Category: Features


Marwako saga: Chef Elijah’s reflections

For the past two weeks radio stations, TV stations, friends, colleagues and pals on social media have been calling and mailing me for my opinion on the Marwako issue, given the fact that I have been working in commercial kitchens since I was 14 years old and have had the opportunity to rise through the ranks of a kitchen cleaner to the manager of commercial kitchens.

Earlier, I had decided to be mute on the issue but now I think sharing my reflections will go a long way to educate people who don’t know what goes into the food they enjoy  in restaurants and hotels within our hospitality industry.

We live in a world today where social media has made it possible for people to easily share their sympathy for the problems of humanity  with the touch of their mobile devices. Flood explosion at Circle and  social media  is flooded with millions of  sympathies and solutions. Someone commits suicide and we share sympathies till another thing happens. This and many other  social issues that society face will always trend on social media. Social media is a good tool for us to express our emotions but we must remember that there is life beyond social media and it is called “reality”.

Our world today  needs people who will step into the problems and pains of our world to offer solutions rather than stand outside of the problems .We have tried sympathy for so many years, now let’s try empathy.

There is this secrecy pact most chefs and cooks can identify with. “What happens in the kitchen stays in kitchen.” Right from the day I took the job of a kitchen cleaner in  Lagos, Nigeria at  the age 14 years, I  became familiar with  flying plates, knives, forks, pepper and all kinds of things in a kitchen.

I remember a particular Sunday night –  I was in a rush to go home to prepare for school on Monday and in my haste threw away the sauce my headchef had prepared. He insulted and threw plates at me, and at that poin  I started crying and shouted out “do you think if my mummy was alive, I would be a cleaner here whiles my mates are in school?” Did my chef care? No, but the following day he invited me to his office and apologizes for his actions because I reacted to his actions immediately and that was how he became the mentor who helped me to realize my potential as a scientist in cooking. How many Ghanaian vocational schools teach the realities of commercial kitchens? “You don’t prepare an antelope for a battle and put it into the midst of lions in a jungle.”

I never understood why chefs and kitchen supervisors across the world are so heartless until I became a Sous Chef at Chase Restaurant in 2011. The pressure and silent psychological trauma that the profession came with can turn -45 degrees to 20 degrees in 5 minutes.

Away from the kitchen, I am the Elijah you know but back in the kitchen I’m a different kind of creature. All chefs and cooks are synonymous with that law of nature. The pressure of ensuring consistency in food quality to beat competition from other hospitality companies, meeting your monthly G.P on food costing to ensure profitability, dealing with the failures of ingredient suppliers, dealing with staff  problems, buying and maintaining very expensive kitchen equipments, meeting health and safety standards in the kitchen are a few of the many hurdles kitchen managers have to deal with daily.  In an attempt to address the stress, employers will tell you that is why you get two day’s off work every week to overcome the stress, but that is not enough

Management and customers  will not accept any of this as a excuse if there’s problem with the food they ordered. Most times chefs have had to sleep over in the kitchen to be on top on issues  and that is why most chefs turn to smoking, drugs and alcohol as a way of  overcoming stress.

This is why some hotels and restaurants in Ghana will go the extra mile to bring in expatriate chefs to manage their kitchens with the perception that local chefs can’t handle the pressures in a kitchen.  I remember while serving as secretary of the Greater Accra Chefs Association, I suggested at a  tourism forum that Ghana Tourism Authority should help the association to have a counseling unit that works with hospitality companies to support kitchen staffs to overcome pressures associated with the profession.

Punishing the management and supervisor of Marwako as a deterrent will not bring to an end the occurrence of kitchen manager’s “boiling over their staff” incidence in the hospitality industry. It happens in every hospitality company across the world. In regards to this issue what I think all stakeholder’s within the hospitality industry in Ghana should do are as follows:

–          Chefs, cooks, kitchen staffs and managements of hospitality companies in Ghana should come out and accept that it is a problem that happens in the profession and form a consensus towards addressing it

–          The Ghana Tourism Authority and Ghana Tourism Federation should work with the Chefs Association of Ghana and other stakeholder’s within the hospitality industry to establish an anger and emotional management unit that gives training to people who work in the industry

–          Management of hospitality companies in Ghana should allow their kitchen staff especially young cooks and chefs to join and attend programs and training of the Chefs Association of Ghana

–          Ghana Tourism Authority and it’s partners should make it compulsory for all expatriates who intend to work in commercial kitchens in Ghana to register with the Chefs Association of Ghana as members in order for them to be giving  support and training on working with Ghanaians.

–          Stress management in Africa should be a core principal focus of all stakeholder’s in society

 By Chef Elijah Amoo Addo

‘My Ghana’ – a refelctive poem on Ghana’s 60 year journey

6 March is here again, and with Ghana celebrating 60 years of independence today, many of us will undoubtedly at some point pause to reflect on how far our motherland has come, and where we are heading.

There are many who view Ghana as the beacon of Africa, but despite being recently classed as a middle-income country, several years of mismanagement by corrupt government leaders has propelled many Ghanaians into difficulties. Unemployement among the youth stands at 48%, the public debt stock stands at 73.3% of GDP and almost 9 million Ghanaians live below the poverty line.

These are just a few things that Jones Awuah touches on in ‘My Ghana’, a poem reflecting on Ghana’s 60 year journey since 1957. Have a listen below:

Ibrahim Mahama presents a portrait of Ghana at his first exhibition in London

The Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, 29, has joined White Cube in London. He is the first artist born and based in Africa signed by the gallery. His arrival follows the departure of the British duo Jake and Dinos Chapman, who left White Cube earlier this month after 20 years with the gallery to join Blain Southern, and shows the continuing internationalisation of the White Cube roster.

The memory of objects

Mahama’s debut exhibition at White Cube, and his first solo show in the UK, opened to the public on 28th February. It includes five wall hangings made from the jute sacks which are used to transport goods in Ghana. Their history illustrates the complex trade networks of the global economy and post-independence Ghana.

