Category: Features


Is Rawlings really the founder of the NDC?

Former president Jerry John Rawlings has never been happy with the performance of the NDC presidents that came after him, namely Atta-Mills and John Mahama as regards to probity and accountability. He put excessive pressure on the two former presidents and accused them of incompetence. His criticisms drew him apart from the presidency. Those who benefitted from the corrupt and administration of the two presidents saw Rawlings as an enemy. Most of the time, the party held national and executive meetings and conferences without inviting Rawlings. Sadly enough, such attitudes of hatred by the top brass of the NDC have compelled Rawlings to do what he is doing. Observers from other parties felt that it was unfortunate to treat the founder of the party this way. But do his party members consider him as a founder?

Rawlings is generally considered as the founder of the NDC but, now and then, there are voices which challenge this view. A chief proponent of this view has been Obed Asamoah, a long-time member of Rawlings’ governments in their military and civilian incarnations. In an exclusive interview with Emera Appawu of Joy News, Obed Asamoah explained that when it was time to file the registration of the NDC, Rawlings was still in the Ghana Armed Forces so he could not have represented any district as a founding father. However, Dr Obed Asamoah explained that after the party had been set, a clause was fixed in the party’s constitution to recognize the contribution of Rawlings to the ideals upon which the party was founded.

Obed Asamoah made this position even clearer in his memoirs: The Political History of Ghana

Obed Asamoah

(1950-2013) – The Experience of a Non-Conformist published in 2014, where he stated that the idea of founding the NDC was a collective one taken by a group to which Rawlings was not part of. The group saw Rawlings as the best person to lead the new party and approached him with the idea. Rawlings accepted. It is, therefore, clear that the initiative of forming the party did not come from Rawlings. This can be compared with the formation of the CPP where the idea for the party germinated in the mind of Kwame Nkrumah who brought it into being, provided it with much of its ideological direction, singularly led it from its beginnings through all its glorious years and eventual demise. Today the CPP has been struggling without its revered founder. The NDC, on the other hand, has won elections even without Rawlings leading it.

The issue of who founded what can be a tricky one as we are seeing in the current debate about who founded Ghana. Even though Rawlings did not himself initiate the idea of forming the NDC from the remnants of the PNDC, he was the very personification of the party, at least in the initial stages. The party was built around him. It is doubtful if the party could have won the first two elections in the Fourth Republic without Rawlings leading it. That is why people generally regard him as the founder.

The same argument can be tweaked to apply to the foundation of Ghana. Even though the Gold Coast may have been in existence before Nkrumah burst on the political scene in the colony, the fact of our independence became personified in him. He was the very face of our independence and, by extension, the new nation. That is why people associate the founding of the nation with him. It does not mean they think there were no others in the independence struggle. Nkrumah’s contributions were unique and it is easier for people to connect with an individual and accord him a symbolic status than with an amorphous group of persons each of whose contributions cannot be accurately gauged.

Valerie Sawyer

And so Rawlings is likely to continue being regarded as the founder of the NDC in the popular mind, no matter what Obed Asamoah says. The question then becomes: is Rawlings trying to destroy what he created? It can be said that all of Rawlings’ bad-mouthing of his own party shows him in character. The pointing out of the ills of our society and the condemnation of others have been Rawlings’ trademarks as a public person since his first coup day speech on radio. The party and Ghanaians, generally, have endured his antics. Now and then, they try to give it back to him. Now, it seems a section of the party hierarchy can take it no longer. Valerie Sawyer’s outburst a few weeks ago is symptomatic of this feeling. Obed Asamoah quickly came to Sawyerr’s defence while others attacked her. Alhaji Bature has gone so far as to suggest that Rawlings should be sacked from his own party.

What particularly irks a section of the party hierarchy is what they think is his dancing with the ruling party when he gives Akufo-Addo a clean bill of health when it comes to corruption, and threatening that his own party would not regain power even in 2020 unless it changes its ways. They point out that the NPP itself, under the Kufuor government, was very corrupt and Akufo-Addo was part of that government and that Rawlings’ own life is not beyond reproach. His wife has become rich from deals that are tainted with corruption, all his children received higher education abroad at great expense, he lives a lifestyle far above that of the ordinary Ghanaian who he claims to be fighting for and he received what is clearly bribe money from Abacha. He has also exhibited the greed that is characteristic of all African leaders and the political elite: becoming rich through the acquisition of political power. Rawlings has been calling on his party to return to its founding principles but he may not agree that the erosion of those principles started under his watch.

Of late there is the belief that he is losing his influence over the party and therefore his deliberate scheme of blame and vituperations are meant to destroy the NDC party.

The Rawlings family felt very much disturbed and frustrated by the kind of treatment meted out to them

Nana Konadu Agyemang

by the NDC top hierarchy. Mrs Rawlings took a bold step to move out of NDC and through her admirers a new platform called Friends of Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings (FONKAR) was created. She later did everything possible to form a new party. Even though she craftily chose a party name whose letters (NDP) were intended to confuse the illiterate voter because it sounded midway between NDC and NPP when they are pronounced or seen. It is believed that her intention of forming the party was not to win but to split the NDC votes. Did she succeed?

It is difficult to predict what the intentions of Rawlings are. Does he intend to obliterate the name of the party with which he has been associated from the political map of Ghana, or is he just trying to make himself still relevant in Ghanaian politics? What he really intends to do lies within the womb of time.

By Stephen Atta Owusu

Obesity Was Rising as Ghana Embraced Fast Food. Then Came KFC

The growing popularity of fried chicken and pizza in parts of Africa underscores how fast food is changing habits and expanding waistlines.

After finishing high school a decade ago, Daniel Awaitey enrolled in computer courses, dropped out to work in a hotel, then settled into a well-paying job in the booming oil sector here.

He has an apartment, a car, a smartphone and a long-distance girlfriend he met on a dating website. So he had reasons and the means to celebrate his 27th birthday in late July. His boss and co-workers joined him for an evening of laughter and selfies, lingering over dinner at his favorite restaurant: KFC.

Mr. Awaitey first learned about the fried chicken chain on Facebook. The “finger lickin’ good” slogan caught his attention and it has lived up to expectations. “The food is just ——” he said, raising his fingertips to his mouth and smacking his lips. “When you taste it you feel good.”

Chicken Inn, a KFC competitor, in the Accra Mall. A sharp increase in obesity has accompanied an embrace of Western foods in the country.

Ghana, a coastal African country of more than 28 million still etched with pockets of extreme poverty, has enjoyed unprecedented national prosperity in the last decade, buoyed by offshore oil. Though the economy slowed abruptly not long ago, it is rebounding and the signs of new fortune are evident: millions moving to cities for jobs, shopping malls popping up and fast food roaring in to greet people hungry for a contemporary lifestyle.

Chief among the corporate players is KFC, and its parent company, YUM!, which have muscled northward from South Africa — where KFC has about 850 outlets and a powerful brand name — throughout sub-Saharan Africa: to Angola, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and beyond. The company brings the flavors that have made it popular in the West, seasoned with an intangible: the symbolic association of fast food with rich nations.

But KFC’s expansion here comes as obesity and related health problems have been surging. Public health officials see fried chicken, french fries and pizza as spurring and intensifying a global obesity epidemic that has hit hard in Ghana — one of 73 countries where obesity has at least doubled since 1980. In that period, Ghana’s obesity rates have surged more than 650 percent, from less than 2 percent of the population to 13.6 percent, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent research center at the University of Washington.

The causes of obesity are widely acknowledged as complex — involving changing lifestyles, genetics, and, in particular, consumption of processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat.

KFC’s presence in Ghana so far is relatively modest but rapidly growing, and it underscores the way fast food can shape palates, habits and waistlines.

