The Future of Ghana is in our hands ! – Time to build a network, mobilize and aid Ghana’s development
Have you always wanted to volunteer in Ghana or to get involved in helping to solve certain issues affecting our Ghanaian society? Then this is your chance to get involved.
What About Me (WAM) Campaign, in association with Me FiRi Ghana brings you the Future of Ghana Networking Forum. This event is aimed at providing a platform for young Ghanaian Diaspora primarily aged 18 – 35 years to network, discuss and gain more information about ways in which they can proactively connect with the development of Ghana.
WAM, a charity which facilitates volunteering programmes for young Ghanaians in the Diaspora to work with orphans and other vulnerable children living in Ghana, will also share its experiences, successes, challenges since it begun its work 4 years ago.
The forum which takes place on Thursday, 30th January at the Rich Mix, Shoreditch, will be filmed for coverage for VOX Africa on Sky & DSTV and shared online through social media.
Come and let’s together find ways to make our motherland a better place. The event runs from 18:30- 21:30 Greenwich Mean Time not Ghana Man Time, so don’t be late!
Date: Thursday 30th January
Where: ‘Rich Mix’ –‐ the cultural hub of London, 35-47, Bethnal Green Rd, London, Shoreditch, E1 6LA
The critics who said Fuse ODG will be a one hit wonder can eat their words now! Straight off the back of the success of his earlier single, Antenna, the Ghanaian born rapper has burst onto the charts with his latest single, Million Pound Girl.
Currently sitting comfortably at number 5 on the UK Singles Chart, Million Pound Girl is the highest charting Afrobeats single to date. This is a testimony to the rapid climb of Afrobeat into the world music scene.
With a banging beat and catchy lyrics, this tune will have you bobbing your head and before you know it, you will be up on your feet busting out azonto moves you didn’t even know you were capable of.
With cameo appearances by Sean Paul, Eddie Kadi and Patrice Muamba, the video for this floor filler is nothing short of an attention grabber! You can be certain the MOBO Awards winner made sure he had the best and most alluring azonto dancers on the video.
This tune has undoubtedly placed Fuse amongst the heavy weights in Afrobeats music. And he looks set to take on the world, proudly flying the flag of Ghana and indeed Africa. Fuse ODG is indeed badder than bad!
Fuse ODG – Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad) OUT NOW
I have been involved with the Me Firi Blog blog from its inception and I can honestly say that this year the quality of the content being published and the frequency of posts is at its highest level since its creation. This is due to the fantastic team of bloggers we have at our disposal. They have pushed the boundaries of our content and delivered the stories and information you want to know/hear in order to facilitate the conversations that need to be had within the Ghanaian community in the UK and beyond.
Put simply the blog exists to connect the UK and the wider world with Ghana through relevant news and information. We do this in four ways;
Through our GHRBS (Ghana Rising Black Star) section we profile, highlight and interview Ghanaians under 35 who are pioneering in their field or simply doing great things in their community bringing you inspiring stories wherever we may find them. Our NEWS section reports on current news & sport headlines, promotes events all over the world and ensures you receive the information you require. Within REVIEWS our bloggers review books, music albums, restaurants and attend Ghanaian/afrocentric events to report on these also. Lastly within the FEATURES section we give our bloggers the freedom to write about absolutely anything and regularly touch in local and national issues affecting people in Ghana and UK. This is definitely the most emotive section and posts are written to entertain and or inform the reader in a conversational tone to present the reader to evoke an emotional response.
Next year is set to be an even bigger year of for the blog as we continue to challenge ourselves to improve our content. Thus we have entered the UK Blog Awards 2014 for best Art & Culture and Most Innovative blog categories for a company/organisation blog. The public vote is now under way from now until 26th January 2014. The shortlisted blogs with most votes will then be judged by a panel in each industry category from Monday 3rd February 2014 – Monday 24th February 2014. With the Awards Ceremony on Friday 25th April 2014 and god willing we will be there to pick up an award but in order for that to happen we need your votes!
As I sat in the crowd of about 50 at the Cr8 Gallery in Hackney, London, I remembered the words of the legendary Chinua Achebe- “….there is that great proverb; that until the lion learns to speak, the history of hunting will glorify the hunter. Once I realised that, I had to become a writer. I had to be that historian.” Undoubtedly, it is this same sense of realisation that inspired James C. Lewis’ exhibition- The Orisha Experience. Through his camera lens, he offered us a rare glimpse of the Orishas in all their pomp and majesty, and more importantly from an African perspective.
