Voices from Ghana: It's Not All About the Energy Crisis; Stanbic Takes Over Ghana's ADB?; New Currency Arrives

Ghana might be going through an energy crisis, but, somehow, that has not deterred both expatriate and Ghanaian bloggers from making surprisingly positive comments about the country in which they live in.

We open this week’s reviews with two of such entries. The first is by a Ghanaian blogger Got Lights? who writes:

You gotta love Ghana. And after 3 weeks out of town in Liberia and Sierra Leone, you gotta love it more. In both these countries there are power outages so it's just like home. But here in Gh [Ghana] there is some semblance of scheduling even though residents in East Legon will beg to differ.

She maintains that “Ghana is changing so fast, it’s hard to keep up”, and cites this example:

I got to Shell to buy petrol after 3 weeks and the attendant asks : Super or V-Power? What is V-Power? I politely ask him: What is the difference? and he says : 1000 cedis. Well that surely tells me a lot. That V-Power fuel is within my price reach! As to what it does for my car, now that is another issue. Unleaded fuel vrs leaded fuel

The fast pace that she sees is attributed to the following:

dual carriage roads, streetlights, swept roads, collected trash and no groups of youth and men hanging around on the streets

Challenges and serious developmental problems notwithstanding, she admonishes the reader to remember that whenever Ghanaians feel like complaining:

let's keep in mind that although we are ages behind the developed world, we are also eons ahead our compatriots in the developing world

Emily, writing in her blog the Ghana Journal, writes a post that chronicles, albeit briefly, her 22-hourr stay in Togo’s capital city, Lome:

I've managed to avoid the trip, three hours away, to Lome, Togo, just across the border. Finally this week, I popped over there for an assignment, spending less than a day in a city that's a bit too much like Accra, but somehow a more run-down version

Her journey proved to be more epiphanous than expected, with the biggest being the power outages, which plagues Ghana, but in Togo, apparently, is a bit more haphazard and, well, unplanned:

Here's another thing: as much as we b*tch about the regular power outages here in Ghana, at least we know, for the most part, when they are coming. I checked into my hotel around 4 p.m. and flopped on my bed under the ceiling fan. Not five minutes later, the power cut out. It came back on around 9 p.m., just long enough for me to fall asleep under the fan, before cutting out again sometime later. It still wasn't back on by the time I checked out at 7:30 a.m.

She concedes, though, that one thing Lome has over Accra is:

a nice assortment of streetside restaurants with local food and beer, plastic tables and big fans to blow the sweat off ya.

Meanwhile, back in Accra, the fast-pace continues, what with the impending re-denomination of the Ghanaian cedi, which American blogger, Leanne in Ghana, writes about in her post, entitled “The End of the ‘Cedi Shuffle”:

We're gettin’ new money! It was actually announced at the first of the year, but with the changeover happening at the end of next month, things are starting to pop! In addition to what's pictured above, there will also be one and five cedi notes. The currency is being ‘redenominated’ on July 1 because, as I've mentioned before, you have to cart around buttloads of currency to pay for even small purchases.

It currently takes an excess of 9000 cedis to equal a dollar. If dinner for two costs the equivalent of 50 bucks, you have to have almost a half million cedis to pay it. If you are lucky enough to have scored ¢20,000 notes on your last trip to the bank, you still have a pile of bills too thick to put in your wallet if you expect to then fold said wallet in half.

Whilst this may no longer be any news to Ghanaians – both within and outside the country – what is interesting to note is the new website that the Bank of Ghana has set up which Leanne refers to:

You can read a lot about it (if you care) at this website, which also contains links to the audio stuff…(click on the Media and Press at the top for commercials and jingles).http://www.ghanacedi.gov.gh/

Still in Ghana, it was going to be difficult, given its proximity, for Ghanaians not to comment about the Nigeria elections. Obed Sarpong, blogging in his blog Sarpong Obed—Ready to Chew juxtaposes the French elections that saw the winning of Sarkozy as the new President to that of Nigeria, writing:

I don't know what is wrong with African leaders. I am a Ghanaian: as far as i know, we have a very good relationship with the Nigerian government. At our independence golden jubilee celebrations, president Obasanjo was the guest of honour and president Kufuor made a statement like there is a new wave of African leaders… It's a shame prez Obasanjo has betrayed that speech. He couldn't conduct a credible election. The opposition and local and foreign observers have called for a re-run of the elections. Granting an interview to the bbc which was aired yesterday, prez Obasanjo said the elections was flawed, but not so imperfect that it has to be re-run. Did you hear him.

