Author: admin_dev


Digital Lab Africa is calling all African creatives who want to explore new ways of storytelling with tech & digital to submit their project(s)!

Digital Lab Africa (DLA) is a platform and a call for projects dedicated to creative content linked with innovation in Africa. The very idea of DLA is to incubate next-gen creative talent by offering them a springboard to jump-start and accelerate their projects with the support and expertise of DLA partners & ecosystem (studios, event, producers, broadcasters, distributors, experts…)

DLA Call for Projects
The Digital Lab Africa call for projects targets artists, producers, designers, startups, students in the media and creative industries. The call is open to any professional or individual from Sub-Saharan Africa having an innovative project:

5 submission categories: Virtual Reality, Video Games, Web Creation, Animation, Video Games

To win : 3,000EUR cash prize and a tailored-made incubation programme including:
– mentorship sessions by creative industries leading companies from African continent & France
– residence time within digital cluster/hub in France
– participation at international industry events

The objective of Digital Lab Africa (DLA) is to provide a springboard for creatives to jump-start and accelerate their projects with the support and expertise of French and Sub-Saharan African leading companies (studios, producers, broadcasters, distributors, experts).

Apply here: http://digilabafrica.com/submit-a-project/

Submissions deadline: 25 February 2018

APPLY NOW!

Ghana to begin vaccine production

Merck KGaA and Ridge Management Solutions (also trading as RMS Innovativ) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), opening the opportunity for Ghana to become the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to have a dedicated human vaccine manufacturing factory.

The plant will encompass a diverse range of products in the medium to long term.

The MoU, signed on Wednesday, December 13th 2017, follows fruitful discussions between Merck KGaA and RMS over the past two years. Brigitte Zypries, Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy and a delegation who accompanied the German President, H.E. Frank-Walter Steinmeier on a three-day state visit to Ghana, witnessed the signing of the MoU along with His Excellency the Vice President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.

Dr. Bawumia commended the initiative and in a press briefing indicated his and the government’s full support for the project stressing on its relevance not only for Ghana, but Africa as a whole. Key aspects of the MoU include basic design, facility construction as well as equipment supply installation, tech transfer, validation support, training and qualification of staff.

Along with the objectives of addressing some of the problems of local vaccine supply, additional relevance in line with AU policies such as the Pharma Manufacturing Plan for Africa, the Continental Free Trade Area, and along with Ghana’s own Rapid Industrial Transformation Agenda, it is the aim of this government that this project be built to complement these accords and enhance an African initiative in this field.

Africa is most dependent for its vaccine supply from external sources with more than 99% imported as finished products. Local production along with related technologies is almost non-existent, therefore this initiative will also serve as a catalyst for further growth within the sector.

About Merck KGaA

Set up in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1668 by Friedrich Jacob Merck, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company.

Over the course of 350 years the company has become a global pharmaceutical giant, with over 50,000 employees spanning 66 countries who are united by their passion for new ideas, the possibilities of technology and the potential to make a difference in the world.

The company is known as Merck internationally. However, in the US and Canada it operates as EMD Serono in Healthcare, EMD Millipore in Life Science and EMD Performance Materials.

Merck’s portfolio includes medicines to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, infertility, growth disorders, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and thyroid disorders. Their over-the-counter brands are household names and can be found in pharmacies around the world; a prime example being the Seven Seas range of medicines. They also spearhead cutting edge technologies for research, high-tech chemicals, etc.

Merck’s success is founded on long-term profitable growth, but a company’s future depends on more than economic factors. Through business activities, Merck aims to help solve global challenges and create a sustainable future. Therefore, particular care is paid to responsibility for people, the products, and the environment.

The beacon of Merck’s Corporate Responsibility initiatives is the Praziquantel Donation Program. Merck commits itself to donating 300 million tablets annually to treat 100 million children, toward eradication. In 2016, 17 million tablets were donated to Ghana. For 2018 11 million tablets are reserved.

Another project is the construction of the “Rural Pharmacy”- an innovative pharmacy specifically designed for rural parts of Africa. The first Rural Pharmacy has been in operation since July 2014 in Osiem, in the Eastern Region of Ghana as part of a pilot program. Another is the Global Pharma Health Fund, which is a charitable organization, exclusively funded by Merck, leading the fight against counterfeit pharmaceuticals. To date, there are 29 Minilabs supplied to Ghana.

About Ridge Management Solutions

Ridge Management Solutions (RMS) is a Project Management Development Company, with a diverse team of professionals primarily involved in Capital Raise, Business Development and Construction. RMS is headed by Mr. Andrew Clocanas, a serial entrepreneur whose business projects and endeavours have consistently entailed significant barriers to entry.

He was one of the first to establish a diamond polishing facility in Namibia, in line with the government’s initiative to begin beneficiation of its local resources.

Additionally, he has developed the largest multipurpose Real Estate project in Ghana (The Saglemi Project), which is currently under construction and is aimed at creating a new conurbation that will include residential, commercial, industrial and recreational facilities for its inhabitants. This housing project will have over 11,000 homes upon completion.

Other areas of interest to Mr. Clocanas with projects under development, are in renewable energy, agriculture and recycling, as well as the current collaboration with Merck KGaA to build a plant for the manufacture of human vaccines.

Article via Ghanaweb

The true story of the fake US embassy in Ghana

On Friday 2 December 2016, a curious story appeared on the website GhanaBusinessNews.com. “Ghana security authorities shut down fake US Embassy in Accra,” the headline declared. For a decade, the story went, there had been a fake US embassy in the Ghanaian capital. The fraudsters behind it had flown the American flag from their building and even hung a portrait of Barack Obama on the wall. The criminal network behind the scam had advertised on billboards and prowled the most remote villages of west Africa, searching for gullible customers. They brought them to Accra, and sold them visas for as much as $6,000 (£4,495).

The story was an immediate hit. “In less than an hour we were getting 20,000 views on the website for that story alone,” Emmanuel Dogbevi, the website’s managing editor, told me. Two days later, the news agency Reuters picked up the story and it swiftly became an international sensation.

