Friday, February 26, 2010

As the Week Draws to a Close in Accra: T&TofaFADINGHA Gets Noticed!; Gear Up For Gold Cab!

The week has ended with some degree of sanity on the Spintex Road. I have not received the proverbial call from the NRSC for the past few days, but I rest assured that the MTTU is doing their job, so I'm quite satisfied.

That said, satisfaction is far from my mind as the country went political again, what with the President reading the State of the Nation, and incurring the wrath of the hapless opposition who should, frankly, be booed out of the august house of Parliament for the time-wasting that they practice there!

But to the point:

There I was minding my business on a Friday lunchtime, checking the latest entries on, when I notice a blog entry by Global Voices Online co-"author" for GhanaGayle Pescud and now author of An Insider's Guide to Ghana. Her entry was on "Ghana Blogs I like".

Now I know this humble site--though five years and some 369 posts old --is not as popular as some of the newer ones who have been around for only a year, so I far from expected that it would top her list--but it did. She wrote:

Another top Ghanaian writer is E.K. Bensah and his blog The Trials and Tribulations of a Freshly Arrived Denizen of Ghana, with a fantastic view of Akosombo Bridge as the main header. If you want to know what it's like to get caught in Accra traffic, read  The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Spintex Road Traffic. (Great title, crappy situation.)

She also praises another ghanablogging colleague Mac Jordan, who does have a great site. I exhort you to go check it out.

Now, while we're in the self-congratulatory mood(;-), allow me to direct your attention to one of my first posts of 2005 and here on this blog, which you can click here:!!

Gear up for Gold Cab!

For the past almost-four years, I have been patronising the services of "Gold Cab", located in the centre of town (Kokomlemle). Though I have never been to their head offices, they have always been a phone call away. They are useful because they can go where commercial vehicles are unable to go, because they have WHITE number plates, which are the preserve of private cars (unlike yellow ones that dominate the taxi landscape).

Only this week, their fares per hour went up from GHC10.00 to GHC12.00, which is, respectively, US$6.66 to US$8.00. Not bad per hour, considering normal taxis have now gravitated towards that amount.

What makes them even more special is the fact that the cars are all new, or fairly new (roughly 1-2 years old) and are all air-conditioned. They first started with this fiat in the captured picture in this post, went to TOYOTA YARIS (no funny thoughts, pls!!) some 12 months ago...and will now go to...the Black Cabs of the UK.

Two GOLD CAB drivers have confirmed independently that the British Black Cabs will not be as big as in the UK, and will be converted from right hand- to left-hand drive. Another driver told me yesterday that they are currently at the ports.

I seriously look forward to seeing a slice of British cabbies here in Ghana very soon! If you're ever tempted to patronise Gold Cab's services, let me know and I'll pass you the info. Frankly, their communication strategies are poor. Despite the fact that they have a fleet of some 25 cars (painted in inimitable GOLD), they do NOT have a website!

In the 21st century?!

This free ad, I hope, ought to get them some patronage;-)

Just in case you missed what the GOLD CAB TAXI SERVICE CAR looked like in 2006 before it was painted a gold colour, here it is:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Spintex Road Traffic

Roads are our lifeblood. It is what we need to move from A to B. It is what helps us get to our destination. So, when we do not move on it quickly, it invariably becomes more than a headache. We cannot avoid traffic--there will always be accidents, people driving crazily and/or carelessly/foolishly--but we can certainly avoid a situation where the most important parts of our morning are eaten up in traffic on the only thoroughfare that will take us into the capital!

I took the picture this morning to first, indicate where the origin of some of the worst traffic comes from, and secondly, to signal that all the noise I had been making to the National Road Safety Commission might just have paid off!

I know because when I called--yet again--this morning, the lady immediately recognised my voice and greeted it with a chuckle.

Then she said that she had called one police officer at the Motor Transport Unit, subsequently rattling of a phone number for me to verify whether she had called.

I brought the tempo down by explaining if she says she has called, then there would be no need for me to call. She promised to call me back, which she did, explaining that the MTTU has a problem with their "roster" [good grief!] so were re-scheduling.

The good news was that the hot line room would call me early tomorrow morning to check whether the police had been dispatched! Oh joy!

