Monday, February 16, 2009

Spintex Road Diaries: The Bigger Scheme...

Another manic monday that has flown faster than a purpose-driven mosquitoe on a lights-off night.

It,s 18h39 and the tro-tro engine has burst to life, taking the order-of-four-seated commuters to "bush road! nungua side" destination. Ofcourse some of us will stop closer.

Have to say that it seems rather incongruous listening to Natasha Bedingfield's "These Words are My Own";, and have a few commuters whistling to the lively tune behind me.

Go on, call me a snob.

While ur doing that, spare a thought for those languishing in hospitals out of family negligence, or those who have broken up on Valentine's day.

Those seem to be the small things, but they really are the bigger scheme of things.

Good health is a virtue, and having someone to call your partner or lover are two of the age-old and time-tested formulations that remind us of our humanity. and make it simultaneously meaningful.

Can't wait for CSI tomorrow morning--even if it might make me soporific the subsequent couple of hours!!

It sure is great to be alive, and have and make choices.

___sent: e.k.bensah (OGO device)+233.208.891.841/

These words brought to you by Ogo.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guest Blogger Esi Writes...: How To Avoid Disappointment When You Move To Ghana

By: Esi Woarabae Cleland

Some Ghanaians living abroad cite lifestyle differences as one of the main reasons why they prefer to live in places such as the US and the UK. For the twenty to thirty something Ghanaian who is yet to build a house Ghana, one of the major questions on his/her mind as s/he thinks of relocating home is: would I have to move back into my parents’ home, and by extension under their thumb? And who would want to do that when they’ve tasted independence and what it feels like to rent one’s own apartment and pay ones own bills?

Undoubtedly, the decision to move back is made easier when the young person feels in a financial position to rent a place upon his/her return home, but even such lucky people may underestimate the cost of renting what would be considered a decent place. Six months ago, I was one of those lucky people, and still I did not end up renting a place. I won’t go into the whys that finally led me to decide not to rent a place today but through my housing search, and by listening to the concerns of some of my friends abroad, I’ve learned one thing that every young returnee needs to know so as not to be disappointed upon their return.

The golden rule is this: keep things in perspective

When I was in the US, I lived in North Carolina, one of the cheapest states as far as housing goes. Even there, I lived in a 3-bedroom house with 2 roommates. Many of my friends who have lucrative jobs and live in places like New York City and New Jersey, despite making good money live in tiny one-bedroom apartments. Many who have bigger apartments have room mates. This is true of people in Boston as it is of those in DC. The situation may be even worse in London and yet Ghanaians cope. Yet, these same people come to Ghana and they want to move from their small, often dingy apartments in New York City or London straight to gated communities in Accra and Tema. In one blog entry that I wrote in August last year, I recounted asking what it would cost to rent a nice house at East Legon when I first returned to Ghana. Upon later reflection, I see that this is completely unrealistic and I’m not sure why I thought things would work differently here than they work in other parts of the world. Let me clarify.

When you live in the US, you usually start life from a small apartment, often with roommates. Then gradually you get a small one-bedroom place of your own, then you upgrade, and upgrade until some 10 years or more later, you finally own a nice house. It’s the same in Ghana; nobody starts life by owning or renting one of those mansions in Cantonments or Airport Residential Area or East Legon. Simple as that. Very few people begin life by renting two-bedroom estate houses. The fact that you’ve been educated at some of the finest schools in the world and have worked a year or two for a big international company does not change that. That sense of entitlement is misplaced and until you put into perspective that you can’t start life from the top, you will be very deeply disappointed upon your return home.

On the other hand, once you put things in perspective, and accept that you can’t have it all at once, you’ll find that you can enjoy life here as you work your way up the social ladder. Put simply, if you were willing to live in a place similar to where you currently live, in the US or elsewhere with the inconvenience of roommates and all, you’d be perfectly fine here too. I wish all those contemplating a move home the best of luck!

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to read more from this blogger, visit her blog: Wo Se Ekyir-What Your Mamma Never Told You About Ghana at:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spintex Road Diaries: Heading for an early night?

It is a cool evening, with adom fm just announcing in the taxi i am in that egypt has scored two, ghana also has two. I guess this is a friendly.

CSI (Las Vegas) rocks on viasat 1, but staying to midnight almost daily is making me seriously soporific. Must opt for the DVD in its stead.

So bloody tired it is not funny! Traffic meanwhile is surprisingly smooth.


___sent: e.k.bensah (OGO device)+233.208.891.841/

These words brought to you by Ogo.

Friday, February 06, 2009

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra: The Rise & Fall of Gateway Broadcasting Services (GBS)

Many Africans will remember the day when they woke up to the news that popular pay-TV Gateway Broadcasting Services (GBS) had gone “into liquidation”.

In fact, quite a number will remember the day of infamy when they would indefinitely be deprived of pay-TV. In a country where there remains a yawning gap between the rich and the poor (I like to delude myself we have a middle class sometimes!), the difference between paying for GBS and the still well-known DsTV was always going to hurt.

