Thursday, December 30, 2010

Takoradi--More than a Tale of Two Cities

For the past few days, the folks and I have been in the capital city of Africa's newest oil-producing capital of Takoradi.

There are two incontrovertible truths about this beautiful, littoral city by the Atlantic ocean: it made news in the oil world on 15 December, 2010 when Ghana officially became an oil-exporting country; secondly, the capital of the verdant and lush Western region is a twin city alongside Sekondi, making it known as Sekondi-Takoradi.

Although on our way to Takoradi, we passed through Sekondi, it was not for long to be able to sufficiently speculate about the city, but what I can say is that much of the topography is undulating and hilly. Little wonder oil has been found here, we thought.

Suffice-to-say that we have not been here long enough to truly compare with the equally-green Central region, but with all certainty, the Western region is a beautiful one, where it feels more expansive than the former.
But perhaps, not for long.

A 'SKYY FOCUS' newspaper (published in Takoradi, tel:0312025299) reports a headline story 'The Oil and Gas Industry is affecting our livelihood'.

From long traffic queues to jacked-up rents, ordinary Western region residents are likely to suffer the birth of the oil industry.

I do so hope back in the capital of Accra, these impacts will be the talking point in 2011.
Happy New Year from a very rainy Takoradi!

___sent: e.k.bensah (OGO device)+233.268.891.841/
These words brought to you by Ogo.

Friday, December 17, 2010

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra: Xmas Preparations

So much has happened over the past month that it's difficult to know where to start.

I have been to a wedding and quite a number of funerals; gotten ill (for which I am recovering); been swamped by work (as you do at this time) and generally taken time out to do more tweeting than blogging and facebooking (on account of office restrictions).

Suffice to say, the fat lady has not sung, which means that the blogging show is not quite over. There's quite a bit I want to add to the debate on Ivory Coast, such as that the ECOWAS Standby Force (under the ambit of the African Standby Force) ought to intervene over the diplomatic pussy-footing and tergiversation.

Africa has come of age, and it's time the Ghanaian media pointed these out instead of the cacophony over Ghana producing oil (as important as that may be) since 15 December.

I will officially take a blogging hiatus from the 23rd of December up to New Year 2011.

Till then, the fat lady still got some practising to do!;-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Of Truculent Tro-Tro drivers and Mass Metro Managers

For the past couple of days, I have been mulling over the state of this beautiful nation.

I don't quite get the fact that there's so much indiscipline. And when you get to that stage of wondering, you might inevitably wonder what it does to one's internal cosmology.

If it is true that the violence in society and the world--writ large--is a reflection of how inwardly-torn one is, then it's possible to segue into another discourse that says that the extent of indiscipline in this country can ineluctably affect one's attempts to improve oneself.

In the words of an X-files title, I like to *fight the future* whenever I can. I dream of this country having everything possible here--from natural resources to human resources--collectively making the nation better. I also like to think that a nation cannot gt better without complaints. I re-call back in Brussels, hearing a BBC Radio Four item on why the Brits like to complain about almost everything, and thought that's something that Africans probably ought to do more of to get change.

That was before I knew what "advocacy"meant!

So here I am--six years into  the life and loves of my country, continuing to complain...and occasionally getting results.

Off-late, the biggest complains has revolved around transport, as exemplified by Mass Metro ( which, frankly, is assuming a kind of structure not seen in the last administration. Unlike the last administration, for the past two years since they assumed power, buses have been arriving around a certain time. Ofcourse "around" is insufficient; better to have "at", but we live in hope in this country, so "half for do!" as Ghanaians like  to say. To wit: "better than nothing!"

So. Buses arrive around, say, 6.20pm every weekday in front of Accra Mall. Fine. Beyond the indiscipline of some commuters not waiting for those coming from the buses to come down before they try to board, you find that the bus driver--inexplicably--does not stop at every stop, but waits to hear shouts by commuters screaming "bus stop!!". I use the buzzer, and depress it annoyingly long enough, but I don't know how many people do.

That it is rarely used suggests that there needs to be some level of education even of the conduct of commuters.

I will be deliberately snobbish here, because it is important: many of those who board the buses are, frankly, (semi-)illiterate who are trying to save money, while contemporaneously avoiding the "waiting for Godot" cues formed at the tro-tro lines.

The cost of boarding is very cheap (the average fair to the Spintex Road on the bus is GHC0.30/30ghana pesewas, or 21 US cents, as compared to GHC0.60/60pesewas, or 42 US cents with tro-tro) so you can imagine why many--both middle class and otherwise--would want to board this form of transport.

But it's the attitude. I find both the tro-tro drivers and the mass metro drivers so truculent it's not funny. Which begs the question of  *where* to complain in the event of non-satisfactory performance. When I was in the central region a few weeks back, I saw one Mass Metro bus that was undergoing training for its workers. This suggests there is a level of monitoring and evaluation at some structure of the MMT somewhere.

But where exactly? Where do we go to complain about truculent drivers who remain obdurate about doing the right thing?

I need to start a campaign--and definitely not one fighting indiscipline, but one where we as taxpayers can hold our institutions accountable. First port of call are getting phone numbers. Up to now, I don't know which number to call to find out about the Mass Metro buses.

Truth be told, they're doing great things, and better things are to come.

But it should not be inconsistent with getting a hold of a phone number I don't think!

labels:mid-wk madness; mid-week madness; tro-tros

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Hunt for Blue...October, or a tale of Desperately Seeking @ghanapolice on Twitter!

It all began on 26 October, when a Ghanaian tweep mentioned something about Ghana Police being on twitter.


