help but hum to myself : rain, rain, go away, come again another day. But I would be wrong, ‘cos in this cause the rain is very much needed. The rain is of a cat-and-dogs variety, and there, regrettably, is no guarantee that it will be falling in the Volta River catchment area, and therefore into the Akosombo Dam!:-( Such is the nature of the country as regards rain. Just a small example to illustrate is that earlier this morning, as the rain started to pour, I called my Mum who is on the Spintex Road—some twenty minutes drive from here—only to find out that there was no rain in that area!

    Ghana Prepares for CAN 2008—Officially
    In any event, today is a bit of a special day, because today is the day that Ghana officially launches the mascot for Ghana CAN2008 [Ghana: CAN 2008 Global Launch to Be Aired Live Via Video Streaming]. Regrettably, there’s some serious bad communication somewhere as the website is in a very rudimentary form. Not a website worthy of notice:-(

    I’m just listening to JoyFM—regrettably, CITI97.3FM has gone off air for a bit—and I am hearing that the schedule of the load-shedding might continue beyond the fifteen dayas—subject to approval from the Ministry of Energy. Yeah, the Minister of Energy is called Joseph Kofi Adda. Considering the haphazard way in which the national load-shedding was implemented, I would have personally advocated his resignation. I know for a fact that had it happened in the UK, for example, no one would have prompted any resignations in Parliament: it would have happened almost-automatically. Instead, he comes out to knock down the criticism of VALCO consuming most of Ghana’s energy, which you can read here.

    Where was he to say “sorry” to Ghanaians for not having anticipated this crisis. Yes, it is a crisis! Howe can Ghanaians so docilely accept this type of behaviour from the government on a critical element of what drives the nation—energy?!

    As regards resignations, I would say that, in fact, it is something the West does quite well. That said, if the furore over Blair resigning for Gordon Brown, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, is anything to go by, one might just have to swallow one’s words!

    Regulating the regulators
    I think there is a popular phrase in Latin that runs qui custodis custodes, which I heard from an Inspector Morse series a few years ago in Brussels on Belgian Dutch television, when they were crazy about that fantastic and most-cerebral of British crime series. The phrase, in essence, means who guards the guardians?, and after the National Communications Authority declaring that it would slap a billion-dollar fine on the execrable performance of Areeba Ghana, we have heard nothing as of now. The last we heard anything was in mid-August. The article (linked above) maintains:

    "Kasapa Telecom, operators of Kasapa, ranked as the best service provider while Millicom Ghana Limited, operators of tiGo, came second, with Ghana Telecom's Onetouch coming third and Scancom's Areeba came last."

    And then, what about the PURC, which maintained that it would, according to the Chronicle newspaper"discontinue the quarterly adjustment of tariffs"?

    My gut instinct tells me that should be the court of public opinion???

    Have a good weekend!

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    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Blogging from Kalss Inn, East Legon: Random Thoughts on Ghana, Belgium, Development

    Originally uploaded by ekbensah.
    So there I was was, taking a walk from the office to the nearest newspaper stand to buy some local papers -- P& P (tabloid with useful lifestyle and relationship tips that comes out on Thursdays) et al, -- when it occurred to me that if one stepped away from one's car more often, one would probably be able to obtain a more discerning view of one's country.

    As I walked, I thought about the necessity to challenge the complacency associated with moving back to one's home country in Africa after twenty years plus, and feeling that because one has access to many things, all is well.

    So, I was a kid when my Dad started working in Brussels in 1980, but for sure, even my late brother, Samuel, who would have been 33 yesterday would have needed to make some serious adjustments upon arriving in the country that is his home of Ghana.

    With me being 3.5 years younger, you can imagine how challenging it is for me, for example, to marry the quasi-virtuousness of Western life in Belgian suburbia with that of Ghanaian suburbia, where I am perceived more as a rich man than middle class--as I would have been in Belgium.