Ain't complaining grand!;-D

While I'm jubilating, let me do a public service by offering the number for those on the MTN network: it can be reached on short code 18008; on VODAFONE: 0800.10.800 and on land line 021.912.107

Store it on your mobiles now! The more of us complain, the more pressure will be brought on the Motor Transport Traffic Unit of the Ghana Police to get their act together!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mid-Week Madness: Re-dux: This is What Young Ghanaian Journalists Should Aspire To; The Inconsistency of Spintex Road Police

Back in 2007, I wrote a blog post, praising Business&Financial Times Journalist Moses Dzawu (now a Deputy News Editor!) who picked up my story of a piece of news I had heard on the radio about Stanbic Bank wanting to take over Ghana's only Agricultural Development Bank. I had spoken with him on Sunday night. By Monday, the front-page of BFT was asking whether ADB was being sold to Stanbic!!

Three years later, I feel compelled to revisit the title, because I think CITI-fm Journalist Bernard Avle (back from studying an MBA at Warwick university in 2008/2009) a couple of months ago and back on the "CITI Breakfast Show" for Mondays-Wednesdays) deserves the accolade for picking up a piece, written by former Deputy High Commissioner in Ghana Craig Murray on his blog a few weeks ago.

The story was on corruption, and how the British government is being hypocritical by not touching on how British companies have been complicit in corrupting Ghanaian officials over a number of deals. I circulated the story last Friday afternoon. On Monday, I saw it in front of "The Insight" newspaper.

After Avle's interview of Craig Murray himself, and a hosting of a panel that included Ghana Integrity Initiative (local chapter of Transparency International)Vitus Azeem, the story has taken somewhat epic proportions. The actual story is here: I must, in fact, thank my British blogger-friend (since 2005) Daniel Hoffman-Gill, which website I found the link on last week! Thanks Daniel!

Meanwhile, I am getting frustrated in using the Spintex Road as the Ghana Police (motor Transport Unit) continue to show the same inconsistency I complained of in the last post. They simply are not deploying--either on time, or at all--police to stop all sorts of cars creating confusion on the road. When they're there, the traffic assumes a sanity that is refreshing. Refreshing because it is so rare for the road to be sane!

I wasted units calling the National Road Safety Commission hotline on MTN 18001 today. It didn't go through, so I was compelled to call their landline--only to be told that there was an electrical fault.

With a hotline?

Only in Ghana!

Truth be told, yesterday, when I did call, they picked it up and called me back to say that they have informed the Motor Transport Unit of the Ghana Police and they have been dispatched. Need they be told? I wondered. They didn't have an answer for me. This morning, I got the lie that the MTTU had been deployed. We had been on the road since 7.45am and it was as choked as ever, developing multiple lanes thanks to commuters using shortcuts that fed into the road.

I fear what tomorrow will bring, but I ain't giving up calling them, or radio stations to get the message across that Ghana Police are not helping us...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

This is GHana, or a Cautionary Tale of its Inconsistencies

For all the noise that is made about the media in Ghana, you have got to put it that they are a more powerful batch than we give them credit for.

If we take the issue of traffic chaos on the legendary Spintex road, thanks to a couple of interviews on radio and television of policymakers and policemen on steps to resolve the headache-inducing traffic, for the past few days, police have been deployed in strategic places to ensure compliance by motorists of main roads that will make for smooth traffic.

Forty-eight hours into this laudable initiative, the police has gone the way of lackadaisical ostensibly abandoning posts where they should be. The result is traffic of the sort of last week that has begun to build.

Yet again.

Must we call on the media to save us--yet again?

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

These words brought to you by Ogo.

Monday, February 08, 2010

As the Week Opens in Accra: Mad Men in the Ghanaian Media

The week has opened with a lot of noise and speculation in the Ghanaian media about what the British call "cheque book journalists". I would like to think that no country is immune from this kind of journalism. In Ghana, it is just that it has a different twist--rather than the journalists being ashamed that they have succumbed to this kind of atypical journalism, they lament--like journalist Baby Ansabah (who is the talking point right now -- that they did not get anything from the previous government for castigating the incumbent President who was then in opposition. The claim that others got immovable property and cars is just...something else. Issues like these only deepen my perception of the media as riddled with more (square pegs in round )holes than a swiss cheese, and a lot of mediocrity.

