So the results are in and Me Firi Ghana nominated for two UK Blog Awards came away as a “Highly Commended” runner up in the Most Innovative Blog Category. I am extremely proud of this achievement, we were the only representative of Ghanaian culture at the awards ceremony. In fact we were the only representative of African culture to make the final shortlist of 28 and when you consider 900 plus blogs entered the competition and we amongst the top 10 blogs in the Arts and Culture category and the and amongst the top 3 most innovative blogs in the UK we have a lot to be proud of.
The event was a great advert for blogging in the UK with so much talent in attendance and as the first ever blog awards to celebrate cross sector bloggers, it was an event the organisers deserve kudos for. I was accompanied to the awards by Me Firi Ghana’s Manager/Head of Marketing, Joseph Aninakwa and one of our finest bloggers Maclean Arthur who joined me in revelling in our achievement.
As I returned home from the awards ceremony my mind was already on next year and how we can improve the blog. You can rest assured that we will not be resting on our laurels, we are a progressive brand always looking to break new ground and the blog is a large part of that. Ghana’s involvement in the greatest show on earth; World Cup 2014 means we will be literally blogging crazy to ensure Ghana’s journey is covered every step of the way. There will be a plethora of engaging content across the categories on the blog and I am genuinely excited about what is to come.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my team of great bloggers; Maclean Arthur, Jermaine Bamfo, Nora Mistersky, Adwoa Asiedu & MyriamOsei who have all helped to make the blog what it is today. Their passion for Ghana and tireless enthusiasm for blogging has made my job as Editor an easy one.
Lastly I want to thank you our readers! We will continue to produce innovative and engaging content on all things Ghana! Follow our journey and get involved in stimulating and facilitating the conversations that need to be had.
It is with great pleasure that I can announce that the Me Firi Ghana blog has made the final shortlist for UK Blog Awards 2014 in two categories. We are shortlisted for best organisation blog in the Arts & Culture and Most Innovative blog categories. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers who voted for us. I would also like to thank all of our talented writers/bloggers; Maclean Arthur, Jermaine Bamfo, Tracey Kusi, Adwoa Asiedu, Nora Mitersky, Myriam Osei and Afia Sarpong who continue to produce informative, engaging and relevant content. Our fate is now in the hands of the judges.
All shortlisted blogs will be judged by a panel of respected individuals in each industry category from Monday 3rd February 2014 – Monday 24th February 2014. The winners will be announced during the Awards Ceremony on Friday 25 April 2014.
To see whom we are up against in our categories and who will be judging them, the full shortlist is on the UKBA website and can be accessed using the following links;
In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy is described as the most beautiful woman in the world. Her stunning beauty caused men to wage war against each other just to win her hand in marriage. And she had as many as 45 suitors! Clearly, you will have to do something remarkable to make yourself stand out from this crowd of 45. Unfortunately for many of our university graduates, this is the kind of challenge facing them. Of course they are not jostling to win Helen’s hand in marriage, but are contesting in a similarly competitive environment. They are in a situation where there is a multitude of university graduates all chasing after limited job opportunities. While the number of graduates soar, the number of jobs have become few and far between. It is no longer a given that a university education will guarantee immediate employment. Recent statistics from the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) indicates that 28.8% of graduates between the ages of 25 to 35 wait for two years or more before they are employed. And the forecast of the number of new graduates entering the job market versus the number of available jobs is grim to say the least.
Evidently, the government and all other stakeholders need to create more jobs to absorb the numbers, but before then, it is imperative to distinguish yourself from the crowd. The current situation has shifted most of the burden away from the employers to attract the right candidates, conversely placing much of the responsibility on the candidates to show potential employers why they should be selected over their peers. Hence, it is necessary to use all available channels to market yourself.
Getting ahead of your peers requires something spectacularly different and this process will be a true test of your ingenuity and creativity; attributes that rank high on the must-have list of all employers. Earlier this year, a 24-year-old Brit, Adam Pacitti made the headlines with his billboard. The First Class Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester unveiled a billboard in the London borough of Camden that read “I spent my last £500 on this billboard. Please give me a job”, complete with a link to his website and a 10 foot self-portrait. In a later interview, he said “I’ve probably sent 200 CVs out, but it’s so difficult to stand out on paper….this is my way of trying to stand out” and because of this innovative move “so many people (potential employers) are contacting me, and I can’t get back quick enough!” One clever move has put this man in the lime light with companies throwing job offers at him faster than he can say yes. This is only one of the many examples of unemployed graduates, who by their own imagination and inventiveness increased their chances of getting hired.
