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Opinions of Friday, 19 August 2011

Columnist: Appiah, Gifty Andoh

Indigenous Empowerment; the way forward

My lay point of view: Indigenous Empowerment; the way forward

Anytime I hear of a robbery case, I either expect to hear or mime with the news caster the phrase, “locally manufactured gun(s)”. It has almost become generic to armed robberies in the country. If it is about small scale mining (Galamsey), it is accompanied by death, water pollution “clamp-down” intent in the pipeline for its operators, or any other tragedy. These two phenomena have consistently competed with news of domestic carnage over an appreciable length of period in Ghanaian news.

One thing the Ghanaian is praised for, besides being hospitable is “talking but never fighting”, which is in effect, talking and never acting. Indeed this attribute has propelled our governance which we try to make and call democratic and which has earned us the title “Relatively peaceful”. Great achievement I must say though it may spike some debates.

In this piece, I attempt to outline a few indigenous activities and knowledge towards a conclusion of their relevance to our development as a nation.
A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNODC) singles out Ghana from the West African region as a country with a booming arms manufacture which “is increasingly transnational” since these arms are also smuggled outside Ghana. It further states; “Iron-working technology” has been known in the region for centuries but “the manufacture of guns was (of course) made a criminal offence in colonial times”

Local smiths still have the expertise and are said to have a production capacity of “pistols,
Shotguns, revolvers and even, in one case, an AK-47” in all 10 regions on a scale of 200 or more per year. A study of five (5) of Ghana’s ten (10) regions revealed that a “manufacturing capacity existed in about seventy (70) towns, with some 2,500 manufacturers in Brong-Ahafo region alone. This according to the report suggests a total (local) production of 40-60,000 guns annually”.

1. Brewing Akpeteshie 2. Brewing Pito 3. Indigenous creativity 4. Indigenous Kente making

I’m not an amused with alcohol intake and would have wished no one drank either. Of course, pushing an elephant through the handle of an umbrella will be easier than making this wish a reality. That takes me to Apketeshie, Pito, Mwedaa and other indigenous beverages. Apketeshie, a traditional liquor said to be containing between 40 and 50% of alcohol by volume has wide patronage alongside the Pitos and Brukutus.

Akpeteshie was banned in colonial times and continues to face “persecutions” such as tax hikes supposed to deter patronage. Pito, made of millet or sorghum, Mwedaa and the rest, can be found mostly in secluded locations in the country and are rarely discussed if mentioned at all. Worse, Mwedaa, made of corn is rarely mentioned.

Not to mention the Kumasi shoe maker who has to tag his/her wares with foreign brands in order to sell-which doesn’t even materialize-due to our smart knowledge of the difference and detest for made in Ghana goods. As for the fabrics, it’s laughable how we pride ourselves on Fridays as patronizing local items when in reality, most of us are only feeding the economy of those who have “stolen” our fabric designs to sell back to us. An unfortunate irony which comes out cheap or better still, much more affordable than fabrics produced here in Ghana.

The “social misfortune” of identity and esteem crisis, the inferiority syndrome and lack of vision, the “status quo accepting” attitude and satisfaction in mere existence as long as there is food and life, the loss of communal spirit and the constant requirement for supervision before any good is done; the extremely little regard for cleanliness and environmental sanity which has enabled even cholera to compete with Malaria and AIDS over lives, with a landslide victory in the 21st century among others have greatly influenced the very system we live in. The breakdown of family values, the growth of apathy and the scramble for selfish shares of the national “bofrot” (corruption) continue to push developmental hope afar.

A “clamp-down” on galamsey operators will increase the in-mates at the woeful prisons, which is also a one stop shop for criminal training and spread of diseases. It will increase unemployment and deny many dependents the right to fundamental needs such as education, food etc. Worse; they will develop “dangerous sophistications” to prevent being caught which might cause more tragedies.

Tax hikes in “Akpeteshie” for instance will only push it underground for a while and encourage tax evasion which will lead to more arrests. Others will reduce production cost by adopting unhealthy brewing processes whose products will still end up on the markets. Imported Fabrics and other commodities (some very inferior) will continue to receive patronage because those produced locally are too expensive. As for the guns, they continue to land in wrong hands which causes us unsafe days and sleepless nights of brutality. Locally manufactured goods will continue to be regarded substandard (which is, in most cases) and which deters the Ghanaian from patronizing their own, let alone promote it.
Enough of the noise about patronizing made-in-Ghana goods which yields close to nothing. People should be awaken to the painful realization that the problem confronting us a people is deeply rooted in the Ghanaian system which has and continues to inform our already decayed attitudes (difficult to change) and does not appear to be changing anytime soon. These problems are either unclearly identified or given misplaced prescriptions; making our progress a “constant roundabout”.

Foreigners make money here while we wallow in self pity and poverty. Meanwhile, Ghanaians seem to shine better outside Ghana. For me, Ghana “beye yie’ if we develop our technologies and build opon them; If the Galamsey operators, Gun Manufacturers, Pito, Apketeshie and Brukutu Brewers, the Mud House Architect in the village, the Hand-Weaving Kente people, the Shoe Makers, the Local Soap Makers, the Osafo Kantankas, (even if he just assembles car parts and wants to look like a white man) etc are mobilized, regularized and monitored for relevant and significant progress.

Not just will it create jobs and boost the economy, it will contribute to lighting up a more tangible Ghanaian consciousness and identity, regulate arms possession, reduce unnecessary deaths, regulate quality of production (which will still be patronized even if ill-produced). I can go on and on.
Ironically, the very people who address big pan-African and “pan- Ghanaian” gatherings and promote the patronage of made-in-Ghana goods and services are themselves bonafide patrons of those produced elsewhere in preference of what’s available in Ghana. Of course we cannot be over “Ghananised” in a Global Village. But the onus lies on us to be competitive in the competition for due recognition and regard for our own which indeed comes with visionary leadership translating into a transformed system of enabling environment for the flourish and promotion of indigenous knowledge, skills and creativity in an improved manner.

These persons blame the Ghanaian for not being assertive enough, recommend an African or Ghanaian consciousness at big seminars, collect a “breathing” honorarium and it’s all a “talk shop”. The same people look down on their fellow Ghanaians both at home and abroad. The same people conspire with foreigners against their own people for “nokofioo”.

At the end of the day, a chunk of proceeds made here is invested in other economies and the few coins left behind are distributed unevenly among the people. The result is a long lasting immortal rot embedded and deeply rooted in the system. The raw materials and human resource are poured out into other economies and used to create wealth while self pity born out of disbelief in our selves compete with unnecessary talk, debates and borrowing in our motherland.
Leadership cannot seem to possess the ability of bringing all these indigenous activities under some kind of regulation for improvement. Thus, private firms and individuals exploit the circumstances and in the end the system is broken down completely, the center cannot hold and so politics which ideally should enrich and improve upon the lot of the masses become more of a bourgeois-elitist game which is played with craftiness and many times indiscretion to the detriment of the very masses.

It is a daunting task indeed; as daunting as campaigning for votes in an election. But when the road to recovery is very unclear, a stronger passion beyond self is needed, otherwise, of how much use is a “stable” political atmosphere full of insult and vindictiveness and leadership as a whole when the very system is saddled with setbacks and “blooms” to the disadvantage of the people who have transferred custody of their national assets to these “leaders”? Enough of the talk!

Gifty Andoh Appiah (
Picture credits: Douglas Joseph LaRose, Google, and