Beyond the berating of Nigeria, he sums up:

With population of about 130 million people, only 6o million thereabout registered and about 26 million voted. Quite a scare. When the irregularities were reported and compared to that of France, most people in and out of Nigeria who in ideology sided with the government said Nigeria is far bigger than France. What a disgrace! What about nations like China and India. And if Nigeria is so big and large, how come the results were declared so soon in about 48 hours? The elections were clearly rigged! No doubt about it. What happened in Nigeria shows how outgoing African leaders elect their successors.

Meanwhile, Martin Egblewogbe of Ewomi, is more concerned about the security—or lack thereof—that was shown in April, when some students, protesting about the residential policy of university students shit-bombed the university halls of residence in Legon. Ewomi writes:

First, a few words about the s- bomb. We have to be thankful that it was not a fire bomb or some other unpleasant device. But wtf, that's no way to fight your cause. The students will lose whatever support they had from various sources if they resort to such abominations. The very thought of young Ghanaian students spending hours in planning, financing and executing such a shitty affair makes one wonder. The stuff, I presume, was carried in buckets. Enough of the stuff to knock out three large examination centres. Imagine the folks sneaking around in the dead of night with such terrible cargo.

He wonders:

So where the hell was the University Security Apparatus? Christ, one shudders to think what a really evil minded bunch could achieve.

Meanwhile the RegionsWatch Blog provides a perspective on the on-going changes in the Ghanaian banking industry, which has seen the take-over of the country’s only Agricultural Development Bank by South Africa’s Standard Bank, which operates as Stanbic in Ghana.

In RegionsWatch’s view, it is more a case of a battle between two regional blocs of SADC and ECOWAS, whereby the independent regional banking group of ECOBANK is going head-to-head with that of Standard Bank for the tag of “Pan-African Bank”. More perniciously, RegionsWatch believes it is a case of the ever-looming South African threat that is expressing itself in Ghana:

In my view, I see an interesting trend here–one of Stanbic, like South African big capital, choosing to lord it over Africa, and feeling, why not, West Africa's a good place. Once we get Ghana, we've got a springboard for the rest of West Africa. Not so fast, Stanbic! The South Africans appear not to understand not just West Africa, but its market. One thing that goes to compound this perception is an article in Friday's edition of the private Ghanaian paper The Observer, with the headline: Stanbic Offers $80m for ADB

The sub-heading speaks volumes: Workers Charge and Say “Kai!” ADB's Western Union
Inflows for 2006 Alone Was $400m

This, in fact, was reduced from $120m.The cheek of Stanbic! To think it could buy Ghana's only agricultural development bank for $80m, when Western Union's for ADB alone was clocking a good five times aaht amount speaks more about the South African chutzpah, or hubris, of feeling it can lord it over West Africa in general, and Ghana in particular.

Back to the news report from Metro news, I noticed that the following night, the station reported that the government insists it had not sold its shares in ADB, and was actually looking at an unsolicited proposal from Stanbic made last year.

It was confirmed in the state-owned Daily Graphic on Thursday, as the picture above illustrates.

I certainly hope that Bank of Ghana, and Ghanaians open their eyes to the looming threat of big capital–be it outside Africa, or on the continent itself, represented by a wolf in sheep's clothing–South Africa, always ready to please the West and its elite, yet less amenable to the interests of Black Africa.

Finally, Emmanuel, of Trials and Tribulations of a Freshly-Arrived Denizen provides an exclusive interview of morning show host Bernard Avle, who was back from Nairobi after receiving an award for his show, the CITI Breakfast Show, and for the private radio station, CITI FM itself. The station won the first-ever BBC Radio Awards’ “Best Interactive Talkshow of the Year”:

He cuts a contemplative and tall figure. Be-spectacled with some degree of seriousness etched on his face, you could be forgiven for thinking that the dynamic Bernard Avle, host of the CITI Breakfast Show is only recently a busy man. But he's not. He's been busy ever since he became the host of the young and private Accra-based radio station in late 2004.Recently from Nairobi, Kenya, where he accompanied the station's managing-director Samuel Attah-Mensah to receive an award for the “Best Interactive TalkShow of the Year”, I took the opportunity to ask him over to my workplace, whilst he was in the East Legon neighborhood for another interactive Friday show.

Emmanuel: In the West, citizen journalism and blogging is big vis-à-vis the media, with many debates raging on the threat– or lack thereof-of how Media is changing the face of journalism. Last August, the BBC reported that 61% of Nigerians had accessed the BBC website via their mobile phones ( **). Where do you see Ghanaian journalists going with New Media?
Avle: Its obviously a big opportunity which I do not think Ghanaian electronic media owners have fully opened up to. It has more to do with where media owners want to invest in. Having said that, the Ghanaian journalist has a big opportunity to take advantage of these technologies to learn from across the globe.


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