For a long time, the supposed authorities on issues regarding Africa were anything but African, and their uneducated views on our cultural traditions and practices were generally contemptuous. In the end, what became the established truth about us and our customs was not what was defined by us, but what has been defined for us by others with little or no understanding of our cultural protocols. We accepted as truth the condescending appraisals of our traditional forms of worship by the early European missionaries. The same missionaries that set up schools where African children were taught to loathe local deities, yet stories eulogising Greco-Roman gods and goddesses formed part of the school curriculum. These days, you do not need missionaries to perpetuate the indoctrination. African parents will happily allow their children to watch Walt Disney movies like Hercules but will swiftly rebuke a child if he as much as mentions the name of a local deity. Any reference to African gods or goddesses still stirs up a feeling of contempt.
Hence, it is not surprising that throughout his formal education, from elementary through to college, James C. Lewis, an African American from Atlanta, Georgia, never came across any tales about African deities. But all this was about to change. Fuelled by curiosity, equipped with a camera and drawing inspiration from the well of his imagination, James showed us a whole new way to tell the African story. This spectacular portrayal of the Yoruba Orishas, never seen before, deservedly drew immense admiration from across the world- from Brazil to Portugal and all the way down to Australia. Something that started as a personal journey resonated with multitudes of people of African descent in a way James never would have imagined. In a captivating mix of colourful art and grandeur, the Orishas have been given a visual dimension.
For me, this exhibition was not just about a spiritual quest or the appeal to our aesthetic faculties. It is the deeper impact on our psychology as a race that excites me. That we can see a reflection of ourselves in these demigods is empowering. For a race that has been subjected to deliberate misrepresentation throughout most of history, it is refreshing to be reminded that we have within us collectively and individually, the power and ability to rewrite our story and even dare to present our gods and goddesses in our own likeness.
This is inspired by Afua Hirsch’s article for The Guardian: Our Parents Left Africa- Now We Are Coming Home. This article is not meant to be a direct response to the one named above but to merely offer a different perspective on the issue of the economic migration of Africans to the west and the return home- from the perspective of one born and raised in Africa but living in the west.
I was born and raised in Ghana, but I have been in and out of the UK since I was about 17 years old. I therefore did not have to go through the topsy-turvy period of trying to discover my cultural identity as do many children of African descent growing up in the west. Though I am embarrassed by stories like the one that appeared on the cover of the Economist in 2000, I am not affected as much as my cousins who have been born and raised in the UK and whose knowledge of Africa is largely shaped by what they see in the media. Unlike them, I know of a different Africa- an African where the roads are just as good as those in the west and people drive around in Range Rovers. Consequently, I did not go through that excruciating experience of denying ones own roots and disassociating oneself from Africa and anything African. Many like me, who relocate to the west at an older age, have different kinds of issues to deal with; you get white Europeans looking at us like we all speak in clicks and have come from war ravaged countries where we walked 10miles every morning just to fetch water from the same river our livestock drink from. I remember I was once sat in a predominantly white church where the vicar had just returned from an evangelism trip to Uganda. Before his sermon that morning, he decided to show the congregation photos from his trip on the projector screen. He had visited a church branch in one of the shanty towns. The flick showed images of living accommodations constructed from scrap metal, plywood and plastic sheets-one on top of the other and situated right in next to a massive refuse site. As I sat there lost in my thought wondering what becomes of children born in such an environment, I had a gentle tap on my shoulder. It was the vicar’s wife and her words were; “Does this remind you of home?” I was dumbstruck and could not utter a word, so she obviously took my silence to mean a “yes” in response to her question. I could not help but think the whole congregation had the same question on their minds. The vicar had no other photos of Uganda other than that of the shanty town. So a congregation of about 20 went home that Sunday with one image of Africa in their heads. This is our battle; constantly battling the stereotypical image of the African. And we battle these stories and images not because we deny Africa faces issues of the poverty, famine and senseless wars, we do so because we know there is another Africa whose story never makes the headlines. Because we are aware that the constant reproduction this negative image does nothing but rob us of our dignity as a people.
Though it may still be true that life abroad means “access to a stable income, reliable healthcare and a credible education”, unlike the Africans from Afua’s mother’s era, leaving for this breed of African migrants is not permanent. Not only are flights home more frequent and comparatively cheaper, we are starkly aware of the changing fortunes of Africa and the many economic opportunities its offering. So when we have had the education, the work experience and managed to pull enough resources together, we find our way back home. And we do go back with good experience, having traveled the world and observed and engaged with many other cultures. That is why whenever I go back to Ghana to see the family, I scream if I have to queue up for hours and be played like a ping pong between different customer service desks just to get my own money from a bank; because I have lived in a society where customer service is excellent most of the time. And in the same vain, whenever I visit Ghana, my heart warms with pride when I see my neighbour admonishing my niece and nephews when they are being mischievous because I have lived in a society that has a broken family and societal system and experienced the consequences.