Research shows that people who eat more fast food are more likely to gain weight and become obese, and nutrition experts here express deep concern at the prospect of an increasingly heavy and diabetic population, without the medical resources to address a looming health crisis that some say could rival AIDS.

“You are what you eat,” said Charles Agyemang, a Ghanaian who is now an associate professor at the University of Amsterdam, where he studies obesity and chronic disease. KFC alone, he said, is only one factor in the country’s obesity epidemic, but it represents the embrace of western foods. In Ghana, he said, “eating local foods in some places is frowned upon. People see the European type as civilized.”

“This is having a major impact on obesity and heart disease.”

KFC executives see a major opportunity here to be part of people’s regular routines, a goal they are advancing through a creative marketing campaign and use of social media. When asked if it is unhealthy for people to eat fried chicken often, Kimberly Morgan, a KFC spokeswoman in Plano, Texas, said, “At KFC, we’re proud of our world famous, freshly in-store prepared fried chicken and believe it can be enjoyed as a part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.”

Company representatives said they take health seriously in the region, noting their sponsorship of a youth cricket league in South Africa. The company, they said, has worked to make their menu more diverse and healthier.

“That’s why we provide consumers choice,” said Andrew Havinga, who runs the supply chain for KFC’s Africa division. “We do believe in a healthy, balanced lifestyle.”

Schoolgirls and a KFC just outside Accra. The company established a beachhead in South Africa, opening there in the early 1970s, and has expanded steadily through sub-Saharan Africa

For now, though, KFC customers in Ghana have fewer healthy options than in Western countries. Grilled chicken, salads and sides like green beans and corn, standard at KFC in the United States, aren’t available here. Mr. Havinga said KFC hoped to offer Ghanaians more options eventually. “That’s part of our journey,” he said.

KFC emphasizes its focus on food sanitation and cleanliness. Ghanaian customers interviewed spoke appreciatively of the tidy containers used for takeout and the hairnets worn by workers.

“We wouldn’t go into a market unless we are comfortable that we can deliver the same food safety standards that we deliver around the world and people see that,” Greg Creed, the chief executive of YUM!, said in an interview last year on CNN. “They actually trust us that it’s so much safer to eat at a KFC in Ghana, than it is to eat obviously, you know, pretty much anywhere else.”

Some nutrition experts bristle at the implication.

“To say it’s the safest food is a bit like saying my hand grenade is the safest hand grenade,” said Mike Gibney, an emeritus professor of food and health at University College Dublin. “Ghanaians would be better off eating less KFC. But that is the way of the world I’m afraid.”

In Ghana, a place that suffered severe food shortages as recently as the early 1980s, attempts at curbing obesity have butted up against long held societal views: girth can be a welcome sight here. To many, weight gain is an acceptable side effect of a shift from hunger to joyful consumption.

“People march their sons and daughters to buy KFC and buy pizza and they like to show them what we

Daniel Awaitey, center, celebrated his 27th birthday with friends at a KFC in Accra in July. “When I grew up I did not have the benefits I’m enjoying today,” Mr. Awaitey said of the restaurant. “This didn’t even exist.”

can afford,” said Matilda Laar, who lectures about family and consumer sciences at the University of Ghana. KFC isn’t just food, she said. “It’s social status.”

Mr. Awaitey, who celebrated his 27th birthday at a KFC, was raised eating local dishes like soup and banku, a mix of fermented corn and cassava dough. He has increasingly made KFC part of his routine. Some nights on his way home from work, he turns off a sewer-lined street — jammed with cars and crisscrossed by men hawking sunglasses and women selling doughnuts from baskets they carry on their heads — and steps into a world transformed: a tidy, air-conditioned KFC where Bruno Mars blares. He orders dinner with a Coke, sitting in a translucent red plastic chair at a white table beneath giant faux Polaroids of children blowing bubbles in a park and a couple strolling on a beach.

“When I grew up I did not have the benefits I’m enjoying today,” Mr. Awaitey said. “This didn’t even exist.

‘Skin in the Game’

In late July, Ashok Mohinani, whose company owns all the KFC franchises in Ghana, dabbed away a smear on a plate-glass window in the dining room of a KFC on the outskirts of Accra as customers trickled in after the doors opened at 10 a.m. It was the newest KFC in the nation, the 13th so far, and Mr. Mohinani was eager to see how it would be received.

The executive director of Mohinani Group, he came to restaurants late, after years in other industries, notably plastics. In 2011, he saw potential in fast food. Incomes were rising as Ghana’s oil business took off and other commodities soared; that year the country achieved “lower middle-income” status, according to the World Bank. Its economy had grown 7 percent a year since 2005.

In Accra, the country’s densely populated capital, it was plain that diets were changing. Mr. Mohinani had watched street fare evolve from stews and porridges to fried rice and knockoff Cheetos. Vendors now stocked glass cabinets with fried chicken, which in the past families served only on holidays.

The first fast food restaurants to move in were local chains that served fried chicken and mimicked Western brands. Mr. Mohinani was convinced a foreign chain would succeed.

“The obvious brand,” he said, “was KFC.”

KFC had established a beachhead in South Africa, opening there in the early 1970s. It is now so popular that its executives say they impress dinner-party guests by name-dropping the company where they work.

In 2012, Mr. Mohinani opened a KFC franchise that included the first drive-through restaurant in the nation. People streamed in on foot, just to check it out.

“It was beautiful,” he said.

Now, he said, the goal is to move KFC from a special treat to routine. Toward that end, he has opened restaurants alongside gas stations. “We want this to evolve into the idea of getting it to be a daily brand.”

It is a goal pursued by fast food companies around the world. From 2011 to 2016, fast food sales grew 21.5 percent in the United States, according to Euromonitor, a market-research firm, while they swelled 30 percent worldwide. The industry has had remarkable success in finding new mouths to feed, with 254 percent growth in Argentina, 83 percent in Vietnam, 64 percent in Egypt.

From around the globe come snapshots of fast-food’s spread. Carl’s Jr. opened Cambodia’s first drive-through fast-food restaurant in 2016, bringing Phnom Penh staples like the Western Bacon Cheeseburger; McDonald’s, with 600 Russian outlets, recently opened in Siberia and the Urals; India, which, according to Euromonitor, saw fast-food sales rise 113.6 between 2011 and 2016, now has more than 1,100 Domino’s Pizza outlets and is home to an experiment — a “Dessert Pizza,” topped with brownies, cookies, coconut nougat, cheesecake and fudge sauce.

A KFC in the Haatso district of Accra. The company emphasizes its focus on food sanitation, and customers interviewed praised the cleanliness of restaurants

While McDonald’s remains the emblem of fast food worldwide, YUM! is number two and grew 22.9 percent from 2011 to 2016, considerably faster than the burger giant’s 12.2 percent growth, according to Euromonitor. YUM!, which includes Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, has nearly 44,000 restaurants worldwide, about 17,000 of them in emerging markets as of 2016, the company said. KFC and its franchisees operate nearly 21,000 KFC restaurants in 129 countries and territories around the globe.

Crucial to its effort, the company said, is finding local franchisees like Mr. Mohinani, who have “skin in the game” as Mr. Creed, the YUM! chief executive, said on CNN. The company can rely on their knowledge of the local market and commitment to the investment.

Also crucial: mixing local culture with flavors company executives repeatedly called “aspirational.” In Ghana, KFC’s menu includes chicken and fries along with a version of jollof rice, a locally beloved spicy dish made with peppers and onions.

“People come to us for the exotic, international American brand and we don’t want to water that down,” Mr. Mohinani said. “If we made the menu entirely local we’d lose the aspiration.”

Affordability is another key ingredient. For KFC, costs here are hard to contain: the company imports chickens from Brazil, in part because local farms don’t yet meet KFC’s standards for safety and other issues; stores need generators in case of power outages; clean water is specially pumped in. Affordability got tougher since 2014 as global oil prices sank, straining the Ghanaian economy. Nevertheless, to lure more customers, Mr. Mohinani has cut menu prices — a risky move that he said has paid off with more repeat and regular visitors.