“No Passport Control: Mobsters busted after running FAKE US Embassy in Ghana for 10 years” (The Sun). “‘Sham’ US embassy in Ghana issued fake visas for a decade” (Fox News). “Ghana uncovers fake US embassy that issued authentic visas” (Deutsche Welle). “The actual US embassy in Accra shut down the fake embassy over the summer,” stated the Chinese news agency Xinhua. “This takes counterfeiting operations to a whole new level,” read a comment about the story on the Times of India website, which triggered an argument between readers over which country did corruption better.

According to a US state department statement, which had been published in early November, the fake embassy was operated by “figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law”. The American authorities supplied a picture of an old, two-storey pink building with a tin roof, originally captioned: “The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana.” The caption was later changed to: “One of several buildings used by the disrupted fraud ring.”

Reuters reported that the Americans, with the help of the Ghana Detectives Bureau, had raided the fake embassy. Several people were arrested, and officials seized 150 passports from 10 different countries. The Ghanaian police did not distinguish themselves. The conmen eluded them long enough to move the operation out of Ghana, and get their associates out on bail. But, the US state department said, the number of fraudulent documents coming from west Africa had gone down by 70% as a result of this and other raids, and “criminal leaders no longer have the political cover they once had”.

The fake embassy became a sensation largely because the story was so predictably familiar. The Africans were scammers. The victims were desperate and credulous. The local police officers were bumbling idiots. Countless officials were paid off. And at the end, the Americans swooped in and saved the day. There was only one problem with the story: it wasn’t true.

Accra, capital of Ghana. Photograph: Yepoka Yeebo

On the morning the news broke, Seth Sewornu, who was then head of Ghana’s visa and document fraud unit, got a text message from the director of the police criminal investigation department (CID). Like everyone else, the director wanted to know about Sewornu’s bust. “I was receiving a lot of calls,” Sewornu said when we met earlier this year in an open-air restaurant near the police headquarters in Accra. “A reporter from BBC called me, a CNN reporter called me. The Ghanaian media houses were all calling to find out. I got calls from other police officers.” The US state department story had said that the scammers had also been running a fake Dutch embassy, so the Dutch called, too.

Sewornu was stumped. He knew nothing about any investigations into a fake embassy. He tried to find out which officers had been involved, but the police unit credited by the Americans, the Ghana Detectives Bureau, didn’t exist. Ghana’s national Swat unit, the CID and the Bureau of National Investigation all told Sewornu that they weren’t involved either.

It didn’t make any sense. The entire story seemed to be based on one source: the US state department website. And their source was the US embassy in Accra. “So I called the American embassy to find out, and my contact said: ‘I don’t know anything about it,’” said Sewornu. “It was like they were tightlipped over the matter.”

In Ghana, it can be extremely difficult to obtain visas for travel to other countries. The application processes tend to be expensive, time-consuming and usually end in disappointment. As a result, over the past two decades, a thriving underground economy has sprung up in Accra. It ranges from low-level conmen who can produce counterfeit paperwork to sophisticated criminal organisations that operate in multiple countries. In 2016, of all the American embassies in the world, the one in Ghana had the highest number of pending fraud cases, according to a US state department report.

The operators and middlemen who help circumvent the visa application processes are so ubiquitous that few people realise that what they do is illegal, Sewornu told me. “Some are very bold, they advertise visas on TV,” he said. “Plenty have fallen victim. They think it’s authentic once it’s on TV.”

Sewornu has been a policeman for 23 years, and as we spoke, he was serious and reserved – but when he talked about particularly audacious crimes, he started grinning. “I’ve lost count of the musicians,” he said. “A lot of them are into visa fraud. They go on tour and take people who can’t even perform. They just play CDs and lipsync.” Then, those people vanish.

In the past, he said, passports were easier to tamper with. Fraudsters would steal a real passport belonging to a well-travelled person with valid visas and replace the picture with one of a paying client. The classic method was to put the passport in a freezer for about an hour, which caused the film on the photo page to peel away. Then, said Sewornu, the scammers could “clean off the original picture with chemical eraser, and put in a new one, printed on a thin, almost transparent film.”

Now that passports contain biometric data, such as fingerprints, it is becoming harder and harder to get away with this kind of crime. “You can’t fake everything 100%,” said Sewornu. Instead, the underground economy has started to focus on faking the documents required for legitimate visa applications, both for short visits and for people who want to emigrate. For the right fee, you can get hold of school certificates that turn you from an unskilled worker to a PhD, or bank records that turn you from a shoeshine boy into a successful entrepreneur. Of course, scammers do still offer fake visas, but most of these are not actually intended to get the bearer past border control in other countries. Instead, they’re meant to make it look – to embassies – like you’ve travelled extensively, and returned to Ghana each time. As if you are the kind of person who has no intention of becoming an illegal immigrant.

In 2010, as the number of fake travel documents continued to rise, Ghana’s government founded the Document Fraud Expertise Centre, which verifies documents for embassies, banks and the police. It’s the only one in west Africa, which reflects the sheer scale of Ghana’s shadow visa industry. In 2016, about half the documents submitted to them for testing turned out to have been forged.

For centuries, Ghana was a magnet for immigrants, not a country people were trying to leave. The country’s population of about 28 million is made up of about a dozen ethnic groups, most of which trace their origins to other parts of west Africa. In 1957, after Ghana won independence from Britain, the country’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, embarked on a massive infrastructure programme. All that infrastructure needed people to build it, and partly as a result, by 1960, immigrants made up 12% of Ghana’s population. By comparison, less than 4% of the population of England and Wales had been born abroad.

In 1966, Nkrumah was deposed in a military coup. The country was destabilised and people started to leave almost immediately. Over the next three decades, much of the economy collapsed, unemployment soared and millions of Ghanaians left in search of work.

Today, Ghana is one of the most stable and prosperous countries in west Africa. But while the population is expanding, the economy is not. Each year, 250,000 young people compete for just 5,000 new jobs. Lack of prospects drives many young people abroad. Of the Ghanaian-born citizens currently living abroad, 70% are in other west African countries. Of the remaining 30%, most live and work in the UK, Germany, Italy, Canada and the US.