    August saw me in my second year of living and working (and enjoying!) Accra, Ghana, but there are adjustments that need to be made to disturb any creeping complacency of life in Ghana being "good": a LOT of work needs to be done--either by way of advocacy and otherwise. That Ghana was able to say "no" to a Gay and Lesbian conference in Ghana to me speaks volumes of our visceral reluctance to adopt all that is Western. Democracy, ok, but homosexuality? In this deeply religious country? Even if the "religiousness" associated with the country is this side short of ersatz at times, or perhaps superficial, given the mushrooming of pastors left right and centre, it is clear that this latest development struck a serious chord with our moral fibre.

    In any event, the walk got me thinking about some possibilities for moving forward:

    1. a blog on
    if so, what would be the "mandate" for it. What would it be about? A way of updating myself and readers on life in Belgium, followed by a comparison of life in Ghana? On paper, it doesn't sound bad, but when you are in a work environment and home that emphasizes the qualitative as opposed to the quantitative (I maintain three blogs regularly!!!), then you begin to have some second thoughts.

    The danger with something like this would be that whilst comparing Belgium with Ghana, which is virtually impossible, you would end up castigating unwittingly the country you so love. I'm talking about my OWN country of Ghana;-) How far do I want to do that?

    Criticising is fine, but how much would people be able to connect to the proposed blog?

    Then again, since there is no serious site out there encouraging Belgium/Ghana relations, it would be blazing the trail of sorts...

    definitely some food for thought, but right now, I gotta go buy my paper.

    Here are some links for good measure: [just learnt that Kalss Inn is owned by a Caribbean man called Kallos, or so...interesting]

    tags: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    My Campaign for Google.Gh Begins Today, Whilst I'm Loving RSS...

    Originally uploaded by ekbensah.
    This afternoon, I visited the Google Foundation website, which you can access here to write this query:

    I was tracking my organisation's website the other day, and came across, or a google based in Senegal.

    I know for a fact that the average Ghanaian has at least ONE yahoo account. I am therefore wondering why GOOGLE has not considered setting up a Is it on the cards any time soon?


    My curiousity got the better of me, and I decided to find out how to set up an RSS Feed. Here is my quick "how-to":

    1. open an rss.xml page in notepad/wordpad (it will open automatyicaly, and ask you to create the name)--e.g. notepad rss.xml

    2. go to this link:{how to create an RSS feed}

    3. follow steps, creating your own RSS feed using directions

    4. save in notepad

    5. go to to validate your feed

    6. if invalid feed, it will direct you. Make corrections accordingly

    7. upload on your website

    8. go to feed reader (installed on your computer) and add it there.[try downloading it from this site here:

    9. PRESTO!!!

    It's Really [that] Simple Syndication!;-)

    tags:rss; google ghana; google senegal; google ghana campaign; setting up rss on a website; ghana; accra

    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    This Gargantuan Dam Provides Ghana with Electricity...

    Originally uploaded by ekbensah.
    ...and has been doing so since independence from the British in 1957, when the first President Dr.Kwame Nkrumah built it to power electricity throughout the country.

    Ghana is, in effect, a hydro-dependent state, predicating its energy survival on rainfall into the dam that is generated into electricity. Currently, we supply electricity to some of our West African neighbours of Togo and Benin, whilst buying some of it from Cote d'Ivoire (according to engineer who spoke on the Accra-based English-speaking private radio station CITI 97.3FM) this morning.

    However, as from 28 August--yesterday--the country has been compelled to undergo what Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and Volta Regional Authority (VRA) [that supervises/manages the distribution of electricity in the country's Eastern Region] call "National Shedding" Programme.

    Although it is expected that rains will fall in the country, the rainfall expected this cool season (July-October) has been very little as compared to the earlier months, where there were thunderstorms almost twice a week in the country (April-June)

    The equation is: no rain = no electricity. Therefore, by putting domestic consumers on this "load management" programme, where the capital--divided into six zones--will experience electricity black-outs from 6am-6pm, and 6pm-6am respectively every other third day, energy will be saved for the next fifteen days.

    If and when the rain falls in abundance -- as per the season 'requirements' -- the exercise may be postponed. Until then Ghanaian media has been carrying it. One of them you can read here:

    I understand that the last time something like this was in 1998. It's been a good eight years! Where was the foresight to avert an inconvenience of this magnitude?!!

    tags: ; ; ; ; ; ;

    Google Senegal! Why not Google Ghana?


