Friday, March 31, 2006

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra: Eclipse 2006; ECOBANK; Ethnicity

I started last Friday by attending a seminar at the British Council entitled "Ethnicity and Politics in West Africa", which was organised by the Institute of Statistical, Social & Economic Research at the University of Ghana. They had invited the following people to come speak about the topic:

1) PROF. FRANCES STEWART, Director, CRISE, University of Oxford
2) PROF. FRANCIS AKINDÈS, Universitè de Bouakè, Côte d’Ivoire:
3) DR. ABDUL RAUFU MUSTAPHA, Lecturer, University of Oxford
4) MR. RICHARD ASANTE, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana

This was the entrance of the British Council, a bit more heavily-guarded than usual. The guard looks like he is going to kick ass;-)

From left to right: the CHAIRMAN: Hon. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey
Minister of Tourism & Modernisation of the Capital City
; PROF. FRANCES STEWART, Director, Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security & Ethnicity (CRISE), University of Oxford ; MR. RICHARD ASANTE, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana; DR. ABDUL RAUFU MUSTAPHA, Lecturer, University of Oxford.

To be fair, I think Obetsebi-Lamptey, as a communications man, chaired the programme rather well, and the debate and discussions were interesting, albeit a bit too general. For example, Ghana, it was claimed, has "political inequalities" that are worsening, but without any concrete elaboration on what they are.

I felt compelled, furthermore, to ask why Bolivia was a success story, and what lessons were there for West Africa. Some of the explanations given were this:

  • Bolivia had been inclusive in the sense that it had involved indigenous Bolivians in the politics of the country
  • ;
  • the State had behaved in a more responsible way [how?? not elaborated]

  • ...unlike Guatemala and Peru, where there had be no recognition of local people, as well as a military that was tremendously implicated in social injustice.

    My main question ran like this:
    Rwanda is an example of a country where the PERCEPTION of ethnicity has gone horribly wrong. I mean even if we look back to the 1960s, at the instance of the first genocide when the Belgians and the Germans were the colonial is clear that ethnicity was a key issue. We know what happened in 1994, but if we can go back to the present. Only last week, it was splashed in the Daily Graphic that an ID Bill had been passed. I would like to know whether that will have adverse effects for Ghana or not..."

    To which Dr.Mustapha answered that an ID card is "neither good nor bad, it is what you use it for", which I think excellentlye encapsulated the sometimes-unnecessary fear that surrounds society in its thinking that it is being restricted by the State. He also added that Nigeria had been trying it for the past two years now. I think it is a debate that merits serious looking into.

    Now, I guess you do not need me to tell you what has been dominating the news left, right, and centre this week. It's ofcourse been the eclipse. I caught three videos, but was only able to post two. The first is a more comprehensive one, which you can download here

    To the right are some of my colleagues on the compund at work, with their camera-phones, digital cameras and whatnot trying to prepare to capture this phenomenon of epic proportions.

    Those who looked at the sun ensure that they were wearing their protective spectacles, even if they wore them reluctantly, cursing the capitalist enterprise surrounding the procurement of it...;-)

    That same evening, I was at the British Council to attend (29 March, 2006 ofcourse!) a lecture from the ISSER-MERCHANT BANK series of annual lectures. This year's is on Globalisation, and this particular one was on Corporate Governance.

    Meanwhile, ECOBANK has been in the news, because, according to the Daily Graphic, ECOBANK is keen to...

    ...raise funds through an Initial Public Offer (IPO) on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) [as well as...]

  • "currently working closely with its Transaction Advisors and the relevant regulatory bodies on the proposed floatation and listing on the GSE"

  • "intend[ing] to utilise the funds to support its expansion plans, which includes the opening of additional branches and agencies throughout the country and a further upgrading of its technology platform"

  • If my experience of their customer service is anything to go by, ECOBANK's aspiration to become, in the words of former ECOBANK heavyweight Albert Essien, a reliable pan-african institution can only evince the words...

    Enough said.

    Might as Well Wax Lyrical about ECOBANK


    31 Mar, Fri, 12:27:30  


    I am heartened to know that many searches lately for “ECOBANK” arrive directly to my blog.


    I have blogged about ECOBANK before here:





    …and suffice to day that I will continue to blog about what I see is a very exciting indigenous private sector initiative that has serious roots to ECOWAS.


    Checking on one of the links that I came across, I uncovered something that I think you might be interested in knowing:



    "African banks are leapfrogging technology developments. Whereas many Western Banks have been utilising technology for many years and are battling with backend system integration problems brought about by improved front end delivery mechanisms such as the internet, Ecobank's solution consists of a fully integrated core banking system, with internet delivery via satellite communications - placing it ahead of many international banks."