Made in Bangladesh and India, the sacks are imported to Ghana and used to move cocoa beans, one of

Ibrahim Mahama, Crop Estate (2016) (Image: © the artist. Photo © White Cube (George Darrell))

the country’s leading exports, to the ships which will transport them to international markets. Because cocoa beans are a fragile luxury export, the sacks will move the product first and only once. They are then used multiple times to take crops such as rice, millet and maize around the country for domestic consumption. Finally, they are used to shift coal. Mahama and his collaborators acquire the sacks at the end of their working life, sewing them together to create massive tapestries which the artist has draped over buildings in Ghana such as theatres, museums, luxury apartments, and social housing projects, among others, and abroad (for the 2015 Venice Biennale he covered two external walls of the Arsenale with 300-metre-long hangings).

On some of the wall pieces at White Cube, Mahama has also added fragments of the tarpaulin which is first used to cover food transport trucks in Ghana and then recycled to protect metal objects such as engines. In another tapestry he has added discarded leather seat covers from trains, alluding to the deterioration of the railways in post-independence Ghana.

“I’m interested in looking at the artistic and political implications of these materials. What happens when you pick several different objects from different places with specific histories and memories and put them together to form a new object?” Mahama asks.

Shoe repairmen

Another cycle of work focusses on the wooden boxes used by shoe repairmen in Ghana to hold their tools. Working with a team of collaborators around the country, Mahama has assembled thousands of these boxes, exchanging them for new ones built by his assistants. At White Cube, Mahama has constructed a massive wall out of these boxes, carefully slotting them together with no external supports. Every time the piece is dismantled and re-assembled elsewhere, its “composition will change,” explains the artist.

Ibrahim Mahama, Diesel Room. Non Orientable Nkansa. Sekondi Locomotive station 1901-2030 (2016) (Image: © Ibrahim Mahama Photo: Ibrahim Mahama)

The boxes contain a multitude of objects such as the original tools used to repair shoes and the slippers worn by the repairmen to do their work as well as new objects inserted by Mahama’s assistants, for example, old issues of the Economist magazine. “The wall contains a narrative of post-independence society,” explains the artist, and deals with issues such as political crises and gentrification: many of the boxes were originally made with materials found on building sites or in houses slated for demolition to make way for new developments. “A lot of residues come out of those spaces,” says the artist.

“The boxes represent the failure of a system, a failure we haven’t yet acknowledged. The structures of global capitalism shift things such as the cosmopolitan life of the city and the structures that are built around it.” Now they have a new life as a work of art in a high-end gallery. “The potential of these structures when you look at them beyond the chaos and the crisis is also interesting,” says the artist.

Also on display are archival photographs of a paint factory set up by the Ghanaian State, then privatised

Ibrahim Mahama, Exchange Exchanger (still), (2013-16) (Image:
© the artist. Courtesy White Cube)

in the 1990s, and later abandoned. Mahama found the images in the factory when he set up a studio there for the shoe box project. Also at White Cube, a two-screen film shows the installation of Mahama’s massive jute-sack tapestries on buildings such as the National Theatre in Accra. Drone footage surveys the sites from above while hand-held cameras follow Mahama’s collaborators as they laboriously carry the massive objects up to the roof.

This ongoing project has often been compared to the work of “wrap” artist Christo. But, Mahama finds the comparison lazy. “You can’t reduce art just to aesthetics and what you see. There is a deeper, political meaning to it.”

Ibrahim Mahama: Fragments is at White Cube Bermondsey until 13 April

Article via The Art Newspaper

Victims of Necessity: The Kayayei & The Sexual Health Minefield

There is a saying that starts off by claiming ‘necessity compels a butcher to kill a cat’. For many underprivileged girls from Ghana’s Northern region, necessity has pushed them to leave their homes to head for the bright lights of the cities – a move they have theorised would give them a better shot at life. And yet, for many that move turns out to be a case of necessity fuelling a jump from frying pan into fire. Necessity powering a jump into a situation of increased stress and pain for negligible gain, a situation of homelessness and vulnerability. In Accra, over 50,000 such stories roam the streets. These young ladies are called Kayayei.

The term ‘Kayayei’ (a conjugation of the Hausa word ‘Kaya’ which means load/burden and the Ga description of females as ‘Yei’) is a term which describes groups of young women who traditionally have migrated from a rural community to one of Ghana’s urban hotspots in search of work and better employment prospects. These women tend to be used for manual labour, as porters exploited to carry goods to and from markets and lorry parks in Ghana’s cities.

Despite their desire for better prospects, they often work in poor conditions, for minimal income. asfafaMigration from home usually means a young girl finds herself propelled into a new surrounding without her community ties, cut off from the channels of family assistance which may have otherwise helped to support her. This lack of support leads to many Kayayei sleeping on the streets, despite having largely migrated from the North in search of a better life.

It is this precarious lifestyle, this tragedy of circumstances, which leaves many of the Kayayei vulnerable to the vagaries of urban life. Without a roof over their heads, many are taken advantage of. Studies and investigations have regularly found these young ladies vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence. Some inevitably fall pregnant, while some contract STIs. The urban dream quickly descends into a metropolitan nightmare for many of the Kayayei, creating a situation which is a black mark on the fabric of a country which can pride itself on being one of West Africa’s success stories when it comes to contraception and female reproductive rights…

1268589_546764448712806_163300384_oAs pregnancy takes you out of the earning game, many resort to underground illegal abortions in an attempt to preserve their earning potential. Others take matters into their own hands, by attempting self-termination using various concoctions and items such as herbal mixtures for oral ingestion, leaf insertion into the vagina or even drinking things such as detergent or a solution of ground glass mixed with sugar. Reading that would have made you wince, thus removing any surprise you may have otherwise felt when you hear a director of a Kayayei association claimed approximately 25 Kayayei died from unsafe abortions between January and July 2016. That is 25 too many in 21st century Ghana.

Those are just the reported numbers – how many more have died anonymously and mysteriously due to unsafe abortions, or as victims of sexual assault? In a country where maternal mortality remains a monumental problem, the lack of protection of this community and the lack of education leads to risky behaviours and even riskier consequences. Many do not have the financial means, or the educational background, to appropriately deal with the card they have been dealt in this world. Dina, a 27-year-old Kayayei in Accra, told VICE’s women’s interest channel Broadly, “I have had so many abortions and I did all eight on my own. You feel severe pain when you take the medicine. One time I felt like dying, my body was so weak, I couldn’t move and I lost so much blood I thought I would die. I am too afraid to tell anyone when I’m pregnant so there was no medical attention.”

