The blog.


Diaspora Homecoming Summit 2017

Me Firi Ghana through its youth charity Future of Ghana have been invited on the UK chapter of the global planning committee for Diaspora Homecoming Summit 2017 between the 5-8 July 2017 and we are pushing to ensure the diaspora and young Ghanaians are part of the conversation and aware of such a high level event.

This Summit is being organised in fulfilment of a manifesto pledge by H.E President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, to engage Ghanaians Living Abroad in the transformation of the political and socio-economic structure of Ghana.

The purpose of the Summit is to bring the Ghanaian Diaspora together to dialogue on how to achieve the President’s vision of active participation by Diasporans in the economic development of the country and to fully integrate them into the political processes.

The Summit also aims to attract the full participation of Ghanaians Living Abroad in Private Enterprise by bringing them together with local businesses.

The three day Summit is divided into three areas :

First Day: Entrepreneurial Ghana – Investment opportunities etc

Second Day : Human Resource Marketplace – Employment opportunities etc.

Third Day : Political Inclusion of the Ghanaian Diaspora – Ropal

Fourth Day : Factory Visit and Delegates Dinner

Keynote Speaker:
H.E PRESIDENT AKUFO ADDO, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA

OTHER SPEAKERS INCLUDE:
H.E. Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President.

Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister

Mrs. Charlotte Osei, Chairperson – Electoral Commissioner

Other Ministers, Captains of Industry and Banking.

Leading and Successful Ghanaians Living Abroad and Returnees

The conference itself is FREE. You would only need to pay for breakfast and lunch.

KLM/Air France have come on board as the airline sponsor and offering 15% off flights for those attending conference. So anyone travelling to Ghana around this time can make use of this offer via – http://www.airfrance.fr/FR/fr/local/www_airfranceklm-globalmeetings_com.htm?eid=30718AF

To Register to attend this presitgious summit visit: www.ghanadiasporahs.org

Afrobeat star Sona releases new single ‘GINGER’

Ginger is the newly anticipated single from British-Nigerian Afrobeat musician Sona.

Following the release of his first single of the year, “Story” which was highly received, Sona has officially released the anticipated visuals to his single “Ginger” and as he says “he is ready to ginger”.

Sona released his debut single Summertime in 2013. Following on from this he then resurfaced with a treble release in early 2014 with singles Ijo Sona, No Wahala & Eyy Mama garnering over 2 million streams collectively. Sona also collaborated with Sneakbo on their song ‘Hurt Nobody’ which has almost 2million views.

He has since received massive airplay support from BBC 1Xtra, Capital Xtra and has also been recognized by BETKey UK and African based taste-makers have labelled Sona as a prospect to look out for in the year of 2017.

Check it out below!

Esther Afua Ocloo: Ghana’s inspiring businesswoman

Esther Afua Ocloo launched her entrepreneurial career as a teenager in the 1930s on less than a dollar.

She quickly became one of Ghana‘s leading entrepreneurs and a source of inspiration around the world. Yesterday, on what would had been her 98th birthday, Google dedicated to her a ‘doodle’ illustration.

In addition to her own business, she taught skills to other women and co-founded Women’s World Banking (WWB), a global micro-lending organisation.

On its website, the WWB microlending network says it lends to 16,4 million women around the world, managing a loans portfolio of over $9bn.  Known as “Auntie Ocloo”, Esther dedicated her life to helping others like her succeed.

“Women must know that the strongest power in the world is economic power,” she said in a speech in 1990. You cannot go and be begging to your husband for every little thing, but at the moment, that’s what the majority of our women do.”

How she started

As a high school graduate with only a few Ghanian shillings given to her by an aunt, she bought sugar, oranges and 12 jars to make marmalade jam. Ocloo sold them at a profit, despite the ridicule of her former classmates, who saw her as an “uneducated street vendor“.

Soon she won a contract to supply her high school with marmalade jam and orange juice, and later managed to secure a deal to provide the military with her goods. On the basis of that contract, she took out a bank loan. In 1942, she established a business under her maiden name, “Nkulenu”.