    Founded in 1985, Ecobank offers full service banking from 42 branches across West Africa. JSE-Listed Global Technology is the leading provider of solutions to the financial communities across Africa and Australia.

    "Ecobank's customers will have a front-end into the bank's core GLOBUS banking system through the GLOBUS Integrator, which will be installed at their head office in Togo, from which transactions from the other countries will be routed," says Leonard.”





    Fancy that! ECOBANK is ahead of many international banks—and who said Africa cannot do things for itself, huh?


    Long live regional integration! Long live ECOWAS!

    Thursday, March 30, 2006

    Video Entry#2 of Ghana's ECLIPSE, as Featured on TV3 News

    This is the first report (3 minutes) I captured froom Tv3 evening news of how the eclipse fared for residents of Accra and beyond...

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    Ghana ECLIPSE 2006--TV3 Evening News Video!!

    I captured this video entry, as some kind of foray, as it were, into radicalising and revolutionising the way I blog. It proved useful as it turns out that not many people at work caught TV3's evening news as they usually all sleep early!!:-)

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    Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    Darkness Falls...ECLIPSE

    So there we were outside on the compound at work, anticipating the solar eclipse that would engulf the country to make it comprehensively dark. Sporting the special eclipse shades, which many believed not to be that special, most of us wanted to witness the phenomenal experience of seeing outside get dark between 8.30 anad 9.30am in the morning...

    As the time of the eclipse grew closer and closer, jubilation was written over ALL our faces. THIS is what living is all about, no? After all, the statistics indicate that few people (around 1/10) ever get to witness an eclipse. So to have witnessed an eclipse a second time (the first being in Belgium in the late nineties--11 August, 1999) is a blessing of epic proportions;-)

    To be frank, I was not all that elated, and that surprised me. I was over-joyed, and definitely not underwhelmed. I didn't need this eclipse to remind of the greatness of God, but it has definitely re-inforced my belief that there is a God...

    ...especially hearing very shortly from my parents, by way of a phone call, that Charles Taylor who had escaped Monday from his villa after hearing that he might be taken to Sierra Leone for war crimes has been caught on Cameroon border in North-Eastern Nigeria.

    Shame on you, Taylor!!

    Like the eclipse that ended in this dark picture (to the left) of the compound at work, this is most definitely the beginning of the end of this execrable man's career.

    Well done, Nigeria!! long live ECOWAS!

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    As the Week Draws to a Close...Thoughts on Ghana's Housing Sector; Ghana's National ID Bill (Passed); Areeba Ghana's Mobile Internet (GPRS)

    It was with a great degree of joy that last Saturday, I saw the Ghana's leading Daily Graphic lead with the front-page news that there has been a new boost in the housing sector, with the introduction of the so-called Red Sea Housing company, a Saudi-based company that produces pre-fabricated houses, going for between $10,000 and $12,000.

    Whilst for a developing country, that price and its equivalent in cedis is rather prohibitive, it is conceivable that with the falling interest rates in the country, people can obtain loans from banks, and pay off the amount that way. Regrettably, there is also only one mortgage financing company in the country, called Home Finance Company , which enables one to purchase a house, with them providing 80 percent of the loan, whilst you provide 20% deposit.

    Or so they claim.

    When I actually called them last week, it emerged that they have a ceiling for the amount they can give you. This means that, say I want to buy a house that runs to the tune of $50,000, and my salary enables me to qualify me for the remaining 80% of the amount, I can actually only get 36% of the value of the house!!

    This called into question the need to save more, which there is nothing against, but at least, it would help if they reflected this on the website!

    SO it was yet again interesting to see that there is in existence--since 1956--a mortagage-financing inistitution called First Ghana Building Society, which offer you the FULL 80%--irrespective of the amount. They are making some serious inroads into the country, and from what one of the top-brass people there told me when I called them, they will by mid-next year become a fully-fledged mortgage financing company--and this is good.

    If you look at the astronomical rates of the houses in this country, as exemplified by the capture of WAC Properties that I got, when Ghanaians say they are suffering, it is little wonder why they arrive at that conclusion.

    wac properties capture Posted by Picasa

    Affordable housing is a prerogative of every citizen. It hell should be considered a human right!! The incumbent government likes to talk about a property-owning democracy. Whilst one can give them the credit that this a step, it's a step too little!