KFC has also launched a marketing campaign called “Streetwise” — a series of ads and meals it had introduced in South Africa and elsewhere that are designed to appeal to a first generation of middle-class consumers looking for new experiences. In Ghana, the campaign aims at “hustlers and influencers,” as executives called them, who rose from the streets and climbed the social ladder.

New ads debuted in May for the Streetwise 2 — two pieces of chicken, fries and a Coke — with the popular local singer Ko-Jo Cue holding a sign that says, “It’s thanks to the streets that I became a winner.”

“I get a Streetwise 2,” it continues, “and fuel my ambition.”

Health Consequences

The health effects of fast food are challenging to study, particularly in the United States. That’s because burgers, fries, fried chicken, pizzas and milkshakes get served all over the place, not just in traditional fast food joints, making it hard to establish the specific influence of fast food on obesity.

But developing countries are newer to fast food. One large-scale study, done in Singapore as it grew economically and attracted Western fast food chains, offers evidence that the arrival of McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, among others, posed a serious health risk.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in 2012 in the journal Circulation, followed tens of thousands of Chinese Singaporeans, ages 45 to 74, from the mid-1990s to 2009. Those who ate Western fast food twice a week or more were 27 percent more likely to get type 2 diabetes, and 56 percent more likely to die from heart disease, than subjects who didn’t regularly eat such food. And the more times they ate fast food, the higher the risk of death from heart disease.

Studies like these can be challenging to interpret, nutrition experts said, because people who eat fast food can have poor dietary habits, but this study sought to isolate fast food by factoring out many other issues, like sleep, exercise and even consumption of local fried foods. It also caught Singapore as its economy matured and fast food came to town.

“It’s a parable, or microcosm, of what’s occurring in other parts of the globe,” said Andrew Odegaard, a co-author on the study.

In Ghana, data suggest the changing diet to heavier fare — including fast food but also processed foods — has led to soaring health risks.

The death rate associated with high body mass index more than doubled in Ghana from roughly 14 per 100,000 in 1990 to 40 per 100,000, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — and is fast approaching the global average of 54 deaths per 100,000.

The data also suggest that the changing diet has led to health risks in Ghana that are getting worse at a

Preparing chicken at KFC in the Haatso district. The company uses palm oil, which is high in saturated fats. It no longer uses the oil in the United States

rate faster than in the United States. From 1990 to 2015, deaths related to high body mass increased 179 percent in Ghana, compared to an increase of 20 percent in the United States.

Further complicating the situation in Ghana, medication for high blood pressure is expensive and patients often ration it to save money. National health insurance lags in its coverage of other diet-related diseases such as diabetes; it doesn’t cover devices to monitor blood sugar or some of the medicine to treat the side effects of diabetes.

The nation’s health system lacks a sufficient number of specialists, counselors and dietitians, let alone doctors.

Dr. Laar, the lecturer from the University of Ghana, said the lack of proper care meant that some people would live with metabolic syndrome until they dropped.

“It’s common that you’ll see someone just pass out and die,” she said.

One smoldering July day, mourners gathered in Accra to pay tribute to someone who did just that — Vivian Acheampong, 56, who had collapsed at home while hanging laundry on the clothesline and died two days later in a hospital. They fondly remembered her as they milled around and talked about what they believed had killed her. The doctors had told them one major factor was inattention to her high blood pressure: She hadn’t listened to their professional advice to change her eating habits, and she couldn’t afford all the medicine prescribed to control her condition. Relatives were convinced that her love for fried, fatty food had led her to become obese and played a role in her death.

“Every time it was oil, oil, oil,” said her son, Alfred Osei Tutu.

Under a tent decorated with red and black bunting, her relatives and friends heaped their plates with the very foods they said they had warned her against: fried chicken, fried fish, fried rice and fried okra. These offerings have become common at funerals and represent a clear change in tradition: soup and vegetables were once served to mourners.

Fried chicken and fried fish were plentiful as relatives and friends gathered after Vivian Acheampong’s funeral

Mrs. Acheampong’s son said she had only dabbled in fast food and had never eaten at KFC. But she had developed a taste for such fare, usually cooked at home, after she moved from her native village to the capital 15 years ago for a better job. An old photo propped up at the funeral showed her as a slender young woman with hollowed cheeks. In the city, the family’s diet shifted from stews and fufu, a starch made with cassava, to fried foods.

She fit squarely in a demographic most affected by rising obesity here: women living in cities. A study published last year in the journal BMC Medicine found that obesity among urban female adults in Ghana was 34 percent, compared to 8.3 percent for women in rural areas; among urban men, the rate in was 7 percent, compared to 1.3 percent in rural areas.

“You have more money, you have more food,” her son said matter-of-factly.

Birthdays, Poetry Slams and Takeout

KFC’s busiest store in Ghana is its flagship, on Oxford Street in the Osu neighborhood. The nation’s first KFC, it’s a three-story, glassy corner building on a busy retail strip across from two banks and a jewelry shop.

This summer, it drew from all walks: uniformed kids celebrating the last day of school; students from nearby universities using free Wi-Fi at corner tables; government workers ordering lunch to go; members of an artists’ collective meeting over dinner to talk about a poetry slam; a dad treating his teenage son and friends to takeout chicken.

On a weekend, the place turned raucous. A group of women dressed in tight, sparkly gowns guzzled champagne from the bottle one evening around a table littered with french fries, fried chicken and a birthday cake, taking turns smearing frosting across the face of the birthday girl. Children joined their parents, downing Coke and buckets of chicken.

Fariha Yussif brought her boyfriend to the restaurant to celebrate his 24th birthday. They stood in a doorway and took photos as friends popped into the frame.

“I like the lights here,” said Ms. Yussif, 21, pointing to the low-hanging red lamps. “I like how they arrange the tables and chairs. It’s like I’m in Germany or Canada. Everything is very nice.”

In late July, the restaurant was low on chicken, a two-day supply hiccup that dogged all of the country’s

Loretta Anaglate, 21, and a friend at the Oxford Street KFC. She said she eats at the restaurant about three times a week, but another friend said it was “every day.”

KFCs. Some customers were outraged, prompting workers to ration supplies. Loretta Anaglate, 21, photographed the chicken in her boxed meal that was supposed to contain two pieces, but was actually only one and a half pieces.

She wasn’t holding a grudge. Ms. Anaglate, who has been eating KFC since her 16th birthday, lives in a university dormitory a 10-minute walk from a KFC. She estimates she eats there three times a week.

“It’s a lie,” her friend, Loretta Adjei, interjected. “She eats here every day.”

The two young women — who favor chicken, soda and a popular milkshake-like drink called Krushers — love the brand so much they worked for a day last year as “promo girls,” handing out fliers for a new KFC.

The company has met the youth market in Ghana where it spends time — on the internet. KFC has a Facebook page and Twitter feed tailored for Ghana and ran an Instagram-based promotion that placed customers’ pictures on chicken buckets. Young people fill the company’s Facebook page with their own comments and photos.

There don’t seem to be a lot of complaints about a menu with items that, in a single meal, can challenge the daily allowance of salt, fat and sugar. According to KFC’s online nutrition calculator for Africa, the lunch box meal alone exceeds the daily recommended levels of salt and sugar, and includes trans fatty acids.

“I don’t see it as unhealthy,” said Ms. Adjei, “I’m still fit and thin.”

Local health experts said most Ghanaians don’t pay attention to nutrition data. Indeed, the kind of public and political pressure that has prompted KFC to make other changes in the West has not been felt much here.