    Yes! There I was tracking my organisation’s website only to see that google has a Senegal extension! Here is the link:


    If Google ever chances upon this page, could it let me know why it’s been so difficult to obtain a “”, considering the number of Ghanaians who have a account!


    Tags: ; ;

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    Welcome to Ghana's latest entry into mobility: Gold Cab!

    This afternoon, I went to Madina (featured earlier) to go buy some groceries, with a friend who works where this car was parked (A&C Shopping Mall).

    This would probably have not been news, except for the fact that this white car--a brand-new FIAT Sereno(sp?)--fully air-conditioned took me around East Legon, Madina for the two hours I used it for, charging me a cool Ghanaian cedis100,000/hr (that's under $10/hr).

    It's one of twenty cars from this Kokomlemle-based Cab service. Kokomlemle is very near BusyInternet, which has also been featured on this blog earlier.

    Coming to fetch me at East Legon cost NOTHING to me. I jsut had to pay for the hours I used them. The guy came in uniform, speaks very good English, and engaged in small, but good conversation.

    Definitely one to recommend if ever you come to Ghana one of these days. TEL:+ / +

    That inscription you see on the car is their logo. Click to enlarge!

    So, in Ghana, we have, by way of transport:
    a. privately-registered taxis that come in dual colours [Henry Osei is the owner of these cabs above, a businessman I am told];
    b. tro-tros
    c. private cars
    d. metro mass buses
    e. cab service--new!

    Hooray for diversity!

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    Accra is Huge, and Priorities Remain!

    Yesterday afternoon, some of us went to visit my colleague, who has just delivered a beautiful baby, in Dansoman (some thirty minutes drive from East Legon). Ordinarily, we should have spent a good forty minutes getting there, but due to Ghana's indefatigable and legendary traffic, it took us a good one and a half hours!

    Suffice to say, the vastness of Accra can become seriously illusory when you work in a place like East Legon, where there is more plushness than dirty drains.

    In one scene, which I regrettably failed to capture, we saw some guys emptying themselves into a small stream, that was, apparently, going straight into the sea. Yes, you read right: emptying themselves. One man wiped his backside with his left, pulled his trousers up, and...just left.

    "What about soap?!?!" I exclaimed.
    "What soap!!" my colleagues exclaimed. Some of them sucked their teeth in collective disgust at the extreme disparities in the country [and we want to celebrate 50years of independence in style?????] and suggested implicitly that I have been very much cushioned from such scenes. It was suggested I should visit places, known as "Old Accra", where there is scant room to breathe and live salubriously, as a way of educating myself...


    Against this backdrop, when one reads stories about the imminent Accra Shopping mall (to be finished in 2007); Kufuor cutting the sod for roads, as he did this afternoon, you begin to think very seriously about priorities!!

    The National Communications Authority of the Ghana government slapping a 2.5bn dollar fine on Areeba is always a good start!!

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra…The Unbearable Lightness of Being West African; Liberia’s 150-year anniversary; Menacing Problem of Drugs

    As I write*, the 7th ordinary session of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO)has opened in Abuja, with Ministers of Health from Benin, Liberia, Ghana; Sierra Leone; Senegal; and Niger attending.

    Obasanjo has talked about how 12% of his country’s budget would go towards health, but African leaders had to make more effort for it to be higher if the MDGs could be met.

    On another note, however, hearing and reading the news that Ghana would start using ECOWAS passports concurrently within the country in 2007 got me thinking about the value-added from using both types. SO I did some research, and found an excellent article ( that indicated that it would be with a view to phasing out the national ones. In short, it would be a way of establishing a West African (ECOWAS) identity to the world.

    Though it is true to say that when, say, you arrive in Ghana, you find an "ECOWAS" line, and other national’s line, the sentiments by a popular comedian, KSM, who joked that the latter line goes faster than that of ECOWAS holds very true!

