Friday, May 05, 2006

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra...Thoughts on the Death of a Good Friend at a Private Hospital; Japan-Ghana relations; STANBIC/ECOBANK


The week began pretty much the way it ended last week—with news on the President John Agyekum Kuffuor’s re-shuffle, with many key ministers being “fired”. Fired because some are perceived to be playing the political game of campaigning for 2008. This, unfortunately, included people like former Sports and Education Minister Osafo-Maafo. I use that word “unfortunately”, because in my view, he did quite a good job – what with his introduction of FCUBE, which provided a decapitation grant (free education for pupils up to primary school); free buses for pupils; loans for teachers, and whatnot, and better conditions for teachers—not to mention qualification of Black Stars, which Osafo-Maafo was instrumental in.

The Paradox of Korle-Bu, or Public Health Care


I am still reeling from the news of the sudden death of one of my very good friends (pictured above), Nana Amma, at a private hospital near the Spintex Road. It is Day Three since I heard the news that she passed away on Mayday, but I wake up every day feeling that I can give her a call. I still have not deleted her phone number, neither have I deleted the last txt msg she sent me. I won’t either. I want to preserve them for posterity, and for her memory. I even went to the trouble of saving our online chats on msn messenger. I am still grieving, because I miss her very very much.

Why Nana Amma’s passing is critical in this weekly review is because it calls into question the debate of private versus public health care. A lot of people, including myself, appreciate the efforts of public health care, but see it as still insufficient. I have tended to believe that private is better, because of the quality of the time spent with you, and the service provided. Nana Amma’s case has proved a rude shock that this is not always the case.

Once my work colleagues heard the news, everyone wondered why she did not go to Korle-Bu, which is one of the biggest hospitals in the sub-region and the continent. It was only this week that the Graphic reported that the President had inaugurated a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computer Technology (CT) Centre "to help in the diagnoses of serious diseases" at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.

The machine, procured at the cost of ç27.5billion "will be used for the early detection of diseases, such as stroke, cancer, and breast diseases which are not easily detected by the normal X-ray machines."

Regrettably, it came too late for Nana Amma.

She will be more than sorely missed.

In other considerably less lugubrious news, the Japanese prime minister Koizumi was in Ghana this week. I suspect that his visit has resonance with the attempt by China to take over Millicom—operators of Tigo, in the sense that it heralds, or reflects, the interminable competition between the two countries on expanding their appetite overseas for goods and markets in Africa. Whilst we are on mobile news, Areeba might just be taken over by South Africa’s MTN. In my view, though the profit-motive is never far away, it might just be good riddance to Areeba who have been taking us for more than a ride for too long!

On my way to Tudu (located not too far from NOVOTEL), to buy electricity yesterday, I caught sight of Stanbic Bank, one of South African’s biggest banks. I was not amused, yet ironically very bemused. All I could see was this edifice at the Airport City Tower, where ECOBANK opened its offices some weeks ago, next to the recently-embattled Ghana International Airline’s offices reminding me of the ongoing battle between SADC and ECOWAS. ECOBANK Ghana is the sixth largest bank in the country, with original investment from sub-regional body, ECOWAS.

Whether there is SADC money in Stanbic Bank, it is hard to say, but it’s clear that the South Africans are moving in Ghana in a big way.

Whilst foreign investment is fine, once it falls under the purview of serious government regulation, I do not think that the leitmotiv calling for FDI from all over, including the South Africans (there is Woolworths here, DsTV, many South African brands, etc...) is altogether healthy for Ghana's fragile economy and nascent democracy.

MTN coming into Ghana is giving me serious mental pabulum on whether Ghanaians ought to accept every Tom, Dick and Harry of the investment world to entrench themselves in the country.

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra...Thoughts on the Death of a Good Friend at a Private Hospital; Japan-Ghana relations; STANBIC/ECOBANK
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