God Bless Our Homeland Ghana, Land of My Birth

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God bless our homeland Ghana
And make our nation great and strong,
Bold to defend forever
The cause of Freedom and of Right;
Fill our hearts with true humility,
Make us cherish fearless honesty,
And help us to resist oppressors’ rule
With all our will and might for evermore

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Hail to thy name, O Ghana,
To thee we make our solemn vow:
Steadfast to build together
A nation strong in Unity;
With our gifts of mind and strength of arm,
Whether night or day, in the midst of storm,
In every need, whate’er the call may be,
To serve thee, Ghana, now and evermore.

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Raise high the flag of Ghana
and one with Africa advance;
Black star of hope and honour
To all who thirst for liberty;
Where the banner of Ghana freely flies,
May the way to freedom truly lie;
Arise, arise, O sons of Ghana land
And under God march on for evermore!

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Daniel and the 71.2% of Ghanaians who are Christians: Where are the Daniels in GLoMB?

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Just last week – the first week of February, 2016 – I was writing a section of my PhD thesis that provides a brief overview of the socio-economic and political history of Ghana. Writing that section was a very difficult process for me and it was only during church service on the following Sunday that the ‘coin dropped’ for me. I realised that the difficulty in writing that section stemmed not from a want of information or ‘writers block’ but was simply an emotional one. I just could not give any positive narration to certain parts of the history. The immediate post-independence period was one of euphoria and a huge sense of optimism that unfortunately was short-lived. It seems to me that Ghana is often talked of in terms of potential, near misses and that we are constantly on the brink of something spectacular – development wise – that seems to never happen (or when it does happen seem to never happen for the majority of people).

The sermon this past Sunday morning was on Daniel 6. This somehow sent my mind roaming through the 2010 Ghana Population and Housing Census data and the Ghana Living Standards Survey Round 6 (GLSS 6) data that I have been dissecting the past weeks. Most know the story of Daniel and how he ended up in the Lions’ den but came out unscathed. The bit of the story that got me thinking is Daniel 6:3-5 which I quote (emphasis mine) here:

Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

Now Daniel’s was a minority religion in the land where he was serving but he did not go with ‘when in Rome do what the Romans do’ attitude. No, he so distinguished himself in his work that there was no grounds for which others could accuse him when they went searching. His exceptional qualities of diligence and trustworthiness were the direct result of his faith in God and his believe that God calls him to live a life that is trustworthy in his everyday activities even if all around him others are doing the opposite. This is what set him apart and this is how he helped the land prosper even though he was a captive there. End of preaching 

So what does the sermon on Daniel and my PhD thesis writing blues got to do with Ghana Land of My Birth (GLoMB)? Here is where they intersect: according to the main report of the GLSS 6, 73.0% of heads of households in Ghana are Christians with the highest proportion being in Accra (85.6%). Across all of Ghana Christianity is the most dominant (except the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions) religion. The results of the GLSS 6 which was carried out from 18th October, 2012 to 17th October, 2013 are consistent with the 2010 Population and Housing Census (PHC) data. The 2010 PHC showed that 71.2% of the population in Ghana identifies as being of the Christian faith. Unlike Daniel whose faith was a minority, Christians in Ghana are the majority and thus one can make justifiable assumptions of how things are done in Ghana. Nonetheless, at the same time that 71.2% of the population profess to be Christians, the news is constantly filled with stories about mismanagement, embezzlement, backhand deals and corruption. Are the 71.2% of the population a part of this?

On the basis of the 2010 PHC data it can be safely stated that a majority of administrators, chief executives and civil/public/private sector workers from the office of the President to the office of the household kitchen in rural Nyamebekyere are Christians. Why are we not experiencing the positive attitudes and outcomes one could expect from this majority faith like that of Daniel even when he was in the minority? The late Professor Kojo Wireko-Brobbey, former HOD (Department of Sociology and Social Work) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology whom I recall with much fondness used to say in Soc 351 class that as a Sociologist he could correctly predict 9/10 the social behaviour of anyone who professes to be a Christian or a Muslim. During my Sociology and Social Work undergraduate days I did not think much of this remark but now I realise no Sociologist can be certain of making 9/10 correct predictions about the contemporary Ghanaian Christian. There is such a mismatch between what Christians profess and what our everyday social behaviour express that you are lucky if you can make a 1/10 correct prediction.