Though Kayayei life remains arduous, there are still hopeful signs for one of Ghana’s most marginal marie-stopes-international-photo-story-body-image-1477061187female communities. Marie Stopes International, a reproductive health charity, is working with the Kayayei community in Accra to provide contraception, education on sexual health, and family planning advice, as well as HIV/AIDS treatment and gender-based violence support. For Kayayei like Gifty, the support has been invaluable. “I said to myself that this will change my life and it has. I had a five-year implant fitted,” she said.“Now I can take care of my existing children.”

Another initiative Marie Stopes International has piloted involves holding weekly community-based shows which help inform the Kayayei about their rights, while offering education on contraception and the need for testing for sexually-transmitted diseases. The Ghana Police Service’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) has also begun to meet Kayayei informally via small group discussions, to encourage the reporting of violent crime in their community and educate them on their rights.

Education is power, and it is this sentiment which seems to be the most effective way of helping the Kayayei take back control of their destinies and make the most of their current situation. The outlook may be bleak – but collaborations between this forgotten community and organisations with the resources to make a difference, can help make that outlook brighter. Bringing the issues of this marginalised group to the forefront will help towards Ghana meeting the new development goals. Many find themselves in this community not by way of desire, but by way of necessity. For this group of hardworking young ladies, access to contraception and adequate support will not only save lives, but it can form some sort of foundation which can help give them a better chance at building a better future. And that’s something every single woman in Ghana deserves. This is a right which the government should recognise as a necessity.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Why Are People from Volta Region Called Number 9?

The Ashantis go by the accolade Kotoko (the porcupine). They gained this accolade due to their military power and effective strategy in fighting wars since 1701. Their assertive claim that if a thousand Ashantis are annihilated in war, a thousand more will come to replace those decapitated (wokum apem a, apem beba), likened the Ashantis to the porcupine which releases its sharp long quills or spines and gets replaced almost immediately. Interestingly the Nzimas also call themselves Kotoko but the reason behind it may probably not be the same as that for the Ashantis.

This article will discuss why Voltarians are called “Number 9”.

At independence, Ghana was divided into seven administrative regions: Ashanti, Central, Eastern, Northern, Upper, Volta and Western. Brong Ahafo was the first region created after independence. It was carved out of the Ashanti Region in 1958. Anyone who went to school in the 60s and 70s will remember that Ghana had only eight regions. Yet Volta Region, which had existed since independence, was called “Number 9”. PNDCL 26 created Greater-Accra as a region on its own on 23rd July 1982. Greater-Accra, became the ninth region of Ghana. Yet the Volta Region retained its nickname of “Number 9”.

The youngest regions in Ghana are the Upper-West and Upper East which were created when the then Upper Region was divided into two by the PNDC government in 1983. Of course, the Volta Region continued to be called “Number 9”.

When Brong-Ahafo Region was created in 1958, it left the Ashanti Region completely “landlocked” within Ghana. The region has no borders with the outside world. Some observers say it was a deliberate ploy by Kwame Nkrumah to make it impossible for the Ashanti State, the heartland of the “matemeho” movement and congenital opponents of the CPP, from ever seceding from Ghana. When Greater-Accra region was created, it left the Eastern Region also “landlocked” within Ghana as it lost its sea border. It is, thus, only the Ashanti and Eastern Regions that share no borders with the outside world.

But how and why did the Volta Region get the nickname by which some people still call it? The well-

Wli Falls in the Volta region

Wli Falls in the Volta region

known fact must again be stated that the nickname “Number 9” is almost always used in a derogatory sense even if it is often said more as a joke than as a serious insult. The people of the region do not call themselves that and it is obvious they do not quite take much delight in being called so.

The derogatory connotation of the Volta nickname may come from it carrying a certain sense of “lateness”. This sense is reinforced by the fact that the region is made largely (but not completely) of the erstwhile Trans-Volta Togoland (TVT) which, until December 1956, was really not an integral part of the Gold Coast. Of the four entities that constituted modern Ghana, the TVT was the last to be formally joined to the Gold Coast (that became Ghana) even though the territory had long been administered by the British from their Accra seat as part of their Gold Coast “possession”.

It wouldn’t matter if the lateness denoted just that – lateness. But “Number 9” carries a sense of backwardness even though the region doesn’t come last on a range of important metrics. It is not the last region to be created, it is not the smallest region, it does not have the smallest population, and it does not have the lowest literacy rate. It does not come last in an alphabetic ordering of the regions of the county. Yet the nickname persists.

A second reason one can hear for the “Number 9” is that, until new codes were introduced in 2010, Volta Region’s code was 09. If you lived outside the region, you dialled 09 to get to the region. But this reason does not seem true. In the 60s, not many people had access to telephones and it is unlikely the region could be identified by its telephone code. Moreover, it is a bit difficult to assign a derogatory connotation to a region because of its telephone code number.

First Miss Ghana Monica Amekoafia

First Miss Ghana Monica Amekoafia

How did the “Number 9” come about? The reason is actually simple and one which, at a time, the people of the region would have been proud of. The first ever Miss Ghana competition was held on 4th March 1957, two days before our independence. It may have been conducted as part of our independence anniversary activities. The candidate representing the TVT (Volta Region), which had by then become an integral part of the new nation, had the identification number 9. Miss Monica Amekoafia, then 22 years old from Alavanyo in the Volta Region, and representing her region carrying lap number 9, went on to win the entire competition and was crowned as the first ever Miss Ghana. Ghana did not have television then (it wouldn’t come until 1964) and only those present at the function or listening to the radio (if it was broadcast live), would have seen or heard the announcers calling the Volta Region candidate by her lap number. The following day, the newspapers may have carried pictures of the candidates and their regions and their lap numbers.