It was refreshing to hear CITI97.3fm's Bernard Avle broaching the issue this morning on the "Breakfast Show". I would hope he can talk more about his colleagues in future.

In my view, only a critical self-reflection of the Ghanaian media by their own kind can take the future of journalism to heights that commanded respect in the era of Dr.Kwame Nkrumah when even Nigerians--better journalists these days in my view than my Ghanaian counterparts!--came to Ghana to study at the Ghana Institute of Journalism!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

My Unwitting Foray into Ghana's "Funeral Tourism" (of a Domestic Kind)

Given Ghanaian's penchant for attending funerals, it was only a matter of time before a term be coined to describe all the kinds of activities
associated with what I would call "funeral activism". I rarely write about them here--and not because I don't attend them, but largely because it's not my style to pour gloom on my beloved followers. When I did first write--that was in 2005--I attempted to bring some humour to it. I called it
"77 Degrees of Separation and a Funeral

To be specific about "funeral tourism", I had the unfortunate "priviledge" of attending the funeral of a colleague's Dad in Akosombo last Saturday. Now Akosombo is no stranger to the organisation as it is a place that has played host to a many of our institutional year-end "retreats" long before I came.

Being there again reminded me not just of the greatness of Osagyefo Dr.Kwame Nkrumah-- whose planning of Akosombo, where the world's largest man-made lake remains in the Akosombo dam is--but also of how endearing the serenity and order of the place remains.

Despite the humidity, it is a place I would not mind visiting evey weekend; it's a world apart from the chaos of Accra, and so verdant you won't believe it's only some 90 minutes drive from the bustling capital.

All this praise for the place does not take away from the "funeral tourism"; it only brought it home yesterday when a colleague referred to it. Given the number of funerals that take place every weekend, and how "sympathizers" are always welcome, you are most likely going to find people with more time than sense feeling like travelling across the country to a part of Ghana they have never seen before -- just for a funeral. Naturally, in the process, seeing a bit of town they would not normally have seen.

If ever this called for a way forward, then it would be in the government communicating, promoting, advocating domestic tourism. A website-- like that of the Ghana Tourist Board on is great, but it needs to go beyond the electronic and spread to radio and television: Ghanaians need not a funeral before they decide to enjoy the country that is so green and blessed with beaches and beautiful sights all round!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Sweet Tale of Trekking to Tema with a Unsung "Mate"

Last night, I made the not-so-obvious mistake of boarding a "Nungua/Bush Road" tro-tro which I assumed would take me through the famed Spintex Road and on my way home. Given the traffic build-up, I found it no news at all to see that the trotsky (as some commuters so affectionately call this form of transport) had turned to take the motorway.

Now, these drivers like shortcuts--a lot, so it was very surprising to see that the usual shortcut that the trotskys pass to get to the Spintex Road had been by-passed by this driver in question.

There we were: some eighteen Ghanaian citizens rocking and rolling (our eyes in disbelief on account of the traffic!) through the night and streetlamps that line up the 46-year old Tema motorway when suddenely I realised that we just would not stop. I kept on harrassing the dosy "mate" (that's the guy who collects the fares) as to when we could hit the Spintex Road, but I noticed after a while that his elusiveness did not just precede him, but it was him: he just was so taciturn it was not funny. As I tried to speak to him in twi, he was practising his relatively good English on me. After speaking that language the whole day at work, I just wanted to fall into vernacular. I guess that's what irritated me all the more. I thought of all the things I could say to him, but held my tongue.

Good thing I did too, because it is this same "mate" who would eventually open up and give me directions how to get back to the Spintex road after we alighted at a TOTAL filling station on the Baatsonaa road, near ECOBANK. All this--not without passing through what I came to find out was Community 18 of the Tema metropolis!

It certainly was a long night.

Did I say it's good to be back some three weeks later (mostly spent planning the year!!)?;-) Well it is! And I sure do hope more regularly, too.

Given that this month is exactly 5 years since I started blogging, it behooves me to come up with some surprises, which I'll keep tightly under my sleeves--for now!


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