Quizzed, I followed through a few links and realised they were on the @ghanapolice address. They had asked a question about community policing, and tips to assist. They appeared to be following only a few people. So I decided to follow.


Last week, I gave the Ghana Police Service (0302.773.900) a call, and explained my reason for calling. The lady at the other side was very empathetic, and decided to give me the number of no less than DSP Kwesi Ofori, Director of the Public Affairs Department (0302.761.274). When I called, he thought it was Joy FM waiting to speak with him for an interview. He suggested I call him back in 30 minutes.


I decided to send a text instead, but I got no reply.


Last Thursday morning, I heard on CITI97.3fm(@citi973) that he was going to be live on-air to respond to a few questions about Ghana policing.  My question about TWITTER came late in the day, so I never got round to having it answered.


Unperturbed, I decided to call the Police Service's PAD again, and this time was given their direct number. Once through, the young lady was clueless about twitter, and when she asked, I heard someone say in the background "toyota??!!" !!


I was eventually put through to one DSP Attah who explained that he was once in a meeting in which it was mentioned that they would contract someone to set up [and manage] their twitter account. He himself was just returning from travels, so I should call back in an hour's time.


Minutes led to hours, which led to cases in the media that has involved the Ghana Police and inhibited I suspect any desire by DSP Kwesi Ofori-- who's been on television and the radio almost every day—to call me.


Oh well. I'm a patient man, and this very day, I have called Public Affairs Department, spoken with DSP Attah who says that in a brief chat with his colleague, it was revealed that a consultant had indeed been tasked to manage the @ghanapolice account. I see the Public Affairs Account really is on Facebook, and is looking great, thank you.


Now, the biggest test is for us Ghanaians to do several of these – and not necessarily in the order outlined below:


  1. Call the Ghana Police Public Affairs Department on (landline) 0302.761.274.
  2. Ask to speak with DSP Attah
  3. Query him about the @ghanapolice twitter account
  4. Query him again…
  5. …and again.
  6. So much so that the PAD of GhPolice will be compelled to inform the MEDIA and the PUBLIC about the twitter account, and how it can help complement the police service's work.

labels:ghanapolice; mid-week madness; ghanapolice on twitter; twitter

Friday, October 22, 2010

Beware of Telcommunication Companies in Ghana (Vodafone / MTN) Bearing Gifts!

The other day, I was over at the Vodafone shop in Accra Mall, trying to figure out why I no longer enjoy the 50% bonus credit Vodafone had been banging on about for the past couple of weeks.

It turns out the Vodafone was being rather deceitful about the whole promotion. It had conveniently forgotten to tell consumers they no longer enjoy the bonus credit once they activate the "8080" promotion to enjoy rate at 8gp/minute. In order to cancel the subscription, one needs to dial 1212 -- and that only after one month!

Then there is MTN.

I heard on the radio this morning that it had slashed its call rate to 7.5gp/minute.

Although I was not going to consider going back to MTN (I will only receive calls there), I wanted to be humoured. Instead I was annoyed!

The 7.5gp/minute is conditional. Yes, on condition that you subscribe to any three of their packages.

One package enables you talk for 10gp/minute in the first minute, coming down to 7.5gp/minute after 5 minutes! Another is on condition of being a "Family and Friends" member. The third is closely related to the latter two.

In short, not worthy of my time--in any way!!

I am still on Zain--and will continue to be there for a while.

Zain offers 8gp/minute to ANY network, with 8 free SMS-es a day (that's 240 free SMSes a month); and using family and friends, one gets further reduction. I can speak to my family and loved ones for some two minutes, and instead of paying 0.16GHC, I pay around 0.04GHC!!

While MTN and Vodafone have transformed themselves into the modern-day purveyors of Greeks bearing gifts, I hope Zain stays true.

labels: MTN; Zain; Ghana telcos; Accra Mall

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging -- Back the week of 18 October!

As a blogger, there's definitely one thing you cannot escape -- your
private life. When you're blogging, the assumption is that a lot of
much of your life is put up for public scrutiny.

We all now know that this is rarely the case. The smarter blogger is
the one who is consistent with the themes he writes about. I have
fallen short on consistency at times, but the passion is clearly there
to continue blogging.

Some important and personal issues need to be attended to as I take a
break from full-throttle blogging.

It's only a hiatus...and one that will certainly recharge the batteries!

So here's to when I come back the week of 18 October!

Like British actor Daniel Hoffman-Gill, who I both follow on twitter
and his blog (, I will also be available
on twitter.

I would be happy to receive and follow your tweets as well. I'm on

See you!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Hard & Fast Rule for Managing One's Mortality for a Ghanaian Funeral

There I was at a funeral of a relative over the weekend when I experienced an epiphany: I discovered a hard-and-fast rule for managing one's mortality in Ghana.

Before I reveal it to a crowd of claps, let me just say this.

In this country, attending a funeral is a matter of course--and not because the relatives who have been handling and managing it for many funerals of relatives say so.

The assumption is that by attending the funerals of relatives (often a three-day affair comprising: wake-keeping; burial; and service on Sunday), you earn a reputation for being seen at them, therefore increasing your ability of having other relatives attend in the unfortunate event that it befalls you.

This can result in a young man or woman attending many funerals of the relatives of cousins/uncles/grand-you name it. This, so that you gain moral points for having ticked off the funeral box of relatives.

Well, I got me a solution to all that.

In the event you decide to become a rebel and not attend any funerals of any relatives, here's what you do:

1. Become a Muslim. This is because in the event your earthly time is up, you can simply avoid the ignominy of a no-show from all whose funerals you getting buried the following day!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

GhanaMan About Town

I have always been a fastidiously-slow learner, but when I see the light, it is often very bright.