People may have talked about the contest for days even as they still do today for “Ghana’s Most Beautiful”. Volta Region became identified with “Number 9”. If Ghanaians welcomed the TVT as part of Ghana, there might have been a lot of goodwill around. It was a time we all identified ourselves as Ghanaians. The tribalism we see today was virtually non-existent then. Those who then called Volta Region “Number 9” wouldn’t have done so for any diabolical reasons. That would come later on…

Today, there are still a few misconceptions about the Volta Region. The most serious is the one

districts in the Volta region

districts in the Volta region

which identifies the region with the erstwhile TVT. Today’s Volta Region is not identical with the former German colony of Togoland that the British took over in 1916. The CPP government made sure of that. Take a good look at the regional map of Ghana. The coastal areas of the Volta Region consisting of Anloga, Keta, Aflao, Denu and going up to Peki, Tsibu, Awudome, etc. were never part of the German colony of Togoland but are, today, parts of the Volta Region. These areas had been part of the Gold Coast since about the 1850s. Further north, parts of the present day Northern and Upper East regions were part of the erstwhile TVT but are not, today, part of Volta Region. The CPP government simply took the erstwhile TVT and divided it into several regions and added parts of the erstwhile Gold Coast to some of these regions. Just like in the case of the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions, there may have been some strategic reasons behind this move. Today, the erstwhile TVT can be found in three different regions. How can they succeed in seceding?

If you look at the map of the erstwhile TVT, you will notice that its southern border is a straight line just below Ho. This is one more evidence of the saying that in the scramble for Africa, the colonial powers used “ruler and pencil” to carve out Africa among themselves. The borders of the erstwhile TVT cut the Ewes in two “by heart”. That was why areas like Peki, Tsibu and even Kpeve, whose Ewe likens that of the “northern Ewes” found themselves in the Gold Coast whereas nearby Ho found itself in German Togoland.

German Togoland included the whole of Togo and the erstwhile TVT. The Germans colonized it for some 25 years until the First World War when the British and the French pushed them out of the area as part of their war effort. They then divided the area between themselves. The British administered their part from the Gold Coast.

After the Second World War, the UN mandated the area as a trust territory for the British to look over.

Akosombo Dam in the Volta region

Akosombo Dam in the Volta region

They called it Trans Volta Togoland and added it to the Gold Coast, though as a separate entity. When Gold Coast independence was imminent, the British informed the UN they would not be able to continue administering the territory after Gold Coast became free. It was then that the controversial plebiscite was held and the people of the TVT voted to become part of the Gold Coast and formally did so in December 1956 in time for independence in March 1957. The French, however, continued to administer the French Togoland until they were forced to grant it independence in 1960.

Number 9 has been repeated by Ghanaians till today to refer to Voltarians in a derisive and derogatory manner. Those who say it, see Voltarians as backward and the 9th and last region of Ghana. It is often said that when a lie is repeated continuously it gains an element of truth. People have either refused or are unwilling to accept or learn the history of “Number 9”. The Bible states that for lack of knowledge my people perish.

Today, there is a poorly maintained statue of Miss Monica Amekoafia (now deceased) in front of the Post Office in Hohoe in the Volta Region. It commemorates her victory in the beauty pageant of 1957. I wonder how many of Hohoe’s citizens who pass by this statue every day know that it is the young lady’s victory in the year of our independence that is the cause of their region being called “Number 9”.

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

An Afrobeats Poem- Wake Us Up!

Copyright(c) 2016 Adwoa Asiedu

 

Can you hear the sound of the African drum?

Beating ever so loud, dying to be heard.

Can you feel the rhythm of the night?

The old has gone, new melodies have come.

New songs will be sung,

Can you see people being set free?

Thy sweet romance finally breaking out.

And will spread like flames of fire.

Once we were kept in the dark,

Today is a different story, we’re now in the light.

Leading the way for others to come.

Wake us up!

For we have been sleeping for too long.

Wake us up!

Consume us so we can take our positions.

As Kings and Queens.

By Adwoa Asiedu (@AdwoaAsiedu777)

 

Ineffective and incompetent leadership in Ghana, result in a weak, non-performing institutions

All the leaders who have ruled Ghana, apart from the military dictators, had university degrees. All of them either lived or studied abroad. The current president, John Dramani Mahama, for example, attended Achimota College and Ghana Secondary School in Tamale where he obtained the Ordinary and Advanced level certificates respectively. He continued to the University of Ghana where he got his first degree in History. He further did a post-graduate course in Communications at the School of Communication Studies at the University of Ghana. He travelled to Moscow where he pursued a post-graduate degree in Social Psychology. I have taken time to describe the prestigious education of our president and his travel experience. He is not alone in this. All our former leaders had similar experiences and education abroad. They all returned to Ghana with certificates to commit crime and corruption against the state, while rendering the ordinary Ghanaians poor, unemployed and miserable.

 

galamseyAll the leaders that have come and gone and the present government are guilty for not attending to the problem of illegal mining. This appalling and condemnable practice has gone on for many years. Illegal miners and people around the mining areas dig up holes and search through the sand to gather gold and sell. “Gather them and sell” gradually became known as “Galamsey.” There are serious problems connected with galamsey which call for the government’s attention. Either due to deliberate lack of interest or pure, active and selfish interests and gains in the galamsey business, the government has either chosen to keep quiet or done little to stop the offenders. The reason for my argument is that, any serious government can easily relegate galamsey into the abyss of forgetfulness, by sending the military into all the areas where galamsey is taking place, chasing them out and seizing their machines. This action must continue for only a month and galamsey will die a natural death. What is happening is that this illegal mining is destroying water bodies which the people living in the surrounding villages depend on as a source of drinking water.

The situation has worsened with the influx of Chinese into the country who are getting actively 4249901896446_5495566304152involved in the illegal mining business. Apart from the destruction and contamination of water bodies that serve as sources of drinking water, there are other problems connected with galamsey. The gaping holes have become traps killing children and adults alike. The Chinese brought complex machines to the forest and destroyed cocoa farms in the areas they operated. Many farmlands belonging to the residents were taken away and sold to the Chinese for galamsey purposes. Foodstuffs and cash crops are being destroyed at random. Despite protests and demonstrations, no leadership in government has ever planned and released a permanent solution to the problem. If a solution was found, the farmers would congratulate the government rather than the daily wailing and moaning.