    It bears reminding that the ECOWAS region is the only in the West African, where there is free movement of people, as well as the freedom to reside. Perhaps, this quote explains it best:

    It is part and parcel of the Protocol for free movement of people and goods. The ECOWAS Treaty provides for community citizenship and proof of that is for an individual to own a community passport to enable them travel within the region. It is an effort to promote in a general sense of African integration through regional integration. The ECOWAS passport is a supra-national instrument for travel, which all the ECOWAS States have recognised and are asking the international community to recommend. Consequently, it is more important than any of the national passports within the West African region. The holder is not considered a foreigner, and is free to pass easily through international borders without the rigour faced by non-ECOWAS citizens. It is meant to enhance regional integration.

    Personally, all these developments attest to the ECOWAS-ness, as it were, of the region. I am Ghanaian first and foremost, but I am increasingly feeling that there will come a time when I can well and truly call myself an "ECOWAS national". I am almost there, but once our leaders get their act together on Common External Tariffs and whatnot, with a view to the ECOWAS currency, the ECO, I might just feel a bit more like I am living in a region that is quintessentially West African.

    To be fair, it is great to see that in a country like Ghana, a number of NIGERIAN banks have made their home: Zenith Bank (it even has a hotline now!--; Standard Trust (; and Guaranty Trust Bank (, but it would be great to see a more concerted effort elsewhere other than the banking sector on regional integration.

    Speaking of which, you must have heard about Liberia, and the celebration of 150 years of its independence from the US. Well, suffice to say, Ghana played an instrumental role in facilitating the developmenmt of Liberia’s electricity.

    Perhaps, the Statesman newspaper put it best in its editorial, entitled "West Africa is our oyster" when it wrote:

    "There is no way that West African countries can compete divided. But the policies at the ECOWAS level must be boldly translated on the ground by the private sector. What the V{olta} R{egional} A{uthority}, Government, Databank, Cal bank, Tropical Cable, etc, have shown is that a combination of the public and private sector can make Ghana ruthlessly competitive in West Africa and beyond."

    I am highlighting, briefly, what the-above organisations did (the information was culled from the Daily Statesman newspaper, a government-supportinig newspaper):

    Databank Financial Services, Ghana’s premier investment bankers, went to work to structure the financing and provided risk cover to secure a loan of $1m from Cal Bank to fund the project
    • Next were the supplies. All in all, Liberia bought 1,200 light poles, the electrical wiring and four power generators, from Ghanaian companies in May, while VRA technicians were seconded theer to train local personnel, renovate and connect the system
    • Ghanaian entrepreneur Tony Oteng Gyasi’s "Tropical Cables and Conductors Ltd", a Ghanaian leader in manufacturing, procured the cables needed for the transmission wiring
    • The wooden poles and stay blocks were provided by Du Paul Wood Treatment (Gh) Ltd, a Ghanaian firm run by former Bank of governor, Kwabena Duffuor
    • The huge generators to provided the power for Liberia’s Capital city were also provided by a Ghanaian company, G&J technical Services Ltd., owned by Godfrey Asiedu

    The culmination of all these concerted efforts went to provide electricity for Liberia, a fellow ECOWAS country. Whilst the Statesman newspaper feels that this highlights the need to push for private sector led by Ghana, I am more of the view that it accentuates the possibilities within the region of a greater collaboration.

    Sure, ECOWAS may be divided politically on issues of the free trade agreements with the EU over Economic Partnership Agreements, and it is something that requires urgent attention in the sub-region, but, without a doubt, this could be the beginning of something better in ECOWAS.

    The Drug Menace
    Like a scene right out of Hollywood, the drugs affair exploded into the consciousness of Ghanaians a few weeks ago when some drugs disappeared off a boat, MV Benjamin, when it docked at Tema. Unlike in the 1995 gangster thriller, The Usual Suspects, where $91 million of cocaine in a boat, docked at a pier in South Pedro, just south of L.A., exploded along with the boat, in Ghana, the boat, containing many millions of dollars worth of cocaine, simply disappeared—without a trace.

    That is until the revelation of complicity over the drugs, followed by the swift arrest {on the orders of Attorney-General/Minister of Justice Joe Ghartey) of four putative drug barons two days ago at a public hearing under the aegis of Justice Georgina Woode’s eponymous committee that had been set up to look into the disappearance of the 77 parcels of missing cocaine.