A small, but significant number of Ghanaians simply travel to these countries on tourist visas, then stay on when their visas run out and work illegally. So wealthier countries now assume that most Ghanaians who apply for temporary visas will become illegal immigrants. Visa policies have been designed to filter out the young and unskilled and the poor, says Paolo Gaibazzi, a research fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Germany. Such policies sometimes also exclude people who are perfectly qualified and would be granted visas if they were coming from wealthier countries. In one case not long ago, a Ghanaian consultant orthopaedic surgeon with two decades of experience was shocked to have his application rejected for a short-term visa to attend a medical conference in Spain.

Even with legitimate, professional help, filling out the application form for a US tourist visa is a maddeningly difficult and unforgiving process. Applicants have to provide their parents’ dates of birth, but Ghana had no complete register of births until 1965, so a lot of people just don’t know. Then there’s the fee: around $160, which amounts to about 75% of Ghana’s average monthly wage. That fee is non-refundable. If you are rejected, and you want to apply again, you will have to pay another $160.

Once you have done the paperwork and paid, you still don’t get your visa. You just get to book a visa interview at the US embassy. Well before dawn on most weekdays, there is a sizable crowd of people outside the embassy in Accra waiting to go in. “Applicants often waited outside the embassy compound for extended periods, presenting a poor image of the US government and causing a security issue,” according to a 2017 US state department report.

Once you get to your appointment, you must produce proof that you are who you say you are. Then it gets harder: fewer than 10% of people in Ghana have a salaried job, but many applicants have to present a letter of introduction and a payslip from their employer. You will also need a letter of invitation from someone in the US who can vouch for you. Got all that? Congratulations. You can still be rejected on the spot, with no explanation.

People in countries such as Ghana are faced with a simple choice: apply over and over again and spend huge sums of money each time, or pay someone who promises to get you that visa. Each time a new con is discovered, the embassies panic and add another layer of scrutiny to their visa application processes. Each layer of scrutiny gives the fraudsters an extra hurdle – but also creates extra business. “People try to level the playing field. This is where the migration industry kicks in,” said Gaibazzi. “The exclusion from legal ways of migrating creates so-called illegality.”

A shop opposite the US Embassy in Accra where people can legally fill in and submit visa application forms and take passport pictures. Photograph: Yepoka Yeebo

Kwesi Abrantie is one of the thousands of Ghanaians who have knowingly paid for fake documents to pad out a visa application. In 2008, as the country was going through an economic downturn, Abrantie’s business – signing people up for management courses – began to falter. “Things were getting really bad here,” he said. “I thought hustling in the US would be way better than going through this hand-to-mouth thing in Ghana.” A little fraud was a small price to pay if it meant he could send home enough money to keep a roof over his family’s heads. The tricky part was getting to the US.

Without much money, Abrantie (who asked that his name be changed) stood almost no chance of getting a US visa. He went to see the forgers, and they sold him a story. “I was going to attend, in quotes, a cousin’s graduation,” Abrantie said. The “connection men” – as the middlemen who obtain visas through dubious means are known in Ghana – paid a student in New York to vouch for him. They gave Abrantie the student’s name and address, as well a real letter from the university stating that he was invited to the ceremony. It cost him 7,000 Ghanaian cedi up front, with another 5,000 if he was successful – a total of about £2,000, or twice Ghana’s annual per capita income.

The men Abrantie met filled out his form, paid his fees and went with him to the embassy. The scheme didn’t work. “Unfortunately, I was bounced,” he said. After the interview, Abrantie was handed a piece of paper explaining why his visa may have been rejected. He got the impression the Americans didn’t think he had enough money to pay his way in the US.

Abrantie still wanted a visa – or his money back. So the agents passed him on to some friends of theirs who specialised in getting Dutch visas. This time, he would pose as a salesman at a truck company, heading to Holland to buy tyres. (The company was real, Abrantie said.) Abrantie said the connection man he was dealing with ran a legitimate travel agency with a sideline in visa fraud. He found out about the firm because three other friends had successfully gone abroad with their help.

Once again, the agents filled in his forms and padded out his application, this time with a fake bank statement, Abrantie told me. And this time, the Dutch thought Abrantie had too much money in the bank. At the interview, they asked him where it had all come from. Abrantie said something unconvincing about being a businessman, and it seemed as if he had been bounced again. But his connection man, who had previously run a business that imported goods from Holland, called a contact at the embassy and demanded to know why his employee was being denied a visa. Shortly afterwards, his visa was granted. (When I asked the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs about this incident, it said: “There are strict guidelines if someone wants to apply for a short-stay Schengen visa in Ghana. Connections with businessmen have nothing to do with that.”)

Abrantie was packing his bags when his friends pointed out that he didn’t speak a word of Dutch, and wouldn’t have enough time to get his bearings, find a job and figure out if he could survive as an illegal immigrant before his real visa ran out. He decided to take his chances hustling in Ghana instead.

The men Abrantie paid had no real office. He met them in restaurants and out in the street. They certainly didn’t have an entire fake embassy, complete with flags and presidential portraits. The story seemed so extraordinary that one day in early June, I decided to go in search of this fake embassy, which the US state department claimed had operated from a house in an old neighbourhood north-west of central Accra.

The pink house sits on a tumbledown street, part industrial, part residential, overlooked by a hulking shoe factory. There are mechanics’ shops, stalls selling spare parts and a huge, dusty football field. The house itself is stately but decrepit, the walls covered with a layered patchwork of faded paint and cement. In the house’s front yard, there is a small tailor’s shop. (According to the US state department story, a dress shop near the fake embassy was one of the fronts for the operation: “It was purported to house an industrial sewing machine they would use to re-create the binding on the fake passports.”)

A flyposter advertising visa services in Accra. Photograph: Yepoka Yeebo

When I visited, I found a man named Pierre Kwetey, who was cutting a pattern out of turquoise and yellow wax print fabric. He was adding an ever-widening series of chalk lines to a shirt for a man who was so big that “you’d think he’s pregnant”. Kwetey’s shop is less than two metres across at its widest point. The walls are yellow, with shallow seams of dust in the uneven cement. Above the cutting table, there’s a crucifix draped with two rosaries.