This mismatch between faith and action in the 71.2% of Ghanaians has led many to argue that religion is the bane of development in Ghana. We will happily sing and dance in church on Sunday and listen to uplifting sermons but then on Monday when we get to the office we simply refuse to process the salary papers of the poor guy who has being working for 6 months without pay. We – the 71.2% of Ghanaians who profess to be Christians – simply refuse to do our work unless that poor graduate guy who has gone 6 months or a year of work without pay comes with a brown envelope to grease the wheels. How can we turn around and complain that the economy is not doing well if in the office we are not being trustworthy like Daniel in carrying out the task assigned and for which we are paid every month. Now whether that salary is sufficient or not is another matter but the point is that if we claim to be Christians then like Daniel we should be found not to be corrupt nor negligent in our work.

As I have written before about the socio-ecomini of Ghana and how we are all to blame, I reiterate and refine the point to state that the 71.2% of Ghanaians who profess to be Christians are the ones to blame for the state of the country starting from the office of the President. We are in the majority but we have not set an example of trustworthy, negligence-free, corruption-free behaviour for others to follow. Many have argued that religion is the bane of progress in Ghana (and Africa at large) but I do beg to differ because true religion is this –

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

This idea of religion is far from what one can say of the 71.2% of Ghanaians who are Christians. If those who profess to be Christian were to live out this simple ‘don’t do what the Romans do’ but love and serve others way of life our communities will be transformed and so will our nation. We need to begin to see consistent exhibition of some of these traits of true religion and examples of little Ghanaian Daniels spread across workplaces in Ghana. A Christian is as a Christian does not as a Christian says or profess. Once this begins to happen we can be sure of seeing positive changes.

National identification system: beyond the ECOWAS voters register hullabaloo….PART 1

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Many have been written and said about the validity or otherwise of the opposition party NPP’s assertion that our current voters register is an ECOWAS one. The Electoral Commission have opened the door to all parties to submit proposals and views on how best to resolve this issue. The deadline for this was on 22nd September, 2015 – if I remember correctly. Consequently I am not going to rehash any of the points that were raised in the fierce debates that emerged in the immediate aftermaths of the NPP’s press conference outlining  the number of people being on both the Ghanaian and Togolese national voters register.

Throughout the hullabaloo of the discussions and heated exchanges concerning this issue, there was a simple observation I made: no individual, organisations or political party made proposals as to how to address the issue of a bloated electoral register in the long term. I am not discounting that proposals were made but my emphasis is on   proposals for the long term. As far as I am aware (from reading online newspaper articles, watching news on TV and listening to the radio), this long term perspective was sorely missing from the discourse. Unfortunately the discourse was framed in such a short-sighted manner that the issue simply became:

Do we have a bloated (ECOWAS) voters register in Ghana?

a) Yes and so let us either make a new voters register or clean up the current bloated register

b) No, the current voters register is fine since there will always be one group or the other who will raise questions about the voters register even if we do a new one.

Both option a) and b) have some truth and contain some level of sound logic. However, I personally would have liked the debates to go beyond the question of how to get a quick and simple fix to our ECOWAS register before the next general elections of 2016. What we need in Ghana is a sound national registration/identification number that is as fail-proof as possible and this is the essence of my post. I want to think aloud as to how we could attain a system that will cut out under-age voter registration and reduces the chance of a repeat ECOWAS register in Ghana. In my mind such a system will even have to go a step further to prevent ghost names on Controller and Accountant General’s salary payment list and also help in government revenue mobilisation by reducing the possibility of tax evasion and avoidance.

I want to propose a system that will in the next 10-20 years ensure that we have a robust national identification system that reduces the chance of under-age voter registration and multiple registrations in the voters register. Not only will such a national identification system reduce voter registration fraud but it will also deal with pensions and any other state related programme like social welfare payments etc. Now, wait for it…..I am proposing that we adopt the Social Security and National Insurance (SSNIT) number system to be the foundation on which to build a national identification system. A SSNIT number has it all and if the database is secured and we get everyone enrolled on it there is less chance of anyone messing it up.

In the second part of this post I will detail why I think the SSNIT number is the best building block for a national identification system and how we can enrol every Ghanaian onto that system in the next 10-20 years. For now….write out your SSNIT number if you have one and see how it has all your essential details…..date of birth and sex.

Visit Ghana: Cape Coast (Oguaa) Fetu Afahye

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In one of my earlier posts I gave you 21,000 reasons why you should visit Ghana. Today I want to give you more than 21,000 reasons why you cannot afford to miss the Cape Coast (Oguaa) Fetu Afahye (festival) that is going to take place in the first week of September 2015.