    One Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kofi Boakye, a charismatic director of police operations, was caught on tape in a discussion with some of these barons {in what the Chronicle entitled "Kofi’s Convention with Drug Barons", which you can read here: }, and now proceeded on leave with immediate effect.

    Perhaps, I have done a great disservice to the multiplicity of events that have unfolded in between, simply because I am not seeking to re-hash what the press has said, but merely to give one a bigger picture about the drug menace, and how it is threatening to engulf the Police Service in a maelstrom of yucky finger-pointing tags of corruption. If you want more information, please go to this link here:; and

    As I pretty much intoned two weeks ago when the popular musician, Daasebre, was caught in London, it’s pretty much time that the sub-region looked more closely at the formulation of an anti-drugs policy. Ghana is now incontestably a transit point for drug smuggling. Incidences of abuse may be low as compared to other countries, but I really do hope that people do not begin to see that stability, or being an "island of peace" is going to operate against the country in the most nefarious manner.

    Food for thought: news in this morning from the Chronicle, indicates that "More cocaine arrives - Another £1m worth intercepted at Dabala". Read it:

    This time, it was a cross-border (ECOWAS) crime. Enough said?

    *the section on Liberia was written last week

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    The Middle East Reminds me of Why the Fight Against Injustice Continues

    Ok, so it’s still been a long time. I hope you’ve been doing great. You’ve been visiting the site but not commenting:-( Well, here’s some food for thought.

    Tensions in the Middle East have facilitated some free-thinking, as it were, by many including the BBC, which intoned last week that the Iraq War was comparable to that pet topic of mine—the Suez crisis of 1956--where Nasser the nationalist asserted himself at the expense of the interests of his country by simply nationalizing the Suez Canal, which was key for trade for the Brits and the French.

    So, this is what the Brits and the French did in order to protect their interests.

    For the Brits, "collusion with the two was a way of re-establishing a hold over one of their most prized colonial assets -- the Suez Canal -- that had provided them with considerable economic leverage for many decades since the 1880s. As Stoessinger writes, "to Britain, control of the canal symbolized her status as an empire and as a world power."

    For the French, "their justification was predicated on the belief that Nasser was helping fund "the Algerian rebellion against France."

    This is how the BBC describes the genesis of the plot:

    "Israel was longing to have a go at Nasser anyway because of Palestinian fedayeen attacks and the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran.
    The ruse was that Israel would invade Egypt across the Sinai peninsula.
    Britain and France would then give an ultimatum to the parties to stop fighting or they would intervene to 'protect' the canal.

    And so it played out. The Israelis even had to moderate their attack in case they won before the 'intervention' forces could arrive. But the British and French went in to 'save' the canal.

    There was only one thing wrong. Eden had not told the Americans.


    I won’t bore you so much about the Americans except to say that the Americans were not amused. Eisenhower played a rather principled stance; the UN got involved under the aegis of the charismatic Dag Hammarskjold. The first-ever UN force—UN Emergencey Force—was deployed after the UN SG condemned the pusillanimous acts of the tripartite ruse of Israel-Britain-France. Eventually, the UN troops would supervise the gradual withdrawal of the Israelis and monitor the border between Egypt and Israel.

    The regrettable and sinister element in the conflict, I wrote, was that "that considerable attention was diverted towards bringing British, France and Israel to heel, to me indicates that whilst the latter three were scattering into the woodpile like rats, the big Russian bear was walking back to its cave scot-free. In the end, the irony of the Suez debacle is that as the noise of the rats ducking for cover reached fever pitch, neither the roar of the Stentorian US nor the strong urges of the UN were able to do anything to help Hungary as it burned"

    While the Suez crisis may be all well and good, I am more comfortable looking at how current crisis in the Middle East resonates with that of the Crimean War that ended in 1856, with a Treaty of Paris.

    The Crimean war, in sum, saw the demise of the Russians in South East Europe, and secured the definitive demise of the so-called Concert of Europe – a kind of historical prelude to the UN’s Security Council -- that had kept the peace from 1815-1856.

    Why that is significant is that it brings home the Russian factor, which I would like to broach very quickly.

