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Opinions of Thursday, 18 May 2006

Columnist: Atta-Boakye, Ken

Re: Ghana FDA Must Ban These Dangerous Products.

After I read the above referenced Ghanaweb Feature article, on Monday 8, 2006, written by one Charles O Dankwah, two things became clear to me and I feel an urgent need to pass my comments.

1. Charles should be commended for the selfless position he has taken to safeguard Ghanaian women in the skin lightening business in which he is personally involved and has vested interest. It takes courage to be able to criticize with such supportive evidence irrespective of who might be the victim in this age that people want to protect their ?classmates.?

2. The NPP government has to revisit its Positive Change slogan. The slogan has to be expanded to cover trade mal-practices and a host of unwholesome practices that go on in the public offices.

Charles didn?t mince words and expressed categorically that he is a competitor in the cosmetic industry. It stands to reason he is well informed about the in and out of the skin lightening and toning business. He could have easily and quietly increased the hydroquinone quantity to command a greater share of the market but he chose to be clean and rather warned against future hazards and implications when hydroquinone is above 2% as the law stipulates. This is laudable! He went further to use his own resources, money, time, and efforts to test the products in order to obtain supporting evidence. I bet he would not have spent less than C20m in this exercise. It shouldn?t be wasted! Ghana Standard Board has the responsibility to test and follow it up by communicating the results to Ghana FDA for action and enforcement. But we cannot be proud of what is going on with these institutions. Did they know about this malpractice already and what have they done?

If I want to be na?ve I will say that Charles is only trying to protect his cosmetic industry by asking the government to ban the other competitors. After all the fewer the merrier! That should be stupid. Ghana does not constitute the only skin-toning market for Hawknad Manufacturing Industries. Charles has other global markets. The mutilated faces and bodies are disgusting and ugly. When my son went on his job assignment in Senegal he told me it is unfortunate the African woman cannot appreciate her own color and does things stupid to turn ?Light.? There are lots of African women who have bleached their bodies such that the skin cannot be stitched together after surgery. So, there is urgent need for Ghana FDA to act quickly and decisively.

Let?s address the main issue at stake. Had this happened in the US, no one will remind the FDA of their duty. The FDA will also conduct their own independent test and if some violations are detected the products would be confiscated and the manufacturing industry closed down. This is the difference, and this is the Positive Change I recommend for Ghana FDA. Ghana FDA has to initiate a positive change in this unwholesome business. They should clean the market of all cosmetic products in excess of the 2% hydroquinone violation. The ignorant African woman who doesn?t know the harm she is doing to her body by using the products should be protected by the government. The women should realize that we love them as black as they are, and black too, is beautiful. Let the women stay natural and that education has to start now.

There is no doubt in my mind all Ghana public organizations have effective policies and rules governing their administration that can make them successful and beneficial to society. They also have codes and ethics that if followed, can produce desirable results. It is the leadership that has always let us down. Employees violate organization policies with impunity simply because the management gross over issues. At time too, the leader has no moral courage to enforce the law just because h/she is also a victim of the offence. There should be a positive change in the cosmetic industry to encourage other defaulting institutions to learn from their example that the axe will also fall on them some day. When there is a task force confiscating the dangerous cosmetic products in the market, the message will sound clear and loud to all defaulting organizations. The civil service is one such area to initiate positive change. Lateness, laziness, lavish lifestyles, and reckless attitude should all be discontinued. Much change is needed in the public service.

Again, it should be remembered that when a ban is placed on a commodity, it leads to smuggling and black marketing and custom officers and border guards have a field day. The FDA has to work closely with all the law enforcement agencies such that the bribes should not be shifted to custom officers and the patrol border guards. Officers who default should be dealt with decisively. Another way to deal directly with the problem is to embarrass the women who use such products. The FDA can obtain search warrants to go into the houses of people who are known to be using such products. The government has the right to obtain warrant to search for smuggled items.

I want to conclude that instead of the Ghanaian leadership enforcing policies mainly for their perks and benefits they should as well enforce all the rules and policies governing the entire organization. It is not right to purchase cars for Executive Secretaries and Board chair persons who only participate in Board meetings while the rank and files wallow in poverty. There should be equitable distribution of organization assets and resources. Leaders who take bribe and refuse to do their job should think twice. The day for reckoning will come soon. Positive Change will be real and alive. God Bless Ghana!

Ken Atta-Boakye
Woodbridge, Virginia.


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