Kwetey first saw the fake embassy story when someone sent him a link via WhatsApp. He was totally baffled. “If I’m doing such illegal business, you’ll see my Range Rover parked in front,” he joked.

A few days later, when I returned to the pink house, I came across one of the building’s owners, Susana Lamptey. Sitting in the small courtyard in front, Lamptey was wearing a yellow dress and a headscarf, and looked even less like a crime kingpin than Kwetey. Her grandfather had built the house long before she was born, she said, probably in the 1920s or 1930s. When he died, he left it to his eight children. Most of them moved away and cut their portions of the house into flats, which they rent out.

In the entrance hall, there were no portraits of US presidents. Instead, it smelled comfortingly of flour and margarine – Lamptey runs an open-air bakery in the back yard. The rest of the yard is a tangle of washing lines and uneven cement. From the second floor, you can see clear across Accra’s industrial area: flyovers, rail yards, factories, and the pungent Odaw river.

When the Americans announced that her house was a fake US embassy, Lamptey was one of the last to hear about it. A friend called to say it was all over the internet, she said. “I was really annoyed. Because how? And from where?”

Lamptey said there had never been a police raid. Instead, after the story broke, she and the family marched down to the local police station to find out whether they were really under investigation. The cops told them there was nothing to worry about.

In the days after the story was published – and in the following months – Lamptey was plagued by journalists, all asking the same questions about her alleged life of crime. She has denied everything, every single time. In response to her denials, the US embassy doubled down on its story. “We cannot speculate at this time what has occurred at that building after the initial raid,” the US press attache told Ghanaian reporters in December 2016. “The photo used in the online article is of the building the criminal enterprise used to conduct their fraud operations.”

When we met, Lamptey still couldn’t understand why anyone had believed the story. Look at this place, she said. “If there was an American embassy for 10 years in this house, by now everybody would be in America!” As it happened, Lamptey had applied for an American visa – a real one, at the real US embassy, in the spring of 2016. She was rejected.

Lloyd Baidoo, a detective in Accra’s regional police force, said he was the one who took the photo of Lamptey’s house. In person, Baidoo looks like the classic film-noir cop: chiselled, muscular and world-weary. He’s been on the force for 18 years. The living room of his flat, in the western suburbs of Accra, was covered in huge pictures from his wedding. A football match was on TV, on mute.

Baidoo first heard about the fake embassy in June 2016, months before the Americans put out their story, when his team got a tip about a visa-fraud ring. Someone was allegedly issuing US visas out of an old pink house in Adabraka on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When it was open, they flew an American flag and hung up a portrait of Obama.

Baidoo and another officer went to check it out. They drove past the pink house a few times, and Baidoo took some pictures. He couldn’t see anything suspicious, so he walked around the back of house, in plain clothes, to have a closer look. Wandering around the rundown property, Baidoo quickly realised nobody would buy a $6,000 visa there. “I did not take five minutes to conclude that,” he said.

Later that week, Baidoo got a second tip. Another operation in Adabraka was issuing US visas. This time, there were more details: it was allegedly run from the apartment of a man named Kyere Boakye, who charged 2,000 Ghana cedi (about £350) for his services. This time, the information seemed to check out. Baidoo decided to raid the property.

Just before dusk, in late June 2016, a Ghanaian Swat team, five detectives, and a diplomatic security officer from the US embassy swooped in on the apartment. Inside, officers found 135 Ghanaian passports. The majority would turn out to be counterfeit. There were other passports too, mostly from other African countries. Some appeared to be real, but might have been stolen or bought on the black market. The passports contained visas for, among other countries, the US, the UK, South Africa, China, Kenya and Iran.

Detectives also found two dozen counterfeit rubber stamps, used to endorse the official letters for visa applications. There were stamps purporting to be from the Ghana Immigration Service, Barclays bank, the National Investment Bank, several non-existent doctors and even a firm of lawyers with offices below the apartment. Three men were arrested in the raid: Kyere Boakye, Benjamin Ofosu Barimah and Jeffery Kofi Opare. All three were charged with forgery and possession of forged documents. It was a month before they made bail.

The real US embassy in Accra, Ghana, Photograph: diplomacy.state.gov

It wasn’t a fake embassy, but it was a major case. Baidoo wrote to the passport office, banks, businesses, government departments, and even the country’s biggest teaching hospital – 45 institutions in all – in order to confirm whether or not each of the suspicious-looking documents was fake. By the time Baidoo was done, two months after the raid, the police docket was the size of three phone books, and the case was ready to go to trial.

Then, in December 2016, the US state department put out its story about the discovery of a fake embassy. Dep Supt Sewornu took over the case, and Baidoo was moved on to a different police department. (Sewornu, too, was soon transferred.) Since then, the case has gone nowhere, having been delayed largely for banal administrative reasons. When I went to a hearing for the case in June, the three defendants were there, but their lawyer wasn’t. Neither was the prosecutor. The courtroom was almost empty. It didn’t look like a case that had made news around the world. After some muttering between the judge and another prosecutor, the hearing was adjourned.

Outside the courtroom, Kyere Boakye told me he had no idea why he kept being hauled into court. He didn’t think there was going to be a trial. Boakye insisted that he was just an ordinary travel agent. “It’s my clients who brought every paper they found [in the raid],” he said. “I have never forged anything.”

As for the idea that he had been running a fake US embassy, he insisted it was ridiculous. Despite the case being all over the papers, and all over the internet, there was not a single witness to back up the story.

Then Detective Baidoo finally got to the bottom of the fake embassy story, he was perplexed. Sitting together in his flat, we looked over the US state department’s story. Almost every detail in it came from the faulty intelligence Baidoo’s unit had received in June 2016. The photo of the pink house – the one that had brought the world’s media to Susana Lamptey’s doorstep – was, he insisted, one he had taken himself when surveilling the building.

Another photo that appeared in the original US state department story had showed a heap of passports strewn on the ground. That one, Baidoo said, had come from his raid on Kyere Boakye’s apartment, not from a raid on any fake embassy. In the top-left corner of the photo, you could see part of a maroon trainer, which, Baidoo said, belonged to him. “I was the one standing there,” Baidoo said, going out into his hallway to show me the shoe in question. “In my independent opinion, I’d say the story was fake.”

