Friday, August 31, 2007

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra…Thoughts on Liberia Dressing; MTN Benin Bites the Dust…by Getting Bitten?

I woke up Monday morning to the news that Liberia was cracking down on “immoral” dressing in the country. None of us could do anything but give a mental thumbs-up to the female president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. For a second, I wished that our President John Agyekum Kufuor was a member of the opposite sex, because she would then pay some greater attention to the increasingly scantily-clad manner in which university girls in particular dress. I’m not of the creed of people who believe that women who dress in such a manner ought to have something bad happen to them, because I think we all have free will and choices, and we should be able to decide to look—and look away.

All that said, I think Liberia has done well, and should be a lesson for a country like Ghana that claims to be the putative, or so-called, gateway to West Africa.

Still in West Africa, I’ve been rolling around myself with glee over what has been transpiring in the ECOWAS country of Benin and MTN. You may recall that a few weeks ago, I reported that I was bored by the Y’ellowness associated MTN, and I am not really that impressed. So it’s great news to see that the Beninois phone regulator—Telecommunications Regulation Authority—is giving MTN a biting hard time.

The crux of the story resides in the fact that when MTN changed its name in Benin, it failed to inform the regulator—or so the regulators claim—and has, consequently led the two entities of MTN and the regulator in a stand-off that has endured since 9 July when the regulators indefinitely switched off MTN in Benin!

This means that as I write, it’s been SIX good weeks since MTN has not been given the nod. Okay, with one exception—it pay a sum of -- what was originally $10million, but has been increased to – a vertiginous $620million! This is in effect 620% increase, and let’s face it: it’s not something that the MTN corporation cannot afford, what with its networks all over the Middle East and much of Africa.

Observers are crying foul, blue murder and all that, because they are saying it’s about the principles inherent in international law, and the breach thereof that is problematic. Beyond that, it’s also about the signal that MTN feels other ECOWAS neighbours might get, though MTN group CEO Phuthuma Nhleko, in an article by ITWEB.CO.ZA maintains (in my view, rather complacently) that it’s not going to happen.

Of course it won’t, especially when MTN ensures it has greased the palms of regulators. I’ve no proof, but speculation has been rife in Ghana—for ages—that this is why National Communications Authority (NCA), despite the fine it imposed on what was then AREEBA last year, never managed to break the defiance of AREEBA in paying the sum!

To top it all off, with the South Africa-based MTN’s network switched off, it’s none other than the (much-maligned) country of an ECOWAS giant Nigeria, and its GLOBACOM that has been granted a ten-year licence to operate in the small ECOWAS country of Benin.

What, for me, is significant about this development is that despite the regionalization of power politics world-wide--as exemplified by multinational-extraordinaire Chevron’s involvement with the West African Gas Pipeline--serious tectonic shifts might just be in the offing in the ECOWAS sub-region as a result of this David-versus-Goliath fight.

The CITI Just Gets Better…
I think CITI 97.3FM has gotten smart by capitalizing on the rather heavy traffic times of 5-7.30pm by introducing a few new programmes on the 7pm slot.

On Mondays, you get a new programme, hosted by veteran Observer columnist Francis Ankrah, which is used for a one-hour interview of statesmen, diplomats, public officials on issues of national development. I had the opportunity of listening to the very first edition some three weeks ago. It was rivetting stuff about the drugs trade. The interviewee was one Gary Nicholls, the Public Relations person at the British High Commission.

On Tuesdays, we get a repeat of a “A Question of Law’, which broadcasts originally on Saturdays for two hours. Thursday, we get a programme called “Sister, Sister: What’s on a Woman’s Mind”, which is a rather thought-provoking one-hour discussion programme seeking to dish out, re-heat and revisit age-old discussions of relationships, and the central role that women play in them.

So, latest news in town is that The Black Starlets beat Brazil 1-0! Despite a good SIX minutes added on as extra time by the Polish referee, the youthful Ghanaian team got one over them, possibly signaling a comeback after many years in the wilderness of bad football…

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blogging from Kalss Inn Redux: Ghana Rocks!