I am not too sure that it was coincidence to be seated at a hotel, near work, for a two-day meeting, and catch the Ben Affleck-starring 2006 film "Man About Town". The story revolves around a Hollywood agent who has everything any guy would want--a goo job, money, a lovely wife, etc. At least he THINKS he has everything, for his wife is cheating on him, and when he finds out, he is more than gutted. He embarks on an introspective journey wherein he starts writing a journal, which is sadly stolen. Sad, because the journal affords him the opportunity to pore his heart and secrets out--as journals are wont to do.

That is where I will stop with the narration of the movie, because the operative word here is the journal.

At a time when my blogging has suffered because of what seems like an element of over-prioritisation of my deepest thoughts in my own journal I have been writing for 22 years (I have journals dating to 1988!), I thought it was not really that coincidental to be reminded --in a supernatural and esoteric kind of way--about the insights and values offered by journal-writing, which is seriously helping me deal with some of the existential angst I am going through right now.

Sometimes, life is truly about coming full circle to "find the truth"...

___sent: e.k.bensah (OGO device)+233.268.891.841/

------------------Sent from ekbensah jr's nokia e63
*Contact me: +233.268.891.841

These words brought to you by Ogo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Funny Kind of Ghanaian Rainy Season

Work colleagues perhaps best know the state of the Ghanaian weather more than I do, as they have seen many more of them than I have, but I cannot quite get my head round the fact that we have had no less than two rainy seasons all along?

My colleagues tell me that September/October is a time when there is rain, though not as much as the semi-torrential rain that we have witnessed for the past couple of days. The official rainy season is actually around June/July, so when we get cats-and-dogs rain in short starts like this, I can only wonder one thing:


Friday, September 17, 2010

Ghana to be Counted on 26 September, 2010

Oh yes. We are all going to be counted the night of 26th September. Quite why it will be at night--and not daytime--is beyond me, but, hey, let us all rejoice and merry-make in  the knowledge that we shall be counted. Last time Ghanaians were counted was in 2000. Given that it is done every ten years, can we say we are fully on track?

I'm not too au fait with the technicalities associated with Ghana's census, but what I do know is that it will help Ghanaian ministries, departments and agencies(MDAs) obtain a better sense of the "state of the nation". You might also not know this, but there is a countdown on the Ghana Statistical Website, which can be found here:

Here's a snapshot of the website (see below):

Have yourself a good weekend, and keep it safe!

culled from: Accra Photos by Day and Night:

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Alright so I failed...but Note to Self!

The problem with the way they kind of "emerge" from nowhere and consume the time you would spend on other things. So it is that I was caught up in an emergency work-related meeting on Wednesday, which flowed into today, which consumed practically the whole day.

While some are bent on burning holy books to commemorate September 11, in this country, we are enjoying a holiday on Friday 10 September -- to celebrate our Moslem brothers and friends in this largely Christian and religious country who have just finished their fast.

So everyone might just be off to the beach.

Or doing something.

I shall certainly be doing the latter, as I cogitate over work, and blogging material for the week of 13 September:

*New Media and Anas Amerayaw Anas
*Bus Rapid Transport in the offing

Enjoy. Till next week!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Bouncing back on 6 September, 2010!

For the second time, I have taken "unofficial" leave from this blog--and not necessarily because it was a choice.

Last week, I was at school. Specifically at a school for activists trying to understand the global financial crisis.

This week, I am winding down to prepare full-throttle for September, and a remaining quarter of the year that proves to be replete with as many meetings as one can imagine.

I have been tweeting, however. If you're a tweep, find me on @ekbensah.

Am definitely bouncing back the week of 6 September, which is a special week for me in so many ways.

Till then!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Watch out (Western) World, Ghanaians are Ready for You!

Somehow, somewhere, there is a 16-yr-old budding American journalist who must be looking behind her shoulder wondering what next to write about the country she's currently visiting. Somehow, somewhere, she must be regretting ever claiming that:

  • These people are lucky if they have power until 2 p.m

  • Then, these women! They carry their laundry and groceries on their heads! ON THEIR HEADS! I wish I could see their neck muscles, they must be gigantic

  • Aunt Barb had a three-minute shower to wash her hair, and when I got in after her, the hot water was gone! It's craziness

  • Note to everyone: if you are ever traveling and the menu says beef, ask them to define beef. Chances are beef in Ghana is goat

  • I am not going to try to debunk these myths. A quick click on the "SHARE" button, and the story, by Jessica Wolk, 16, of "Glassboro,...considering going to the University of Maryland, Arcadia University or Rowan University" and who is in Ghana with International Healthcare Volunteers, was all over Facebook.

    The following are some of the responses:

    Tuesday at 12:36pm · · · Share

      • Nana Fredua-Agyeman it is called ignorance and prejudice... looking for things that aren't there...
        Tuesday at 12:39pm · ·

      • Emmanuel K Bensah Jr if u consider how much of a "backwater" where she is from is perceived to be, it might make sense why she's making such assumptions. Goes to show, also, that Western 16-yr-olds do not necessarily feel part of the "global village" we all assume we are in!;-)
        Tuesday at 12:48pm · ·

      • Julius Sowu
        As is our duty as generous hosts, we should not chide her, she is young and was brought up with the impression that electricity was created by mystical creatures who lived below ground and produced endless supply, that can be wasted.