    In my view, the housing problem in Ghana is less a problem and more of a situation. I think that experience has shown us that the human condition has a visceral desire to exploit a vaccum, since nature abhors one. It is therefore little wonder that not much is happening by way of regulation. Rent, for example, is often quoted in US dollars, and you have to pay a year--or sometimes, two--in advance!

    This is not just speculation; I have done that twice since I started paying rent in 2004.

    As regards National ID, like I intoned some weeks back, I grew up in a culture that imposed ID cards on you, so my view of the utility of it is refracted through that view.

    Having said that, an article on Ghanaweb, by Ghana News agency entitled "National ID Card in the offing", reminds us that way back in 1972...

    "The Acheampong regime promulgated the NRDC129 in 1972 that required citizens of Ghana aged 16 and above to be issued with identity cards. In 1973, national ID cards were issued to citizens in five boarder regions in the country including Volta, Northern, Upper, Brong Ahafo and parts of the Western Region. The project was discontinued three years later due to the lack of financial and logistic support. In 1987, the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) revisited the idea of national identity card and had been on the minds of policy makers to this day"

    That one can be identified to me sounds reassuring, though the possibilities of another piece of legislation facilitating corrupt practises are not lost over me!

    As for AREEBA Ghana, far be it for me to promote their GPRS, or Global Packet Radio System, which enables mobile internet (in all senses of the term), but I think it's woorking rather smoothly, which makes a change with Areeba's general provision of working telephony!

    So I went on Tuesday 21 March, with the speed of light, to AREEBA's offices at 37 (so-called because that is where the military hospital 37 is located, as well as vehicle licensing, as well as the Lebanese-owned Max Mart that is treating its numerous workers with impunity, but that's another story...) to pay 50 thousand cedis, and get my phone connected to the GPRS network. Regrettably, multimedia messaging (MMS) is not working:-( so I have to go down there and sort it out.

    This is the phone I use:

    regrettably blurred picture of my SAGEM MyX-7 phone connecting to AREEBA Ghana's GPRS Posted by Picasa

    It is a French mark, and originally looks like this:

    I tried to capture it for the blog connecting and receiving, but somehow my camera couldn't do it, so you will just have to wait for the short video of it connecting;-)

    I can assure you that you see "connecting and receiving" at the bottom of the screen, and within seconds, you can see the AREEBA page. If I go through another way, I get to chose my own URL, by way of the bookmarks. Yahoo is the first. The others take quite a bit of time, and, by extension, considerably more units!

    Thankfully, my phone now has "GPRS" permanently featured in the right-hand side of the screen.

    My parent's NOKIA phone has been more problematic in the setting up. My Mum's had to go back to Areeba for a look-over. It is far less user-friendly, too. Ouch!! This is surprising as most Ghanaian mobile users utilise NOKIA, and it's frankly a common mark here than any of the other brands!!

    The UK's Prospect Magazine has an article in last month's edition about digital exuberance. The crux of the article is about how "technologies of connectivity can threaten stability and community".

    It holds, in my view, a degree of resonance with regard to ICTs like GPRS and their potential impact for development, but it is somoething I will broach on another day.

    On a lighter note, I called CITI 97.3FM's Programme Manager Nii Amah Dagadu to ask him why two programmes were no longer coming on -- "Every Home", which airs on the station on Saturdays, and "Teen Page".

    "Every Home", like CITI FM's "Question of Law" that is hosted by one Mac-Diamond Nyamerko-Amerko (spelling?) a lawyer with the Attorney General's department, with a penchant for most-things spiritual (he also hosts a Sunday religious programme on the same station called "Hotline to Heaven"), is an icredibly thought-provoking programme that discusses relationships (role of fathers, mothers, parents in self-esteem; relationship building--divorce, looking good, being there for partners, building self-esteem with partners, etc...). It is in sharp contrast with the "Sex in the Citi" programme I huffed and puffed about last year.

    In any event, "Every Home" is airing tomorrow, and the "Question of Law" will no doubt be looking, as per usual, at the LEGAL aspects of the week's news.

    As for "Teen Page", I understood that it was not doing well, so a new host has been found, and it is being "re-packaged".

    It is interesting to note that when I asked about CITI-FM's excellent one-month programme of "Heritage Month", I discovered that due to a virus, the whole programme was erased, but thankfully, an organisation that records programmes of radio stations in Accra can be contacted to get the recordings from them. They are called "Steadman Media Monitoring".

    Fancy that.

    have a good weekend!!

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    Areeba on GPRS!!!

    Ok, so the launch date is tomorrow--21 March--, but I called again today--just to be safe.