 

Due to lack of control, measures and unwillingness to wipe out galamsey from the system, the illegal mining has moved to another dangerous level. In Konongo in the Ashanti Region, the residents believe that many houses have been built in areas where they assume the ground is rich in gold. You will not believe this: galamsey has now moved to houses. Many halls and bedrooms of houses in Konongo have been dug and dynamited, all because they want to gather gold and sell. Neighbours are horrified by the noise created by these dynamites. The local authority look on helpless and unconcerned with no desire or power to abate the nuisance. The leadership of this country can easily stop galamsey, but will they?

Many commissions and organisations that are supposed to be agents for change, development and industrialisation have all become white elephants. This is all because our governments are not eager to implement the results of research by certain institutions and organisations in order to speed up development and progress. In Finland for example, the use of bicycles during summer is an obsession. One out of five persons you meet has a bicycle. These bicycles are parked in hundreds in the cities especially near underground stations. Very often many of them are stolen. This created a serious problem for the citizens. A Master’s degree student took upon himself and wrote his thesis on how the government and the municipal authorities could provide bicycles near subway stations describing in detail how this system could work. The government and the metropolitan authorities studied the thesis and approved it. Today you don’t need to have your own bicycle. You only slot your travel card and a bicycle is ready for your use. Alarm will sound very hectically if after three hours the bicycle is not returned to the nearest subway station. This is what I call positive and unselfish thought by leadership to the masses. This system can also be found in many cities in Europe who have also researched into the benefits. What are our leaders doing with all the research works that are gathering dust in archives of forgetfulness? The cost of research is expensive and time consuming and therefore due to government’s unwillingness to implement these research findings and results, many research-proven academicians like engineers, medical officers, lawyers, statisticians and pharmacists have given up and many have found their way into parliament where the salary is much better.

 

Council_for_Scientific_and_Industrial_Research_–_Ghana_logoThe Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a science and technology research centre which has several institutes operating under its umbrella. The most important of them is Food Research Institute (FRI). The main task of this institute is to provide technical, analytical services, contract research and consultancy services to governmental agencies, micro-medium and multinational agro-food processing industries and international development agencies. Yet we don’t see Ghanaian food products, but West Indian bananas and coconut, Kenyan tea and cashew nuts flood American, Canadian and European supermarkets. Is the institute interested in research that could increase the lifespan of our farm products in order to make them attractive for export and is the government even interested in funding a research like this? FRI intends to engage in research that give rise to increased food products with healthy and long life-span and attractive to international markets. When this is done, it will go a long way to strengthening the institute’s goal for providing income security for farmers. There will also be food security and foreign exchange earnings. The institute has good motives but will support for their various research works come soon? Indeed the institute has very nice and heart-warming strategies and plans but when are CSIR or FRI ever going to put any of their research into action for all Ghanaians to see and applaud?

When Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah assumed power as the first president of Ghana, his main vision was to make sure Ghana is powered by atomic energy because he foresaw the dangers that could be posed by the water level of the Akosombo Dam, thereby causing interruption in electricity supply. At least that was one of the reasons he put forward but it became known later that he had secret nuclear technology agenda too. He created a commission to regulate the Ghanaian Atomic energy programme. With Nkrumah’s vision and drive, Ghana had massive nuclear plant_1confidence of bringing the atomic energy Project to a victorious end. Nkrumah always thought ahead and in one of his addresses in 1964, he revealed his intention of going into nuclear technology. He explained that with the erratic supply of energy from hydro and thermal sources, the country must focus on a more reliable means of power generation. To prove his seriousness he put Robert Sogbadji, an expert in charge of nuclear and alternative energy at Ghana’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum. This man had high hopes for the Project because he knew that when it was completed, it was going to be so cheap that we wouldn’t need to pay so much for electricity. The Americans became suspicious of Nkrumah’s nuclear technology plan and all these fine ambitions of 1960 were stalled when Nkrumah was overthrown.

 

After Nkrumah’s exit, none of the leaders who came after him even talked about atomic or nuclear energy as an alternative source for the erratic power supply that has hung permanently on our heads like the sword of Damocles. Those leaders who talked about atomic energy could not do anything about their plans. The atomic energy commission is no longer remembered or considered by any Ghanaian leader as a potential source of energy. Sadly enough such an important monumental centre is now used to denote a junction: Atomic Junction. Are our children learning anything? If it is the intention of governments to break every institution including Atomic energy commission, no matter what they do, Ghana will continue to remain in Dumsor.

 

made-in-ghanaPresident Mahama, in one of his addresses, announced that it is both important and necessary for Ghana’s industrial growth, if we patronised “made in Ghana goods.” To show how serious he was with the campaign, he began to wear Ghanaian traditional jumpers and boubou and admonished his ministers to do the same. He revived the shoe factory in Kumasi and promised that made in Ghana boots would be made for soldiers and the police and even school children would get their shoes. It was everyone’s wish that the president will continue this noble agenda. It turned out to be wishful thinking, a nine day wonder and a mere propaganda! Ghanaians woke up one day to find out that the president had bypassed local industries and carpenters and ordered for parliament seats from China, costing more than 1.5 million dollars. Interestingly those seats began to sag in and anyone who sat in could not easily be seen by the Speaker. The seats had to be replaced and despite public outcry and protests, the president had no regrets and ordered new furniture from the same source.

 

As if to add salt to the injury of Ghanaians he gave a contract to a Burkinabe to build a wall 1.8867529around a plot Ghana has purchased in Burkina Faso and got himself entangled in a scandal dating back to 2012. The president is reported to have received a gift which is undeniably a bribe, of a vehicle costing several thousands of dollars from a Burkinabe contractor. In return Mahama offered him the contract valued at more than 600,000 dollars. A job which a Ghanaian mason or building contractor could have taken less than a tenth of the amount? In the case of the bus branding, the contract had to go to a foreign Company. WHY?

Our leaders have made the job of being a  president so cheap, no doubt illiterates like Akua Donkor and Kumchacha are also vying for similar positions in Ghana. God help Ghana! Our institutions will continue to die and research works will continue to gather dust if our leaders continue to show interest in foreign products.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Pɛpɛɛni, ntaafuo, eblutor and the prejudices we have of each other

A few weeks ago, there was an interesting discussion on Ghanaweb following Charles Agbenu’s article in which he castigated all Ghanaians who regard themselves as not being northerners for looking down on people of “northern extraction” in Ghana. Agbenu’s article was a politically motivated one but the issues it raised concern us all as Ghanaians and the way we think of each other.