It must be noted that I am not advocating for every unemployed graduate to go make a billboard ad; that will just expose how unoriginal you are anyway. I also acknowledge that the Adam Pacitti sort of stunt is best used when seeking for media related jobs; but it still does not take away the fact that in the current state of affairs where employers have a wide pool of potentials to choose from, the onus is on the graduate to show what they can bring to the party.
This requires you to think outside the box to get in, because the certificate on its own is just not cutting it.
I was up pretty early this morning. Annoying, considering I am on leave and should be getting maximum sleep. Failing to get back to sleep, I reached under the pillow for my phone and went through my daily morning routine of checking my facebook, twitter, whatsapp ad email accounts. It seemed like I was the only one up at stupid o’clock. I laid in the darkness for a bit fiddling with my phone. Then I remembered someone mentioned a Discovery Channel documentary about illegal mining in Ghana the other day. So I ended up on YouTube.
My immediate reactions minutes into the documentary were the usual fury whenever I see something embarrassing on Ghana. But as it went on, it became apparent how overly scripted this documentary is. Many of the scenes have obviously been staged for dramatic effects. It felt like something copied from a re-enactment scene in Crime Watch. Their stay in the “jungle” would not have been complete without the shots of the leech conveniently lodged on the ankle of one of the crew members and a cameo appearance by the highly poisonous green mamba. Funny how there were no mozzies in the “jungle”, with all the pools of murky water these clowns created with their illegal mining. And the subtle play on the old colonial hierarchical system. At the top is the greedy white explorer/exploiter, then the Indian middleman operating the excavator and at the bottom, my people!
Many scenes in this documentary may have been scripted, but we cannot ignore the message in there. That a section of Ghanaians can be so poor whilst the land they live on abounds in gold is a shame on every Ghanaian. That two debts-ridden yanks can come into a village in Ghana, have a hearing with the CHIEF and his ELDERS and have little school children take the day off school to perform at the gathering is just unbelievable. Surprising how this issue of illegal mining was not a major debate topic during the election period. I guess this is just an indication of how much these politicians care about the people.
For those two greedy yanks, it was a win/win situation whatever the outcome. If they find the gold, they make money and if they did not find the gold, they would still make money from the screening of the documentary. But for us, all we get from this as a nation is bad press and death traps.
Last year I spent some time in a part of south central Asia. I would hesitate to call these people racists but they do have a pretty down trodden view of a dark skin tone. Everyone in the TV adverts is fair-skinned. They even have skin products that block out the darkening effects of the sun and make the skin much fairer. And it’s a thriving business. All the big western cosmetic companies that make millions from selling tanning lotions in the west make just as much money, if not more, selling products that do the exact opposite on this side of the globe.
I was not sure who was more surprised at this; me or these white Europeans I was with. They would not pass up an opportunity to lay in the sun to top up their tan. The locals however found it absurd that people in the west would even pay to go on the sunbeds. And their concern was not because of the health risk related to the constant exposure to UV rays; rather, they found a pale skin colour to be much more desirable than a tan.
Apart from Alek Wek, I am struggling to think of any other very dark skinned female fashion icon. I think our standard of beauty as Africans and black people, has a leaning towards a fair skin tone. It is what we see on TV and in the lads’ magazines that shapes this view. Beyonce, Nikki Minaj and Rihanna look whiter with each new music video. I checked the colour settings on my TV twice this week already, so it cannot be that. And I’ve had my eyes checked too – well that is only because I wanted an excuse to buy myself one of those cool Ray Ban glasses – but it turns out my sight is impeccable.
So Hollywood favours a tan, Bollywood a pale skin but what does Nollywood say? Is it Alek or Bey, licorice or caramel? Personally, I like a bag of M&Ms.
Ghana’s first appearance at the Olympics was in 1952 at the Helsinki Games, where we were represented by a seven-man team. Our first medal did not come until the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, where Clement Quartey boxed his way onto the podium to receive a silver medal. Eddie Blay followed with a bronze medal in boxing at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, Prince Amartey also took bronze in the middleweight division. We did not go near the medals podium until some 20 years later when the Black Meteors reached the semi finals at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games where they lost to the host nation Spain. They however beat Australia in the play-off for bronze.
That is our Olympics record as a nation, not very glamorous. So we came to the London Olympics not expecting to go back home with bags of medals. But every Ghanaian was hoping we would at least make a good impression. The games have ended and not very much was heard about Team GH. And frankly, this was not surprising. Lack of funding had forced the team to break camp months before the games. The nation’s economic woes would not allow for much funding to be pumped into sports. It’s a tricky balancing act for the government and various sports authorities. How to achieve the best possible results with the meagre funds available?