The chickens are cooked in hot tubs of palm oil — a substance the company stopped using in the United States and Britain because, among other reasons, it is high in saturated fats. Customers in most of KFC’s African markets must go online to find calorie counts, which are not on menu boards like in the United States. The company says there is neither government nor consumer clamor to add them.

“The consumer mind-set is not asking that question generally,” said Doug Smart, managing director of KFC Africa.

Presidential Concern but Little Action

Deep inside the presidential palace in Accra, called Flagstaff House, President Nana Akufo-Addo sat in his softly lit, spacious office, decorated with patterned marble floors and ornate, cream-colored couches. A wide-screen TV was tuned to local news. He has recently shed his sharp suits, favoring comfortable print shirts made in Ghana like the bright orange one with colorful swirls he wore on a recent evening.

In office since January, the president ticked off his achievements: plans to chip away at the nation’s debt load, to increase tax revenue, to cut waste, to beat back corruption and to spur the economy. He is in the midst of fulfilling a campaign promise to build a factory in each of the nation’s 216 districts. He has begun cracking down on illegal gold mining, which is robbing the country of revenue from one of its key natural resources.

Of course, he said, he’s worried about skyrocketing obesity and related diseases. Like many of his countrymen, the round-faced president himself is overweight. He said he’s also concerned about the increase in fast food restaurants that fuel the trends but said: “I’m strongly averse to banning things.”

KFC posted a sign outside a restaurant in the Tema Harbour district of Accra in July to apologize for a chicken shortage. The company imports chickens from Brazil

It’s a quandary faced in numerous nations, from India and Brazil to China and Egypt: how to invite economic growth and move beyond scarcity, support growing populations and urbanization, all without being overtaken by two of modernity’s chief markers, processed and fast food. So far, not a single nation has been able to reverse the growth of obesity, and only a handful have succeeded in enforcing marketing reforms to limit consumer exposure.

President Akufo-Addo said he hoped to address the problem by expanding national health insurance. That, though, he said, is “a work in progress,” given the expense. So, for now, without specifics, he echoed leaders from other nations (and food companies themselves): “There must be heightened public awareness of what’s good and bad in terms of eating habits.”

Some activists have tried to prompt more action. Dr. Laar has been pushing for food labels that display nutritional content and restrictions on imports of processed food. And she wants more regulations for fast-food restaurants, “before it gets out of hand.”

“We already have a problem,” she said, “and now there is an influx of fast food companies trying to penetrate the market. We need to make sure the government is regulating how they’re trying to do that.”

She added: “We shouldn’t underestimate the impact they can have now, and in the future if they spread to rural areas.”

She was aghast to learn KFC has plans to open four new restaurants in towns outside the capital in rural areas in the next year.

“We must,” she said, “come up with more stringent laws.”

The presidential palace is not far from the country’s most popular KFC, just a short trip after crossing

A taxi driver waited for a fare in Accra. The “Streetwise” campaign, based on a marketing effort used by KFC in South Africa, is designed to appeal to a first generation of middle-class Ghanaians looking for new

Liberation Road. The day before the president outlined his priorities, a part-time pastor, Joshua Edwards, stopped at the KFC to buy chicken for five boys living in an orphanage. “It’s just a wonderful taste for them,” he said.

The pastor’s round belly strained his shirt buttons and hung far over the red stool where he waited for his order. “My health is my life, so I have to be cautious about my life,” he said. “God needs my body to do things to his glory.”

Still, Mr. Edwards said he comes to KFC almost every day, beckoned by a giant red billboard outside the store with a huge photo of crispy fried chicken and shimmering golden fries.

“You become addicted to the spices,” he said. “That’s why everybody wants to have it.”

“They don’t force us to eat here,” he added, “But it’s as if we’ve become mentally enslaved. It tantalizes us by even saying it, pulling you to where you don’t want to be.”

 Article via The New York Times

Black, African, and Living Abroad: The Dichotomy of Race and Ethnicity

Imagine having to start a whole new life on the other side of the world. Well, that was me, when I had to leave the States—a place I had called home for the past 16 years—and head to Jakarta to continue my teaching career. While filled with some trepidation, as I left my family and friends, I saw this as an adventure, looking forward to what this new chapter of life would entail. I say looking forward to it because as someone who was born in Ghana, but lived, grew up, and attended school in three different countries (Botswana, South Africa, and the United States), I saw this as yet another international experience I could embrace. Little did I know what I would be getting into.

Once the novelty wore off, I became painfully aware of the way people reacted whenever I stepped outside of my apartment building, as I quickly learned how “being the center of attention” could have a negative connotation. The stares, finger pointing, laughing, and double looks (sometimes more) became something that I encountered day in and day out. As a black person, while I had encountered some negative interactions due to the color of my skin, nothing had been as intense as this experience.

Here in Indonesia, I have learned what it means to be both black and African (I say African because here, as in America, there’s not much differentiation). Colorism is most definitely in play here, as the darker your skin color, the more you are treated differently. There is a great preference for lighter/fairer-skinned people, with skin whitening/bleaching creams littered around stores, all in plain view. Lighter/fairer-skinned people are seen in commercials, on T.V., on billboards, etc.

However, one irony I have found is that even the darker-skinned Indonesians point, stare, and laugh. It’s not only confusing, but disappointing as well, because I would think that because we are both more or less in the same boat, we would be able to connect and even commiserate with each other. I suppose it’s that whole idea of the oppressed becoming the oppressor, in a bid to distance themselves, and hopefully, one day, find themselves being accepted as well. Thus, the idea is “while I may have it bad, at least I don’t have it as bad you do.” And so, the cycle continues.

In addition to colorism, there is the stigma associated with the continent of Africa. My African background puts me at a further disadvantage than my African American counterparts, in that while they are black and may encounter the same reactions/treatment I do, there is often a change in attitude/demeanor once people find out they’re American. The American passport still has a lot of sway in many parts of the world.

About three weeks ago, I went out to eat with a friend, and it turned out that there was a live band playing. My friend and I found ourselves so taken in by their performance (boisterously singing aloud) that once they were done, they came over to say hello. They asked where we were from, and my friend stated America (meaning himself). They immediately became so enamored with his answer, pointing out how pleased they were to have an American present, listening to their songs, that I made the choice not to say where I was from. I know that it wasn’t right, but at the same time, I did so because I didn’t want to see a change in their overall attitude.

I was enjoying their admiration, not to mention the anonymity—an anonymity that is often nonexistent due to the misconceptions many have about people from Africa. The perception of Africans, in most countries located in Southeast Asia, is that we are drug dealers or prostitutes, who are often “poor and uneducated.” The following passage from a recent AP [Associated Press] article I read regarding Africans living in India perfectly sums up the experiences of Africans due to misguided stereotypes: “But the worst kind of discrimination is reserved for the Africans. In a country obsessed with fair skin and skin lightening beauty treatments, their dark skin draws a mixture of fear and ridicule.”

I’ve seen some examples of this “mixture of fear and ridicule.” One of my students (originally from China) wrote me a note for Teacher’s Day telling me how initially she was scared of me, as she had never met/seen a black person before. To have people come up to my face, just so they can get a better look, takes its toll. And as one of your readers shared, all of this slowly chips away at you.

So, while having to deal with being in another country (getting used to the culture), I find myself trying to navigate through this as well. And unlike some, I struggle to see the silver lining in all this. Each time I venture out, I find myself on edge, constantly on the lookout for the stares, the laughing, etc., that I know will inevitably come. I get myself so worked up that sometimes when it doesn’t happen the way I thought it would, I find myself completely taken aback.

I also find myself questioning words and actions that others may construe as innocent. For example, while riding in a cab, the driver began chatting with me in his broken English, and I attempted to respond in my very limited Bahasa- Indonesia. When we found ourselves stuck in Jakarta’s never-ending traffic, he indicated that he wanted to take my picture. My guard immediately went up, and I vehemently refused his request, time and time again. At one point he asked why, and I explained to him (now having resorted to Google translate) my experiences.