One of the points of contention in Agbenu’s article had to do with the true meaning, or otherwise, of the Twi terms PƐPƐƐNI and NTAAFUO. This follows another ghanaweb columnist, Kofi Ata’s argument that the two terms did not, originally, have any negative connotations. Kofi Ata had written an article in which he said his mother had told him that PƐPƐƐNI came about as a result of Akans who perceived Northerners who had come south in search of employment as people who were truthful and did things “pɛpɛɛpɛ” (exactly or fairly). He added that they were referred to as NTAAFUO because they always moved in pairs like twins”.

regions of Ghana

regions of Ghana

Many commentators saw this explanation as very illuminating. This led to a rejoinder to Agbenu’s article that appeared the day after. Kofi Ata’s explanation of how the two terms came about was, indeed, interesting. But it had a few problems. In the first place, there was no way of establishing the fact that what Kofi Ata’s mother told him (Kofi Ata) constituted the unvarnished truth and was, indeed, how the terms came about. Other commentators said their mothers and grandmothers told them different stories. Some said pɛpɛni came about because these migrants were perceived as miserly (“pɛpɛɛnfuo”) and they were called ntaafuo because they bought similar items in the market as you would buy similar dresses for twins. What this shows is that it is only a properly conducted research work that can establish the correct etymology of the terms. The only thing we can be sure of is what their current usages denote in Ghanaian society.

Another fact is that no matter how the terms originated, they came about as nicknames for a group of people who never called themselves by those names. These people, having lived long in their new areas, came to know the names by which their hosts called them. They either did not like these names or did not care. Then there is this thing about nicknames. Even though they can be given to denote positive traits, they are most often given to denote negative traits.

Agbenu Charles also equated the terms “pɛpɛɛni” and “ntaafuo” with what he termed as their

Ewe dancers

Ewe dancers

equivalents in the other major Ghanaian languages. He said the Ewes call Northerners “dzogbedzitor” and the Gas say “senu”. The Ewe commentators went up in arms against Agbenu arguing that the Ewe term was not equivalent to the Akan terms. They said the Ewe term only denotes people who come from the grasslands or Sahara or a dry place and no abusive connotations are involved.

The Akans have a word for Northerners that can be said to be neutral: ESREMFUO (ESREMNI singular). The literal meaning is the same as the Ewe equivalent: people from the grasslands. Nobody who uses the term “esremfuo” can be accused of trying to look down on people from the North unless the person intentionally gives it a twist that makes it so.

The Ga term for Northerners, “Sanu” is said to be the shortened form of the Hausa greeting: “Sanu kede?” (How are you?) It is not, exactly, neutral.

13616_2014_12_MOESM1_ESMThe thing to be noted here is that any term used to denote some other people as different from us can, very easily, degenerate to a notion of “different and inferior”.  This is often so when it is the dominant and more powerful group that is marking the difference. That is why people have fought segregation (separate development) everywhere. And that also explains why the whites who come to live among us in Ghana do not quite like it when we call them “obroni”, “blofo” or “yevu” until they come to realise that we do not mean anything offensive by those terms. Even so, the supposed original meanings of the terms may not exactly be complimentary to the white man. The Twi term “obroni” begun as two words “(a)bro ni” (wicked man) and the Ewe term “a-yevu” means a cunning dog “the one who feigns niceness and bites you”, as Yaa Gyasi puts it in her much praised debut novel (HOMEGOING). I have not been able to find out how the Ga “blofo” came about. But, as with pɛpɛɛni and ntaafuo, the true origins of all these terms may have been lost.

There are other terms we all use to refer to each other whether for good or for bad. In Kumasi, there is Anwona. This is a corruption of the correct pronunciation of Anlo which is beyond most Twi speakers. The “nw” is a nasal sound as in the Twi “anwanwado” (amazing love). It has no negative connotations…

The Ewes call all Twi speakers “eblutorwo”. I have not been able to find out how this term came about. It seems the Ewes themselves don’t quite know how they came to call all Akans “eblutorwo”. If you ask any Ewe if the term is derogatory, they are quick to say it is not. But, again, from the contention of denoting otherness explained above, any term a people use to denote another people can easily degenerate to the regard of those other people as inferior. But, surely, Ewes do not regard Akans as inferior! Or, do they?

“Eblutorwor” seems to be the counterpart of “ayigbefuo” which many Akans will tell you is not

derogatory. Ga legend has it that when they were migrating to the present day Ghana, the chief

Homowo festival of the Ga people

Homowo festival of the Ga people

who had the royal stool in his keeping lost his way and gradually settled in what is now Anecho in present day Togo. When the Gas realised this, they sent emissaries to the “lost tribe” to retrieve the stool. But the chief of the “lost tribe”, known as Ayi, refused to hand over the stool. The emissaries came back to report this as “Ayi gbe” (“gbe” being the Ewe word for “refuse”). They said Ayi said “megbe” (I refuse). The combination of “Ayi” and “megbe” came to be used to refer to Ewes as “ayigbe”. Since the chief refused to hand over something that did not, technically, belong to him, he was said to have stolen it. This gave rise to “ayigbe dzulor” – a negative epithet that clouds all Ewes in the imagination of some non-Ewes. Whether this story is true or not, today, Akans join Gas to call Ewes “ayigbe”. Indeed, and one is more likely to hear “ayigbeni” or “ayigbefuo” than “ayigbenyo”. Perhaps it may be that the Akans, finding it almost impossible to correctly pronounce the word “Ewe”, took to the relatively easier to pronounce “ayigbe” even though the sound produced by “gb”, common in many West African languages, does not naturally occur in Twi.