Ocloo then travelled to England to take a course in Food Science and Modern Processing Techniques at Bristol University. In 1953, determined to grow her business with her newly acquired knowledge in food processing and preservation, she returned to her homeland with a mission to help Ghana become self-sufficient.

Nkulenu Industries still makes orange marmalade today and exports indigenous food items to markets abroad. In 1962, the company relocated to its present location at Madina, a suburb of the capital city, Accra.

Award-winning leadership

Besides working on her thriving business, she also set up a programme to share her knowledge with other women who cook and sell products on the streets.

”You know what we found? We found that a woman selling rice and stew on the side of the street is making more money than most women in office jobs – but they are not taken seriously,” she said.

In 1990, she became the first woman to receive the Africa Prize for Leadership. She proposed alternative solutions to the problems of hunger, poverty and the distribution of wealth – championing the development of an indigenous economy based on agriculture. In 1999 interview  she said:

Our problem here in Ghana is that we have turned our back on agriculture. Over the past 40 years, since the beginning of compulsory education, we have been mimicking the West

Esther Afua Ocloo

“We are now producing youth with degrees who don’t want to work in the fields or have anything to do with agriculture.” She added.

Ocloo died in 2002 after suffering from pneumonia. At her state burial in Accra, former president John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor said: “She was a creator and we need many people of her calibre to build our nation”.

She was a real pillar… worthy of emulation in our efforts to build our nation. Her good works in the promotion of development in Ghana cannot be measured.

Former Ghanaian President Kufuor

Google also recently celebrated  Jamini RoyHassan Fathy, and Abdul Sattar Edhi with their own doodles.Yesterday would have been Esther Occlo’s 98th birthday. In her honour Google changed its homepage logo in the United States; Ghana; Peru; Argentina, Iceland; Portugal; Sweden; Australia; Greece; New Zealand; Ireland and the UK to a “doodle” – or illustration – of her empowering the women of Ghana.

Article via Aljazeera

YƐN ARA YƐ KASA NI: LEARNING TWI, FANTI, ITALIAN AND ENGLISH

I was speaking about languages the other day, and it was interesting to see how people approach language and the reason behind it. I said I speak four languages. Truth! But I can read and write only two of them – English and Italian. I can speak and understand Fanti and Twi, but there’s so much work to be done around them because I don’t understand all things – i.e. proverbs.
My knowledge of these languages has been subject to needs and circumstances beyond my control for the most part.

Take English for example, I learnt it because I needed it for university. When I got accepted to study in England, that was a necessary move. When it comes to Italian, I had to learn it because my parents moved me to Italy when I was 8 years old. I had to go to school and live there (against my will lol) so I had to learn it. Before the age of 9, Twi was the only language I spoke fluently. I started learning and understanding Fanti properly when I started living with my dad (he’s Fanti, he refuses to speak Twi lol). I’d speak to him in Twi and he’d respond in Fanti! Some people argue that Fanti and Twi are the same, but they are not, although they are both Akan languages. I often think about them as Spanish and Italian: they both come from Latin, but have evolved differently. If one speaks Italian, one can kinda figure out some Spanish and be alright.

I think from the age of 10 or 11, in my household we spoke all four languages interchangeably (I had a little English going because my parents spoke it to my sisters and I sometimes).

In all this learning, credit goes to my parents for making sure I did not lose our native language. I have friends whose parents chose to speak only Italian or English to them. Some parents were tapping into their children’s knowledge to learn the language themselves – i.e. Italian. I believe the intention was great, but the result not so much because some friends ended up losing the ability to speak and/or understand our native languages.

I definitely want to work more on my Akan – Twi in particular. There are concepts that can never be translated into a Western language, because Western philosophy and ontology are different from Akan ways of being; and I think, because language is the medium through which concepts and ideas are formed, one can never understand a culture fully, unless one knows the language. I think Twi sounds fun and hilarious, Fanti sounds sweet, maybe that’s why some Takoradi boys got girls for days but anyway I digress.

Interesting fact: I don’t know how to count numbers in Twi. I’m learning now.