I do not hold our experiences to be richer and better than those who have lived on the continent all their lives, but our experience however offers a different perspective which can be harnessed for our common good. The African migrant of today has the ability to negotiate both worlds with relative ease. We can put on a British or an American accent if the need rises or switch to our local African languages so we do not get swindled by people back home who may mistake us to be foreigners.
Year after year, several Africans resident in Europe and America make that final journey back home. It was several years ago they begun that sojourn- they carried not just their luggage and passports bearing a much sort after visa, they also carried within them a dream. A dream that some day they can come back home and build economic empires so big that their children would not have to make this journey ever again. But as one group gets off the plane at the Kotoka International Airport, another jumps on, back to Europe and America beginning their sojourn. It has become something of a cycle. But this cycle is losing its momentum. For a long time bad press has sucked away belief in us as a people and in the continent. But somehow there is a new sense of optimism within Africans – on and off the continent, returnees and “stayees”. Africa is on the surge and it is no longer so uncool to be African or to be associated with anything African. I tune the radio to Kiss Fm in London and I hear D’banj singing Oliver Twist, I go to a club in Dortmund and I see people dancing azonto, I drive through Brussels and I see someone in African prints. Africa is on the rise.
On my last visit to Ghana in April 2012, I sat watching telly with my mother. It was a children’s rap competition and what struck me was the fact that none of these children performed lines by Drake or J. Cole, they were spitting the lyrics of Sarkodie, KwawKesse and EL. I sat with a grin across my face. The change has finally begun. When I was growing up our rap icons were all American. We wanted to speak and dress like them, so we longed to be American. Now this generation of Ghanaian children have their heroes in Ghana. Just like their icons, these children now believe they can live in Ghana and be whatever they wish to be.
When we at MeFiri Ghana dedicated this month’s articles to “change” in Ghana, this was hardly the kind of change we hoped to be writing about. Now with grief in our hearts and flags flying at half mast, a nation and its entire people from both ends of the political divide mourn.
That a nation should lose its leader only a couple of months to a general election is a clear recipe for political chaos and unrest. The demise of sitting presidents across our continent has almost always thrown nations into a state of commotion. Constitutions end up in the trash bin and either the military takes over or the nation is hijacked by cronies of the deceased leader. Our neighbours to the east can testify to that. When Eyadéma died on February 5, 2005, his son, Faure Gnassingbé, was immediately installed as President with support from the army. The people of Gabon had a similar experience. After Bongo’s death in June 2009, his son Ali Bongo—who had long been assigned key ministerial responsibilities by his father—was elected to succeed him in August 2009. And in Guinea, just six hours after Conte’s death on 22 December 2008, a statement was read on television announcing a military coup d’état!
So undoubtedly, the western media had their cameras trained on our beloved nation, wishing for something sensational to occur. But once again, we proved them wrong and redirected their attention back to Syria. Hours after the announcement of the demise of the president, the military did not take over and neither did his son or compadres squabble over power. We followed the dictates of the constitution and duly swore in the vice president as the new president. And this news has not made the headlines for only one reason; it is not the usual African story of bloodshed and hunger accompanied with gruesome images that sells so well. For all the sensationalists, Ghana is no news at all.
Even though we mourn and grief, we can hold our heads high with pride. In death we are still a shining example to all. Rest in peace John Evans Atta Mills and God bless the family you left behind and the nation you led.
On Friday the 20th of April, whilst our very honourable politicians and the knowledgeable “social commentators” were busy discussing the very important issue of who said what and the meaning of treason, about 50 youths gathered at the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT to brainstorm on the very unimportant issue of youth unemployment.
I went into this brainstorming session with a lot of scepticism. A World Bank sponsored program in collaboration with a group called Africa Gathering, the task was to come out with a report with recommendations at the end of the session for the World Bank to forward to policy makers across the continent. It sounded like it was going to be just like one of those talk shops NGOs and other international aid agencies organise just so they are seen to be doing something. It ends up being nothing but just talk, talk and talk. No action. But I walked out of this session with a big smile across my face and a deep hope in my heart for the youth of Ghana. And it’s not because it did not end up being just another talk shop – there was lots of talking and I believe the report will be completed and sent up to the World Bank. I’m just not sure what will come of it. It may be acted upon or it may be locked up in a cabinet and forgotten about, but either way this program, for me, was a big success!