The Oguaa Fetu Afahye is an annual festival celebrated by the chiefs and people of the Cape Coast traditional area in the Central Region of Ghana. The culmination of this festival is a grand durbar of chiefs on the first Saturday of September. There are a lot of festive activities taking place during the whole week and the city of Cape Coast becomes one buoyant, fun and colourful place to be.

I have had the opportunity to witness and be part of the Fetu Afahye of 2014 which happened to be 50th Anniversary of the celebrations. I share with you some videos and pictures to entice you to make the trip to Ghana this September.

Go on and make that booking now…hope to see you there this year!

 

 

 

 

 

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…ready for battle

 

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…50th Anniversary of Oguaa Fetu Afahye

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…fly high the flag of Ghana

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..London Bridge

 

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…commemorative piece

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…’fancy dress’ you go chop konkonte

 

 

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…more ‘fancy dress’

 

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…Orange Friday ‘soloku’

 

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…durbar day street parade

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…straining to catch a glimpse

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…that beast

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…durbar grounds in the morning

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…the nurses are coming

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…riding high

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…those men carrying the drums

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…how do we call this again?

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…colourful

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…I am king!

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…overview I

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…overview II

 

The socio-ecomini of Ghana: a theory of change

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In my last blog post, I maintained that we are all to blame for the current state of the Ghanaian ecomini. My very good friend Nana Addo Ofori-Atta was of the opinion that “we are not all to blame for the state in which we find our ecomini. The problem lies with national leadership over the years”. I promised him that I will respond and today I want to do just that.

I have been thinking quiet deeply about how we can engineer change in Ghana, land of my birth – a theory of change. I still come to the conclusion that the first step in this theory of change is for all of us to admit that we are all to blame and that the change will have to start from us. I am not in any way dismissing the significant role that good leadership can make in this regard. I do however maintain that the impetus for change must come from us all as fellow Ghanaians. If it does not start from us then I am afraid there is only so much that even good leadership can do to bring about the change we yearn for. There are a number of reasons why even good leadership will not help much if people are not ready to change.

Research has shown that (power) structures are fairly flexible and usually adapt to newly elected leaders but these structures tend to regain their earlier shape quickly afterwards. Thus there is a very small window of opportunity within which new leaders can really exert fundamentally changes. Now the interesting part is that these structures are made up of the (in)actions, attitudes, values etc. of individuals. So my theory of change for GLoMB is that when as individuals we begin to change our (in)actions, attitudes and values towards the socio-economic development of the country, we will begin to witness a fundamental change in the fortunes of the nation. The national leaders who have failed us over the years came from among us – i.e. they were first individuals before they assumed leadership. Thus if there is an individual who is only concerned about “me, me and me” then it should not come as a surprise that when s/he becomes a leader he will still be concerned about “me, me and me” but this thing in gargantuan proportions.

Now someone might point out about the great changes brought about by individual leaders like Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah or Lee Kuan Yew who just passed away a few weeks ago. We must however not forget that these individuals operated within a specific socio-political and economic context that is far different from what we have now. This is not to say that individual leaders with great vision are unimportant. As I pointed out earlier leaders with great vision can do so much unless the individuals within the society are willing and ready to do their part by changing their (in)actions, attitudes and values. If people are unwilling to do their part and there is no social pressure for all to contribute then a great leader will be frustrated in his efforts to bring change. If we accept as Nana’s comments pointed out, that we have had a succession of “incompetent” national leaders over the past years then I think we need to look at where these leaders come from. They come from amongst us and so if we all begin to change then I am certain that it will not be long before we get a leader after our own kind – a changed individual who comes into leadership with great vision and comes to meet a people with great vision ready to move our nation in the right direction. It is only in such a synergistic context that real fundamental and lasting change can happen.

So as a Sociologist by first training, I conclude that although structure (leadership) exerts important shaping effects, agency (individuals) play a much more important role in bringing about change – especially when the power of each individual is brought together in a concerted effort. In the end this is a theory but I think there is some promise here…or not?

Below are excerpts from one of the interviews for my PhD research on which I am building my theory of change:

…so sometimes I think we could actually, sometimes you can work without a paper if you want to, sometimes you say that if the paper is not there I won’t work at all, so it’s up to the individual. You go to a place, maybe ministry or something of that sort, sometimes they are even not giving money, in fact they try to push issues, those are the magicians, they will say that how do you do that but others are waiting and they say if I don’t see a penny on the table am not doing it so it’s like, is not every time that the money is there. You can’t really be blaming the one, the owner of the cash because sometimes you don’t know what, so it’s our own attitudes as well, to work generally.