He then stated that the reason why people stare is because “black is sexy.” I will admit, I laughed, as this was not a response I was expecting. However, as he continued to go on about it, I began to wonder, was he saying that because I was African? Was he associating black with being sexy because of the fallacy of “Africans being prostitutes”? Or was he merely subscribing to the delusional fantasy of the dark-skinned woman? You know, the whole “the darker the berry . . .”

As I sit here typing this, I keep telling myself that it was probably harmless fun, but there’s still a nagging part of me that thinks otherwise. This is me now; this continuous questioning, second guessing, has become second nature to me.

Before I end this with you thinking that being in Indonesia has been entirely “me against the world,” I must add that I do have friends here—a number of locals that I’ve connected with at my school. I share my experiences with them, and they have certainly helped me to see why people say Indonesians are so friendly. They have been true lifesavers, as they have given me positive experiences to help counter most of the negative ones. And while I am pleased that as a professional dark-skinned African, I have helped to increase other’s exposure to not only black people, but to Africans as well by challenging the stereotypes, a part of me worries that I am not really changing their perceptions all that much.

I say this because even for those who see me day in and day out, they continue to stare and sometimes laugh. This is definitely a different experience for me—an ongoing process that will hopefully prove to be benefit rather than a drawback during my last few months here.

By Akosua Frimpong

 

Ghana wakes up and smells the coffee

Like many people around the world, 80-year-old Kofi Afadi can’t start his morning without a cup of coffee.

“Every morning when I take coffee I feel happy and go about my day,” the farmer told AFP in his village in the green hills between Lake Volta in Ghana and the border with Togo.

“When there is no coffee it seems I am the most miserable person around here,” he said.

In common with many of his fellow coffee farmers, Afadi, whose dark hair and moustache are speckled white, also grows cocoa — Ghana’s biggest crop. The country is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world behind neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Production of coffee, which was introduced to Ghana at the same time in the 18th century, trails in comparison. But it has rebounded in recent years, thanks to a growing overseas demand and a blossoming domestic market that is giving farmers hope of growing a major cash crop.

– Cafe culture –

A collapse in the price of coffee in the 1980s caused many Ghanaian farmers to abandon the crop, according to Michael Owusu-Manu, a researcher at Ghana’s Cocoa Board. But a government scheme launched in 2011 to revive the sector has transformed production and marketing of Ghanaian coffee.

It led to 2,400 hectares (5,930 acres) of new and revitalised coffee plantations, with farmers attracted by the introduction of fair prices for the crop. Owusu-Manu said the impact of the scheme is easy to overlook because much of Ghana’s coffee is sold in West Africa and does not appear in official export statistics.

The beans that stay in Ghana are sold to local roasters, who must compete in a market where most coffee is imported. Owusu-Manu now wants to connect local cafes popping up in Accra with local sellers.

Afadi hopes government support and a planned coffee farmers’ association will help them to wean locals off imports and establish Ghanaian beans in the home market.

– Rising global demand –

Ghanaian coffee is a matter of heritage and personal pride for the country’s farmers. Afadi’s coffee farm in Leklebi Fiape, some 200 kilometres (130 miles) northeast of the coastal capital, Accra, is on the same plot where his father grew coffee in the 1920s.

As a child, he remembers watching his father roast and grind his own beans, transforming them into a rich black brew — just like the ones he enjoys every day. He is disdainful of the jars and single-serving sachets of instant coffee granules found on sale in supermarkets and shops.

“It doesn’t taste like coffee,” he says firmly.

For now he gets his coffee from neighbouring farms, including the one run by nursery manager George Klu. But Afadi is in the process of planting 900 seedlings that the government gave him for free. He expects to harvest his first crop in four years’ time when he hopes global demand will only be higher.

The International Coffee Organization reports that global annual coffee consumption has grown an average of 1.3 percent every year since 2012.

– High quality –

Klu, 60, has two coffee farms and runs the nursery that produces the coffee seedlings for the government programme. He also hopes that coffee will be a silver bullet to Ghana’s burgeoning youth unemployment.

“Our youth are trying to be reluctant about farming,” he said, cutting back weeds with a machete. But I may say it is just not wise for them to do so because farming is a lucrative business.”

Local coffee retailers such as Kawa Mako may be part of the solution to boosting the local market. The small coffee shop he runs was set up with local farmers in mind and proudly makes lattes, espressos, and Americanos with beans from Volta Region farms.

Manager Prince Twumasi Asare said he has seen coffee consumption grow across Ghana, especially as international chains such as South Africa’s Vida e Caffe and Canada’s Second Cup have set up shop in Accra.

“We want to export, to put our products in shops and malls across the country. We want people to know that coffee from Africa, from Ghana, is a high quality,” said Asare.

Article via MailOnline

Nuclear science and technology is not new to Ghana

Nuclear technology has a long track record of positively contributing to global social and economic development. For more than 70-years nuclear research reactors have proven to be cornerstones of innovation in the global development of science and technology.

The African continent is no exception, the continent has 10 out of more than 240 research reactors operating globally. In 2009, Africa passed a milestone of half century of involvement with nuclear technology, dating from the initial criticality of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s first research reactor (RR) at the University of Kinshasa. The construction of Congolese RR ushered in a new era of scientific development in Africa.

Africa’s RRs are a vital component of the evolving role nuclear science and technology play in the development of society. These reactors have significantly contributed to the scientific progress made in a wide range of spheres. Moreover, RRs are an indispensable tool in the education and training of future Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) operators and engineers as well for the production of scientifically and technologically important materials, such as radioisotopes. These reactors are also used for testing new types of nuclear fuel and studying the radiation resistance of new materials and electronic devices.

For instance, South Africa can be considered a true role model for emerging countries on how nuclear science innovations can be employed to improve the quality of human lives. The SAFARI-1 RR, one of Africa’s first 20 MW research reactors, which already marked its 50-year milestone, successfully provides high quality products and services for domestic and international needs. Being the only nuclear research unit in SA the SAFARI-1 reactor is renowned as one of the leading producers of medical isotopes in the world, in particular molybdenum-99, which is a key isotope used in 40-million diagnostic procedures per annum worldwide. It is estimated that medical products, produced by the SAFARI-1, are used in approximately 10 million medical procedures in more than 60 countries per year, saving countless lives.

Nuclear innovations from Africa have made it possible to eliminate a range of harmful pests, which previously destroyed entire crops of fruits such as oranges and grapefruit. Due to nuclear technologies the tsetse fly no longer poses serious risk to famers and cattle in many previously effected regions. Moreover, nuclear techniques have enabled the increased productivity of the agricultural sector in many regions which has reflected positively on farmer’s incomes.

Ghana has successfully been operating its RR since 1994, apart from research purposes, the Ghanaian RR is utilized in support of the oil and aluminum manufacturing industries. The reactor is also used in geochemistry and hydrochemistry, soil fertility studies as well as mineral exploration.

Global experience of using nuclear technologies has shown that the research units are also widely applied for environmental monitoring and pollution assessments (air, water, and soil), food and agriculture, health, medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Nuclear-derived technologies, have for instance, helped the Central African Republic’s researchers to detect rich bodies of water in the deserts of Sahel. This region is a home to roughly 135 million people, whose biggest challenge is access to clear water, which is essential not only for drinking, but also for food production and sanitation.

In recent years, more and more African countries have seen the substantial benefits of modern nuclear technologies and realized that large-scale national nuclear programmes are able to stimulate sustainable and dynamic development in other important spheres, such as industry, agriculture and medicine.

Research reactors have the potential to adjust nuclear technologies for social development. For instance the production of medical isotopes to treat cancer and other diseases would not be possible without research reactors.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, and the rate of cancer cases is expected to rise. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than half million people die from cancer every year. Such a tragic tendency can be considerably leveled down by the availability of nuclear medicine, through the development specialized local isotope production facilities and medical centres.