        I say w...e are lucky to have an opportunity to show true reality to such as she, seeing as her elders do not have a clue she maybe will grow up to do the right things.See More
        Tuesday at 12:58pm · ·

      • Emmanuel K Bensah Jr I guess you made a valid point, Julius! 16 is STILL rather young!
        Tuesday at 1:01pm · ·

      • Leanne Rae Halewyck Why don't you invite her over to your place for a goat "beef" barbeque and amaze her with your trick of turning on the lights - *at night*?
        Tuesday at 1:06pm · · 1 personYou like this. ·

      • Katrina Olson I am so tempted to comment on her post that she finally experienced using a toilet while being in Ghana - times in NJ must be tough!
        Tuesday at 1:16pm · · 1 personLoading... ·

      • Leanne Rae Halewyck LOL - so true Katrina! Man, they have it good in Africa: electricity until 2pm AND toilets!
        Tuesday at 1:17pm · · 1 personLoading... ·

      • Julius Sowu
        ‎@Emman 16 is just the right age for her to awaken from the sleep that is living in the west, most kids do not have such an amazing opportunity to see reality up close and personal.

        Lets just hope she goes beyond pink buildings in Osu, and ...air conditioned imitations of somewhere else, but takes time to opens her eyes.See More
        Tuesday at 1:22pm · · 1 personLoading... ·

      • Chris Howusu Just written like a teenager. Goat as beef? Nonsense. Not in Ghana. Ghanaians prefer goat anyway. Sometimes the difference between the West and developing countries is exagerated. As someone whose MA dissertation was about internet comments of tourists visiting Ghana,this one takes the biscuit.
        Tuesday at 1:50pm · · 1 personLoading... ·

      • Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
        When I read the article, my initial reaction was shock. But I then noticed that she is only 16 and probably travelling to Ghana for the first time. It is a pity it appears those bringing her down did not orient her.

        She is however, stereoty...pical of most Americans I have met who were arriving in the country for the first time.See More
        Tuesday at 2:18pm · ·

      • Emmanuel K Bensah Jr ‎@Leanne & Katrina: I think you make a good comedy-duo;-D really made my afternoon...literally fell off my chair!;-)) @Julius: here's to her opening her eyes! I almost feel sorry for having launched this blitzkrieg on her African adventure!;-) @Chris: would love to see a website where you have some of the BEST internet comments on Ghana!! Can u manage that? keep the fire burning!
        Tuesday at 2:20pm · ·

      • Bob Palitz
        Folks....let's take a moment to put things in perspective. We have a 16 year old, who has probably not traveled outside the US before (note her comment on the size of the plane). She's coming here to do good volunteer work (see her organiza...tion's web site) and she freely admits to not really knowing what she's getting into. She's blogging, which means that initial impressions are thrown out there before they have had time to "mature". By the time she leaves Ghana she will have an appreciation for different cultures and economic circumstances that she has not yet had the chance to experience in her life. So it's cool.

        And Americans do not have a monopoly on cultural and geographic ignorance. Care to know how many Ghanaians I have met who think Hawaii is in the Caribbean and were unaware it became one of the United States over 50 years ago? ;-)
        See More
        Tuesday at 2:38pm · · 2 peopleLoading... ·

      • Chris Howusu Well said@ Bob. She would have received more flak but for her age. I wish her the best during hers stay.
        Tuesday at 2:49pm · · 
        think BOB PALITZ's comments pretty much summed it up, when he posted a comment to her post:

        Bob Palitz August 17, 2010 at 7:18AM an NJ native who has lived in Ghana for almost 10 years, I can appreciate the culture shock Ms Wolk is experiencing. It doesn't seem as if she has traveled much so far. If she thinks a 767 is huge, wait until she experiences a 777 or 747. an aspiring journalist, she does need to get on top of the need for research. She apparently is confusing "tarmac" (which is simply pavement) with "jetway" (which is the movable bridge many airports have that allow you to enter and leave a plane door directly into the terminal). Rest assured that when she descended the stairs upon arrival at Kotoka International Airport, she stepped onto tarmac.

        In my ten years here, I have never been served goat masquerading as beef. Why would they? Goat's very popular here and they sell it as goat, on the menu and in the markets. They don't taste at all alike.

        And while the electricity supply in Ghana has its erratic moments, it doesn't "run out" at 2 pm or at any particular time. In fact, it's better than you will find in most African countries.

        Let's hope Ms Wolk can get beyond her shock about differences in creature comforts and describe in a balanced way the experience she's having.

        Frankly, despite all these comments--many of which I sympathise with--I do not think we are going to see an end to platitudinous impressions about Ghana--let alone Africa. The proof of the experience clearly will be in the living. But I daresay, if more if us challenged these assumptions about Africa anytime and everywhere it appeared, we might have a better-balanced view of Africa.

        Here's to technology, Facebook, and the intelligentsia!;-))

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    I've Been Running Around Trying to Find Certainty

    " Johnny's always running around
    Trying to find certainty
    He needs all the world to confirm
    That he ain't lonely " --
    Robert Palmer
    It's one of those day when you don't get much done--despite the fact that you're at the cusp of a maelstrom of impending activity.

    Started the day needing to attend a meeting in town. Came back all jaded and soporific at lunchtime.

    Regrettably it's extended after lunch, with mischief by a mystery illness, initiated by an incipient sore throat, that wants to put me down.

    I won't let it. I guess early home, coupled with doses of nostalgic music (90s, 2000s) will get me perky for Thursday morning.

    Here's up for a looooooooooooooooong walk with my pet dog, Fenix.

    So much to do, yet running around trying to find certainty

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Thank you, Public Utilities Regulatory Commission(PURC)!

    At a time when consumers are shouting blue murder about tariff increases, it might strike one as odd that I'm advocating a praise!