    I am sure you may re-call that in January, Russia cut supplies to Ukraine in a row over prices. Russia has a monopoly over Gazprom, and in April – in a far departure to the situation during the Crimean war of 150 years ago when the Brits became so Russophobic it was not funny – made explicit its plans to take over British-owned Centrica.

    I think you might speculate that the Russians are at their peak, considering how the Blair government is also keen to promote the further opening of its markets. The BBC reported that the UK’s Trade Minister Alan Johnson said "Whatever the difficulties and challenges of globalisation, the answers will not be found in the stagnant waters of protectionism,"

    Privatisation versus nationalisation

    A lot of people might think that is a true point; I beg to differ. It is interesting, in my view, to note that the nationalisation of Nasser in 1956 runs in serious askance to the privatisation of the UK government over its state-owned Centrica, among many things. Can you, however, imagine that the UK government has been actively pursuing the privatisation of it National Health Service (NHS)?

    I can hardly believe how increasingly neoliberal the UK government under Tony Blair is becoming.

    More on that later…

    What, for me, is symbolic is the progressive forces that I see at work in the world. I find it rather ironic that exactly sixty years after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, that saw the unleashing of progressive forces and alliances, we find in the same month of July similar progressive forces rejoicing over no less than the collapse of the talks of the World Trade Organisation.

    Let’s face it: you cannot talk about the fight against imperial tendencies of, say, the United States over Iraq, without taking a critical and reflective look at the policies of the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank.

    Boring, maybe, but suffice to say that those are the quintessential axes of evil.

    From a historical perspective, 2006 has been a year when privatisation –both in the domestic and multilateral level – has been high.

    The rather technical yet menacing acronym of GATS, or the General Agreement on Trade in Services ( is, in effect, ... international trade agreement that came into effect in 1995 and operates under the umbrella of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

    The aim of the GATS is to gradually remove all barriers to trade in services. The agreement covers services as diverse as banking, education, healthcare, rubbish collection, tourism or transport.

    The idea is to open up these services to international competition, allowing the way for huge, for-profit, multinational firms.

    "The GATS is not just something that exists between Governments. It is first and foremost an instrument for the benefit of business"

    European Commission, 1999
    Since February 2000, negotiations are underway in the WTO to expand and 'fine-tune' the GATS. These negotiations have aroused concern world-wide. A growing number of local governments, trade unions, NGOs, parliaments and developing country governments are criticising the GATS negotiations and call for a halt on the negotiations.

    In India, as I write this, India is being asked to open up its legal service for foreigners to compete and many more are sure to come—most probably in camera and without public scrutiny.

    The biggest threat around GATS is that it forces a locking-in of privatisation. If a country changes its mind to, say, open up its health sector to the WTO, it would have to compensate ALL of the WTO members. If you are an industrialised country, you might be able to afford it, but it would still cause a heavy strain on your budget and economy, no?

    At our conference at the plush South Africa 4* star Cresta Royale Hotel (ironic, no?) the week of 17th July, Pete Hardstaff, Head of Policy at the UK-based World Development Movement argued how privatisation was being pushed very forcefully by Europe.

    Whilst there are many on the European continent, one particular one I referred to earlier is that of the privatisation of the UK’s health sector under the NHS. The Socialist Worker, among many papers, has reported extensively on this. For them, it has underscored the neoliberal ideology of Tony Blair.

    So alarming has this latest privatisation drive been that, in an attempt to forestall, or counter it, a website has been created to fight it:

    Latest reports from today’s press indicate that the American firm (Texas-based!!) that was handed the ₤4bn NHS contract was investigated for overcharging. It has set its sights to take care of purchasing and distributing everything "from bandages to hip implants."

    So, in the long run, what are the lessons here for us, small people?

    I think that history reminds us of the myopic interests of leaders. Suez was one; Iraq is another. As to whether the parallels drawn can only go to underscore the perfidy, or treachery, of our governments when they decide to go a-filibustering, and particularly when it blows unceremoniously in their face, is moot.