The program brought together a collection of articulate and ambitious youths from diverse backgrounds and they talked and talked. My initial fear was that, no one in a position of authority would hear them. But they were not discouraged. They talked among themselves and listened to each other. They bounced ideas off each other and at the end, they all left the conference room motivated. Motivated to go out there and make a difference, in their personal lives and in the community. They came up with brilliant ideas about starting their own businesses to tackle local needs. Young entrepreneurs linked up with the aim of collaborating and tapping into each other’s resources to advance their young businesses.
In a week when it seemed like all people cared about was petty politics, these ambitious young men and women gave me hope! And it felt very refreshing. Before I end, I must say it was not all the youngsters. Ms Eva Lokko, Director General of GBC, joined in on the brainstorming session and was a great addition to the discussion. If any of my readers ever meet her, tell her we all say “thank you” and that I will do articles on the educational system. Hopefully someone somewhere may read it and kick start the much needed reforms.
So Boko Haram literally blasts its way into the news headlines once again. They murdered about 450 people last, so judging by the death figures of about 150 on Friday, this terrorist group is likely to deal much more death in Nigeria this year.150 dead in a single attack- now that is a lot of death! Nigeria is not a stranger to violence but violence on this scale is something else. How can so much violence justify anything? How can such violence be said to be the means to a better state of affairs. How can an organisation with such violent methods possibly form a fair and just government if it does acquire power.
All terrorist organisations are generically the same, they are all power seeking establishments. They have one aim- to rule over the masses by any means possible. The founders and leaders of such groups seem to believe they have a divine right to rule and they manage to convince impressionable youngsters to fight for their cause, whilst they live in luxury and do the very things they forbid all others. In a word they are hypocrites. Like Bin Ladin inspiring thousands of young Muslim extremists to fight and die in caves in the desolate mountains of Afghanistan whiles he lived in a million dollar mansion in Pakistan.
Boko Haram’s founder was no different. Mohammed Yusuf had a western education and drove around in a Mercedes Benz! Ironically, Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education. Surprising, in a 15-minute video posted on YouTube, the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau is seen in a white long sleeve shirt with a green DPM vest.
So once again bad people hid behind religion to cause destruction. This is not about religion, its not even about the innocent people of Nigeria who have been caught in the middle. Like the proverbial fight between the two elephants, its only the ground and the vegetation that suffers. My heart bleeds for the innocent citizens caught in the middle of this nasty power struggle, but as always, the people will win- eventually.
Nine years ago I volunteered to work in an orphanage in a small village in the Eastern part of Ghana I am no Mother Theresa so I didn’t do it for a humanitarian or altruistic reasons.
I had 3 months to spare and nothing better to do but I am thankful I did it. It turned out to be one of the best things I have done in my life! Four volunteers, 2 lads (Si and I) and to lasses (Nana and Rach), I remember the first day I turned up at the orphanage. There were about 25 children, the oldest 14 years and the youngest was about 2 years. I smiled nervously as we were introduced to them and the 2 ladies that worked there. This was nothing like I had imagined. Well I did not expect the kids to be in 5 star accommodation and to be treated to a feast all day everyday but what I saw was well below my expectation. The children looked malnourished for a start and what they were having for breakfast? A tiny pot each containing Heinz baby food. Every child was to eat that, even the 14 year old! We all looked on in shock. I think Grandma (the owner of the orphanage) noticed this, she pulled up a pot and offered it to us, “try it” she said, “it tastes good”. Apparently they had been donated to the orphanage by her daughter who lives in Italy. We later had to explain its food meant for little babies. Bless her, she is illiterate so could not have read the labels.
After breakfast the children started getting dressed for school. I notice the clothes were either too tight on them or hung too loose. It was as though they had a pool of clothes from which each child had to take a dip every morning and don whatever their tiny bodies pulled out. The orphanage building itself was in a pretty good state. It’s a 3 room semi-detached house. There were massive straw mats spread in all the rooms suggesting every room was used as a bedroom. The area in front of the building was where they had their shower and is also used as a cooking area. Later on that morning we made our way to the “school”, it’s about 50 metres from the orphanage itself. I am not sure if you would call it a school, it’s a church hall which doubles up as a classroom for these children. Grandma could only afford to employ 1 teacher so all they had was one big class, with children of varying ages. Teaching aid was the billy basic. Two 3m x 2m chalk board painted black with carbon from used dry cell batteries, a few boxes of chalk and not enough books, pens and pencils for every child.