Sewornu was equally sure that there was no story. He said that his contacts at the US embassy told him someone at the state department had taken the faulty intelligence and “kind of married the story” with details of Baidoo’s raid. The two cases had been merged into one. It might have started with a diplomatic cable – a classified memo – sent from the US embassy in Accra to the state department in Washington DC on 25 July 2016, titled “Ghana: Fake US Embassy Closed for Business.”

When I asked the US state department for comment, an official simply told me that US Diplomatic Security Service officials work with Ghanaian authorities to uphold the integrity of the visa system. The state department declined to provide additional information in response to specific questions. They referred all queries to the government of Ghana. Ghana’s Bureau of National Security and Ministry of the Interior did not respond to dozens of letters, emails and calls requesting comment.

As it can take weeks or months for an embassy to check whether a document submitted by a visa applicant is real, most embassies do not attempt to verify everything. Instead, everyone puts on a show. Embassies overzealously scrutinise a handful of applications. Ghana’s police shut down what scams they can. Reporters file sensational pieces. Foreign governments, facing increasing pressure to limit immigration, add ever higher hurdles for legitimate applicants to clear. Everyone gets to say they’re doing something.

But the harder it is for ordinary people to apply for visas successfully, the greater the demand for fraud. While the Americans have been making a show of shutting down a non-existent fake embassy, it’s boom-time for Accra’s visa-fraud industry.

One day this summer, I stopped by the leafy, upscale Cantonments neighbourhood of Accra. There, hidden in plain sight, is a one-stop shop for visa fraud – one of dozens of such places that are scattered across the city. The fraudsters at the office I visited use a Microsoft Word template to churn out fake letters from dozens of different employers. A student visa application, complete with all the documents you’ll need, will cost you 1,000 cedi (£175).

One of the men running the place told me that people needed help jumping through all the hoops. As he spoke, customers picked up their paperwork and headed off to keep their appointments at the huge grey complex in the distance, spread over 12.5 acres of prime Accra real estate.

On the horizon, above the embassy, the American flag was flying.

Article via The Guardian

Cornellians Win Award for Architecture Work in Ghana

Three Cornell students won the creativity award for their architectural design of an eco-friendly school to be built in Ghana at a major NGO’s gala aimed to raise funds.

With the recent finalization of their design, Voices of African Mothers’ vision of building the school came closer to reality, and brought the NGO closer to achieving its larger mission of developing African nations through the empowerment and education of women and children.

In the Volta Region of Ghana, where only 7.9 percent of girls attend secondary school, Arielle Tannin ’18, Ana Moura-Cook ’19 and Claudia Nielson ’18, as members of the design team Sustainable Education Ghana under Cornell University Sustainable Design, helped design and plan the construction of the school meant for girls in a town called Sogakope.

Already, VAM Girls Academy has a waiting list of 158 students waiting to enroll and SEG’s design of a six-classroom school will contribute to housing a substantial portion of those students, the team said.

Sustainable Education Ghana applied research on the intricate weather and climate conditions and the culture of the surrounding area to the design, which includes six classrooms and their desks and chairs.

The design also optimizes the building’s internal temperature by making it face the prevailing winds on the site to allow for passive cooling.

To account for the region’s wet seasons, SEG team members even designed a woven fabric that would cover an indoor path between classrooms when students need to travel between classes in the rain.

In line with the school’s desire to provide its students with an educational curriculum, which involves agriculture, the school will include learning gardens outside classrooms where students can receive hands on learning experience.

In preparation, Tannin, Moura-Cook and Nielson not only performed field work in Ghana but also conducted design testing with children in Ithaca middle schools, in collaboration with VAM.

“It’s important to let them know that people are willing to invest in them,” said Kachina Randall, executive director of VAM. “The act of people mobilizing and coming together to build schools and platforms lets these girls, children, mothers and women all know that they have a God-given right to live a prosperous life.”

In discussing the impact of the construction of this school, Eden Brachot ’15, director of marketing and outreach at VAM, added that fewer than 8 percent of girls get to go to school “just because there are not enough physical schools.”
For this reason, the work that SEG put into designing the school is especially meaningful, the team said, as it allows students to not only gain an education but also to do so comfortably.

The school is set to open on Jan. 27, 2018 but construction of the six rooms that SEG designed will continue throughout the year as VAM raises more funds, the team said.

In the future, VAM has long term plans to expand and open more schools, a task that is possible given the scalability of the classroom’s modular design.

 Source : http://cornellsun.com

Popular Online Comedian Don’t Jealous Me releases a new children’s book!

Tolulope Ogunmefun is known all over the world by his online social media name Don’t Jealous Me. His YouTube channel, which he launched in 2009 has been viewed over 41 million times and he has been entertaining fans, both young and old, with hilarious comedy sketches and vlogs.

With the birth of his daughter two months ago, he decided he wanted to do something for his younger fans – a children’s book! A book which was entertaining but also taught young children good morals. This lead to him writing The Frog and his Dancing Shoes and there are limited copies available NOW for you to buy for a young loved one this Christmas!

The Frog and his Dancing Shoes is a 40 page picture book about a frog who has a special talent for dancing and entertaining his friends with his magical shoes. One friend is jealous and plans a sneaky trick to take the shoes away from Paul.

Through patience and kindness, Paul teaches his friends the importance of recognising and celebrating talents in this cheerful story about sharing, forgiveness and friendship.

Join Paul in the park as he twirls and dances his way into your heart with valuable lessons about jealousy, the dangers of taking things that don’t belong to you and why helping others is fun and uplifting.

There are only a limited amount of books being printed so please support Tolulope on his quest to become a successful children’s book author and get copies for Christmas for your young loved ones TODAY!