The establishment Ghana’s RR made it possible for the country to open a radiotherapy centre in collaboration with the IAEA. With the help of the radioisotope production facility the radiotherapy center has proven to be highly effective not only for Ghanaian citizens, but also for cancer patients from neighboring countries. The center treats nearly 15 000 patients per year.

Prior to the centre, Ghanaian cancer patients had to travel abroad to India, the Americas and Europe to access treatment. A second center in Kumasi was established in 2004 again in collaboration with the IAEA, whilst the Swedish Ghana Medical center in Accra, a private venture was established in 2013. All three facilities in the country have capabilities for 3-Dimensional treatment planning.

Today there are only three radiotherapy centers in the country which do not cope with growing cancer incidence. In order to increase the efficiency rate of cancer treatment, Ghana needs more centers in different regions of the country to treat the growing number of patients.

The National Centre for Radiotherapy in Accra experiences some challenges. On average, 1200 new cancer cases are referred to the facility every year with about 70% requiring radiation treatment, however, less than 50% of these patients complete their treatment.

A shortage of skilled man power in the Centre hampers the full potential of the establishment and limits the delivery of state of the art radiation treatment aimed at improving outcomes and reducing side effects.

The modernization of the research facility and the construction of a Center of Nuclear Science and Technology will certainly have a positive effect for Ghana’s social and economic development.

The Power of Fabrication and Hoax on Social Media

The potency of hoax and fabricated news has been prevalent in WhatsApp and other social media. From India alone, not less than one million messages and video news are sent to WhatsApp and other social media every month. Only about 150 messages and videos are said to be true. The rest are fabrications and hoax. Such news items have a wide reach. Depending on the news, readers and viewers who fail to see them as hoax either get scared, startled or experience a feeling of insecurity. Not many are able to determine very early that the news items are just fabrications. Almost every country, including Ghana, has had its share of such hoax news on social media.

We all woke up one day to read on WhatsApp that former president of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings had passed away at 69. The news spread quickly on all social media. When the news of the alleged death reached Rawlings he was upset about this fabrication which did not help anyone.

Michael Essien, former midfielder of Chelsea and Black Stars, was reported dead. The news was on WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media that Essien was involved in a fatal accident in Indonesia where he plays for a local club, Persib Bandung. Sadness engulfed Ghanaians and lovers of football worldwide only to find out that the news was a hoax.

Ghanaians were shocked when they heard the news of the disappearance of Ghana’s rap artist, Castro, and another lady. As Ghanaians were trying to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance, news came around that Castro was still alive. The one that took WhatsApp and other social media by storm was the confirmation of a lawyer who was interviewed at Adom FM that Castro was under intensive care in a hospital in Lomé, Togo’s capital city. A funeral that was supposed to be held by Castro’s family was halted. A group was sent to that particular hospital the lawyer was referring to. Castro was not there. The news was a mere fabrication and a hoax.

These days many funny sayings shared on social media have been attributed to Robert Mugabe. In the beginning, people believed that Mugabe actually said those things since the man is used to saying controversial but brilliant things. But when they were becoming too many, people realised they were false news. Zimbabwean government officials formally issued a statement denying that Mugabe said such things. Here are two of my most popular “Mugabe sayings”: 1. Girls who are called Monica like money and cars. 2. Dear ladies, if your boyfriends did not wish you a Happy Mother’s day or sing sweet Mother for you, you should stop breastfeeding them. Of course, Mugabe didn’t say these things. Dear reader, what is your favourite Mugabe saying?

Such social media fabrications are sometimes used by industrialised countries to undermine the progress of other countries’ economy. A devastating news item was carried on WhatsApp claiming that China is now producing and bagging rice made of plastic material. Many were fast to authenticate the claim on videos to demonstrate how the rice looks like when it is cooked. The Chinese contend that if what people are claiming is true why is the World Health Organization (WHO) silent?

The Chinese claim this fabrication was designed by the Americans who, according to the Chinese, are obviously scared by the fast rate of development and progress of the country. The Chinese decided to pay back in the same coin and put the Americans to shame. Soon a video that shocked the world was making rounds on social media. The video showed a truck loaded with human cadavers in front of a McDonald’s outlet. The Chinese claim the dead bodies are mashed in machines and used for the burgers which are distributed to all McDonald’s restaurants. When this horrific video came out, about 25% of visitors who patronized the restaurant, it was reported, stopped eating at McDonalds. The directors denied this claim as a mere fabrication.

There was another video claiming the Chinese were now eating aborted babies and even full babies who are sold by their parents. According to the narrator, foetus and embryos have been made into soup for human consumption. It is believed the Chinese are eating this to increase health, stamina and sexual performance. The media war between America and China is still going on. This fits well in the Ghanaian parlance, “if you do me, I do you”.

Immediately after the 2016 US election, the potency of fabricated and hoax news came into focus. Fake news on the elections began to appear on social media during the run-up to the ballot. The first put Mrs Clinton in a comfortable lead. When the reality of the election dawned on Americans, another news item that was clearly fabricated appeared on social media that Donald Trump had hacked into the electoral commission’s computer system to add more votes. This news drew more attention than any other news in the major news media in the United States. This turned out to be mere fabrication.

Often, people make up their own wisdom words and attribute them to famous persons. One of the most serious ones appeared a few years ago about the last words of Apple founder, Steve Jobs, in which he regretted having spent all his life looking for money but not having time to spend it. The passage was so long and detailed that nobody on his dying bed, in the throes of pain, drifting between life and death, could possibly have said those things as his last words. It was purely fake news.

WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media should be used with much care and circumspection. Not all news published in these media can be taken as true and authentic and therefore such news that smack of fabrication and hoax should not be shared. Some are true but many are not.  There was a humorous message I received some time ago telling me the food items that are dangerous to my health. It was a very long list that contained all the food items that I can possibly think of ever eating in my life. It was when I was going to complain and ask which food items are left for me to eat that I realised it was a joke – no food item is good for your health so the best thing is not to eat anything at all and starve to death! I appreciated the joke. But what about those who don’t see the humour?

Because of advances in picture and video editing programmes, it is easy even for amateurs to create false pictures and videos. We have to be careful about the things shared on social media and how we believe in them. Often, when you read something that is asking you to share it with others, you must be suspicious. You must check and check again to see if it is genuine. Fortunately, there are many websites that are devoted to debunking false social media messages. Anytime you have your doubts, just go online and check if it is not another hoax to make your life terrible. Never share a story you are not sure of.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

The best books on Ghana: start your summer reading here

A literary tour of Ghana takes in the early disappointments of independence, a woman’s search for personal freedom, and the gradual evolution of democracy.

 

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah

This morality tale’s unnamed narrator, a railway clerk in Accra, strives to maintain his integrity amid the corruption that surrounds him in newly independent Ghana. His refusal to accept bribes, despite struggling to make ends meet on his meagre salary, angers those around him – especially his acquisitive wife.

The high hopes he had for the country at independence have soured, and he is bitter that things have grown rotten “with such obscene haste”. “The man”, as the narrator is referred to, views the new leaders as trying “to be the dark ghosts of Europeans” – aping the repression and rapacity of the country’s white former colonial masters.

Armah’s acerbic debut novel excoriates President Kwame Nkrumah’s government for the graft and extortion that were rife in 1960s Ghana. A military coup in 1966 overthrows Nkrumah but, rather than heralding better days to come, it merely brings “another group of bellies [that] will be bursting with the country’s riches”.

As the man continues to grapple with providing for his wife and children and resisting “the rot” he sees everywhere, a misspelled inscription on a bus (which provides the book’s title) offers a sliver of hope for an end to the ugly realities of the day.

Armah, born in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), lives as something of a recluse in Dakar, Senegal.