The Monday after the news of the liquidation, I asked a couple of work colleagues who subscribe to DsTV how much they pay a month; my jaws almost dropped to the ground. Although it varies depending on the bouquet you want, if you want a comprehensive one, with Africa Magic and whatnot, you will be hitting some GHC70-GHC80/month. That’s half of someone’s salary right there—if not *all* of it. Truth be told, it was less guilty paying for GBS, as the cost was half DsTV’s! There was some sense of satisfaction that you were part of the “masses” that wanted pay-tv, but were put off by the ridiculously-prohibitive cost of the competition.

When GBS broke out in late 2007, it immediately created two categories of viewers—those with a passion for football—and those with a love for movies and news. From the very start, we would belong to the latter; after all, sports is big on Metro TV, so why pay some twenty Ghana cedis extra just for instant gratification? I quite remember the sales people being profoundly troubled when we indicated we didn’t want sports—just movies. Obviously, it would have meant more profits per month for them; but we were steadfast. So it was that with the start-up of G-PRIME and a handful of stations, GBS would grow up slowly and surely. Here’s how I captured their entry on my Ghana blog in an entry of November 2007: “*There's a new satellite service provider in town, and I'm sure DSTV isn't too happy, even if it's enjoying its current monopoly like no-one's business. I heard on the radio yesterday that it's slashed its prices to GHC139 (US150) as start-up for its decoder, satellite and whatnot.

Meanwhile Gateway Broadcasting Services--owned by a Brit, Julian McIntyre, -- has been on the African continent for the past six months and in Ghana for almost a month. It really has been giving people's TVs a new life!;-)

It has fifteen channels, and is aiming to get a "G-Africa" by the end of the year, where it will show African movies only. I am happy to see that 2006-launched NBC hit HEROES, which started airing on the UK's terrestrial station BBC2 only this year is in its 13th episode on G-Prime, which is the major channel by GBS that features movies--both classics (as in popular 80s and 90s films) and otherwise.

Having been brought up to be awakened to the sensitivities of the underdog--whether putative or not--I am happy to say that though there remain some serious catching up by GBS over DSTV, I for one am not going to run to DSTV any time soon!*

Inherent in that entry post was not only a happy man content that there was finally competition to the run-of-the-mill, but someone who was content to see a wide variety of movies on television, without having to wait for “foreign movie” on Metro TV on Saturdays, or go out to get a DVD—a categorically more expensive enterprise!

But GBS would be more about movies; it was also about news: SKY News; AL-Jazeera; BBC World News were the top three. While the latter two are on our terrestrial channels free-to-air every day, Sky News was a must-watch, especially if you wanted to catch up with news in Europe and Britain.

GBS Meant Much to Sports Fans
Even though I never cared for the sports, I acknowledged fully that it was always going to be difficult talking about GBS without whispering “Premiere League”. The sports meant that it had a serious competitive edge over its rival DsTV. You could argue that its success was largely predicated on that edge—and sometimes at the expense of its movies and series. That some movies would be repeated some five times in a month left one to wonder about the variety they claimed they had. Still, with the new segments that came along in May 2008, who could argue much. This is what I wrote in my entry of May 2008: “*After the three new channels -- G-Series; G-Africa; KidsCo -- "arrived", I next had a question for the ages: how on Earth did GBS procure Lipstick Jungle, which is an entirely new show on NBC in the States? How on Earth, when the show started airing only earlier this year?

It's clear that those are some of the insider secrets that only GBS staff would know--and would not be willing to divulge--no matter how hard I tried to interrogate them;-)

I have to say that G-Africa has been the bomb in the sense that it's exploded in our senses and--my God!--our minds and whatever else it can explode into. Sundays these days are to die for, 'cos there's only one station we tune to--and that's G-Africa. You've got your series and your Nollywood movies all vying for our attention--and plenty of attention they get from us!!! … I've had enough now--it's simply good! In all seriousness, it's hard to believe that you can even get a monthly subscription as low as GHC11.00!! (Circa $US11.00)

Friends and acquaintances comparing DsTV to GBS have great basis of comparison in the sense that the former offers its proverbial so much more. Question is: how much MORE TV can I watch?? I struggle even with these 17 stations that GBS offers in that I cannot watch even half of them regularly. We generally watch SKY news to catch up news in the UK; G-Prime; and MGM.

It’s clear from that entry that beyond the excitement, GBS was promising in many respects. Given that hindsight is always 20/20, the post-mortem of their demise has been captured in some business papers in South Africa thus: “Pay- TV service provider GTV collapsed under a financial overstretch arising from overspending, cheaply priced subscriptions and content promises it could not honour.”

Lessons for the future
If we forget about the honouring for a second, I believe what we should be asking ourselves is how on Earth, as an update on the press release in one of the dailies reveals, did the GBS Ghana crew no nothing about a possible liquidation until a good TWO hours on that fateful Friday 29 January, 2009? Even if we are to take their word for it, what can this new government offer on liquidation laws to ensure that one does not experience such abysmal behaviour by corporate investors in this country?