It does not take much research to notice our successes as a nation- at the Olympics and all other sporting competitions have come from two disciplines- boxing and football. Our greatest sports men and women are footballers and boxers. Those are the two things we are naturally good at and have infrastructure already in place to train and nurture our young talents. It will therefore be the sensible option to concentrate our resources and attention on these two sports if we are to make any headlines in Rio.
One of the most impressive nations at the games apart from the host nation, for me, was Jamaica. They bagged 4 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze medals and their athletes grab the big headlines. And all of these medals came from athletics- 3 of the gold medals were from Bolt and 2 of the silver medals from Blake. They have found a sport they are naturally good at as a nation and perfected their act! Now there is surely a lesson in there for us as Ghanaians if we are to win any medals at the next Olympics. So like the Jamaicans who are well known for their sprinters, Kenyans for their long distance runners, lets be known for our footballers and boxers. We are not China or the USA, who do not just have the financial resources to back their sports men and women, but also have large populations to choose from. Let’s start preparing our boxers and footballers now if the former Gold Coast is to win any gold in Rio.
In a survey done for UK’s Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), 60% of teachers said their pupils most aspired to be David Beckham. More than a third said pupils wanted to be famous for the sake of being famous and 32% of the 304 teachers quizzed said their pupils modelled themselves on heiress Paris Hilton. And in America, about two dozen young people camped outside a shop just to buy the highly anticipated Nike Air Yeezy II for four times the retail price. It is therefore not very surprising when a survey showed most Americans know more about Kim Kadarshian than they do about the Federal Reserve. It goes without saying that this woman has deservedly earned her place in the celebrity world. She is famed for a sex tape and a marriage that lasted a very long time- 72 days!
My first reaction whenever I read such facts is that the western world is morally inept and superficial. Obsession with celebrities is hardly an issue in our Ghanaian society. We are too busy finding solutions to the problem of cholera- which claimed more than 80 lives last year than to waste our time discussing why a movie star or a musician is wearing a watch that does not match her earrings! We have our priorities straight! Or maybe I’m wrong.
For quite a long time I have been trying to convince myself the Ghanaian society has not blindly descended into the vanity of the Western world. What first got me thinking was what happened at the last Vodafone Ghana Music Awards. On the red carpet, “celebrities” were stopped for a little chat and each was asked what designer clothes they had on. The reviews of who-wore-what and who had the best combination of designer labels that followed on the radios and online is what is disturbing. That what celebrity X wore should grab more attention than the little boy that died of cholera is a big shame on us as a people. How can these “celebrities” appear on live TV and flaunt their expensive designer labels to the whole nation while WaterAid appeals for £4 a month from people in the West to fund the construction of hand dug wells in places like Ghana?! Since when did we as a society become fixated with the everyday lives of our musicians, movie stars and sportsmen and women-if there are any. (I’m struggling to think of any famous Ghanaian sports women)
Slowly we are being sucked into this celebrity obsession culture. Glorifying the flamboyant lifestyles of these “celebrities” is just an indication of how materialistic our society is becoming. We are throwing away our values in exchange for pure nonsense. And with this new generation of Ghanaian children spending more and more time behind the computer and TV screens, it is only a matter of time before we hear them say they do not need education to be successful; all they need is a pretty face and big, fake bum and boobs. It is only a matter of time our children will say they do not need a profession; all they need is to get into a reality TV show and be famous just for the sake of being famous.
There is nothing wrong with having admiration for talented entertainers, but what is wrong is to put these people on a very high pedestal, follow their every move and treat them like gods. We have mouths to feed, lives to save and children who need to be given hope. Let’s get to work!
My little nephew once sketched a pretty impressive image of himself. A young artist in the making I thought to myself. But something else caught my attention on his drawing. He had drawn himself with a mop top hairstyle. I asked him why he had a Mohawk hairstyle while his picture had a mop top. I already knew what his answer would be, but I just wanted to hear it from him. “Because I want to look like Ben 10” he said. He grew up watching Ben 10 all the time. He would not watch anything else. On his birthdays, he would not appreciate anything more than a Ben 10 watch or pyjamas. Anything that did not have a Ben 10 picture on it would not have much of his attention. He once asked his dad to call him Ben!