[Is it that there is not enough motivation?]

That is true so but it’s, it’s depend on how you see it, some, the private sector they use to say because of salaries you know to be blunt that is why, but single spine has come to do a very good job making it you know, so now you can see they are at par with these people so what is still your problem that you have to read newspapers throughout you know, that you didn’t produce anything and then you don’t feel bad.

[Maybe there is no work to be done or there are too many people in an office]

Exactly, that is, that is so and cutting them down too, making them redundant too is another problem if you sack and if you cut the pay too, they say it’s not enough, so who do you blame here but like am saying it’s not always, sometimes the job is there but they are not going to do it. Sometimes like the ministries it’s overcrowded, many people are saying it and sometimes you can see that it’s true because you cannot have four people doing just this kind of (shaking A4 papers) work that could be done by one person. So that one is there and those who are not motivated to do the right thing too are there, they are few but in our system the spoilage is plenty, it’s plenty, sometimes you can just be honest and say it’s plenty.

The state of the Ghanaian ecomini – we are all to blame!

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Currently I am in the grind of transcribing 38 recorded interviews I had when I was in Ghana last year. These interviews range from 30 minutes to 120 minutes in duration so it is a lot of work. But the grind of it is most often made worthwhile when I get to listen back on very exciting and sobering things I talked to people about. So today I was transcribing one of the interviews I had with a hotel owner when I realised that we are all to blame for the state of the Ghanaian ecomini. Remember that my research interest is on tourism but somehow most of my interviews touch on big national issues.

This is what the person said word for word,

“…Yes, that is it but the waste is what you have to look at it first. You go to one office at electricity, office like here you have about 4 desks there, then you have about 8 or 10 people working in the room, that work trust me, an European or American person will put 2 people there, pay them well and they’ll do it better and they’ll save about, look at Vodafone now, they are now doing better than Ghana Telecom but they’ve managed to cut the staff more than 50% so look at the quantum of money they are saving and they are working more effectively than before. So the waste in Ghana is the problem, if anybody comes to office, look at National Health Insurance now, look at the quantum of people that are working and then the salaries that they are getting but they can’t pay the suppliers. So they’re not looking at these areas, these are the areas they have to look at. Why do you have so many people in the National Health Insurance? You don’t need them, you seriously don’t need them. Because I am a minister, I have to get my girlfriend there, I have to get my girlfriend aunty there, I have to get my uncle’s person there and everybody is pushing and then at the end of the day they will, the government will tell us that all the money it’s getting about 80% is going to salaries. Have you sat down and then think that do we need all these people to be employed? …Plus ghost names, they are waiting for IMF to come and tell us that we have to cut down staff, I mean its common sense”

– Hotel Owner in Ghana, Interview on 03/11/2014

So how did I get to my interpretation that everyone is to blame when he cites ministers and governments? Well, it got me thinking about people who work in offices where they just go, sit around, read newspapers, play on their phones and then at the end of the month go and cash their salary. I mean they know that there is nothing for them to do in the office, there is no work but yet still they happily will go and claim their salary for zero work done and zero contribution to national revenue. Yet these same people will be the first to complain about the state of the ecomini.

The worse bit is when this person got the job through the pushing of some ‘big wo/men’ in ‘big places’ rather than on merit. It might not be you but you sure know at least one person who got a job because he or she is the son of the friend of the uncle of the cousin of someone. You also know that this person draws salary but does absolutely nothing in the office because there are people already doing that work or there is simply no work to be done – except maybe paper pushing. What do you tell such a friend? “Oh you are so lucky” or do you say “I think you should quit this place and look for a more productive work where you can contribute to the national cake”. Of course it is easy to judge some might say. But think about all those ’employed people’ in the public service who add very little to the national cake in terms of productive work but yet still draws from this cake. If we as their friends don’t tell them “this ain’t helping” then are we not all to blame for the state of the ecomini?

…now I have to get back to completing the interview transcription…

Visit Ghana – a picture is worth 21,000 words (I)

Deciding on where to go for your summer, autumn, winter and/or spring holidays can be a real challenge. I am here to help make things a bit easier and simpler for you. I propose to you that whenever you think of travel, think Ghana.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words… I present to you 21,000 words in the form of 21 pictures to let you know that you’ve made the best holiday decision by heading to the Ghana, land of my birth.

Go on and book that flight now   🙂

 

 

 

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…idyllic beaches

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…fresh coconut to quench your thirst

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…fancy some sea crab soup?

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…walk among the tree tops

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…the sun setting in the sea?