Prices start from £7.99. Please visit his online bookshop via the below link to find out more!
https://www.djmbooks.com/

GHANA’S FIRST INTERACTIVE DISTANCE-LEARNING TEACHER TRAINING PROGRAMME HAVING ‘HUGE IMPACT’ ON QUALITY OF TEACHING

  • Independent evaluation shows Train for Tomorrow leading to more teachers using cutting-edge pedagogy
  • Findings come after similar independent study showed pupils in MGCubed programme are reading more words per minute and are one year ahead in numeracy tests compared to their peers
  • Varkey Foundation also opens five new studios to further enhance its programmes and assist in scaling up teacher training across the country

New independent evaluation shows the huge impact an innovative distance-learning teacher training programme in Ghana is having on the quality of teaching practices.

Train for Tomorrow, run by the Varkey Foundation, the education charity, and funded through a $2 million USD grant from Dubai Cares, is sub-Saharan Africa’s first live two-way interactive distance learning teacher training programme.

Since August 2015, 40 ‘hub’ schools have been provided with solar powered and satellite-enabled video-link equipment, allowing highly qualified ‘master trainers’ in Accra to conduct regular interactive training sessions that focus on best practice teaching methods, including group work, critical thinking, the use of higher order thinking skills, reflection and analysis – techniques that deliver better quality educational outcomes.  The head teachers and school leaders who participate in these sessions then go back to their own schools and repeat the training for the other teachers in their schools, reaching nearly 5,000 teachers and 90,000 students.

The independent evaluation, by Dalberg Global Development Associates, shows that teachers going through Train for Tomorrow showed a statistically significant improvement in instructional performance, including:

  • Wave 1 teachers in the 40 hub schools improved their scores on Direct Classroom Observations of their use of the improved teaching techniques by 38%, and Wave 2 and Wave 3 teachers by a huge 137%;
  • The percentage of Wave 2 and 3 teachers who encouraged cooperative learning – which enhances retention of learning through group work – increased from 13% in the baseline analysis to 60%;
  • Train for Tomorrow teachers are also more likely than other teachers to explain to students what they will be learning during a lesson and why; are more likely to be aware of the individual needs and students; and to provide a safer learning environment (physical and verbal threats can be a significant issue in many Ghanaian schools).  All these have been shown to have a dramatic effect on a pupil’s ability to learn.

Programmes like Train for Tomorrow are vital because so many Ghanaian teachers have not been formally trained to teach. According to 2014/15 figures from the Ghanaian Ministry of Education, almost 63,000 (45 per cent) of the 138,928 working primary school teachers were untrained, as were 31,208 (30 per cent) of the 103,358 junior high school teachers.  There is also a significant lack of in-service teacher training, so even those who have been trained initially are not able to update their knowledge and skills regularly.

The quality of teaching is also important due to the high numbers of children in sub-Saharan Africa either out of school completely, or dropping out of education – higher quality teaching is more likely to inspire children to attend school.  According to UNESCO, there were 413,314 out-of-school children in Ghana in 2014.

Train for Tomorrow therefore sets out to transform the experiences of both pupils and teachers by raising the quality of classroom instruction.

Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey Foundation, said:

“The results of this independent evaluation clearly demonstrate that pioneering edtech can improve learning in parts of the world that are often off the power grid, have limited access to the internet and have few resources to share. I hope it encourages investors to come forward and support similar projects and also inspire entrepreneurs to come forward with fresh tech ideas that are hardy enough to improve education in parts of the world that need their help most.

“We would like to acknowledge Dubai Cares for funding this programme as well as the contributions of everyone associated with making it a success, including all the teachers that have gone through the training and cascaded learning to their schools, the Girls’ Education Unit and the Ministry of Education.”

Speaking about the benefits of Train for Tomorrow, Mr. Isaac Affoh, headmaster of Bosovilla Presbyterian Basic School, said:

“Our classrooms are now modernised and have become very conducive for teaching and learning. Teachers enjoy lessons as much as pupils and academic performance is improving steadily, thanks to the  Varkey Foundation’s Train for Tomorrow project.”

His Excellency Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares, said:

“We believe that teacher training is the cornerstone of ensuring quality education. We also value and invest in innovative solutions aimed at eliminating obstacles that prevent children from having access to quality education. With Train for Tomorrow, our aim is to improve the quality of teaching, and create a positive teaching and learning experience for children in Ghana, through an innovative program model by utilizing technology.

“The learnings from the final evaluation of the program which has concluded, will contribute to the growing evidence surrounding teacher training modalities, helping strengthen the design and delivery of teacher training programs in developing countries.”

In addition to the independent evaluation of the programme, Varkey Foundation monitoring during summer 2016 found that:

  • Nine in 10 Instructional Leaders (teachers that undergo the initial training from the master trainers in Accra, and cascade it through their schools) had changed their way of teaching since undergoing Train for Tomorrow;
  • Eight in 10 Instructional Leaders indicated a change in pupil attitude since starting Train for Tomorrow;
  • Seven in 10 Wave 3 teachers had changed their way of teaching since starting Train for Tomorrow;
  • 74 per cent of teachers were communication lesson objectives (important for setting pupils’ expectations and helping facilitate achievement).

The findings on Train for Tomorrow come shortly after a similar independent evaluation of another interactive distance-learning programme that is aimed directly at pupils.

Making Ghanaian Girls Great! (MGCubed), a three-year pilot project funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and run by the Varkey Foundation, is the first project in the country to use interactive distance learning technology to deliver Maths and English lessons daily to 10,000 girls (and boys) in 72 government schools in some of the most deprived communities.

The schools are equipped with solar panels and a satellite connection in order to link with live broadcasts of lessons from highly-qualified teachers, using internationally-approved teaching methods, from a studio in Accra.

Independent evaluation of MGCubed conducted by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), published in August, showed the model has had a significant impact on increasing literacy and numeracy skills among marginalised girls and boys.  In literacy tests, MGCubed students were able to read between 3.21-3.74 more words per minute than those in regular classes; and in numeracy tests MGCubed teaching was found to increase average scores by the equivalent of one school year.

The Varkey Foundation last month also opened new studios to enable it to continue to deliver its high quality interactive distance learning programmes.  

Whereas the programmes initially operated from three studios, a move to new offices means the Foundation has increased the number of studios to five.  As well being larger, they’ve also been fitted with the latest technology to help the Foundation to continue to deliver high quality education and training to children and teachers across the country.