By Benjamina E. Dadzie

GUBA AWARDS 2017 NOMINEES ANNOUNCED

The anticipated launch of the GUBA 2017 Awards took place on Monday the 10th of April 2017 at the Ghana High Commission in Highgate, London.

The launch which serves as a precursor to the official awards ceremony scheduled to take place on Saturday 3rd of June, 2017 at the Intercontinental Hotel, o2, London – served as an official declaration and announcement of the shortlisted nominees for the GUBA 2017 Awards.  

Voting for the nominees of the respective categories commences on Wednesday the 12th of April, 2017, via www.gubaawards.co.uk/voting/#.  Tickets for the awards are also available to purchase at www.gubaawards.co.uk

The final phase of elimination for the Made in Ghana, Professional of the Year and Charity of the Year categories takes place at midnight, on Thursday the 20th of April 2017.   Nominees for the aforementioned categories will be condensed to 4 nominees and announced at the GUBA Ghana Launch on the 21st of April, 2017 at the British High Commissioner’s residence.

Voting ends on the 30th of April 2017, with the winners being announced at the main event in London on Saturday 3rd June 2017. The categories and nominees for the GUBA Awards 2017 are as follows:

Animator of the Year Award

  • Comfort Arthur
  • Francis Y Brown
  • Cycil Jones Abban
  • Indigene Bros

Professional of the Year Award (Will be reduced to 4 Nominees on 20th April 2017)

  • Dr Nicholas Ossei-Gerning  – Medical Doctor
  • Joshua Siaw – Lawyer
  • Sheila Nortley  – Film Director
  • Myx Quest   – Entrepreneur
  • Samuel Boateng – Sales Professional

Charity of the Year Award (Will be reduced to 4 Nominees on 20th April 2017)

  • Actionplus Foundation (UK)
  • Wulugu Project
  • Creating New Beginnings
  • Nyarko Cleft Care
  • ATE Action Through Enterprise (ATE)

Ghanaian Alumni Award

  • Aburi Old Girls Association (AOGA)
  • Holy Child Past Students Association (HOPSA)
  • Opoku Ware Old Boys Association (AKATAKYIE)
  • Prempeh College Old Students’ Association (AMANFOO)

Made In Ghana Products Award (Will be reduced to 4 Nominees on 20th April 2017)

  • Skin Gourmet
  • Studio Badge
  • Chaste Clothing
  • Muange Clothing and Multimedia
  • Selina Beb
  • Peini Skin Care
  • Booomers International Ltd
  • Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative
  • We Naturals
  • SeKaf Ghana Ltd (Tama Beauty & Hair Nature)  
  • The Sweet Art Company

Business Start Up of the Year Award

  • DFT Printing Studio
  • Bespoke Binny
  • Vitae London
  • Purete  Nature

Efie Ne Fie Award

  • Genevieve Puni – RecTrain Services Limited
  • Vanetta  & Vemilleon Ackah – Kiddie Garden Nursery International
  • Andrew Takyi- Appiah – Zeepay
  • Ruth Amoah – The Sweet Art Company

Upstanding members of the Ghanaian, UK and African community will also be honoured for their long standing contributions to the society – dubbed the ‘Black Awards’, their consistency and dedication to excellence, will be celebrated on the night. The prestigious black award nominees for 2017 are:

  • Madie Arkutu – Female Influential Leader
  • Apostle Dr. Kwadwo Safo  – Innovative Pioneer
  • Anas Aremeyaw Anas – Exceptional Journalist
  • Dr. Michael K. Obeng – Humanitarian Spirit
  • Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom – Excellence in Business,  Ghana
  • Mr & Mrs Mensah  – Enterprising Business Award
  • Dr. K. Oteng  – Outstanding Industrialist
  • Dr Kofi Amoa Abban – Young Oil & Gas Entrepreneur
  • Kelvin Doe – Young African Innovator
  • Dr Nii Dzani – Influential Economist
  • Jason Sarfo-Anning – Student Achiever of the Year

GUBA Awards seeks to celebrate exceptional talent and commitment to advancement within the Ghanaian and British community. The awards this year will be in honour of Ghana at 60 and GUBA Awards at 6.

