Ghana: Perspectives of Ghana at 50

Like most Sub-Saharan Africans, Ghanians use the English language—not only as a lingua franca, but also as the official language. They use English on top of many local languages—and dialects—spoken and heard throughout the country. It therefore comes as a little surprise that (young) Ghanaians might just fall a tad short of being conversationally-challenged with regard to their local language.

So ingrained in the culture of the country is the use of English that Maximus of finds himself:

ashamed to identify myself as a Ghanaian. Why? Because I don't know my mother tongue (Twi) as well as I know English. I can't speak, write, and read it as well as I do English. Sad I know. You want to know another shameful secret? I was born and raised in the Greater Accra Region, but I can't speak Ga. Yep, you read right. Don't worry my family and friends still tease me. I can blame the educational system and lots of people, but the number one person to blame is me. I should have paid more attention in language class

Another communication challenge is that of the execrable, or very poor, service of the leading mobile telecommunication provider in the country—Areeba, which Abocco, of GhanaConscious writes:

he interesting thing is how Areeba continues to capture the bulk of the market. Their promotions and investment in marketing a few years ago have really paid off to the point that the ‘cool’ and ‘chic’ phone service to have is Areeba. Compound this with the fact that it is cheaper to make calls from one Areeba customer to another than to someone with a different service, one is doomed to get an Areeba chip since most of friends use it anyway. In the meantime, they have the worst network and instead of improving it, they are focusing on becoming more ‘attractive’ by sponsoring entertainment events and embarking on more promotions

He maintains that despite Areeba's problem, the other mobile provider, Kasapa, has a small share of the market, despite having the best technology (CDMA). That they have phones which he considers “ugly” doesn’t help them catch up any faster!

In the meantime, as Ghana creeps towards what may prove to be an explosive Jubilee celebration on 6 March, Ghanaian bloggers cannot help but express their opinions. The first, being Emmanuel Okyere who commends Ghana President John Kufuor for his state of the nation address two weeks ago. Two main issues addressed in the speech touched him, economic performance and ICT:

today the revolution of Information Communication Technology is fundamentally changing the way the world works and decreasing the marginal cost of production and raising productivity across all industries. The Government will continue to place emphasis on the potential of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to provide the foundation for transforming the nation’s economy.

To ensure that every District has access to high speed internet connection and promote a wider penetration of ICT services throughout the country, including distance education and tele-medicine, the Government has secured from the Government of China, a concessionary loan facility of $30 million to construct a national Fibre Optic Communication Backbone

Luke, of I’ll Alight at This Thing(Luke in Ghana), reflects on how different the capital of the Northern part of Ghana, Tamale looks after a two-month absence from the region:

There are now street signs up on the larger streets, revealing names I hadn’t know about before. However, the word Tamale is written in colour, with “Tam” in blue and “ale” in red – giving the signs a beer ad flavour.

The main street in the centre of town is being “decongested” – all the local shops, which are set up on the side of the street in small shack-like buildings, are being cleared out. Apparently they’re being relocated to two satellite markets in town, but I don’t know the details on this (nobody seems to), and I’m dubious about how effective these markets will be. The main strip was a major commercial hub for the city, and I worry that relocating all these shopkeepers will put a major dent in their sales

Whilst heaping praises about the warmth of Ghanaians, that is “unparalleled” as something that has not changed in his absence, he contends—with some degree of ambivalence—that the developments in Tamale:

…all seems to relate to Ghana’s 50th anniversary – the 6th March will mark 50 years of independence for Ghana from British rule (the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain this status), and they’re sure to celebrate. Beautification projects are ongoing across the country.

Ghana will also be hosting the Cup of African Nations 2008 – an African soccer tournament. It’s for this reason that the new stadium is being constructed.

These two events are certainly exciting, but I can’t help but wonder if the preparations leading up to them are doing more harm for the people of Tamale than good

On a very different note, a blog from an unusual quarter, EU Referendum, comments on Ghana’s independence, generalising about the country’s first President Dr.Kwame Nkrumah, without taking into account local collusion with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which has been considered the key culprit. Szamuely, the blog editor, Helen writes:

There can be no question about it, the twin causes of Ghana's downfall from its advantageous position fifty years ago are the Marxist, socialist experiment that was imposed on it in the name of something called “the African way”; and the indiscriminate aid that poured in from Western countries whose leaders were trying to assuage historic “guilt” without bothering to find out what actually happened to the money.

Finally, she uses the tenuous comparison between South Korea and Ghana (though it’s usually been Malaysia, also celebrating its Jubilee Year this year):

In 1957 when Ghana became independent it was a relatively wealthy country. Its present and future was contrasted advantageously with that of South Korea by all the pundits. Ghana was rich, democratic, full of natural resources. South Korea was none of those things and what was going to happen to the country.

Well, fifty years on, we know the answer. By African standards, Ghana is not doing too badly. South Korea has shot ahead to become one of the world's fastest developing economies and a serious threat to the sclerotic economies of Western Europe. Presumably, when Segolene Royal promised to introduce measures to control globalization, South Korea was one of the countries she had in mind (if she had anything specific in mind, that is). It was not Ghana, you may be sure.

Ghanaians are bound to groan collectively upon hearing such arguments that, sadly, might continue in any analysis of the country by non-Africans!

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