    I certainly have not forgotten the load management programme of 2006 that saw many Ghanaians rationing electricity, because of the over-dependence on Ghana's hydro-power at the Akosombo dam, which was running out. But I do not also forget the very helpful people at the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission(PURC), who have been instrumental in maintaining some level of sanity when the lights went out.

    Four years down the line, they continue to be as helpful as they always have been. There is one particular person by the name "Phillip", whose surname I do not know, who always does his very best to address any concerns about electricity.

    Two days ago, the lights went off in our area--apparently, Electricity Company of Ghana(ECG)-- was doing unannounced maintenance on a tripped wire. I called PURC, on 0302.240.046 to speak with the same Phillip who said he would investigate for me, even if I had reported it to the ECG hotline on 0302.611.611.

    He asked me to remind him of my phone number, which I did.

    Within 10 minutes, he had called to let me know he had contacted the district engineer of my area, and that they were aware of a problem. They were not promising anything, but they would restore the lights shortly.

    Around two hours later, the lights were back. I know as I got a text message from home.

    Interestingly, the following morning, I greeted my desk with a call from PURC, wondering whether my lights came back the evening before!

    If that is not efficiency, I don't know what is!

    Enjoy your weekend and keep safe.

    If you're in Ghana and your lights go off, please don't tell me you don't know what numbers to call on a weekday (from 9am to 16h30), and throughout the week!

    It's PURC, then ECG Hotline on 0302.611.611.

    Friday, August 06, 2010

    Lessons in Blogging: Blogging Integrity; and Why Niche-Blogging Must be Encouraged

    A few months ago, I sent a blog entry to a friend whom I had quoted in the entry. In that quoted piece, I had used a picture of her, which was a few years old, and some of what I had written probably no longer applied in 2010.

    I had written the post in 2006, and was referring to it in 2010. On the picture, she wondered whether I could not change it.

    I said no.

    This is what I wrote:

    I don't know how exactly to call it, but blogging has an implicit "integrity:" abt it--which is to say that it is rare to go back and change a post (dating, in this case to 2006!) and picture...significantly minimises the "blogging integrity" of it. Even if there are typos, keeping it as is makes it "authentic".

    I have checked online to see whether I could find any similar definitions, but none was forthcoming. So please take it as my coining of a new term!;-)

    Practising "blogging integrity" is, in essence, retaining a blog-post(with mistakes and all) [even] for posterity.

    If you're familiar with history, it's like keeping a primary source, thus increasing its authenticity. Any tinkering makes it a secondary source. In other words, it no longer retains the authenticity it held when you wrote it. There was a mood that set the tone for your writing of that post, including what informed you to use a particular post.

    Any change of that post you wrote a few years ago(no matter how politically-incorrect, replete with typos, or narrow-minded it was) years down the line is in essence a breach of blogging integrity.

    Keep on with your niche-blogging!

    Niche-blogging is pretty self-explanatory: it is blogging about a particular industry -- a kind of esoteric blogging if you will.

    The only bug-bear I have with this kind of blogging is that it is mostly profit-oriented. I personally think it does not have to be!

    I am your quintessential niche-blogger blogging for free!

    I maintain a photo-blog (Accra Pictures by Day and Night) on, and also own Critiquing Regional Integration, which can be accessed on

    Comparing this blog with those other two is like comparing chalk, cheese, and polar bears: they're all mostly white, but very different in style!;-))

    The reason why I am even writing about it at all is because the other day, I wrote a post entitled "
    Understanding the Relationship between the AU, Africa's RECs and the African Economic Community(AEC)".

    By the time I had come to work the next day, I had had visitors from Belgium; the UK; other parts of Europe having accessed that blog. Here's just a snapshot of some of the countries that have been visiting my regional integration blog:

    Within hours, I found my blog entry here: This is no other than a very reputable and respected website on ACP-EU affairs!

    Just when I thought no-one was noticing, someone, somewhere picked up my "niche-blogging" post and spread it far and wide!

    Goes to show that in blogging, don't ever think no-one is watching, or reading. If you are sufficiently passionate about a topic, just go ahead and write, write, and write some more.

    Get some good trackers, like FEEDIT live, whilst you are at it!

    Monday, August 02, 2010

    Has it Really Been Six Years?

    The epiphany of working for five years seemed to have passed me last year, so I am a bit surprised that it has not in 2010. Perhaps it is the fact that today is exactly six years to the day that I arrived at this office in a tie to a very clean desk ready for me to do my work.

    Whenever I think back to 2 August, 2004, I feel profoundly wistful, because I wish I could go back and undo some of the foolish and immature things I did when I started working here. I wish I could have managed things a whole lot better.

    Then again, it's never too late. I am grateful for having fantastic experiences of travelling to Tunis for a UN-sponsored conference; Guinea; and recently Mali; and Nigeria.

    To tell you the truth, I have not quite gotten over my Nigeria trip; I was beside myself visiting Abuja--it really is a (safe and) noteworthy city to visit!

    Every August I start thinking of my last days in Belgium; that frenetic period when we were clearing our rented place in the suburbs of 15 years worth of stuff; the greenery and serenity of the suburbs; the exposure to the "European way" as opposed to the much-flaunted "American way" in Ghana.

    I thought that in 2010, I would have landed a UN job(not there yet), or an African Union one(working on it), or one where I could fully exploit my potential of a political scientist, with expertise(10 years writing about, and researching) in comparative regional integration.

    My dream to work in an international public organisation where wearing a tie won't give me funny looks is no longer a dream; I think I'm a bit closer to realising it than I ever was.

    We'll see.

    I still have many deeper dramas to work on.

    Still...thank God for 6 years on this job!

    And what about you, dear reader? Would 6 years on the job kill you--or make you better?