Greed and corruption as corporate bodies and top executives in Ghana siphon off state funds

During the Atta Mills-Mahama led administration, there was massive back-log in non-payment of salaries of workers in Ghana. More than ten thousand nurses and teachers remained unpaid for more than two years. Doctors and pharmacists were also victims of non-payment of salaries. Many more workers are weeping for similar reasons. There is a problem of non-payments of monies meant for national health insurance scheme (NHIS) drug providers and also service providers and food suppliers for school feeding programme for so many years. Yet huge salaries paid to top executives each month get to their accounts without fail.

Indeed under the previous NDC government, a lot of financial wastage occurred in the system. Millions of Ghana cedis spilled like leaked oil and no action was taken by Mahama’s administration to retrieve these monies squandered by individuals and companies.

Former CEO of Cocobod Dr Opuni

Mahama’s government voted GHc1.8 billion to Cocobod to purchase 800 tons of cocoa beans. Dr Opuni, who was then the Chief Executive Officer, bought only 300 tons. He was never queried about what happened to the rest of the money until the NPP came to power. He was immediately relieved of his appointment and corruption charges were preferred against him. His dismissal led to a startling revelation of amazing salaries received by certain CEOs in Ghana. Some of these are more than three or four times the salary received by the President.

The CEO of Cocobod, Dr Opuni takes home a whopping amount of GHc77,000 which is 770 million old cedis monthly! This does not include allowances, free fuel supply and free accommodation. The CEO of Bank of Ghana earns GHc89,000 every month, allowances and other benefits excluded. Let us see the monthly salaries of other CEOs in other corporate organisations: the CEO of Ghana Revenue Authority takes home a cool GHc85,000 each month plus allowances and other benefits. The Boss of SSNIT is paid each month GHc76,000, while the Director and CEO of Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) pockets GHc85,000 as his monthly salary excluding allowance and other benefits. The boss of National Investment Bank (NIB), takes home GHc65,000 and the CEO of BOST receives GHc62,000. The list continues with the boss of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) also receiving GHc52000. The CEO of Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) is paid “only” GHc55000. The list is just endless. These above-mentioned CEOs have top security men in their homes who are either policemen or staff from top security companies. They have three or four cars at their disposal. They have cooks, drivers, gardeners and cleaners. This group of people are paid by the companies. I believe you all agree with me that with such huge salaries allotted to top executives, it is not surprising that the government was unable to pay certain groups of workers like doctors, nurses, teachers and others who have not been paid for more than two years.

Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) is a licensed distributor of petroleum related activities in Ghana. It is an agency responsible for the importation of crude oil and petroleum. When the GNPC was established to replace the Ministry of fuel and power, it was the objective of the government of Ghana to supply reliable and adequate supply of petroleum in Ghana and the discovery and exploration of crude oil in its territories. GNPC grew steadily in the area of oil production. However, after five years of the corporation’s existence, there was vast misuse of Ghana’s oil revenue on a large scale. There was complete absence of transparency and accountability in awarding oil blocks among others and denying Ghanaians the full use of the oil resource. A big chunk of the money accruing lands in the pockets of top executives. The top executives turned GNPC into a den of robbers, grabbing whatever money that came handy. Consequently, the chief executive of the corporation was arrested and tried at the fast track court on three counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the state to the tune of GH¢230,000 which he, on behalf of PNDC guaranteed a loan for Valley Farms a private company, and one count of misapplying public funds. He is said to have misappropriated GHc2million of GNPC funds to buy shares in Valley Farms. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to five years in prison.

Greed and corruption by the board of trustees at the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) have put the future of both formal and informal workers in jeopardy. According to the Association of Accountable Governance (AFAG), they foresee a bleak and miserable pension benefit for retirees. This is because the current board of trustees of SSNIT have sold and are aggressively selling off what is left of their investments. Where a chunk of the money will go is anybody’s guess.

