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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Re-Designing Ghana's Dev't Paradigms

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong discusses Ghana’s Health Minister, Mr. Courage Quashigah’s statement that Ghana’s progress should be driven its culture

Ghana’s Health Minister, Mr. Courage Quashigah, part of the emerging Ghanaian thinkers, who are convinced, beyond all reasonable doubt, like all progressive thinkers world-wide, that Ghanaian/African norms, values and traditions should be hugely factored in Ghana’s development process. Not just factoring in the culture in the development process just for factoring in sake but rather that while appropriating the good aspects for policy-making, bureaucratizing and consultancies, at the same time the inhibiting parts, too, should be refined.

Why would Mr. Quashigah say that Ghana’s development should be driven by its culture? What is wrong with the on-going developmental dispensation? Why is Mr. Quashigah concerned about that? What informs Mr. Quashigah’s current transformation and vision? Where is Mr. Quashigah’s thinking coming from? Who is Major (rtd) Courage Emmanuel Kobla Quashigah?

Born on September 9, 1947 at Kedzi in Ghana’s Volta Region, Mr. Quashigah has brilliant military academic background, apart from military training at Britain’s prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy, had had distinguished studies in Ghana, United States and Canada, with strings of esteemed awards. Over the years, Mr. Quashigah has had long and illustrious career in various fields in Ghana and Lebanon. Overtime, Mr. Quashigah has been involved in civilian and military governments: apart from being Minister of Health, he had earlier being Minister of Agriculture under incumbent President John Kufour’s government, and Chief Operations Officer for the Jerry Rawlings’ military regime Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).
Against this rich background, Mr. Quashigah is famous nationally as a courageous and brave man - virtually saving Head of State, Jerry Rawlings, from being overthrown, armed with remarkable dexterity. Now in some sort of transformative way, Mr. Quashigah is tackling, among other emerging thinkers, one of the most pressing challenges facing Ghana – how to skillfully appropriate the suppressed Ghanaian values and traditions in its development process so that they can be opened decisively for progress. Still, Mr. Quashigah demonstrates a well developed mind, which has good holistic grasp of Ghana, its prospects and its challenges – pretty much of which is influenced by its culture. The challenge is not only to appropriate Ghanaian cultural values openly in its progress, the challenge are also how to refine the inhibitions within the culture in the development game.
And this will be done, more or less, by skillful and matured policy-making, bureaucratizing, and consultations, more driven by research owned by Ghanaians through their norms, values and traditions. Such challenges have occurred because either the extremely long-running colonial rule, which profoundly suppressed African values for developmental transformation, or post-independence African elites’ weak grasp of Africa’s values in its progress, certain parts of Africa’s values deemed unconstructive have not seen conscious attempts to refine them for greater progress. Added to the above, the test, once again, is how Ghanaian thinkers, writers, policy-makers, bureaucrats, and consultants could hybridize Ghanaian values with their colonial legacies in the global development process. No doubt, Mr. Quashigah argues that “no country could development if it relegates its culture to the background and concentrated on Western values that were of little relevance to its people.” This has occurred because of weak confidence, more from the elites, as Mr. Kofi Annan, the former UN chief, says, for historical reasons, within the development process.
Ghanaian elites, as directors of progress, should “harness the human resources of the country, taking into account our cultural beliefs and accepting only good foreign cultures,” as Mr. Quashigah contends, will not occur just like that. The test is how Ghanaian thinkers, writers, policy-makers, bureaucrats, and consultants, with thorough grasp of Ghanaian values and traditions, will be able to play their values with the dominant neo-liberal structures currently running Ghana in the global development context. In the long term, as Mr. Quashigah asserts, it will demand “complete overhaul of the education curriculum in line with the people's beliefs and practices.” That means Ghanaian values and traditions will be accorded as much prominence as the Western ones in the content of education curriculum. This will have two-fold effects: raise the level of confidence among Ghanaians, more the elites, in regard to Ghanaian values and traditions, and help develop a new generation of elites who can think holistically from the foundations of their cultural values and traditions up to the global level, as the Europeans, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Malaysians, and the South Koreans have been doing.
Like the Southeast Asians, Mr. Quashigah’s famed conviction, courage, and bravery will help midwife this new thinking in a society that fears change, that do not consider their values as good as that of the Europeans, through sustained advocacy and public education, as he has been doing for some time. This will help the new policy-making, bureaucratizing and consultancies that will be needed to appropriate Ghanaian values and traditions. And some of the references to rally this cause could be Ghana’s own Dr. George Ayittey, of the American University, – “Indigenous African Institutions” (2004), “Africa Betrayed” (1992), “Africa in Chaos” (1998), and “Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Development” (2004).
The task is how the refurbished Ghanaian thinkers, writers, policy-makers, bureaucrats, and consultants will be able to work with Ghanaian values and traditions in the context of the “problems facing the country and come out with workable measures to address them,” as journalist Kwesi Pratt Jr, has argued elsewhere. The test is how Ghanaian thinkers, writers, policy-makers, bureaucrats, and consultants will demonstrate the ability to communicate these new ideas and influence debate outside of it. It is when these serious ground works are done, as the Southeast Asians had, that Ghanaians will be able to reconcile their values and traditions, authentically, with the global ones for sustainable progress.



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