OTUMFUO and AGROECOM TRAINS 4,946 SCHOOL CHILDREN IN ICT

Four thousand, nine hundred and forty-six (4,946) pupils in eight districts in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions of Ghana, have benefited from free computer training lessons in the past three months. This training initiative was undertaken by the Otumfuo-Agroecom Mobile Library Project (OAMLP), a subsidiary of the Otumfuo Charity Foundation in collaboration with Agroecom Ghana Ltd, a cocoa buying company.

Among its aims are to ensure that less fortunate children in deprived communities have the same learning conditions as other children in the cities and urban areas. It also serves to encourage the habit of reading and the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) among basic school pupils. The beneficiary districts include Sekyere North, Bekwai Municipality, Atwima Mponua, Bibaini-Anwhiaso-Bekwai, Bosomtwe, Offinso Municipality, New Edubaise and Goaso district.

Crucial role

The Country Coordinator of Agroecom Ghana Ltd, Mr Muhammadu Muzzammil, described the role of the OAMLP as very crucial in bridging the gap between pupils in urban areas and their counterparts in the hard to reach areas of the country. He stated that the project christened ‘Otumfuo-Agroecom Mobile Library Project’ consists of three major parts namely Reading, ICT and Cinema. The cinema is intended to bring a message from His Royal Highness Otumfuo Osei Tutu II as it exhibits the rich Ghanaian culture and educates farmers on good agricultural practices, farm management and information from the cocoa industry and projection of Agroecom in the communities.

Tour outcome

After touring some schools in the cocoa growing areas, it came to light that about 40 per cent of the pupils in the selected villages confirmed that they had not seen physical computers before except the drawings they see in their textbooks. Almost, all the students did not know how to operate the computer and were assisted to use it as some had knowledge on some of the basic computer software but did not know their uses. Although, there were ICT teachers in some of the schools, resources such as textbooks and computers were not available for the students, adding that some of the communities had rooms intended for ICT but there were no computers in them.

Background

Since the inception of the Otumfuo mobile library project, it has covered parts of Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Volta regions where the children have benefitted from ICT training. It focuses on improving learning conditions of children by providing basic academic resources such as reading books and computer lessons (ICT) to pupils in primary, junior and senior high schools. With the help of generators, staff of the project spent several days in communities where the children and some members of the communities take turns to access the computers, internet services, variety of library books among other counselling services.
Support
In June 2017, Agroecom Ghana Ltd presented a cheque of Gh1.4 million to the Otumfuo Charity Foundation at a special ceremony in Kumasi to support the operations of the Otumfuo Mobile Library project for the next four years. The amount presented was meant to help in the procurement of a pickup, a cargo van, 60 laptops, a generator, two projectors and screens, a video camera and allowance for 30 staff of the Otumfuo Charity foundation
for the four years that the project would be in place.

Focus
The collaborative project is aimed at not only bettering the learning facilities in villages in the cocoa growing areas but also provide knowledge on cocoa farming and build pride and understanding of the glorious history of the Asante kingdom. Agroecom Ghana Ltd has been present in Ghana from 2013 when it took over Armajaro’s Global Cocoa, which was established in 2000. It has since then been involved in the rural part of the country to create a better livelihood for farmers. Within this period, it had invested close to 40 million dollars in the country in providing clean drinking water, better schooling facilities and health care across the country.

Appreciation
Dr Thomas Agyarku-Poku, Executive Director of the Otumfuo Charity Foundation when contacted lauded the Agroecom Ghana Ltd for the support which had come to boost the strength of the OAMLP. He called for more of such support from all and sundry so they would be able to extend the programme to all regions in the country.

Prosperity, Wealth Creation Needed to Deepen Democracy – President Akufo-Addo

Ghana’s democratic proclivity is expected to be deepened as government seeks to build a prosperous and a wealthy nation with equal opportunities, where all of its citizens will feel they have a stake, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo Addo has stated.

The President, who was delivering a speech on “Democracy and Development” at the Cambridge Union Society of the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, said: “The democracy that we seek to build does not end in casting votes, and electing a President and a Member of Parliament once every four years. “We seek to build a prosperous nation with equal opportunities, where all citizens feel they have a stake,” adding “Never again should a Ghanaian citizen feel he has to join the desperados that cross the Sahara and drown in the Mediterranean Sea, because their own country holds no promise or hope.”

President Akufo-Addo explained that even though there would always be some who would want to try and seek their fortunes in foreign lands, it should never be because there were no opportunities in Ghana.

He said Ghana’s infant democracy had put the country on the path to sustainable development, which should improve the way the natural and human resources of the country were managed.

“We are on the path to creating wealth and improving the lives of our people. We are determined to do that by transforming the structure of our economy. The neo-colonial economy, based on the production and export of raw materials, cannot form the basis of a new era of prosperity for our people,” the President emphasized.

The President said Ghana was moving towards an economy of processed agricultural and engineering goods and services as a means of job creation on a mass base and improvement in the incomes of ordinary Ghanaians.

He said the widespread unemployment among the youth was the greatest threat to Ghana’s democracy and stability and that the only remedy to the situation was a rapidly expanding economy that generated jobs.

He said in the short pace of 10 months when his government took office, the country’s macro-economy had been stabilizing.

“The fiscal deficit, which stood at 9.5% at the end of 2016, has been reduced to 6.3%. Inflation, within the same period, has declined from 15.4% to 11.6%. Our economy has grown from 3.3% last year, the lowest in 22 years, to 7.9%. Interest rates are declining, and we are now witnessing a more stable cedi, our national currency. We are creating a business-friendly environment that should encourage significant investments in the development of our economy,” President Akufo-Addo expatiated.

On Ghana’s multi-party constitutional democracy, the President noted that the determination to which Ghanaians wanted to build their democracy was anchored in their deep-seated belief in the concept of the separation of powers as an active principle for the promotion of freedom and an accountable governance, free of corruption.

He re-emphasized the point that Ghanaians had agreed on a multi-party constitutional democracy and a guarantee of individual freedoms under the rule of law, within these past 24 years of the 4th Republic which had turned out to be the longest period of stability and economic growth in sixty years of Ghana’s nationhood.