    Friday, July 30, 2010

    RIP Mr.Godslin Atikpoe, of Gold Cab Services

    It was never supposed to end like this.

    I was supposed to call Mr.Atikpoe--a driver of Gold Cab services, which is a private taxi-hiring service I have been patronising for four years now--on Tuesday morning to remind him to come pick me up from work.

    Instead I got hold of his wife who informed me she was taking him to hospital. Initially perturbed, I thought it would not be anything serious, and I silently believed he wold be fine.

    In the evening, I called--hoping very much I could speak with him and find out how he was--when I got--yet again--a hold of his wife.

    When she told me in vernacular that "he has come and done his bit on Earth", I knew the news was not good.

    In my sister blog, Accra Daily Photo, I did a rather happy-go-lucky post about GOLD CAB SERVICES, which he was very loyal to. Godslin had been the one who informed me that British Black Cabs were coming down to Ghana to complement the fleet of cars that were operating under "Gold Cab".

    The joviality of the post clearly belies my sadness for the person who I became very fond of. Mr.Atikpoe must have been in his early fifties, but he had such an affable disposition, and was so punctual it wasn't funny.

    Anytime he came for me--wherever I might have been--he would come some ten minutes earlier and sit it out--not before calling me that he was there. We often spoke about common Ghanaian failings, and occasionally about his family.

    Here's to you, Godslin Atikpoe.

    Rest in Perfect Peace.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Mid-Week Madness:When your "Financial Institution is Unavailable", or A Cautionary Tale on Withdrawals

    Last night, I almost lost my appetite because of a visit to the Accra mall I had entertained earlier. This was less of a case of a "mauvais quart d'heure"; it was more of a mauvais TWO hours!

    I had gone to an ATM to withdraw a substantial amount of money, only to have a message flash across "your financial institution is unavailable". Rather used to this message, I dismissed it and went to another ATM.

    To my horror, I had the barest minimum in my account--in other words ZERO money!

    Within nano-seconds, I was on the mobile to my branch, who were simply just wasting my time trying to find someone I could make my complaint to.

    To cut a long story short, after I had calmed down, I drew from an earlier experience and decided to call ECOBANK's toll-free 24/7 hotline. The lady was so, so sympathetic and calm about the whole thing. She took my details and apologised profusely, promising she would call me as soon as anything came up.

    What had happened was that the bank had debited my account, when it displayed that message. This is not something I have not seen before; I should have been better-prepared. I had been withdrawing from this VISA-compatible ATM so many times I assumed everything would be A_ok.

    In any event, I called the hotline some two hours later. A guy reassured me this time, explaining why such messages happen. He had good news! The machine had reversed automatically, and my money was back!

    Note to self:
  • if you have to use the ATM, always withdraw a manageable minimum if you can, just in case this happens to you

  • keep sufficient, manageable money on you!

  • have your mobile handy 24/7 to call your branch in the event something like this happens

  • if you don't happen to have a 24-7 hotline for your branch, BLOG about it! Pester them! Write to the papers! The banks make enough money on us every nano-second. Why should they deprive you of such a service??

  • I have to say, though: Thankyou, ECOBANK!

    I didn't think I would have to thank them so soon after being pissed off by some of the funny antics of some of their staff!

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Coming Back to Blogging's Hard to Do...Sometimes!

    It's been a week since I was back, and I have to confess to having written many blog entries--in my mind!--without translating them to an entry proper!

    Some of the issues percolating in my small mind include:
  • achieving all my personal objectives before the MONTH is out--never mind the year!

  • maintaining sanity in my mind and my health, what with all the things I have set out for myself to do--along my professional work!

  • creating a discipline of reading many things in SMALL doses--that is to say: reading 10 pages of different things/day instead of trying to read it all in one go (so far unsuccessful)

  • creating a timetable to have most of these achieved

  • exploring courses on conflict management and/or peace & security as I keep coming back to them! In Ghana, it seems like you have to be a soldier before those issues matter to you--or an academic!

  • writing entries on corporate Ghana and how they have hijacked the media, and unwittingly perpetuated the politicization and polarization of Ghana, such that issues that are non-political do not get a look in...

  • managing the ever-elusive dosh!

  • Ah, the cogitate further on these issues!;-) Have a good one.

    Keep it safe.

    Friday, July 02, 2010

    Watch The World Cup with Global Voices: Live Chat for Uruguay vs. Ghana

    For the past three weeks, we've been following the global conversation about the world's biggest sporting event. Now that the 2010 World Cup is down to eight teams, we thought it would be interesting to follow-up our first live chat with another one for the match between Ghana vs. Uruguay.

    Ghana is the only remaining African nation in the final eight and it appears that the entire continent has rallied around the “Black Stars“. They will face Uruguay, who is one of four South American nations to remain in contention for the title, and who is hoping to add to their 1930 and 1950 titles.

    The match will take place on Friday, July 2 in Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. (20:30 local time / GMT+2) [Montevideo: 15:30 / Accra 18:30]

    Please join us in watching and discussing this event together as we will go live a few minutes before the game begins. Several bloggers and translators of Global Voices will watch the tournament live. Join us!


    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Some day, Ghana's Legendary Score > USA by 2-1 will be remembered as the QUINTESSENCE of David vs Goliath, that Economic Might is not Might Everywhere

    And so I started my Facebook status, which attracted quite some comments, including one about FORBES.