Not long ago, workers shares in First Atlantic and Merchant banks were sold. The Trust hospital was sold and SSNIT Guest house was also put for sale. It is a known fact that National Trust Holding Company (NTHC) is a company that has been blacklisted by 2007 auditor’s report as unfit to manage public funds. It is, however, very unfortunate and disheartening that SSNIT has sold the scheme of the informal sector to NTHC, a blacklisted company. AFAG organized the workers in a mammoth meeting to protest against the board at SSNIT who are selfish and self-seeking at the expense of workers livelihood.

Indeed greed and corruption among top executives and corporate bodies have condoned corruption for a very long time. Ghanaians are waiting to see if greed and corruption will persist under Nana Addo‘s government or be relegated to history. Bribery, over-invoicing, gargantuan salaries and sole-sourcing are difficult problems hanging on the heads of Ghanaian governments like the sword of Damocles. Those guilty of such greed and corruption includes DVLA, the Police and customs and passport office. Very often, monies paid at these places are not backed by receipts. This means such monies land in the pockets of the personnel. A survey conducted by Ghana Integrity and anti-corruption consortium confirmed the afore-mentioned bodies as worst off when it comes to bribery and corruption. DVLA and the passport office deliberately delay the issue of driver’s licenses and passports. They have created around the offices those they call, ”goro boys.” These boys are working for the top officials. A driver’s license that will take you three months or more to get is obtained for you within a day or two by a ”goro boy” at five times the normal cost. Guess who gets all these monies. The top officials, of course.

Will the surprise visit by Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia to the passport office help to reduce corruption? Is Nana Addo eager and fully prepared to fight greed and corruption? Is he willing to prosecute the corrupt officials of the past government? Nana Addo’s government is just three months old and I believe all he can achieve or do to get all stolen monies into state coffers lies within the womb of time.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads

Rev. Yawson and Friends’ #OurGratitudeUKConcerts kick off in Telford and Manchester this June

Ghanaian gospel big names Gifty Osei, Tagoe Sisters, Noble Nketsiah- and two UK-based artistes- will join praise & worship veteran, in a tour of the UK from June 23.

Dubbed #OurGratitudeUK Concerts, Rev Yawson explains: “it seeks to create the strongest gathering of lovers of Ghanaian gospel music as we give thanks to God for how far He’s brought us amidst the challenges both home and abroad. These concerts will primarily inspire you in your gratitude, praise and thanksgiving”.

#OurGratitudeUK Concerts kicks off on Friday June 23 rd from 6pm to 10:30pm, at the Oasis Recreational Center in Telford [Grange Avenue, Stirchley in Telford, TF3 1ET]. The Team will stop in London on Saturday June 24 at a venue to be announced soon.

Manchester will have her turn on Sunday June 25 from 5pm, at the Christ Apostolic Church Manchester Hall, 167 Edge Lane M43 6BE.

Noble Nketsiah: “I have been around the world, but it would be my first time with my fans in the UK”. Gifty Osei added: “The forces of darkness can't stand to be around hearts that give thanks and honour to God. Our Praises and thanksgiving in Telford, Manchester and London this summer will surely make the enemies flee”.

“These encounters will surely help us to recognize we have so much to be thankful for. Join us as we take our attention off of our problems and reflect on the goodness of His many blessings”, according to the Tagoe Sisters.

Reverend Yawson will use this platforms to announce and perform for the first time, songs off his upcoming 7 th album, his latest since 2013.

#OurGratitudeUK Concerts is organized by Base Group Inc, Ozberga Promotions UK, LaBoroGH and Showbiz Africa. Entry for each of the concerts is £15 at the door and £10 in advance. Part of the proceeds from these concerts would be used to support Charity Organizations in Ghana.

Africa Utopia returns to Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre’s annual Africa Utopia festival returns for its fifth year on Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 July 2017, with an exciting line up of leading musicians, artists, performers and thinkers from across Africa and its diaspora.

The festival celebrates the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents and will encompass a vibrant mix of talks, workshops and performances for all ages, both free and paid-for. Confirmed so far for 2017’s Africa Utopia festival are the award-winning Afrobeat superstar, Fuse ODG  and the Chineke! Orchestra both performing in the Royal Festival Hall.