    What we, as citizens, might remember is that no matter where we are, no matter our background, the fight for global justice everywhere becomes meaningless unless it is linked with the total disjuncture of global greed—be it at the multilateral level or the governmental one anywhere

    Tags: privatisation; Global justice

    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    On Petroleum Prices and the Ghana Government

    It is an article of irony that the very week that my organisation is discussing the liberalisation of services under the World Trade Organisation, and the adverse impacts it will have on gender, development, and community rights at our Pan-African meeting is the same time that the government allows so-called Oil Marketing companies, which I wrote about back in 2005 when I attended a meeting in which the then-Minister of Energy Professor Mike Ocquaye extolled the virtues of liberalising the downstream sector of Ghana's petroleum sector, to raise petroleum prices from 10-15%.

    All this simply goes to confirm the increasingly neoliberal stance that the government of Ghana is adopting to its people.

    Now that the rate of petrol is at exactly $US5.00/gallon, how are Ghanaians supposed to manage? Where are the safety nets in place that the government should be thinking about to cushion its citizens from the effects of the world market? SO, just because there is a serious inter-necine conflict going on in the Middle East, where Hezbollah is being targetted for wiping out by the Israelis, so we, in the developing world, have to suffer the consequences?

    Now this issue was, thankfully, raised by Bernard Avle of the CITI Breakfast Show the beginning of this week, which was great.

    Having said that, as much as I praise CITI-FM, I really think that the media does woefully in presenting to the public key issues, such as the challenge of liberalisation of services.

    Liberalisation of services is merely a big word for opening up the services sector (tourism, finance, banking, waste disposal, etc) to the degree that foreign investors can come into this country--and any other developing country--and enjoy "national treatment"(in ther words, the same type of treatment and beenfits accorded indigenous enterprises) and tax exemptions so that they can charge fees on the locals, and expropriate (take away) profits from this country to theirs, or simply offshore, and out of this country. Much like the telecommunication companies of AREEBA and TIGO do. Didn't know? Now you do...

    The question is: to what extent can public opinion be awakened to the urgency of these issues by way of the media, without it necessarily coming from civil society activists, like myself, who already are perceived in one way or another by policy-makers and the media alike for having more time on their hands than the media.

    I think Dr.Graham, Coordinator of TWN-AFrica, hit the nail on the head when he...

    ...called on the media to offer analysis of the law governing the provision of services and generate debate that would enhance major transformations of the service sector
    from: TWN discusses challenges of service liberalisation.

    My final point is this: liberalisation and privatisation has been with us since the Reagan-Thatcher nexus, which in my view, was "the greatest exponent of a modern and amoral Realpolitik", as maintained by US historian Norman Rich in his classic book "Great Power Diplomacy".

    That said, with the increasing and growing appetite of the US and EU for African markets on water, health and whatnot sector, they threaten to LOCK-IN permanently any commitments our clueless and hapless and uninformed African governments may be faced with.

    The time for resistance against this locking in of liberalisation, or forever facing compensation of ALL WTO members is nigh...unless Africa wakes up -- seriously.

    TAgs: Ghana liberalisation; Ghana petroleum; services liberalisation; services

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Is this Ghana's Middle Class?--Part I

    In a post reminiscent of the one I wrote last year -- 6 July, 2006 to be precise -- which you can read here:, I had the opportunity to be...

    ...on Wednesday evening around 9.30pm at the Coconut Grove Regency Hotel, located "within 3-6 minutes drive of USAID, the World Bank Office, Danish, Canadian, German, Swiss, Nigerian and American Diplomatic Missions, Ghana Immigration Service and National Theatre, Government Ministries and the Accra Intentional Center, all on “traffic free” routes."(from: on private business with my parents when I heard feedback from the car's radio as we approached.

    It was CITI-97.3FM--the Accra-based English speaking private radio station, which you can listen to in crystal-clear quality wherever you are in the world (I know, cos people from Germany and the UK have been calling in the 8.45am regular phone-ins to the CITI Breakfast Show; and listeners send emls from South Africa and the US!)--hosting its weekly Wednesday Salsa Mania event, where Latin American tunes are played, and people get FREE Salsa lessons.