    Some of you may not know, but FORBES--a right-wing publication--has come out very recently to describe Ghana's economy as the "ninth worst" economy in Africa. There's a background to this, which is summed up by one of Ghana's foremost economists Dr.Nii Moi Thompson, who writes:

    For years, the US media and successive US governments have been among the loudest cheerleaders for Ghana’s socio-economic accomplishments, but all that seemed to have changed recently when the Ghanaian government dared challenge the decision by Texas-based Kosmos to sell its shares in Ghana’s Jubilee oil fields to fellow American company Exxon without the fiduciary consent of the Ghanaian government, the custodian of the nation’s natural resources. Kosmos’ intended sale was announced on October 12, 2009, a day after China’s National Offshore Oil Company’s interest in Jubilee was made public. Thus, overnight, Ghana found itself in the middle of the new scramble for Africa

    Now we don't need any Einsteins in the house to know what's going on. That China's interested in African oil is no news, but what is is the fact that US oil companies want to do us in over our oil. I don't know any country which will quietly sit down and accept that no less than a multinational like Exxon sell its stake in a country's oil to its partner American company. I wouldn't know whether it's a breach of contract in the legal sense, but it doesn't smell right.

    Neither does it smell right that FORBES decides to denigrate Ghana--on the basis of no less than statistics from...the IMF!

    So, Ghana does not deny being a developing country--but neither is it poor, when endowed by so many natural resources! Our democracy has been hailed worldwide for having been sustained since 1992. It is far from perfect, but time and again, the Western press claims we are "a model" for the continent.

    This volte-face is too serious to be funny.

    I am glad to see that for once, the government has been quick to react to the story:

    The Finance And Economic Planning, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, has maintained that the current growth being recorded is far higher than what pertains in most sub-Saharan African countries.

    In a robust defence of the economic management and performance of the country, Dr. Duffuor rejected a recent publication in a United States publication, Forbes Magazine, that Ghana’s economy was the ninth worst economy in the world, describing the rating as a gross misrepresentation.

    He stressed that although the country was faced with serious economic challenges, the growth in the real value of total goods and services produced in the country, also known Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for 2009 far exceeded the average growth rate for the region. The June 10, 2010 edition of the magazine gave Ghana the ranking under the headline, “Ghana Ranked 9th Worst Economy in the World”.

    Now, today, I read a Financial Times piece, entitled, "Oilfield dispute fires up Ghana-US match", which offers a fair assessment of the genesis of the dispute:

    Kosmos, which is backed by US private equity groups Blackstone and Warburg Pincus, agreed to sell its 23.5 per cent stake in the Jubilee field to ExxonMobil last year. But the Ghana government has declined to approve the $4bn deal, partly because it wants to control who participates in a venture critical to the country’s fortunes.

    Ghanaian authorities allege that Kosmos was in breach of regulations when it shared sensitive data with potential bidders without first informing the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).

    Another bone of contention has been the link between Kosmos and EO, a small company founded by two allies of former president John Kufuor, whose equity in the oilfield is financed by the Texan company.

    Sources close to Kosmos claim factions within the Ghana government are using these issues to thwart the deal because they want to buy the stake at below-market value.

    The Jubilee field, which may hold at least 1.2bn barrels of oil, has also attracted interest from Chinese, Korean, French, Irish and British companies.

    But here's where it gets juicy, and right on point:

    “Ghana is where Washington needs to put a backstop on China’s invasion of Africa,” says an Accra-based businessman sympathetic to US ambitions.

    I would love to say I am fearful of what this oil will do to Ghana, but it is not as if we have not been here before ( and neither is it that we will not overcome!).

    When our first President Dr.Kwame Nkrumah started getting aid from the "East" after Ghana's independence from the British in 1957, Eisenhower and subsequent presidents--with the exception of J F Kennedy--labelled Nkrumah as a communist. He was summarily overthrown (with Ghanaian help) in 1966 in what we now know was a CIA-inspired coup.

    Never mind that Ghana has been a democracy since 1992, for the acolytes of the Bush

    administration, it's all about the bottom line. I am over-joyed to read that Ghanaians are reacting to Forbes' mendacity. One such article can be found here:

    The author writes:

    Our country is not in denial neither are we complacent on the issues confronting us as a nation. However, Forbes reliance on just IMF statistics to portray Ghana’s economy as a lost cause have provided ammunition to our detractors and caused a lot of “collateral economic damage to the economy”.

    None of us would have challenged the findings of Forbes if its research had been comprehensive, holistic and balanced.

    For example, a World Bank (2008) report states, “as a small open economy, Ghana remains vulnerable to external shocks over which it has little control: commodity prices, climatic conditions, regional tensions, and fluctuations in global, international trade and investment flows.”

    In the final analysis, to have beaten the United States with a scoreline redux of 2006 could be construed as possibly the greatest redemption Ghana could ever get!

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Ghana vs Germany Tonight Makes for a Trepidatious Evening

    So the title is this side of melodramatic (am talking both about the "Daily Graphic" headline and yours truly), but there is a degree of seriousness.

    Kevin-Prince Boateng is not the only "Star" Ghanaians are counting on to deliver "for Africa", but he is naturally in the spotlight as his brother JEROME actually plays for GERMANY!

    It has all the trappings of an unprecedented finger-biting drama that's sure to send many people home earlier than usual.

    Am wondering whether I can make it.

    Anyone up for a supersonic plane to bypass this darned traffic?

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being... a West African @ FIFA 2010 World Cup

    For what was touted to be a quintessentially "African world cup", I believe the reputation has not preceded it in any way!

    Let me just say I had a problem which revolved round the specious argument that it being on African soil was tantamount to an "African win". To have heard so much of it in the Western press and African one was just so absurd it was not funny.

    Still, it's good to have a sense of humour about these things, and prepare oneself for any eventuality.