    Here are the instructions:
    1. your mobile phone needs to be GPRS-compatible, which makes sense!!
    2. you pay 50K cedis, or approximately $US5.5 in order to have your mobile GPRS-compatible
    3. units are dependent on size of information you get
    4. every 100kilobytes will attract 6.5 units
    5. once GPRS is activated, you can get MMS also, which enables you to send and receive videos and pictures by text.

    Can't wait!!

    you might as well, while you wait in expectation and palpitation, check out TIGO (it replaced BUZZ some two weeks ago under the moniker of "a new cellular experience"):Tigo Ghana's website

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    A Rainy and Windy Day in Accra...

    The capital did not prepare for rain today. Most people felt it was going to be a sunny day, so this downpour was wholly unexpected. How accurate, then, are our meteorological services, I wonder??

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    In Response to Koranteng's Toli on Kwame Nkrumah, and His Redemption Thereof

    By way of Global Voices, I came across an article written by Koranteng on his blog. Pls check the link on the title. Koranteng is a very well-educated man, and I appreciate the arguments he raised about Nkrumah, but his intimation that Nkrumah was a dictator, because he made Ghana a one-party state is too explicit to be subtle!

    Let's face it: Nkrumah made some mistakes, because he was human--and not super-human, plus the fact that he was also a politician, and did some things that are wont of politicians, but a careful assessment of his accomplishments should not go unnoticed. This was my response on his blog:

    "deeply alienated from significant portions of the Ghanaian populace" That is a serious fallacy. Nkrumah was a man of the people. Even JB Danquah, hailed as the doyen of Ghanaian politics, as much supported this when he said that "even if we fail you, Nkrumah won't."

    I know this, not just because my paternal grandfather worked with the Nkrumah regime [as Minister of Works and Housing], but also because I have in front of me the book, published by the Socialist Forum here in Ghana, entitled "The Great Deception: The Role of the CIA and Rightwing forces in the overthrow of Nkrumah".

    It contains de-classified documents by the CIA, with extracts of letters written by Nkrumah to the US government about his aspirations for Ghana, and by extension Pan-AFrican movement.

    Not only that, but documentary evidence of the same JB Danquah going to the new US ambassador to Ghana demanding why his pay from the US government was not forthcoming!!!!

    I feel the heat here in Ghana, because somehow, somewhere, the acceptance by both parties that Nkrumah was a great man, with all his flaws--the Preventive Detention Act of 1958 for example was deemed a mistake, but was used in equal measure by the British over Northern Ireland in the seventies -- is coming into form.

    Both the NDC, and even the ruling NPP, have recently accepted that Nkrumah was a great man.

    Finally, I do not think that you have to be a socialist to appreciate the magnitude of social development Nkrumah brought to Ghana. SO, statements like "the economy tanking under the weight of socialist central planning nostrums, trusting in the show of force represented by military support" that amazeddad makes isn't just fallacious, it is a great disservice to the memory of not just the founding father of Ghana, but ALSO of Pan-Africanism.

    I must preface all this by saying that I am an amateur diplomatic historian by training, so the ideas over bias are not lost on me. To boot I challenge anyone to provide PROOF that Nkrumah can be likened to those dictators like Mobutu and Bokassa who seriously regressed Africa.

    That’s my two cents, cheers!!

    I must even also add that Nkrumah was not power-hungry for the sake of it: this was an intellectual, who had studied for his Ph.D, as well as Theology. He was an enlightened man, who made Ghana what it is today by encapsulating ALL manner of tribes within government. Compare that to the Rwandans, and other parts of Africa, where the ethnic divisions were accentuated to disasterous levels.

    Ghana has never had that level of violence--except in the Northern region. Apart from coups in Ghana, have you, in Ghana's 49th years, ever heard of a civil war in Ghana even when JJ.Rawlings ruled the country in 20 years?


    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    I'm Tired of These Arguments on Africa (Yawn)


    Making Poverty History?
    By Nicholas Newman
    Hi! Don’t you agree that just forgiving third world debt is not the solution to tackling the poverty suffered by the poor in the third world, which the rich and famous like Dawn French and Bono would have us believe?

    All it will do is reward the money grabbing elites that misrule those countries. Angola and Nigeria are major oil and gas producers, but they remain large debtors. In Angola, Global Witness reports that a quarter of oil revenue is unaccounted for each year, and one in four children dies in infancy. The poor in those countries remain poor despite the oil wealth. Debt, by itself, is not the principal cause of poverty in many economically failing states, but bad governance, incompetence and corruption. “Ordinary citizens in oil producing states of Angola, Equatorial Guinea or Kazakhstan have no information on what is happening to that money" Gavin Hayman of Global Witness told the BBC's Today programme. "The international community spends $200m each year trying to feed one million people in Angola who are critically dependent on international food aid," said Mr Hayman.