I thought I'd do something entirely different and walk to the place I buy newspapers from on Thursday. Instead, I took a taxi--such is the fickleness of the human condition!

In front of me, I have P*P newspaper; the Investor;Business Week;Star newspaper/tabloid; and Weekly Fylla.

I like a wide range of papers on Thursdays to get up-to-speed on what's happening in the arts; entertainment; and whatnot. The average person who sees my newspapers buys on Thursdays probably thinks I'm a businessman par excellence. Such is the superficiality of Ghanaians. Many a time, I've heard comments suggesting I must be loaded--for me to be able to afford these types of papers. If only they knew...

Whatever the case may be, very rarely do I get the opportunity to be this whimsical in my writinfg for this blog. A breath of fresh air is always good--and that's why I'm here at Kals Inn, to the tunes of a just-ended "Everything I do, I do it for you", by Brian...oh, I forget his surname...

Either way, I very rarely get the opportunity to write about what makes Ghana interesting, and what makes it rock. Today's my opportunity.

I LOVE my country; it's got more beaches than I could ever find in Belgium; there's always something to complain about without feeling that no-one will understand your complaints. They are real and manifold, but somehow, somewhere, with more people complaining about things--by way of radio and other parts of the media--you get to exorcise the frustration you might feel.

Somehow, somewhere, things do improve--even if the administration continues to lie to us about how they get their results or solutions! The furore over the ADB is one thing: their plans were scuppered by the likes of civil society who complained endlessly about giving in to Stanbic. The bank has no done a volte-face and said it wants to be a "partner".

The government won't tell us the truth, but Ghanaians will keep fighting.

With three minutes left at the cafe, I'd just end that it's glorious to have lights these days more frequently. Power comes from Cote D'Ivoire, and helps mollify the energy situation toa degree it was not last year around this time. The complaints MUST continue to come; that's the only way we can get results...

long live Ghana!!

Friday, August 03, 2007

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra: Stanbic Must Leave Ghana's ADB Alone; MTN Ghana is Born but What's Changed?

A journalist friend of mine came by my workplace yesterday to introduce an innovation in this country--a free newspaper!

Not to steal his thunder or anything, but his paper will be called "Real News", and there is even a website in the offing. Sounds all exciting!

Even more so was our conversation after he told me he's been using the same Areeba # for five years.

"I prefer ONETOUCH these days" I started. "You can surf the 'Net on it. Did you even know that ONETOUCH is launching Mobile television with a Korean firm?".

As he started to text away a message, he remarked: "what, do you know someone working there--the way you're doing P.R. for them!"

"Not at all" I quipped, "it's because they're almost-all Ghanaian!"

He broke out in a semi-laugh, adding "I see!"

That's what I am talking about--supporting the Ghanaian industry no matter what. Idem with the ADB/Stanbic furore.

I have actually been accused elsewhere of being xenophobic towards South Africans, because of my acerbic post about Stanbic.

If it behooves me to hold strong viewson a so-called strategic foreign investor that is clearly in Ghana to maximize whatever profits it can -- under
the guise of facilitating Ghana to the Promised land of a West African gateway, then I'm all against it!

Stanbic is now providing loans for the re-construction of Flagstaff House; it's also intent on partnering with thw country's state paper Daily Graphic on some projects.

Nice try, Stanbic. Get into the hearts and minds of Ghanaians, and maybe, just maybe, the divestiture-friendly governmentwill give you the nod--and maybe, a wink with good measure.

Again, not so fast, Stanbic.

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of them all of the time!

I don't want Stanbic money in any part of my economy. What I want is autonomy to manage my country's own affairs!

MTN is Born

I'm really bored by the yellow front cover that most newspapers had today regarding the changeover from AREEBA to MTN--yet another South African entity.

I am hoping more that what MTN Ghana brings is quality to the execrable network that AREEBA was offering. With its humongous subscriber-base of circa two million subscribers, eclipsing that of TIGO; ONETOUCH and KASAPA, it better get delivering--fast!

At least I have my AREEBA/MTN number for life. It's an easy number to remember, so I gotta get filling it with credit;-)

Have a good weekend!


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