Born in London and raised in Ghana, Fuse ODG is the founder of TINA – This is New Africa – a movement whose mission is ‘re-programming the world’s mental image of Africa, its people and its diaspora’ (15 July) and Chineke! Orchestra is Europe’s first all-Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) orchestra, performing classical repertoire to mark their third performance at the festival (16 July).

The weekend will also include an Africa Utopia Marketplace, with stalls and pop-up boutiques offering the latest in African and African-inspired fashion, accessories, books, art, homeware and workshops, as well as a bustling pop-up street food market, with over 13 stalls of authentic African cuisine from across the continent.

Previous performers, artists and speakers who have taken part in Africa Utopia include award-winning Senegalese musician and human rights activist Baaba Maal; Grammy Award winner Angelique Kidjo; former First Lady of Somaliland and founder of the Edna Adan Hospital, Edna Adan; Kenyan creative collective The Nest; South African performer Spoek Mathambo; ‘godfather of Ethiopian jazz’ Mulatu Astatke; the Kinshasa Symphony orchestra;  and many more from across the African continent and the diaspora.

The full programme and list of performers will be released early May, 2017.

Seth Dei, the Ghanaian investor behind fruit exporter Blue Skies

The businessman and art collector on helping create an economic success story and why Ghana has failed to fulfil its potential
Hidden behind high walls and the dusty, traffic-laden chaos of modern-day Accra, Seth Dei sits in pensive calm in his office. A cup of late afternoon coffee and three mini chocolate-chip cookies lie untouched in front of him as he studies his next move in a protracted chess endgame with his computer. “I’m winning, but I’m not sure how to finish,” he sighs.

Dei’s home in Accra © Jordi Perdigó

On the walls are a few pieces from the extensive Ghanaian art collection he has built up over more than three decades. Outside, a neatly trimmed garden with a verdant lawn and brightly coloured tropical plants offset the white walls and clean lines of his modernist house.

The building in which he is sitting was built in 1957 for an English businessman. Dei found it too big when he bought it, and turned it into the now mothballed and sparsely furnished Dei Centre for the Study of Contemporary African Art, complete with a small library, and corridors and staircases lined with some of the 500 paintings he has acquired.

He hauls himself to his feet, and gestures to a picture opposite his desk of a market scene by Adiama that is part-painting, part-fabric collage. “He was part of the old school of artists in Ghana, who were timid about selling their works and not business-like,” he says. “They didn’t put much value on art.”

Dei, 72, is a posterboy for business in Ghana. He helped create Blue Skies, a fresh fruit-packaging

Sitting room of Dei’s home in Accra, Ghana © Jordi Perdigó

factory, which has become a frequent attraction on tours by dignitaries seeking symbols of the country’s economic success. He is now scaling back his involvement in a business with £90m in annual sales, supplying supermarkets in a dozen countries (including Waitrose in the UK) from its original factory in Accra, as well as others opened since in South Africa, Egypt, Senegal and Brazil.

His latter-day activities belie much of his working career and longstanding passion for supporting local artists. That is evident in the residential quarters next door, where he lives with his second wife. “Everything is made locally,” he says.

Born to cocoa-farming parents in the then Gold Coast and witness to independence from Britain during his schooldays in 1957, his focus was long on the US. He won a scholarship to Buxton, a boarding prep school in New England, and moved there aged 16.

He recalls his thrill at seeing the red autumn colours in his first September. In winter, “everything was white with snow, which I had never seen”.

With Ghanaian government funding, Dei studied at Columbia and Cornell in New York, before working in the life insurance sector. “I dealt with CEOs and CFOs. I observed the habits of American chief executives: they knew their businesses, kept fit, worked hard, had admirable self-confidence. You learnt from them,” he says.

Garden room © Jordi Perdigó

He married an American and spent much of his career in the US, but never forgot his roots. “I had always intended to come back to Ghana, or at least to Africa,” he says. “I realised it was difficult to be poor here: there are so many opportunities. You only have to drop a seed and in two weeks you have a plant. Depending on your ambition you can become a millionaire.”