President Akufo-Addo noted that even though Ghana was nowhere near where she ought to be, Ghana could not afford to undermine confidence in her young democracy.

Article via AllAfrica

The Future of Ghana 2018 – Nominations Now Open!

The Search Begins…

Midday on 13 November saw the opening of nominations for the 2018 Future of Ghana cycle.

Nominations are now open to the public until 20 December 2017 via the website. Once closed nominees will be whittled down to a top 30 by a select judging panel, ready for feature in the 2018 publication. More detailed guidance on the nomination process can be found here.

The esteemed judging panel for 2018 will be revealed the second week of December 2017 so look out for the announcement on our platforms.

Now in its 4th cycle Me FiRi Ghana  are once again on a mission to find the pioneers and innovators of the Future by undertaking a global search for the top 30 Ghanaian talent aged 18 – 30 years – impacting industries around the world.

In just over 3 years 90 Ghanaian future young leaders/pioneers from around the world have been selected to create a community of Changemakers illustrating what a progressive Ghana looks like and mobilizing for change . Our 4th cycle will be no different! Who will be GHANA’S top 30 U30 for 2018?

The search begins now! ….. Make your nomination  here

 

The 2018 Publication….

Scheduled for release for March 2018 (Date TBC) via  www.futureofghana.com . The Fourth edition of the publication will transcend stereotypes, highlighting the unsung contributions of future leaders to Ghana’s development driving the conversation around Ghana’s future development on the occasion of Ghana’s 61st Independence celebrations

Through its youth charity the Future of Ghana Ltd (Registered charity no. 1148382). Me Firi Ghana annually produce the Future of Ghana publication which celebrates excellence by recognising the Top 30 under 30 talent of Ghanaian decent, pioneering in industries around the world. The publication also features forward thinking articles highlighting key industries, innovators and organizations visions for Ghana and Africa.

The Publication is the beginning and one that we hope will act as a catalyst to encourage greater youth participation with the development of Ghana whilst also act as a visual source of inspiration for the emerging generation and a talent resource for investors and organizations.

Ghana To Host 100 Global Speakers For the Largest Tech Summit in Africa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Ghana makes history by hosting the largest annual gathering of innovators at the Ghana Tech Summit

Announced At: Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit (Boston, USA)

Accra, Ghana- October 3, 2017 – In an effort to accelerate startups from emerging markets, the Global Startup Ecosystem will be hosting major summits in developing countries across the globe. Haiti was the first country to host the largest annual gathering of innovators addressing humanity’s grandest challenges with over 100 global speakers in 2017. Ghana will join the global initiative with top companies, celebrities and government officials in 2018.

The central theme of the global summit is to “catalyze startup ecosystems in emerging markets”. Day one is centered on “Drivers of startup ecosystems” with a deep dive look at the contributions of VC fund managers, angel investors, accelerators, incubators and media reporters on tech innovation hubs around the world. Day two is centered on “Disruptors of startup economies” with an analysis exponential technologies in transforming future industries via Ai, virtual reality, drone, robotics, space, etc.

The event will host speakers from Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Twitter, IBM, Microsoft, and more. Over 40+ media representatives from Forbes, Inc Magazine, Fast Company, Black Enterprise, NY Times and more will be in attendance.

Hosting the event in Ghana not only aims to revitalize economic activity in the country but to also provide a new narrative for Ghana and emerging markets. “Ghana, the gateway to Africa can redefine how we leverage exponential opportunities across the continent…” says the founding organizer of the event- Einstein Ntim.

Tickets are now live via www.ghanatechsummit.com.

About Ghana Tech Summit: Ghana Tech Summit brings together hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, digital marketers and creatives under one roof together to address humanity’s grandest challenges via technology and entrepreneurship. It is a part of a 13-year initiative of the Global Startup Ecosystem-the first and largest digital accelerator that accelerates 1000 companies to market annually across 190+ countries entirely online.

About Global Startup Ecosystem: Global Startup Ecosystem (GSE): is a central hub designed to educate, inspire and prepare startup communities for the digital age. GSE primarily provides online digital accelerator programs for startup ecosystems in different geographic regions, industry verticals, and impactful topic areas. Regions of focus are: Africa,Asia,America,Caribbean Europe, Latin America and the  Middle East . Frontier tech areas of focus are: Space , Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Blockchain, Drones, IOT (Network + Sensors), Robotics, Synthetic Biology (Nano Tech) and Manufacturing (3d printing). Topic and industries of focus are: Fintech, Ed tech, Health Tech, Sustainable Development Goals. Smart City, Diversity and more. GSE culminates digital programs by providing unique ecosystem experiences through a series off offline summits, bootcamps, and tours.

About the Founder: Einstein Ntim is a Ghanaian-British entrepreneur and startup ecosystem builder that connects innovators to Ai, space, and other exponential tech networks. As the founding partner at the Global Startup Ecosystem(GSE)-the first and largest creator of digital online accelerators- Einstein provides access to capital experts and speaks on topics covering entrepreneurship, Artificial Intelligence, and exponential technologies. Formerly a serial entrepreneur, Einstein relocated to the US and founded two health care startups- Enabled AI (The AI Mental Health App for Exponential Innovators) and Bloomer Tech (which embeds IOT sensors into fabrics to tackle cardiovascular disease). During his time in silicon valley, Einstein worked on connecting startups to Tim Draper’s venture networks and university and currently sits on Singularity University’s Advisory Board for Inclusion.  Prior to his work in the USA, Einstein was selected for Ghana’s Future Leaders Under 30 and had a diverse career in capital markets (UBS, Statestreet, Deutsche Bank), military (UK), and professional sports (Harlequins Rugby). Einstein studied Economics and Policy at London School of Economics (LSE), Chinese Languages and Philosophy at Nanjing University, Faith and Theology at the Methodist Church of Britain, and acted as British Council GenUK Ambassador in India and China.

Contact:

Ghana Tech Summit Team

(E) info@GhanaTechSummit.com

(W) www.GhanaTechSummit.com

(F) www.facebook.com/Ghanatechsummit/

(T) www.twitter.com/ghanatechsummit