Today, it is more politically correct to refer to the people of the Volta Region as “Voltarians” in an

Northerners of Ghana

Northerners of Ghana

effort to prevent the mistake of regarding all citizens of the region as Ewes when only about half the population are Ewes. The term also clouds the myriad differences among the Ewes just like pɛpɛɛni and ntaafuo disregard all the differences among the peoples of the three northern regions of Ghana. The use of the term “Anlo-Ewe” to refer to the coastal Ewes does seem to be of recent origin and employed mainly by non-Ewes. The Anlos call themselves “ANLOS” (nothing more) and their fellow Ewes also call them ANLOS (nothing more). Even so, there are still many Akans who think Ewes are a homogeneous group all of who eat “akple and fetri-detsi”. But many Ewes are aware of the broader differences among the Akans – Asante and Fante in particular but also and Kwahu and Akuapem.

An instance of the majority laying claim to what is normal can be found for the term that Akans have for minority (?) languages they do not understand. The people who speak them are said to “potor” and the languages known as “potorkasa”. Some people say the term is not derogatory and refers to all non-Twi languages including even English. Others say there is a derogatory tinge to it as it originally referred to Northerners who had come to Ashantiland and who spoke poor Twi– “wonmo potor kasa no”.

There is an Ewe equivalent, especially among the mid-Volta Ewes. The speakers of the minority languages there (Likpe, Buem, Akpafu, etc) are called “fiafialawo”. These people do not speak: they “fia”. The Ewe term is somewhat derogatory and is not used for major languages like Twi, Ga or English. There is a historical example in the ancient world. The Roman and Hellenic civilisations regarded non-Greek languages as unintelligible. They sounded “baaa baaa” to “civilized” ears. This is how “non-civilized” tribes became known as –  barbarians!

Ashanti Chief at Akwasidae Kese celebrations

Ashanti Chief at Akwasidae Kese celebrations

There are other prejudices the various ethnic groups hold of each other. Akans think Ewes like juju, they have low self-confidence, and they are envious of Akans. Ewes think Akans (especially Asantes) like money too much and like to boast of it. But the Asantes think it is the Kwahus who worship money and will do anything for it. Ewes frown on the display of wealth and will prefer the rich to keep a low profile. Akans say Ewes hide their wealth because they are afraid of being “jujued” by their fellows. The two prejudices fit each other and give rise to some cyclical reasoning. If Ewes dislike the way Akans boast of, and flaunt, their wealth, it stands to reason that they (Ewes) should keep a low profile with their wealth. And if the Akan prejudice about Ewes is that the latter like juju, then the only reason why the Ewe person will not flaunt his wealth is the fear of being done in. Of course, times have changed. Everyone likes material wealth and wants to boast of it when attained. Who lights a lamp and puts it under a bed?

Prejudices, psychologists tell us, are ready made schemas we employ to meet what we do not know. They are normal to the human race and found in all societies. Since they are often formed prior to any supporting evidence, they can lead us astray. It is when we base our behaviour on them that things can go wrong. And using them for political advantage can be detrimental to the effort of building a strong nation that benefits all of us.
By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads.

*I want to express my deepest sense of gratitude to my Ewe friend who provided immense information on the Ewes during the writing of this piece.*

Brexit: the economic impact on Ghana

Brexit is simply, British exit or pull out from the European Union (EU). David Cameron on his campaign for a second term in office promised the electorate that he would initiate a national referendum to determine whether Britain still wanted to be in the EU or leave. Many felt it was a mistake to make such promise since he himself was in favour of EU. A national referendum was called and to Cameron’s disbelief, the British public voted to pull out of the EU. The Prime Minister who was pro-EU has promised to resign in October.

ghana-and-uk-300x290The decision to exit from the EU will impact seriously on the British economy. The result of the referendum has given rise to uncertainty among investors. The world markets reacted sharply with a downward surge. The Asian equity markets also fell. It is too early to predict its impact on the global economy. African countries, especially those in the Commonwealth, will definitely feel the impact on their economies. This article seeks to discuss the economic impact Brexit will have on Ghana.

There are long standing economic ties between Ghana and Britain. Ghana’s Foreign Affairs

Mrs Hanna Tetteh

Mrs Hanna Tetteh

Minister Mrs Hanna Tetteh has affirmed that the pullout of Britain from the EU will affect Ghana in many different ways, including trade with the United Kingdom. The main reason for this is that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United Kingdom would shrink over time, and the economy of UK would become weaker and smaller. Secondly, the British economy would scale back its investment in development projects in Ghana and, of course, in other African countries. Britain is going to be tough with immigration procedures and visa applications for Ghanaians because the population of Ghanaians in the UK is close to half a million.

Britain has been in the EU for more than forty years and her decision to exit after a historic referendum, it is feared, will trigger a domino effect among member countries. Should this happen, the implication and the economic impact on Ghana and other African countries would be significant. Britain would no longer offer full access to traders and investors from Ghana and other Commonwealth countries since the business environment is feared to shrink because in much the same way, Britain will no longer have full access to the lucrative EU market. When this happens, Ghana would have to renegotiate trade and bilateral agreement with UK. Ghana is currently UK’s fifth largest trading partner in Africa with trade between the two countries reaching £1.3billion. Will this continue after Brexit?

gheuGhana’s trade agreement between them and the EU are often negotiated by the European Commission. Ghana has been reaping the benefit of trade, deep integration and socio-economic cooperation with Britain and EU as a whole. With British exit from the EU, Ghana’s trade relations with Britain and the EU will seriously be punctured.  Ghana will have to wait patiently and observe closely what goes on in the EU. It is less likely that the union will disintegrate after Brexit. Ghana will then have to wait and join other African countries in their trade and business negotiations with the European Union and Britain.

It is predicted that there may be attempts by the countries that constitute Britain to disagree with or defy the secessionist move by Britain from the EU. Already Scotland voted in favour of EU membership. Scotland will, therefore, want to maintain their membership.

Many people are complaining that they did not understand all the reasons for the pull out. One student confessed that he took the whole referendum as a joke and voted for the pull-out only to regret later when the reality dawned on him that Britain will no longer be part of the European Union. This student is not the only one who has regretted. Some youth leaders, it is rumoured, are collecting 10,000 signatures to fight against the pull-out. No one can predict whether the entire Britain will regret the pull-out and go back to the EU. Will Brexit finally become Briregret or Regrexit?