When he returned at the start of the 1990s, his first ventures drew on his US financial expertise. “There was a gold boom and a lot of mining companies, and I figured they needed equipment and leasing services. But that required central bank supervision, and the rules were terrible. I could see it would not grow, so I sold the business.”

Then in 1997, he was introduced to Anthony Pile, a Briton who wanted to open a fresh fruit-packaging plant. “He was keen to find a local partner. Somebody told him to talk to me. We started chatting and he had convinced me within three minutes. It’s been a very good investment,” Dei says.

Asked to list the difficulties of operating, he quotes transport — perishable fruit must be shipped

Jazz Play’ (1997) by Glen Turner © Jordi Perdigó

by plane — as well as the erratic local electricity supply, something which, in the humid dusk, also presents a challenge for the preservation of his artworks.

And corruption? “We have not come up against it, and we would not participate,” he says. “We are doing a lot for the economy.” Blue Skies employs 4,000 local staff, pays substantially above the minimum wage, offers free cooked meals, medical help, maternity and paternity leave, and social responsibility programmes in local communities.

With Ghana just celebrating 60 years of independence, he reflects: “I feel we should have done better. We had many more assets than Malaysia or South Korea, with a lot more natural resources. But I see a slow realisation from the president down that we should have done better. Coups d’état were getting us nowhere. Democratic practice has introduced competition to government.”

He says he never had any interest in politics. “I cannot say something is blue when it is in fact red.” Instead, during his spare time, he threw himself into art collecting. He befriended many of the country’s artists, buying their work and sometimes being offered it. He points to a long canvas by Larry Otoo of a brass band in a remote village. “He came to me and asked if I wanted him to paint me something. This is it.”

Paintings by E Owusu Dartey and Adoley Nmai among others © Jordi Perdigó

Settling into an armchair in the entrance hall, Dei pauses before answering the question of why he loves art. “First and foremost, I look on it as history: what’s happened, what’s happening,” he says. “The artist is able to freeze-frame and look carefully at things you don’t normally pay attention to when you are walking around. You never noticed something, and, seeing the picture, you realise it’s beautiful. It makes you pay more attention.”

He gets to his feet, and walks across a courtyard, into the street and next door, where at the end of a small garden decorated by large stone sculptures, he had an Italian architect friend modify the former maid’s quarters into his living accommodation. Settling down in the study, among piles of CDs and videos, Dei says he still receives weekly management reports from Blue Skies, and is excited about new projects including a planned range of dairy-free ice creams in chocolate, mango, coconut and lime.

On the lounge table, flanked by sofas, are a series of antique wooden-carved slingshots from

Baule sculpture from the Ivory Coast © Jordi Perdigó

Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, which have been converted into ornaments. A full-length window opens on to a tiny, tranquil courtyard. Yet Dei craves still more space and light, and is completing work on a new home in the hills with a view over Accra. “I want more calm, where the air is cool.”

He is also winding down his art collection, expressing frustration that American academic partners did not provide any funding. He closed the centre to the public three years ago. “I got tired and I’m taking a pause,” he says. “If I kept doing this, I’d be broke.”

He says all options remain open, and recently discussed the sale of works in a meeting with Sotheby’s. His dream is to donate his collection to a new state museum of modern art, but for now, he questions the competence of government officials to take charge.

“We need a new museum of modern art. I think we can use the diaspora to build a nice little museum,” he says. He would like someone to approach the architect David Adjaye to prepare a preparatory sketch for a new venue, “to embarrass big institutions into contributing and building it”.

Even if he is frustrated with the slow progress, Dei has not lost his enthusiasm for art. He has just bought two pictures in a new high-end gallery nearby, itself a sign of changing attitudes. “It has opened the eyes of Ghanaians and encouraged younger artists to up their game. There is a buzz about art in Ghana now. I’m very happy.”

Favourite thing

© Jordi Perdigó

Dei picks out a 2006 painting of a saxophonist by Ghanaian artist Hacajaka. “When I look at this picture, it brings back lots of memories,” he says. “I listen a lot to jazz. It reminds me of when I graduated from college. When I was studying in the US, I heard some of the best jazz musicians: John Coltrane, Miles Davis.

