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Opinions of Tuesday, 26 October 2004

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Ghana: Mobilizing For Progress

I just got back from a Ghanaian funeral and was quite impressed with the outpouring of support for the bereaved family. While schmoozing with friends at the funeral, I just could not help but to remark unstintingly that, despite the chilly evening, there were more people in attendance than there have been at any summit or seminar aimed at development in Ghana that I have attended. If you haven?t seen a friend for a while, visit a funeral near you. On a simplistic level, there is more unity and outpouring among Ghanaians when a corpse is at stake than there is when our future and very existence is on the line. My motivation to highlight this phenomenon is not intended to belittle the fallen but instead, to draw attention to our lack of intensity around equally, if not more, important issues.

What really feeds this gross apathy and dithering faith around mobilization efforts, aimed at moving Ghana towards political freedom and economic emancipation? As one who just exited, not too long ago, from a pro-development Ghanaian organization and therefore did witness some of the challenges, I can testify that we have a long way to go in organizing efforts to help Ghana. Some of the problems centers around bad leadership, apathy, sycophancy, lack of commitment, trust, poor decision-making, lack of inclusiveness, personal issues, lack of focus, lack of accountability and bald face irresponsibility. Of course, one can dig deeper for other reasons. The bottom line is that a lot of dross has accumulated as a result of these problems over the years. Ghanaians can?t help but to learn from the past and sit safely on the fence. Unfortunately, this intractable baggage continues to stymie some of the good and honest efforts that seem to gain little or no traction. Our clarion call now is to find creative ways to turn this ominous tide around.

The logical question then is this, how do we turn this apathetic syndrome of not uniting around business and charity around? How can we generate funeral-like frenzy around business and charity? After all, is a funeral not a grand charity event? My basic assumption here is this, unity around a common purpose of helping Ghana through investment and charity seems to be the most practical way forward. The Salvadorians are uniting around help to their motherland, so why not us? Will it be presumptuous to say that when we pool our resources we stand to make more of a real lasting and practical impact than when we precariously try to go it alone? Never mind that we get to pool our risk in such efforts as well. My vote for pooling ours resources around business investments and charity is pivoted on the logic that when we create businesses we create jobs. When we creates jobs, we honor the age-old adage that teaching people to fish when they need one, is much better than giving them a fish when they want one. So my question is this, would you rather your relative have a job in Ghana or continue to expect remittances from you? Are you more interested in a culture of enablement or empowerment as oppose to dependency and entitlement in Ghana? Why support perpetual dependency? What is wrong with creating a non-partisan, non-tribal national investment organization designed to specifically channel investment from the diaspora to identified viable projects?

I know many of you probably continue to send tons of money home to your families as it stands. Your family needs the stipend to live. However, are we willing to go beyond the latter in the name of Ghana? Will you consider investing in Ghana if you know that it will go to create jobs while you earn profit? Often times, some have been more comfortable organizing such business help along tribal lines. Is that really the way to go? Should the business of investment and charity have a tribal flavor? I guess everyone wants to brighten their corner but we must keep in mind that a lot of these projects cut across tribal considerations. For example, helping to build or rejuvenate a hospital defies tribal coloring. After all, everyone uses Korle-Bu as well as Okomfo Anokye hospital. Probably, people want to feel reassured that there are or will be amenities in their neck of the woods.

While some of us gleefully frolic in the sunshine of unity and economic nationalism, we are not at all convinced that the situation at home is conducive to business investment or charity work. To start with, the pro-corruption colonially inspired bureaucracy is a huge disincentive to such mobilization efforts. The system back in Ghana is too bottlenecked to inspire well-meaning Ghanaians to invest. Some of us have called for a one stop pro-business processing center in Ghana. These business process centers should be littered all over the regions to instigate a seamless effusion of capital into the Ghanaian economic bloodstream. We must not tolerate or nourish a monstrous bureaucracy leashed, if not tethered to the values of corruption, inaction and lack of change.

To help with capital mobilization effort, there is a strong need for our folks on the ground to create opportunities for investment. Besides the need for every Ghanaian to do some serious introspection, the elite and intelligentsia in particular, must apply the knowledge that they have acquired. On the former, I am sure we can all agree that the issue of trust and honesty in Ghana is a plague in need of a panacea. The latter though, brings into sharp focus the fact that education is totally useless if the knowledge so acquired cannot be applied. Personally, I am fed up with intellectuals who can regurgitate western theories and all kinds of western formulae but fail to apply such knowledge to local problems. Ironically, our villages abound with challenging opportunities that offer plenty to keep our inert intellectuals busy. If you add local commonsense to intellectual ingenuity, there is no reason why we should be suffused with inept intellectuals who are literally cognitive misers. We should make it a point not to validate intellectuals who do the bidding of the imperialists while they neglect the real life situations at home. In my opinion and I am sure many would agree that, the markers for Ghana?s development are firmly staked in the villages and slums of Ghana.

For some awful reasons, Ghanaians oversea have not been able to significantly establish business projects that actually produce made in Ghana goods. My fellow Ghanaians, we need and have to get away from the buy and sell consumption economy that creates jobs for everyone but us. Our economy will not be propelled by the reckless and environmentally insensitive extraction going on as we speak. We are flirting with economic disaster if we continue to nurture our soaring appetite for overseas goods. As much we can, we must produce the goods that we consume at home. For example, given the brilliance of our tailors at home, why must we continue to import shirts from overseas? These shirts that we import shamelessly, are made in third world countries just like Ghana because of labor cost. So why can?t we further polish our tailors and produce our own shirts locally? Why can?t we export shirts to other African countries and the world at large? What is really wrong with us? The investors are not going to Ghana because the miasmic economic conditions there are not the best for investment. The onus therefore is on us. We are the only ones who can ignore, if not cope with, the serious anti-investment hurdles that our zany politicians continue to foment. Who will do it if we don?t? Perhaps we know the terrain better than others.

Lastly, we need leadership to make this work. What we?ve lacked over the years and do now is a need for commonsense leadership that achieves results. We need selfless leaders who are able to merge public and private interest in a way that creates positive economic synergy predicated on love of country and economic wellbeing. We need a visionary who is willing and able to model exemplary behaviors geared at making our economic dream a reality. One who will place nation above partisanship and tribe. We need a leader who will convince our people to challenge the basic assumptions that underlie the worldview that they entertain. Finally, we need a leader who has enough sense to understand that political freedom is meaningless so long as it is divorce from economic freedom. We have achieved a level of political freedom. Now, we must take seriously the nagging and elusive problem of economic emancipation.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.