Feature Article of Saturday, 30 June 2012
Columnist: The Herald
Very seriously, if you have some money stashed out somewhere which you want to invest in Ghana, your best bet is to start up a church, a private school or just invest in a political party. You can be sure of a strong patronage, huge short term return on investment, tax freedom, safety of investment and a guaranteed juicy long term financial outlook.
This does not have anything to do with holding a degree from Harvard, Oxford, or the London School of Business. This is pure practical Ghanaian investment reality. Global credit crunch or not, these three businesses are sure to continue to not just thrive, but expand greatly.
These three businesses however show, more than any other example that Ghana is a sick country.
Church business on the one hand is the exploitation of a people’s misplaced and exaggerated spirituality, born out of the hardships they are facing and the baseless fear of the unknown. Operators of this business have a simple task of continuously orchestrating the people’s helplessness and gullibility to such issues as ill health, poverty, infertility, inability to get married, unemployment etc.
Private school business on the other hand reminds us of the systemic breakdown and shameful rot in our public school system. It is the cashing in on the need to fill up the vacuum created by the failure of public schools and to satisfy the people’s desperate need for education in whatever form it comes. But then it is not just about being desperate for education, it is about having the money to pay for it.
Politics is the most lucrative of all, politicians are the only people in Ghana who commit gangartuam crimes and get away with it without questions being asked. In other jurisdiction where individuals enter and invest in political parties as a call to national duty, in Ghana, it is a call to self-service. Your investment is risk free.
Owning any of these businesses is so simple. For the church business, you don’t need to register with anybody. Just build or hire a hall, a classroom, batcher or even a good tree shed, did I forget forest or mountain, place in some plastic white chairs, get a microphone, a pulpit stand and an offertory box. Depending on the style you prefer, begin to advertise the sudden discovery of your anointing, and make sure you spice it up with your ability to cure all sort of ailments and to perform outstanding miracles.
You can stimulate a third world war situation in the country, it is permitted. Tell them the world is coming to an end, it is permitted. Tell the people that all the demons on earth have gathered here and have sworn not to leave until we are all ruined. Tell them, they are the specific target of some extra terrestrial super power witches.
Tell them, their neighbour or mother in-law, or landlady are responsible for the troubles that have beset them. Whatever just make sure they continue to part with their meager hard earned income.
To ensure success in the business, you have to be a good orator, a psychologist, a dramatist and a perfect con-artist. It is important to hold your congregation spell bound at all time and to make them revere you as an Omni potent being.
Very importantly, you must run the business like a sole proprietorship. You alone should give the directives and no one should question your authourity. Any of your close associates who gets too ambitious should be disgraced, called an agent of the devil, ostracized and ex-communicated. Your only confidant should be your wife, who should share your anointing and for ease of administration a council of elders who join in sharing the booty on pay day.
Returns on investments are huge. Sources include; Sunday and weekly fellowship offertory collections, tithes, special thanksgivings, gifts to you, sale of audio and VCD’s, sale of Holy oil, holy water, sales of Bibles etc.
Our laws provide that to start a private school, you should register with appropriate agencies of state, but the rate at which these private schools proliferate around our streets and corners and the way they operate leave one doubting if really any registration is actually going on. If there is a doubt on the registration, then surely, monitoring of their activities is non-existent. With that private school owners can do what they want with both the students and workers.
Personal residents, shacks, cubicles, unmarked buildings, and very shabby structures can be used as private schools. All that is required to legitimize the operation is a sing board which says among other things “Accredited by the National Accreditation Board (NAB)”. One very important thing however is that the school fees must be mind-boggling.
The fees do not necessarily translate into a good pay for the teachers. Unemployment is so high that giving them a job is enough privilege. If they were not ready to take the peanuts thrown their way, they were free to leave. So many are out there begging to get in. What the teachers are teaching doesn’t equally matter. What mattered was that the school made good result during the external exams.
With the good results, patronage is ensured as parents desperate to have their children get good education, will keep rushing your way. Good education here doesn’t necessarily mean intellectual competence but a certificate that qualifies them for a place in a Secondary School, a university or a good job.
What does one require to join a political party, attend one of the first class schools and have good classmates. Be a little wealthy and a shrewd businessman, come from a well-to-do family, or simply belong to the educated class and you have yourself a place at the high table. Invest the little you have in the campaign of a candidate you most likely believe is in a good stead to win the elections. Relax and watch your investments grow.
Politicians have created and exploited so many loop holes to pay back or enrich their campaign financiers, at the expense of their mandate to uplift the living standards of their people.
This is the only business where you can invest in, reap more than you had sown, steal as much as you want and get away with, without any questions asked.
With politics as it is with private schools and churches, there is large room for expansion. You could start as a nursery school then expand in record time to have a primary, secondary and even a university. That way you can keep your customers from start to the finish. The beauty of this business is that once you have established yourself, you can review your fees and charges at will. Your customers won’t leave, because they don’t have any option as the government owned public schools are an eye sour. They will continue to scrape out what they can from their meager incomes to pay. Good business don’t you think?
Perhaps these are the kind of investments our leaders talk about when they junket the globe at our expense to invite foreigners to invest in this country.
Both businesses exploit us as a people and it is a sad tale because of the complete failure of good governance and the weak institutions we have. A person with a well paying job has no business being in a church gathering by 9:00am on Monday morning, and will have less cause to continue contributing to the wealth of his or her pastor, in a way of seed sowing and all that from the little he/she has. Really, if the economy was what it should be, not too many people will find time to sit around listening to melodramatic men of God on the pulpit. They would be gainfully engaged in some worthwhile venture.
Likewise, if our government makes anything of its responsibility to provide affordable and qualitative education at all levels, we would not have everybody been turned into slaves of the private school owners.
Recently Polytechnic s were shut for weeks because the long suffering Lecturers demand for their modest share of the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), sounded meaningless to a government that increases the salary of politicians at will.
Until our politicians wake up from their slumber, which they appear incapable of doing, as every problem in this country is looked at with political lenses, we shall be continued to be exploited by business men who cash in on the deficit of our society to make brisk business.
In the meantime, like a cousin of mine told me, there is enough room for everyone in the business. So if you have the money, invest.