This sort of behaviour is admittedly common in growing children. This is when they begin to develop concepts and ideas of what is right and what is wrong, that which is acceptable and that which is not, what is beautiful and what is not. And they do so by watching and observing what they see other people do. They also learn from the books they read, the things they see on TV and the toys they play with. These are the things that influence the way our children see themselves and the world they find themselves in. Children between the ages of 5 and 8 have been found to have a concept of beauty based on the kind of dolls they play with. Beauty for them is the tall, slender, long straight hair, icy blue eye doll mummy and daddy bought for them. That is what they play with day and night. And that is how they want to look! That little girl will have no other hair style but the ponytail her doll has. And can you blame her?! She spends hours caring for her precious little doll. She bathes it, styles its hair and clothes it. She sleeps with it and would carry it everywhere if mummy lets her. She loves it and loves the look of it. That for her is the pinnacle of beauty!
This issue is even more complex with black children. They are caught up in a perplexity of how their skin and eye colour and their hair look so different to that of their elegant dolls. In 2006, Kiri Davies, a black teenage girl recreated the famous Clarke’s doll experiment and documented it in a film called “A Girl Like Me”. This experiment sort to explore black children’s idea of beauty in relation to the colour of the skin. The children were presented with two dolls. Both dolls were identical except for the skin and hair colour. One was brown with black hair while the other was white with yellow hair. These children were asked questions like- which doll they would want to play with, which one they thought was nicer and which one looked bad. 15 out of the 21 black children questioned in this experiment preferred the white doll.
The result from this experiment is quite surprising. But why is this the case? This is why- Children turn to stick to what they are used to and have grown to like. If daddy teaches him to tie his shoe laces in a double knot, that is how he will do it, and he would not have it any other way! If uncle tries to tie it in a different way, he will let uncle know that is not the way to do it! If a child grows up watching Ben 10, that is what he will choose if he is asked to make a to choice between that and SpongeBob SquarePants. Likewise, if a black child grows up playing with a white skin doll, that is going to be her of standard of beauty. And if asked to tell which one is prettier, a white doll or a black one, she will inadvertently choose the white one! So how do we as a people try to get our children to appreciate the beauty of their own skin colour? How do we make sure at an early age they appreciate and become comfortable in their skin?
Now will you please step forward Rooti Dolls! Created by Mr. Chris Chidi Ngoforo, these dolls are the answer to our problem. They are created as a real image and identity of us as black people- African, African Caribbean and African American. They have wider noses, fuller lips, long curly hair and they come in various shades of black. And these Rooti Creations Ltd dolls also come dressed in a mix of elegant African fabric and western fashion styles. So from an early age, we are getting our children to appreciate the beauty of African products and fashion trends as opposed to all the negative images we see in the media about Africa.
The genius of this product, however, lies in the fact that it speaks, and it does not just speak. It speaks a wide range of African languages! Its interactive! This doll is like Siri and Barbie moulded in a black skin. The children of many African parents are growing up with very little or no knowledge of their parents’ mother tongue. This is even more horrifying in cases where children grow up in Africa but do not speak any local dialect! They can only speak English! This product is the potential solution to the danger of the demise of Africa’s ethnic languages. Children can pick up words and phrases from playing with these dolls and this will serve as a building block to learn to speak and preserve our rich and beautiful African languages.
Rooti Creations Ltd have a range of dolls for every African country and can teach your children words and phrases in the ethnic languages of each particular country. So Ama, the Ghanaian doll can speak words and phrases in Twi, Ga, Danmgbe, Ewe, Hausa and many other dialects. If they demand is high enough, they may make one that can azonto! And the Afro Caribbean dolls can also interact and teach your child Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch and other European languages. Eastern European parent can also have dolls that can teach and interact with their children in Polish, Romanian, Russian and a host of other languages.
Now the solution is before us, so let’s start putting things right! Let us as a people save and preserve our identity as well as our rich and diverse languages. Let’s all root for Rooti Dolls!!
If you read my last blog and your jaw dropped from the kind of service I got from that restaurant, then brace yourself for something even more absurd! If we were to give awards for the worse service providers in Ghana, the banks would be right on top of the list. And Barclays Ghana would be miles ahead on the banking list. They are unbelievably shocking!