 

Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo

The provocative and engaging tale of a young woman in modern-day Accra who challenges sexism and social mores, Aidoo’s story resonates beyond Ghana.Esi Sekyi, a smart, spiritedcareer woman, feels stifled in her marriage. Finding her ambitions curbed and freedoms constrained by her husband, she decides to divorce him.

No one Esi knows is remotely sympathetic. Her sharp-tongued grandmother chastises her, saying women must do “the serious business of living with our heads and never our hearts”.

And her best friend, Opokuya Dakwa, who wants more freedom in her own marriage, reminds her: “Our people have said that for any marriage to work, one party has to be a fool … And they really mean the woman.”

Esi meets Ali Kondey, a successful businessman, and is charmed by him. They become lovers, and Ali – a Muslim who is married and has children – urges Esi to become his second wife. Curiously, for such a fiercely independent woman, she agrees.

Later, as disillusionment with her polygamous marriage sets in, she reflects on life “stretching ahead like the Yendi-Tamale road when it was first constructed: straight, flat and endless”.

Aidoo wears her feminism on her sleeve, and gets her message across with sly humour rather than being preachy or shouty. The author, also a poet and playwright, served briefly as minister of education in the 1980s.

 

My First Coup Detat by John Dramani Mahama

Mahama’s first coup – which he experienced as a seven-year-old – was the army’s 1966 ousting of Nkrumah, who had led Ghana to independence from Britain nine years earlier. It proved to be a life-changing experience for the author. His father, a government minister, was held by the military for more than a year and came back a changed man.

Reinventing himself as a rice farmer, Mahama Sr became extremely wealthy. He eventually returned to politics, only to be forced to flee the country after yet another coup.

His father plays a big part in Mahama’s endearing memoir, in which he recounts his coming of age – in tandem with his newly independent country – during Africa’s “lost decades”. During that bleak post-colonial period – from the late 60s to the 90s – the continent was bedevilled by economic stagnation and political turbulence.

Mahama delivers an intimate, insider’s account through personal stories, and weaves in some of Ghana’s own progress and pitfalls along the way.

The cycle of coups finally ended in 1992, when the country adopted a new constitution and entered into an era of democracy that brought “the return of hope”.

Like his father, Mahama went into politics. He published this book during his term as vice-president, and went on to serve as president from 2012 to 2017.

Pushpinder Khaneka is the author of Read the World: A Country-by-Country Guide to the Best Books on the Global South

Article via The Guardian

 

Diaspora Ghanaians, A Clear Opportunity to Invest in Ghana

Many diaspora Ghanaians are eager to return home and invest when the economy and political situation are good for settlement and business. In 2001 when former president, J.A Kufuor, wrestled power from the revolutionary turned democrat, J.J Rawlings, he met an economy that was impoverished and highly indebted to donor countries. Kufuor was able to put things in place. He was able to inspire Ghana’s parliament and gave hope to the citizens to cherish the innovations and systematic development of his government which attracted foreign investors and diaspora Ghanaians. What is more, the judiciary at that time inspired confidence and trust among the citizenry and this made the diaspora look at the judiciary as the epitome of fairness.

The NPP regime under Akufo-Addo has begun to create conditions that are suitable and convenient for diaspora Ghanaians to return home to invest. The situation will gradually be like what happened under Kufuor when hundreds of Ghanaians abroad came home with different projects and investments. Banks were going from door to door asking people to come for loans. The condition to invest was perfect. However, when the NDC came to power, the economy sank to its lowest ebb; the value of the cedi went low against the dollar. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the intermittent cut in electricity which became known as dumsor. The situation was so unbearable that many businesses had to fold up and the diaspora Ghanaians who came down under Kufuor had to return abroad.

The Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit 2017 was held at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) from the 5th to 8th of July 2017. The aim was to announce the vast investment opportunities that are going to be available under Akufo-Addo’s regime. In pursuance of the agenda of one village one factory, Ghanaians at home and abroad were urged to seize the opportunity to invest since the government was ready to support any Ghanaian who is ready to start a viable project. In this connection the government got a loan of $10 billion from the Chinese government to fulfil the campaign promises of one factory in every district and a million dollars for every constituency and other needs.

The money will be deposited in five strategic banks for anyone, including diaspora Ghanaians, to present projects and apply for funds from those selected banks. Ghana, like most African countries, has for long been classified as a virgin land and a land of opportunities. However, for the last decade, due to misrule, corruption and dumsor, diaspora Ghanaians were hesitant to come down and invest in Ghana. Existing companies were folding up due to dumsor, high cost of living and massive poverty. The political climate, the insightful governance of Nana Addo and effective policy implementation have convinced many diaspora Ghanaians to take advantage of the investment climate in Akufo-Addo’s Ghana. A call has already been made to Ghanaians to be part of the one district one factory agenda.

What are the best and most viable business ideas and investment opportunities in Ghana for investors and Ghanaian entrepreneurs abroad? Ghana has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. With all the plans this present government has put in place, it is potentially and fundamentally viable and worthy to do business in Ghana. President Akufo-Addo has consistently and repeatedly appealed to Diaspora Ghanaians to take advantage of the strong and vast mineral resource sector, cocoa industry, consistent government policy, oil discoveries, steady power supply, friendly business environment and a free trade zone for foreign companies. With Nana Addo and his effective ministers in place, Ghana will definitely be a country to beat in future.

There are certain types of businesses that can easily be managed profitably by diaspora Ghanaians. The first is waste management. Many have gone into this waste management but the filth and garbage keep on mounting and these have overwhelmed the existing companies. Moreover, there are so many towns and villages whose wastes are still not managed. Diaspora Ghanaians can seize the opportunity to start waste management companies in Ghana. Telecommunications is also another business that can be looked at. There are several branches under telecommunication. One can specialize in the repair of mobile phones and the sale of accessories. Ghana is in need of such services across the entire country especially if one can combine these with effective distribution of internet to homes and offices.

Agriculture and food production is one of the best options for Ghanaians abroad. Everyone is aware that food is an irreplaceable need in our daily lives. The demand for farm products keeps on increasing and anyone who goes into food production is sure of an unending demand. In addition to food, one could also go into teak plantation which also generates money when harvested. The products on the farm can easily spark off a food processing factory. Indeed Ghana is waiting for entrepreneurs and investors. Nana Addo’s arms are open to receive and financially support abroad Ghanaians who present feasible project proposals.

There are several businesses in Ghana and as Ghana continues to enjoy a serene political climate in a true democracy, diaspora Ghanaians who decide to return home will discover to their joy that apart from fund support which will readily be available, they will be exposed to more ideas in the oil sector, estate management, service industry, education and many more. Indeed the progress and the positive achievements that will be made by Nana Addo and his NPP government lie within the womb of time.

By  Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Ghanaians Tortured and Killed in Arab Countries

When Gadhafi was president, Libya was one of the preferred and favourite place for Ghanaians, not only because it was easy to get a job but also because Libya was a gateway to Southern Europe. Things have changed a lot after Gadhafi’s overthrow and death. Most Africans now run the risk of being killed in Libya.  These past years, some travel agencies have lured innocent boys and girls to travel to some Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon, with the promise of receiving office jobs, factory jobs, driving top executives etc. With massive unemployment in Ghana, the offers look attractive. But those who travel to those countries realize that the persons who accompany them there have sold them into slavery. They hand them over to agents and receive the total amount in exchange for these innocent Ghanaians. Most of them are girls who are sold further to become maids or house-helps. This is where all their problems and frustrations begin.

Once in the homes of their masters and mistresses they work several hours most often with little or no salaries. The intention is to make them work to make up for the amount they paid to buy them from the agents. They are treated as slaves in the various households in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon. The hardship and torture these girls go through are very serious and regrettable issues that have flooded the social media. The audios and videos appearing on social media in recent times are heartrending. They are helpless and urgent cries for help. The narration of the hardship and torture these Ghanaian girls are going through are brutal and shocking. Ghanaians are not alone in this. There are other Africans in similar situations. Many have lost their lives.