    "Now given that $1.5bn is going missing from the treasury, there is a lot more they could be doing for their citizens."

    All debt forgiveness or rescheduling does is to delay the day when such countries will need to make the painful process to reform their economic, governmental and political systems. The 1996 World Bank Report argues “Aid may have unintentionally encouraged misrule that led to collapse and civil conflict”. Almost all civil governance and public development in Africa is paid for by foreign aid, enabling African despots to wage wars on their neighbours.

    Ethiopia is a good example of a failed state, a country fashionably popular with our rich and famous. In 2004 AFP reports, this much troubled land bought a new fleet of Sukhoi SU-27 fighter planes and military helicopters, costing millions of dollars, while two million citizens remain dependent on humanitarian food aid. Marti Ahtisaari, the UN special envoy for the Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa, blames current Ethiopian government policies in two key areas environmental and population polices as the cause of the country’s cycle of catastrophes.

    Did you know debt forgiveness or rescheduling increases the cost of future borrowing - as such a process worsens the credit rating of such a state. Indonesia has rescheduled three times and the cost of borrowing has gone up each time. That explains why many third world states including Laos and Vietnam are against such proposals reports the World Bank
    .Debt forgiveness or rescheduling is unfair on those countries that have made the effort to pay off their debts like India and Russia; in fact Russia will become a net creditor in a few years time, notes the OECD. Incidentally, there is a strong correlation between states that meet their repayments and later long term strong financial performance.
    According to the OECD, did you know that almost every African country has witnessed a systematic regression of economic capacity over the last 30 years? The majority had better economic capacity at independence than they now possess. This poor economic performance is due to many reasons including absence of incentives for the private sector, government control of the economy, and discouraging investment laws., and, of course, corruption.

    Having a simple regime change is not the solution; all you will do is replace one corrupt, incompetent, money grubbing elite with another. What is needed is a cultural change through economic, political and governmental reform, which will encourage the majority to work hard to transform their country into a modern prosperous state.

    The oft sited mantra ‘that the only solution is to let such countries solve their problems themselves’ is now wearing thin according to often exasperated experts in the aid industry.
    It looks like countries like Kenya need outside pressure to force significant change. When President Mwai Kibaki was elected three years ago, he promised Western aid donors and end to corruption by appointing the Kenya's National Anti-Corruption Campaign. Instead, his government has continued the two traditions of African governments, continued as before while paying lip service to Aid donors. This body was kept chronically under funded and blocked at every turn and its steering committee has resigned in disgust reports the Kenya’s Standard earlier this month. This together with the allegations of the Kenyan government ministers involved in a series of dodgy procurement deals worth millions of dollars reports the Kenya’s Sunday Standard.

    Whilst Kenya’s Standard complains that ‘The government’s credibility in the fight against corruption has been in freefall in recent weeks, following a barbed attack by British High Commissioner Sir Edward Clay. Mr. Clay’s statement was followed shortly thereafter by the withdrawal of funding for the government’s anti-graft effort by the United States government and, on Friday, (18 February, 2005) by the German government’. It looks like the West is learning, letting Africa solve its own problems does not work - a more hands on, project by project, approach is certainly needed.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush are right to encourage democracy as part of the solution to turning round such basket cases. Simply throwing more aid to prop up corrupt incompetent regimes who neglect their countries duties to develop their countries for the benefit of the majority of its citizens is not the answer.
    Since many of these poor states are victims of their corrupt governments, one possible solution would be for the EU adopt Robert Wheelan Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) proposal. This proposes that the West should privatise the governance of such countries to EU approved multinationals to run such states under a profit sharing deal for a 21 year period, with the aim to rebuild, regenerate and develop these countries economies for the benefit of the majority of these countries citizens.

    Somehow I don’t see Dawn French or her Vicar of Dibley persona starting a campaign to support Wheelan’s proposal?




    This was my response: (whether he allowed posting of it or not is a moot point!):


    Ever heard of the WTO, IMF, World Bank and their execrable policies inflicted on Africa?


    I don't agree that debt is the panacea, but if the latter institutions stopped interfering in Africa and let it follow its on path, rather than predicating our existence on an aid-for-trade policy (<a href=""></a>), then Africa might just be the better for it.


    Yes, there is corruption in Africa--as there is in the West, but, pls, I am surprised by your sheer tired-old arguments that even DFID are dropping;-)


    You don't read the Daily Telegraph by any chance do you?;-)



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