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Opinions of Sunday, 8 October 2006

Columnist: Ankomah, Afua

I'd LOVE a free ticket, BUT!!!...

- The musings of an ordinary Ghanaian

I’ve heard many people say it – especially those who don’t like hip hop... “Jay-Z is coming to Ghana, so what? Who kraa is Jay-Z??” Okay, let’s look at it in purely economic terms. Mr Z, as I like to call him, even though our paths have never crossed (Mister Shawn Corey Carter), has sold more than 17 million copies of his albums worldwide. Repeat sales are likely, so if we make the grossly simplistic assumption that each of his fans bought one copy of one of his worst-selling albums (and didn’t pass copies on to their friends who would therefore not become fans), that’s still 500,000 devotees.

What does that mean for Ghana? Well, take an arbitrary 1per cent of that and pretend that they follow Jay Z’s every move and will know he is in Ghana. Assuming even 10 per cent of those people decided to find out more about Ghana and 1% of those were going to make the actual journey, our actual tourism figures would increase by at least 5 people. That’s from a totally un-related event, focussing purely on entertainment value. And it moves quickly to double that when you consider that most of his albums scratched platinum. Remember, Ghana is looking to hit the 1 million tourist target, and every little bit counts…

So, just to recap, Mr Z is currently on the continent for a very noble cause – he is shooting a documentary on the difficulty one billion people worldwide have in accessing life’s most essential liquid – water. And by the way, he’s on a WORLD tour…but maybe I’m the only one out of six billion that thought he was just jet-setting to do more concerts.

Now, I know our ‘countrymen’ have been running helter skelter trying to make Mr Z feel comfortable, but we have to understand that we hold our own country in high esteem, and being in a country for barely 24 hours can be taken both ways.

First, and most probable: He came…eventually. But only after a lot of pushing and prodding because he didn’t think we were that important. He’s a very busy person, and has things to do. Visiting little countries, yeah, he’ll do that, but he won’t stay long.

Second: Well, it wasn’t part of his original schedule, and when we suggested the idea, he jumped at it, Kofi Annan being from Ghana and all. Furthermore, Africa is a very important continent, and who wouldn’t want to at least set foot in the first sub-Saharan country in the Motherland to gain independence? Of course he’s busy, but nobody’s that busy. Ghana is important.

This brings me to the point that how we handle this situation and others that will inevitably come our way, will significantly impact other people’s perceptions of us. I have to insist that I am attacking the concept, not the personality. I am 100% completely biased in my unrequited love for this particular individual…

When Chris Attoh said in an interview on CITI 97.3 FM (an Accra-based radio station) last week, "I'm thinking about the Entertainment value", and essentially implied the station's listeners should forget about the 'peripherals' my heart sank - because Jay-Z being in Ghana is so much more than that.

Jay-Z being in Ghana for even 2 hours is a means to thrust the nation’s doors open to the world. Especially to those who didn't even know Ghana AFTER the World Cup. We seem to forget we have a 50th Anniversary celebration to make the most of, and that $20 million is being put aside for it by Government. (Remind me, people, how much is Jay-Z worth again?). Well, according to most recent information, a very educated guestimate puts it at over 300 million dollars.

Sorry, Chris, I don’t mean to do this to you, but when CITI FM’s Fred Chidi asked, “So what involvement does the UN have in this?”, Mr Attoh’s Answer was, “Basically, none.” Though it’s true the UN isn’t particularly involved in the concert aspect, we can’t be very happy with that, and neither would Mr Z, for all intents and purposes, since he’s really trying to be a bit more than just a celebrity this time around.

Regardless, tickets are selling for 1 million cedis (VIP) and 600,000 for all y’all common people. Let’s look at it still in economic terms, doing some very shaky arm-chair analysis on the basis of conservative guestimates. According to the President’s GDP figures (Feb 2005), the annual income of the average Ghanaian individual works out to about ¢4.6m ($600 @ ¢9200 per dollar). According to the Statistical Service’s, GDP slightly lower, at 3,496,000 (World Bank, 2004 @ $380). Using those numbers, the average Kofi/Ama would have to dish out between 12 and 30 per cent of their annual income to go see a show that would last for less time than it takes to get a good night’s sleep (to be able to work hard and be more productive on Monday). Or looking at it sideways, a minimum wage earner would have had to work for between 37 and 63 days just to afford a ticket.

Moving on, however…let’s put the seating capacity of the Accra International Conference Centre at about 500. Let’s introduce an 80-20 split between the common folk and the VIPs. That makes a total of ¢340m , and with approximately 30% of that used to pay off residual costs (that sponsorship couldn’t reach), that still leaves ¢238m in one night…not bad, eh? Pure profit, too. But that’s definitely being overly simplistic about it.

Nonetheless, the number 1 killer in Ghana, and Africa, please remember, remains malaria (interesting how it’s caused by stagnant water). And there are other plagues – HIV/AIDS, Breast Cancer, Guinea Worm (water again!), that detract from our efforts at building a strong and healthy nation. Poor but increasingly educated children remain able to eat only one hot meal a day, thanks to the capitation grant, and nurses, doctors and teachers are not very enthused about their salary levels, or working conditions. Neither are graduate teachers, I hear. I have not checked recently whether babies are still being delivered via polythene bags instead of sterilised gloves, but the point is, it has been done. I just hope that the concert organisers, and maybe even Mr Z will take, or have already taken some time off their busy schedules to make sure that all that money isn’t concentrated in the hands of the very few who individuals who may already have a lotta money ‘n things.

Of course, I do have to mention that every time Africa is portrayed as a continent of dismay, it breaks my heart, because there are a quite few people working hard to make a living and keep up with Internationaldom (props to Charterhouse!)… We could even polish up our entrepreneurial skills while we’re at it.

It is also very important to recognise that a lot of work will go into this concert, and I hope that most of it will give Ghanaian Business a chance to shine…and show why we ARE the “Black Star of Hope and Honour to all who thirst for Liberty”.

And to Jay-Z (someone tell him when you see him), there’s a lot more than 24 hours’ worth of really good life to experience here… luckily for you, we’ll still be here when you get back…and maybe you can stop by to pay a courtesy call on Kofi Annan, when he returns after December.

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