“Miles Davis is my favourite. I heard him in Boston once and asked for his autograph, though he pretty much told me to get lost. There was a lot of experimentation with music . . . It puts me in a good mood. I’ll put this in my office in my new house.”

Articke via FT

Ghana Government seeks new dawn for struggling power sector

Ghana’s new government is looking to fix a crippling power crisis with a complete overhaul of its deficit-ridden energy sector including a boost for solar energy.

Intermittent power supply issues have dogged the west African nation since the 1980s and became particularly acute in the last five years — although there has been some improvement recently.

President Nana Akufo-Addo blames his predecessor John Dramani Mahama whose energy policies, he said last month, had led to “gargantuan debt”.

Ghana’s energy sector was crushed by an accumulated debt of $2.4 billion, he said, as the cost of buying in fuel, paying energy suppliers and running inefficient state companies spiralled out of control.

Its bad financial situation “constitutes the single major hurdle to Ghanaians enjoying reliable and affordable electricity supply”, he said last month in his first State of the Nation address.

Improvements in the provision of power were seen in the run-up to December’s election but Akufo-Addo said the challenges within the sector were far from over and high costs were a major stumbling block.

Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) has now begun to develop a new electricity masterplan, which also includes possibly listing state-owned power generation and supply companies on the stock exchange.

Such asset sales would not only move the underperforming utilities off the government’s books, but private ownership may well make them more efficient, experts say.

This year’s budget also included ambitious plans for renewable energy to provide two to three percent of supply to the national grid and, in addition, develop 38,000 solar-powered homes in “off-grid” communities.

– Here comes the sun –

Harnessing the power of Africa’s most abundant free resource — the sun — to provide electricity has long been a challenge for governments across the continent.

In Ghana there are hopes that more people will sign up to a 500-watt solar panel scheme started under Mahama for homes and businesses. The panels come free, but takers must still foot start-up costs of around $1,500.

The Energy Commission wants to see 200,000 such systems installed, but the scheme’s coordinator, Kenneth Appiah, says since it was launched in February last year only 409 units have been installed.

Among those who have received the panels — each installation is worth about $450 — is accountancy lecturer Daniel Nkrumah-Afyeefi.

He said the programme was a good starting point to get his home off the grid and he planned to add more panels to lower food refrigeration costs and avoid hot, sleepless nights.

“When you live in a place like Accra and you need to store food items, when power runs off and on like that some of the things get spoiled,” he told AFP.

“You tend to be buying as and when you eat, and that ends up increasing your cost of purchasing food items.”

– Business suffers –

Ghana has seen four different power crises since 1982 due to low water levels in the country’s dams, said Ishmael Ackah, head of policy at the Africa Centre for Energy Policy.

In 1997, the country began using thermal energy to complement hydro-electric power but struggles to keep its power stations going at full capacity, as the economy grows and demand increases.

Nigeria has been a major supplier of gas and oil but that has been erratic, as Ghana has struggled to pay its bills.

Scheduled rolling electricity blackouts to ration power — known locally as “dumsor” — have in recent years had a knock-on effect on businesses and productivity, and led to street demonstrations.

A 2015 report by Ghana’s Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research indicated the country was losing some $2.2 million a day because of the energy shortfall.

The government is hoping domestic oil and gas supply from offshore fields will help cut the energy deficit, alongside solar, for the country’s 27 million people.

Energy minister Boakye Agyarko has said he wants all government departments to be solar powered and vowed to “step on the accelerator and make sure we do even more than we are doing now”.

A British-based firm, Blue Energy, is hoping to build a huge solar farm in western Ghana by December this year, with a capacity of up to 155 megawatts.

Ackah said there is hope that solar power’s share in the overall energy mix will soar by the end of the decade.

“It is 0.5 percent in 2017. We are supposed to get 10 percent in the next three years,” he said.

Source: https://www.independent.co.ug/ghana-seeks-new-dawn-struggling-power-sector/

Me Firi Ghana (@Me_FiRi_GHANA)