    I have to say that I was prepared to see NIGERIA crash out...but not as early as it did. Buoyed by its successful first goal against GREECE, I thought the Super Eagles would manage to maintain their goal. Sadly, they were not, dashing all hopes for a greater presence of West African teams into the second round.

    I know I'm being presumptuous again--imagining that GHANA's Black Stars would have beaten AUSTRALIA and gone through Saturday, but sadly...tomorrow will tell. GHANA ought not to be complacent. With SERBIA having beaten GERMANY 1-0, the tables can turn dramatically.

    Which means that the amateur and armchair-spectator-analyst in me would like to presage a narrative based on a formulation that sees at least TWO West African countries (viz: Ivory Coast and Ghana) go through. Out of the African teams (South Africa; Cameroon; Ivory Coast; Ghana; Nigeria; Algeria), half are in West Africa, which is probably not saying much.

    If you consider the fact that in FIFA 2006 world cup, there were no less than three West African countries out of the four from West Africa--viz:Ivory Coast; Ghana; Togo--with Angola being the "outsider", it's clear that West Africa matters in world football.

    Contrast that to FIFA 2002 World Cup, and you'll notice thatNigeria and Senegal were present. At FIFA 1998 World Cup, only Nigeria was present.

    You must get the picture by now: West Africa is a force to deal with, and will continue to be.

    Despite the relative inclemency of the weather (the South African winter I hear is biting hard my fellow countrymen who are there to support Ghana!) that is inversely proportional to the typical "African" weather, we can safely say that this has, in retrospect, not really been that much of an "African" world cup.

    You may forgive me for wanting to wrap this entry up and genuflect between now and tomorrow for Ghana to have no less than an emphatic win over Australia!

    Just in case you missed my piece on "Accra Daily Photo" summarizing the game in June 2006 in Germany, you can catch it here:

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being... a Ghanaian Tax-payer

    The difference between being a Ghanaian taxpayer and an average one is predicated on a simple formula: more tax means more "chop-chop" by the government, where the gastronomical figure of speech means the government is "eating" the money or being corrupt.

    Bottom line, though, is that we do see progress: a toll booth on our major motorway, with promises of more to raise revenue for the State. We are also seeing better roads, including the working and eventual finishing of the infamous Spintex Road.

    So why are people crying about taxes?

    It's really to do with the utility hikes. The government--and this was true with the previous right-wing, property-owning administration of the NPP--has a penchant for increasing the price of utilities in one go, instead of doing it incrementally. This can naturally have an adverse effect on the pocket of consumers. The last price hike was in November 2007, when the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission(PURC) raised rates by some 40%.

    Today, the average rate is 42%--still quite high for the average consumer. But I posit that such a hike ought not to be mutually exclusive from the payment of taxes.

    Let's face it: no-one likes to pay tax, but at the end of the day, the State must needs raise revenue somehow, plus it is also a way of empowering the citizen to hold his or her leader more accountable. When there is a price hike--whether justified or not--each citizen's voice is amplified by virtue of being compelled to pay more.

    Last year, I heard a documentary on the BBC worldservice, which explained that Sweden is the only country where citizens don't mind paying high taxes, because the government has the habit of providing adequately, and Swedes also expect more than mediocre provision.

    I believe some day, Ghanaians might just get to that point. But before that, our tax authorities must widen the tax net--through institutions like Ghana's rather-wealthy Social Security National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) -- to cover much of the informal sector, and the super-rich who seem to pay the same taxes that the middle class, and working class pay!

    Friday, June 04, 2010

    When the BBC Worldservice Called from London...When in Accra

    Let me get this straight. For the past few days, the BBC Africa Service has been travelling through the sub-region in a bus to get a feel of the so-called football fever in the run-up to the FIFA 2010 world cup in South Africa.

    The "Africa Have Your Say" programme is live on air in Africa every Tuesday to Thursday. The "Africa Have Your Say" bus started off in Cote d'Ivoire, landed at the Western region of Ghana's capital--Takoradi--on Tuesday, Cape Coast on Wednesday, and landed in Accra on Thursday. They even had a live session of the programme yesterday looking at electricity provision

    It is to that end that one Ishta Kutesa Nandi contacted me asking:

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: Ishta Kutesa
    Date: 2010/6/3
    Subject: Message via your Google Profile: Electricity in Ghana

    Hello Emmanuel,

    My name is Ishta and I'm contacting you from the BBC World Service in London. I've read quite a few of your blog posts and I find your views on utility provision in Ghana quite interesting. I'd love to talk to you about possibly taking part in a live debate we're holding this afternoon. Please reply with a phone number I can contact you on so that we can discuss this further.

    Kind regards,

    So, after a response and exchange of emails, I got a call shortly after. We talked for some 15 minutes, in which she asked a whole host of questions and asked for some solutions that I see for the way forward:

    1. the government should continue to invest in the old electricity sytstem, which has been under-invested for many years

    2. the government should establish more sub-stations to cater for a rapidly-growing population

    3. ghanaians should have at their disposal a FREE hotline--not one where you pay landline rates on a mobile!

    4. we should be getting streetlights as every blessed customer pays for them

    5. if Ghana can provide our neigbouring countries (Cote d'ivoire and Togo) with electricity, we ought to have regular provision HERE in Ghana!

    Ishta was supposed to call back and help me make inputs into the live session, but I never got that call. I know a fellow blogger--Golda--who was there at the live session, but didn't hear her name on air.

    Whatever the case, a few ghanablogging members got recognised--and for that I am happy. To be recognised by no less than the BBC on the issues that concern us most--electricity; streetlights; utility provision, etc--is the biggest boost anyone can get.

    Never mind writing about our own lives...


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