I walked into a Barclays bank branch once and saw about four people crowded around one person, so I moved closer to find out what was going on. The poor man was not in any kind of trouble, the other customers were just waiting for him to finish filling out his deposit slip so they can use the pen! I looked round and was surprised to see there were only 2 pens available for customers to use! I did not need to use a pen, but I went over to one of the guys sitting behind the desk to ask to borrow a pen. Now this guy is sitting there with an air of importance about him like he’s the governor of the Bank of Ghana! He offers me no smiles, so I offer none back. And he looks at me like I’m disturbing his otherwise perfect day. He had a pen on his table but it had been securely taped to his desk with a note on the pen saying “do not remove this pen from this desk”! At this point I start laughing. It’s so pathetic I cannot help but laugh. Well the man would not let his very expensive Bic Ballpoint pen leave his sight so the queue for the pen on the other side of the banking hall only grew bigger.
Well, I left that and went off to another desk to try and get my own issue sorted. I had an issue I expected to be resolved within days if not hours. I had an account with Barclays Bank Ghana I had not touched in about 3 years. The lady at the desk said the account would have been made dormant, but she would have to call another department to confirm if the money was still there! I left my money with a bank not a susu man so if I left it there for 3 years, I would expect it to be there untouched. As calm as a cucumber I sat and waited for about 10 minutes whiles she talked on the phone. When she came off the phone she informed me the dormant department would ring her back in a couple of minute to confirm they had knowledge of my defunct account. 30 minutes and a few tweets later, I’m still sat there, waiting! I go back to her to ask for an answer and she tells me the dormant department has not phoned back yet. Now she senses I’m not very happy so she rings back the dormant department only to be told their “system is down” so they cannot confirm anything for me! At this point I’m fuming, so she suggests I leave my number with her and she will ring me as soon as she gets an answer.
She called after a day to tell me my money was with them but I would have to come and fill some forms to be able to claim it back. So I go fill out these forms, get my ID photocopied then I’m told it would take 2 weeks for them to carry out all their checks! And I would have to pick up the cheque in person, but I had less than 2 weeks in Ghana. How hard is it to compare my photo ID with the photo they already have and check if my signatures match?! At this point I’m absolutely livid, but this guy in front of me just sits and listens and all he can say is its out of his hands, its company policy- the process takes 2 weeks and I have to come pick up the cheque in person. Now my only option is to go up the hierarchy. So I get on my phone to the Barclays Ghana headquarters. A few harsh words later, they agree the cheque can be collected by proxy. With all done, I’m told I have to ring back in 2 weeks to find out if my cheque had come through to them! I could only laugh! It’s just unbelievable! I’m sure I would not have to go through so much hustle to get money off the tax man!
Fast forward 3 weeks and I’m still trying to get hold of anyone from Barclays Bank! It’s either the phone rings or no one answers or someone answers only to be told the gentleman who signed my forms is in some meeting! So now I’m left with no choice than to send someone to that Barclays Bank branch and also boycott all Barclays ATMs worldwide! I think I’d spit at any Barclays ATM I come across. LOL!
The beautiful Ghanaian sun is pretty energy-draining so I try to stay indoors during the day and go out after sun set. That works well for me since most of the mates I’d hang with would have closed from work by sunset. But when I do make it out during the day I try and stay at one spot for as much as possible as long as the food and service is good.
So I’m at one such hangout somewhere in Labone with Kobi and Ruth. The food and
service is pretty much standard at this place. But that’s not why I come here. I because I have fallen in love…with the paintings in the restaurant! Anytime I walk in there I feel like coming back in the middle of the night and nicking every single one of them.
The service today had been great up until Ruth ordered a Four Cheese pizza. I’m a homemade pizza expert and Ruth is crazy about cheese, so with our combined knowledge we knew at the first site what turned up on our table was not a Four Cheese Pizza. It was more like a four cheat pizza, it only had a thin layer of mozzarella cheese on it.
Two unhappy customers went up to the waiter to ask if he thought that looked like a four cheese pizza. It wasn’t surprising when he answered yes! But I got a bit worried when the chefs also insisted what we have been served was a four cheese pizza. So we went up to the manager and he was swift to apologise but he had already lost a customer in Ruth and maybe Kobi.
I still do go there, but that’s only because I go there for some other reason other than the food. It’s clear to me the manager understands the importance of keeping his customers happy but his workers on the other hand do not quite appreciate this fact. I know customer service in Ghana is ridiculously appalling but its way better than what it used to be years ago and there is definitely loads of room for improvement! It’s no use if the head of a service provider knows how to treat his customers but the workers- who are constantly interacting with customers- do not appreciate the power of the customer. Service providers in Ghana need to improve customer service relations, but it looks like they need a bit of encouragement- Ghanaian customers need to start making a scene if the service they pay for is below standard! It seems to be the only language these service providers understand.