Secondly, what protective measures are there to protect the consumer from any company—let alone a communications one—filing for bankruptcy? Laws are on thing, but this mess that GBS has left behind screams for regulation—and I cannot think of any other government agency to provide guidelines on these than…the National Communications Authority (NCA).

Is anyone listening?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Being...An African Union Citizen

It was too contrived to be a coincidence. After I posted an entry requesting why the issue of African Union had not been covered on CITI97.3FM (pls see above) on both Shamima Muslim and Citi Breakfast Show host Sammy Bartel's facebook wall, the following day on the show, I heard Victor Gbeho and Dr.Nii Alabi come on the show to discuss not just Ghanaian politics, but no less than implications of Al-Qaddafi as AU Chair.

There was--unlike former host Bernard Avle--no acknowledgment of my suggestion. I hardly expected it, but it would have been nice anyway!

Still, that was not going to dampen my interest and optimism. Upon learning that the AU is going to transform into an AU Authority, I sent some information round to Facebook friends, which elicited some responses. Curiously, out of the thirty people I sent the information to, only a handful replied. Below are some of the responses:

  • I honestly believe that once Africa stops looking 4 aid & begins to look and assist its own her in Africa we'll never be blessed. Its a Biblical principle that the founding fathers of the west knew and instilled into their children and children's children generations ago.

    Continental unity would transform us into thee Super Power.

  • It can only work if we make it work. We must instill that feeling of pride that the Americans have about being American about being an African in our offspring. Racism, tribalism and all those other evils are taught I'm yet to meet any1 born with any of those cancers in them. We have work to do, but if we are single minded in achieving this 'dream' the future is brighter that a thousand Suns beaming down on us.

  • Cool so i can proudly pay i live in the USA now.

  • This is what I myself wrote:

    it is ironic that in the centenary of the birth of Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah, the dream towards continental govt could become a reality! Breaking news---al Qaddafi of LIbya just became CHAIR of the AU for one year. Certainly a BOON--if ever I saw one--to continental unity!!

    All that said, I would not for a second believe that those who failed to comment are any less patriotic than I am.

    We can draw any number of conclusions about the non-response, but what I can say is that there is a general lack of interest and apathy in the whole enterprise--which only compounds my unbearable lightness of being an AU citizen...

    But let's get positive for a second. Here's the plan for the African Union Authority:

  • AU Authority would be made operational by July 2009

  • it will have a vice-president and President

  • current commissioners of the AU would be transformed into secretaries

  • new secretaries would have portfolios structured along nine areas of shared competence. These include...

  • ...poverty-reduction; free movement of persons, goods and services; infrastructural development; climate change; epidemics and pandemics; international trade negotiations; peace and security matters; foreign affairs

  • Right across from where I work is Eastgate hotel; it has an EU; Ghanaian; Nigerian; Canadian flag. There is NO AU flag. It's a good job the AU is changing its flag. Maybe I can lobby for it to be hoisted?;-)Seriously, last time I looked, flags were a symbolic representation of a country's identity. There is no hotel here in Accra I have seen that has ever dared to hoisted an AU or even ECOWAS flag. In my view, it just reinforces the perception that Ghanaians don't care much for representing the AU to the world!

    To conclude, we do not live in a perfect world, so we are always going to get the likes of Al-Qaddafi. Whatever you might think about his human rights, he has made immense contributions--albeit not altruistically--to the cause of Pan-African integration.

    I believe it sincerely to be a blessing in disguise to have a putative erratic character like him at the helm of the AU in this year, and at this time when we are in the centenary of one of the most visionary Africans that ever lived--Dr.Kwame Nkrumah. A man who also happens to have proclaimed "Africa Must Unite! when he took Ghana, along with Nasser and a posse of visionary leaders instrumental in the establishment of the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity.

    Like Sunday World columnist-cum-blogger Kobby Graham wrote:

    Say what you will about the man but his visions of a single African military force, a single currency, and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent have an appealing whiff of Nkrumah about them that I cannot help but inhale.

    In my view, the nay-sayers of AU integration are missing the point! It is not about Al-Qaddafi--it's about fighting for AU integration now!

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    The Serendipities of Live Traffic Feed: Single or Married, this is Highly Recommended!

    Over-excited by the prospect of writing weekly analysis of African Union updates, I've been buried in an article that needs finishing by the end of the week, and been equally following stories about the prospective African Union Authority that seeks to replace the African Union Commission.

    There I was checking live traffic feed (to the right of the blog) when I came across someone from Rhode Island who had come from the US to visit an old entry. Doing some back-tracking, I noticed that someone had written a comment in 2007 to a post I had created in 2006! I checked to find the site, which I have captured above. At least, it's only one of four blogs Lady A maintains.

    The title of the blog is Single or Married, This is For You. As Valentine's Day approaches, it's an interesting site to take a look at and reflect on!

    Enjoy the blog here:


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