All four of us seemed confused. I bet the same question was ringing through each of our heads “where do we start?” We all imagined we were going into a structured organisation were we would be given defined roles but what we had was the exact opposite. The only structure we had was the orphanage building itself! After long deliberation, we decided Nana and Rach would take care of the orphanage – food, accommodation etc Si and I would take care of the school with the teacher. We got to work that same day. We split them up into 3 classes based on their ages and that was no mean task as these children had no clue how old they were! We each took a class. We managed to get some more books, pens and pencils. We had a good routine going and we had some pretty clever students too. Plans were in place to get some of them into the mainstream local government school.
Fast forward three months and you had 25 children in tears and 4 volunteers fighting to hold back theirs. It was time to say goodbye, it was time to go back home. Four ordinary people with a few months to spare had made a whole world of difference in the lives of these children. There are many orphanages and like institutions in dire need of voluntary workers. These institutions do not have the funds to employ full time workers. Most of them are started and managed by benevolent individuals out of the kindness of their hearts. Like the one I worked in, Grandma started and funded it from her own pocket, with donations from her daughter who is resident in Italy. During our time there we met an Irish timber merchant who lived in the next village. He made a couple of donations whilst we were there and hopefully that continued.
I am well aware that in Ghana there are only a few organisations which run such voluntary programs so let us make good use of them. You don’t have to be a professional teacher or a social worker. All they need is a willing heart ready to help. It does not have to be 3 months; it could be a few hours a day, a week or a month. Many Ghanaian university graduates often complain about the lack of work experience when they come out of university which is a major requirement for most employers. Well here is my simple, common sense solution. If we make it compulsory for all students in Ghana to spend at least one holiday period during their four years at university to do some sort of voluntary work, then we would have killed two birds with one stone. One, students will leave university with some work experience for their CV and two; they would have provided a great service to the very needy in our society. It will also help teach our youth the priceless value of volunteering for unpaid work in a world where money is held in high esteem. Let us encourage the spirit of volunteerism!
I have been stuck in a hellhole for several weeks now. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Sky Sports, no Match of the Day, no Hollyoaks, no X Factor and no Come Dine with Me! The only phone is broke, so the main means of communication with the outside world is the dying art of letter writing. Being here however has its positives. None of the variety associated with the modern way of life – struggling to come up with a clever status update for your Facebook or Twitter profile every minute and definitely none of the stress of having to dig into your wallet and pay for extortionate train fares, but there’s also a downside from being away from all of this.
We are starved for news. Newspapers and magazines are delivered to us but they are always weeks out of date. It’s practically history by the time it comes through but I devour every bit of news article, which seems to be full of doom and gloom every time. Economic recession continues, Steve Job passes away – and I am told the iPhone 4S is well disappointing! Tevez refuses to come off the bench to play, yet he his paid thousands of pounds a week!
And the saga continues in Libya. You will find only a handful of good news and the page 3 girls seem to be getting fitter every week! One positive article in “The Week” caught my attention. Warren Buffet has injected $5bn of his own money into the beleaguered Bank of America. He only gets a meagre 6% annual return. With his investment process, he could be making a killing elsewhere but he chose to save one of America’s largest banks! This is a free act of patriotism.
I could not help but take a look at my beloved Ghana. Most Ghanaians have a great sense of national pride. We would hoist the flag of Ghana anywhere in the world.
We will scream our heads off cheering the Black stars and even in defeat but how many of us will put our money where our mouths is?
How many will make the ultimate sacrifice for Ghana’s sake?
How many will do a “Luis Suarez” for Ghana?
“Patriotism” has become a colloquial word to many Ghanaians. It is seen as a word that belongs to the era of the independence struggle and the immediate aftermath. We have increasingly become a very individualistic nation. Each man for himself, the national good is left to second place. In this capitalistic world it is easy for people to put their own interest before that of their country. This is to be expected in a world where individual integrity and enterprise is held in high esteem and even in a country where many feel their share of the national cake is being munched by the big bellied government official at the top. Some may argue a collection of individual success may ultimately lead to national success. This may be true but excessive individualism will only suffocate patriotism. It is a hard balancing act but let John F Kennedy’s words be our guiding principle in all situations.
“Ask not what YOUR country can do for you, ask what YOU can do for your country”