    Now whilst PAID Salsa lessons would be a better gauge, or indicator, of people being middle class, or not, I could not help but wonder at my perception of "middle class", which has preoccupied me since I arrived back home in Ghana in August 2004.

    Let me leave you with this quotation, which I used in that entry to describe middle class:

    The middle class (or middle classes) comprises a social group once defined by exception as an intermediate social class between the nobility and working class folk.

    Since the working classes constituted the vast majority of the population, the middle classes actually lay near the top of the social pyramid.

    Modern political economy considers a large middle class to be a beneficial, stabilizing influence on society, because it has neither the explosive revolutionary tendencies of the lower class, nor the stultifying greedy tendencies of the upper class. (239 words

    A lot of people -- usually Westerners -- who come to Ghana for the first time either out of lack of deliberate discerning about the country, or mere foolishness believe that Ghana is a country of extremes, where there is the poor and the very rich.

    Whilst I will not be the first to say that poverty may be rising in unseen areas than we know in this country, I think I can also emphatically say that visibly, what I have perceived about Ghanaians is that by way of so many changes in the political system and otherwise, we see changes in people's income (by way of the number of provate cars on the road, etc) that can lead one to assume that there is a growing middle class.

    I spoke to a taxi driver two weeks ago who praised the incumbent administration, insisting that they had done very well, because even policemen could, from their UN missions overseas, come back and obtain loans to get cars, etc, whereas that was not the case before.

    It got me thinking about the ramifications of the possibilities of obtaining loans as an indicator of "middle class". Teachers, for example, in the West are considered middle-class (whether lower or middle is a moot point), but it's clear to many that their education, coupled with their ability to obtain loans to buy a house and car makes them middle class. A labourer does not get that designation by any stretch of the imagination, though labourers can afford to buy Mercedes also! Their work is esssentially working class.

    But can one not argue that that they can also obtain loans for cars, and houses, make them middle class? But that's another story...

    I was pretty outraged--not just peeved--when the other day, I came across a website by one "Howie Klein", who had a story featured about one Adam's trip to Ghana. This is what Adam wrote:

    I am in a small village called Kwamoso in the Akuapem Hills Region. The village is extremely rural with no electricity or running water. Compared to middle class America these people are dirt poor but they are Ghana's middle class. They live in houses literally made out of mud with tin roofs. In many the mud walls are coated with a layer of cement but not all. The poor live in houses with straw roofs and the mud walls look like they are crumbling...

    How can this description possibly befit middle class Ghana? I mean, when I talk about Westerners being foolish, this is one of them. The cultural relativism is just a bit distorted. People with no electricity or running water--how on Earth can they ever be middle class--anyhwere?

    I suppose that is what propelled my desire to comment on Ghana and middle class, which, for me, is a dicey issue, which deserves a lot of rumination, and treatment. For now, though, I think I will leave you with this interesting definition from wikipedia:

  • Achievement of tertiary education, including all financiers, lawyers, doctors and clergymen regardless of their leisure or wealth.

  • Belief in bourgeois values, such as high rates of house or long-term lease ownership and jobs which are perceived to be "secure." In the United States and in the United Kingdom, politicians typically target the votes of the middle classes.

  • Lifestyle. In the United Kingdom, social status has been less directly linked to wealth than in the United States, and has also been judged by pointers such as accent, manners, place of education and the class of a person's circle of friends and acquaintances. Often in the United States, the middle class are the most eager participants in pop culture. The second generation of new immigrants will often enthusiastically forsake their traditional folk culture as a sign of having arrived in the middle class.

  • A net worth, what a person's total material assets are worth, minus their debt. Most economists define "middle-class" citizens as those with net worths of between $125,000 and $250,000. Those with net worths between $250,000 and $500,000 typically are categorized as upper middle class. Those with net worths below $125,000 can be further broken down into working class to lower class.[1]

  • from:

    While this definition is positively Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Centric, I think there are elements for cogitation that transcend Western perception of middle class.

    Whilst you are at it, you might want to take a look at the guy wearing the tie to the left of the picture. Asset#1: mobile phone; Asset#2: probably a car costing millions of cedis;-)

    Definitely middle class dontcha think?

    Useful and Related links

    tags:Accra; Middle Class Ghana


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