One particular audio that will send shivers down the spine of anyone, is a calamitous narration from a Ghanaian girl in Saudi Arabia. She looked through the kitchen window and found to her utter dismay, fear and shock, that the maid in a neighbouring house was hanged on a ceiling with her own sponge by the master of the house. Before her unfortunate and untimely death, she had spoken to the narrator on a mobile phone. According to the narrator, both husband and wife were driving out so the maid in the house had to rush out of the kitchen to open the gate for them to go. She went back to the kitchen. Meanwhile the three children in the family, walked towards the gate. The youngest child put her fingers between the gates in an attempt to open it. The older child saw this and quickly banged the gate, smashing her little fingers inadvertently, breaking the little bones in her fingers. This incident precipitated the hanging of the Ghanaian maid.

In another extremely strange, horrifying and sad incident which happened in Kuwait, the maid had forgotten the rice to burn on the stove. The man and his wife were highly infuriated when they saw the burnt rice. They locked the maid in a room for two days without food. The girl managed to escape through the window and reported the issue to the police. The police called the family to report to the police station. Surprisingly, the girl was handed back to the man and his wife to take her home. When they arrived home they beat her severely and hanged her with her own net sponge. When she finally died, they cut her into pieces and packed the remains in a sack and threw it away. How wicked! In another development, a maid who was serving a family in Lebanon, refused to listen to the instructions of her host family because she had not been paid for a year. They tied her hands and legs and poured hot water on her. Does this Ghanaian maid deserve this?

The government is fully aware of the inhuman treatment being meted out to Ghanaians who are lured to seek greener pastures in the Arab countries. Action is being taken to track down the agents who sell these girls into slavery.  Right now as I write, one of these so-called agents has been arrested with five innocent girls in Madina in Accra as he attempted to smuggle them to Saudi Arabia. They all had in their possession Ghanaian passports with Saudi Arabian visa. This has been a very lucrative business for the agents because they charge the girls a certain amount, and they still receive payments from the Arab agents when they hand over the girls to them.

These girls go through sexual abuse and physical mutilation in the very houses where they work and these abuses can become daily occurrences. Very often these girls are locked in the house with no chance of seeing the sun. Such girls have no access to radio and no way to communicate with the outside world. So assuming the government of Ghana brings an aeroplane to take the girls back, many of them may not even be aware of such an opportunity. Such girls die and no one hears about it. A Kenyan girl was lynched by the master and mistress of the house. Quite surprisingly, the master of the house called the Kenyan embassy to report that the girl had hanged herself. The ambassador ordered the body to be flown to Kenya for autopsy and burial.

I want to suggest few solutions to this problem. The first solution is that the Foreign Affairs ministry must send strong directives to the ambassadors of those Arab countries in Ghana not to give visas to agents who come to them with passports belonging to other people. Also travel agents who are involved in this slave trade business must be fished out, arrested and jailed. The ministry of information must launch a campaign towards warning Ghanaians of the dangers in travelling to find non-existent jobs. The ministry must do this aggressively through the mass media (newspapers, radio and television) and social media. Lastly, to the government of Nana Akufo-Addo, please heed to the cries of Ghana’s innocent youths who are suffering and wailing in the Arab lands where hundreds die needlessly.

Is Mecca not in Saudi Arabia? Is it not considered a holy place where Muslims from all walks of life, both black and white, go on a religious pilgrimage? Then why this double standard on part of the Arabs? Why the hatred for African workers? Will help ever come from the Ghana government? Time will tell.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

Captain Mahama’s murder and the hypocrisy of Ghanaian society

State funerals are events usually reserved for really important figures in Ghanaian society such as heads of state, but on Friday that honour was bestowed upon a murdered young soldier named Captain Maxwell Mahama, with the event broadcasted nationally and watched by Ghanaians worldwide online. So what did the young soldier do to deserve such an honour? Did he give his life protecting others? No. He was given the honour of state burial because he was brutally murdered by a mob who mistook him for an armed robber.

Captain Mahama and his family

Now Captain Mahama is not the first person to have been accused of armed robbery and then subsequently murdered. In Ghana, an accusation like that usually carries a swift death sentence at the hands of a mob if the police are not at hand. And this is also NOT the first time pictures or videos have surfaced on social media depicting what I’ve described above. Mob justice in Ghana has a long history. As a young child I remember people running out with sticks and stones and whatever they could use as weapons when they heard kronfour! (thief). Whether you were guilty or not made scant difference. A painful death is certain if the police do not intervene, and when they do intervene, in most cases it is to recover a dead body.

Like many Ghanaians, I was enraged when I heard and saw what had happened to the captain. That someone had been murdered again by a baying mob in such a brutal manner and wondered how long such atrocities would go on in the country. But I would later feel conflicted by the blatant hypocrisy I was witnessing in the aftermath of Captain Mahama’s murder, and this is why – the media attention that the murder garnered, and Ghanaians’ reaction to it. It seems like Ghanaians couldn’t comprehend that something so terrible should happen to a man who was serving his country. Especially one with a wife and two young kids. In fact, pictures of Mahama’s family were heavily circulated on social media and across national media platforms in Ghana, as if to drive home the horror of what had befallen the captain. Numerous GoFundMe pages were set up to raise money for his young family left behind, and the Ghanaian government not only posthumously promote Mahama to Major but they also set up a GH¢500,000 trust fund to look after his family, with the president of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo publicly donating GH¢50,000 of his own money to the trust fund.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic response but what I was conflicted with was the fact

President Akufo-Addo signs Mahama’s book of condolence

that other victims of mob justice in Ghana never received this kind of celebrity attention, generosity and sympathy from the media and the wider Ghanaian public. How many times have we seen pictures and videos on social media of people who were lynched in Ghana because they were suspected of being thieves? Did we care about those people? Did the media give those victims and their family any publicity to highlight their tragedy? Who circulated pictures of the families who were robbed of their loved ones? Where are their GoFundMe pages? Where are the trust funds from the government to help take care of the families they left behind? In fact two days after the murder of Captain Mahama, a man was also set upon and beaten to death by a mob in Krono Odumasi in the Ashanti region. His crime? He was suspected of stealing a mobile phone! Who cried for this man? Where was the media outcry and the public outrage over his death?

It makes one wonder – did Captain Mahama’s death matter more because he was soldier and also a relative to former president Mahama? Is that why there was such a huge public outcry? Then by that reasoning his life was worth more than others who have died at the hands of violent mobs in Ghana. Did those who wept and mourned for him and his family also cry for other victims who had died in the same way previously? Why was he given a state funeral and the countless others weren’t? Were their lives not as important? As he was laid to rest on Friday, his family echoed the publics’ call for a monument to be resurrected in his memory, because in their words, they wanted him to remembered as a hero. But as unpleasant and harsh as the truth might be, Captain Mahama was not a hero. Who did he die protecting? He was an innocent man who was brutally murdered. Yet a monument is be resurrected in his name to remind Ghanaians of that terrible event on May 29th 2017.

If we as Ghanaians are attaching such weight and importance to the death of Captain Mahama, but not to others who have died like him, then what does that say about us as a society? That your death matters only if your someone in society? When have we heard of Ghana police arresting people involved in lynching so quickly? Yet in Captain Mahama’s case those suspected of taking part have been arrested and charged with murder! Why is there justice for Captain Mahama but not for others? Will the proposed monument bear the names of those who have also been violently killed by mobs in Ghana? Had Captain Mahama been an ordinary citizen , would the reaction to his death be the same? The terribly sad answer is probably no.

By Yaa Nyarko  (@yaa_fremah)