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…yummy plantain with palaver sauce for lunch

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…palm fronds hiding the sun

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…where is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

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…a green expanse to the sea

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…beautiful sun set

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…mango tree in sun set

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…bye bye sun

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…pretty flowers

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…the beach again

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…into the forest

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…most iconic flag colours in the world

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…a great blue expanse

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…never give up

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…identify yourself

…best mode of transport along the coast

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…always ask for more

 

Roads: key to Ghana’s development efforts?

I have for a long time being thinking of Ghana Land of My Birth (GLoMB) and how to find the ‘magic bullets’ to move the nation forward. This thinking sometimes gives me headaches and heartaches due to the sheer magnitude of what confronts us as a country. Between August and November, 2014, I have travelled more kilometres in GLoMB than perhaps all the combined kilometres I travelled while growing up.  On 11th November, 2014 on a trip from Dunkwa-On-Offin to Kumasi and back, I had an epiphany – the lack of good roads/transport network system is what is blocking the pipeline of national economic development. This epiphany I now realised bears resemblance to my muddled thoughts when I travelled from Cape Coast to Dunkwa-On-Offin through Twifo Praso on Friday 7th November, 2014.  During that journey my thoughts were on how the car was going to survive the battering of the bumpy road.

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Kumasi to Sunyani Road

Good roads represent the most basic building blocks for national economic development. Look at the number of traders moving from place to place to buy and sell. Bad roads mean high fares which translate to high prices of goods and services. In some cases, goods do not move because roads are simply non-existent. Bad roads not only lead to increased prices of goods and services but also directly lead to other cost and pressures on what little resources are available. The pot holes and man holes that make our roads bumpy results in constant breakdown of vehicles, physical pain of passengers who will then put pressure on the health (insurance) system as well as divert what little money they have to buying drugs/medicines when they could use that money to support their kids in school.

Imagine a country in which the two biggest cities – Accra and Kumasi – do not have a proper and fully completed good road system all these years since independence. It has been close to 10 years since the last efforts to complete the Accra-Kumasi road but the road is still not completed in certain areas. There are no contractors working on the roads because they are owed by the government so they’ve just left – which is understandable. Where do they find the funds to complete the work?

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Ongoing works at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Accra.

What I find missing is a clarity about national priorities. Do we have priorities in GLoMB? Which area of the economy is being seen as fulcrum on which to build and link up other sectors? Are there actually plans in GLoMB? What role does the National Planning Development Commission play in this? – This will be a subject for another occasion but for now suffice to ask whether it should be a National Planning Development Authority.

I argue that the building of a modern road network in GLoMB ought to be made the number priority for the short and medium term development plan of any government. During the past 3.5 months of conducting interviews and accessing documents for my PhD research, I have constantly thought of GLoMB and how we can develop. For my bias, I thought tourism should be the fulcrum – I still think it should be close to the fulcrum – but now I realise that we need to move from A to get to B. If you’ve ever travelled to Kakum National Park (the most visited site in Ghana) as a tourist then it is likely you don’t want to go there again anytime soon because of the nature of the road. The A is basic infrastructure of a good road network system across the country and the B is tourism and anything else. If we can’t in the short to medium term add up rail, water and air systems to the transport mix, then we should concentrate on building up a solid modern road system.

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Cape Coast to Kakum National Park Road

The multiplier effect of a good road system in GLoMB is enormous – we don’t even need to pay consultants to know the benefits that will accrue to the nation when we sort out our road system. My dear Mum, Cece Akua (God bless her heart) who only finished elementary school has done the calculations. She tells me about the great benefits to be expected if the road to the village she travels to every week for trade [for the past 30 years] is tarred – less travel time, low cost of goods, high trade profits which might have enabled me to go to the boarding school during my Senior (Secondary) High School days rather than all the walking I did to get to school every day.

Sometimes I wonder whether GLoMB is not moving dynamically forward because of the simplicity of the things that need to be done.  I am tempted to think that the managers of the economy expect and want to do grandeur things for their own self-image rather than do the simplest things that are necessary. You want Ghanaians to patronise Made in Ghana goods but the road leading to where most of our yams and rice comes from is in deplorable state. It is simple logic really, if imported rice is cheaper than home grown rice which is nutritionally richer, people will go for imported rice. But if there are good roads from rice growing areas to the market then we can expect local rice to be price competitive. Now think for a moment about all the food crop growing areas in Ghana and how good roads to market centres will serve them.

A single-mindedness on developing a good and solid road system across the country is to me one of the most simple things that any set of managers of our nation need to do above all else. What do you think?