There are several reasons that were advanced previously and for so many years by intellectually-_90076860_thinkstockphotos-526561176minded British in favour of a pull-out. Some of the argument put forward was that British sovereignty was being threatened and compromised by EU. Former London Mayor, Boris Johnson and Justice Minister, Michael Gove are of the view that for many decades, the EU has reduced and shifted the amount of growing powers of individual membership states to the EU bureaucracy in Brussels. The two British politicians are also of the view that EU is strangling the UK with rules which they found burdensome.

There are several reasons and arguments for Britain to take a historic decision to leave the union but the reasons are not the main focus of this article. The following argument relates directly to what Ghanaians are likely to experience. The British put forth an argument that they will leave the EU because they will need a rational immigration policy outside the EU. The EU rule requires all member states including Britain to admit all EU citizens to settle in their respective countries whether they have jobs or not, no special skills or no proficiency in the language. Britain is dissatisfied and can no longer tolerate the influx of EU citizens to UK especially those from the newly admitted countries in Eastern Europe.

Seth Terkper

Seth Terkper

Mr. Seth Terkper, Ghana’s Finance minister, has affirmed that Ghana is considering emerging markets for its $750,000 bond. He continued that with Ghana’s experience in the core matured market, the exit of Britain from the EU will severely affect the American and European bond markets. Hence a time is coming when Ghana will have to study other markets to maximize Ghana’s output. The news of Brexit caused a fall in the Asian equity markets and this was largely due to the uncertainty about the impact on the world economy. To where will Ghana turn then?

As Britain’s economy looms large in Europe, all hands of Ghanaian economists and politicians must be on deck to predict or decide when it will be appropriate to hold talks with Britain concerning bilateral trade agreement. We should not forget to do same with the European Union.

By Stephen Atta Owusu

‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi, Born in Ghana and Raised in the U.S.

Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi, whose debut novel sold for at least $1 million last year, was 20 when she stepped into the haunted dungeon of Cape Coast Castle for the first time. It was 2009. She had just completed her sophomore year at Stanford University and was spending the summer in Ghana, the country she left as a toddler.

Her tour guide explained that at the height of the slave trade, British officers—and the black women they married from the Gold Coast—had lived in comfort in the upper chambers of the whitewashed castle. Meanwhile, in the reeking dungeons below, men, women and children waited for the slave ships that would take them across the ocean.

Ms. Gyasi, who is black, snapped a photo of a wooden door that led from the dungeon to the beach. Above it was a sign that said: “Door of No Return.” Suddenly, she felt angry. She had never heard her family talk about the castle, or what it represented.

“It’s conveniently left out that there was this complicity on our side, too,” said Ms. Gyasi, who is now 26 and lives in Berkeley, Calif.

Her debut novel, “Homegoing,” begins with two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana. One marries a British officer and lives with him high in Cape Coast Castle. The other passes through the dungeon below. Sweeping across more than 250 years of history, the book follows the descendants of both sisters—one family in Ghana, the other in America—devoting one chapter to a member of each generation.

The book is due June 7 from Alfred A. Knopf. The publisher is printing 50,000 copies before the release date, a large number for a literary debut novel.

“ ‘Homegoing’ will break your heart over and over…and leave you optimistic and in awe,” Nichole Solga McCown, a bookseller for Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif., wrote in a review for the American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next List.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of last year’s runaway best-seller and National Book Award-winner on race in the U.S., “Between the World and Me,” tweeted: “Finished Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’ yesterday. Thought it was a monster when I started. Felt it was a monster when I was done.”

Ms. Gyasi was born in Mampong, a small town 160 miles north of Cape Coast. She moved to the U.S. at age 2 when her father was working on a Ph.D in French language at Ohio State University. The family moved to Illinois and Tennessee before settling in Huntsville, Ala., the summer she turned 10.

She was a precocious reader, devouring Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë and racing through the young-adult medical dramas of Lurlene McDaniel.

Most of her friends and classmates were white, and, though she didn’t realize it at the time, so were most of the authors she read, both in school and at home. (The Francophone-African texts her father studied didn’t yet interest her.)

“Growing up, one of the things I found most difficult was trying to figure out where I fit in, particularly because while my family is black, obviously we aren’t African-American,” she said. “And because I grew up in predominantly white spaces, I think it could be difficult to figure out how to navigate America’s racial tension.”

When she was a senior in high school, she read her first book by a black woman: “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison.

“It felt as much as a religious calling as you could probably ever get in the secular field,” she said.

She had imagined becoming a writer. Now she was convinced that she could do it. She made an early attempt at writing the book after that 2009 trip to Ghana, but she didn’t begin working on it in earnest until she enrolled at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She wrote without an outline—just a family tree drawn on letter-sized paper, taped to the wall of her apartment.

She had never felt like she quite belonged in either Ghana or the U.S. “A lot of this book stems from…trying to figure out what things connect those two places and how I fit into all of that,” she said.

“Homegoing” is flecked with magic, evoking folk tales passed down from parent to child. One side of the family lives through slavery, Alabama’s convict-leasing system, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance and the heroin epidemic to the present day. On the other side of the Atlantic, the novel explores uncomfortable truths about the participation of Ms. Gyasi’s Fante and Asante ancestors in the slave trade.

The book has structural and thematic similarities to Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 book, “Roots,” and its landmark TV series adaptation starring LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte, a man sold into slavery in 18th-century Gambia. A remake of the “Roots” miniseries adaptation, which traces the family’s history well into the 20th century, is set to air on the History, Lifetime and A&E channels starting Monday.

“It’s ‘Roots’ for the 21st century,” said Ivan Held, president of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, which bid $1 million for “Homegoing” but lost out to Knopf. Ms. Gyasi, knowing that her novel would explore similar territory, said she decided not to read Mr. Haley’s book.

One of her characters is Marjorie, a daughter of Ghanaian immigrants in the U.S. After she is born, Marjorie’s parents mail her dried umbilical cord to her grandmother Akua in Ghana, so the elderly woman can place it in the ocean. Should Marjorie’s spirit start to wander, Akua wants her to know which place is home. At a spot not far from Cape Coast, Ms. Gyasi’s grandmother had done the same for her.

Artcle via Wall Street Journal