Saturday, 25 January 2014

Was Davos A Wasted Opportunity For President Mahama & Ghana?

An old wag I know, was apoplectic that the opportunity this year's World Economic Forum, at the Swiss resort town of  Davos,  presented  Ghana,  to finally  take on the foreign gold mining interests that have (to quote him) "ripped Ghana off for centuries", on a global platform,  was wasted - because the geniuses around  President Mahama, who advise him on such matters, failed him miserably.

Well, safe to say that actually, the multinational corporations mining gold here are a relatively recent phenomenon, there are some who will say that he is right, of course. For such Ghanaians - who trace the quest for gold from our shores in exchange for worthless bric-a-brac by foreign commercial interests to the 15th century - to go to Davos at this time of year,  and figuratively throw up one's arms in despair, and complain to the world  that a sovereign nation once ruled by President Nkrumah,  is being dictated to by foreign mining interests, really  is bad form.

Although a tad uncharitable, perhaps they are also spot on in arguing that it shows the calibre of some of  the people around the President, who advise him on such matters: closed-minded provincials who haven't the faintest idea how to use such occasions to raise Ghana's image and make powerful friends for her.

 In their view, instead of lamenting to the world, President Mahama should have used the platform offered by Davos, to  condemn those greedy gold mining  entities, which  have a take-everything-in-sight-and-give-nothing-back-in-return relationship with our country,   in no uncertain terms - for their unparalled greed and ruthless disregard for the well-being of Ghanaian democracy and the welfare of ordinary people in our country.

How  do they expect Ghana to remain a stable democracy if development does not take place - because sharks like them will not pay their fair share of taxes? Are we not talking about actual-earned-profits,  from actual-revenue-flows from a given period of unprecedented spikes in gold prices, that took their earnings to stratospheric heights, I ask? So why the mealy-mouthed excuses?

 Did it not occur to the President's advisors that Davos offered Ghana the perfect opportunity to tell the world about the disgraceful pollution of the Ghanaian countryside by those tight-fisted  gold mining companies - to an  extent that would have landed  the executives of those mining companies  in jail in the EU and elsewhere in the developed world,  to a man,  had the scale of the  poisoning of vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside occured there?

The President could then have gone on to tell their shareholders, after informing the world of the apocalyptic destruction of ecosystems across our country wreaked by runoff from  mountains and ponds of toxic  tailings, for example,   that there and then,  he was directing his minister of finance to ensure that Ghana's fair share of the vast profits those gold  mining companies made when the price of gold reached historic heights,  was extracted from them.

The  pure-nonsense-on-bamboo-stilts notion that because the price of gold has now  fallen, they are unable to pay the windfall tax, is one  that ought to be rejected - because they would never   dare make  such a preposterous claim to the  tax authorities in the US, the EU, Australia and Canada. Who do they expect to clean up the mess they will leave behind - as sure as day follows night -  after extracting all the gold they can?

From that viewpoint, could it not be argued that  Ghana is  better off leaving the gold in the ground  - and that they are  therefore welcome to depart our shores if they so wish: after meeting all their statutory obligations (including fair  redundancy packages, properly funded employee pension schemes and fully paid-up reclamation bonds)?

A documentary film to show the crimes against humanity that their poisoning of soils and rivers in Ghana represents, could have been shown at Davos - something that would have pricked the conscience of the institutional investors with shareholdings in those selfish gold mining companies: who would have been horrified by that harrowing  evidence of the true cost of their dividends,  and of the magnitude of the perfidy of those gold mining companies operating here as if they were above our laws, and arrogantly refusing to share their windfall profits with their hapless victim,  Mother Ghana.

 Far from scaring off investors, President Mahama would have been given a standing ovation - by the selfsame people who, as we are all aware, now roundly and routinely  condemn the greed and callousness of bankers in the US and the EU. What a wasted opportunity for,  amongst many other positive examples, telling the world about the many  opportunities in Ghana for  renewable (especially solar) energy and IT companies to invest in our national economy.  Pity.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Resolve GWCL's Production Unit's Labour Dispute Quickly

It is intolerable to hear that soon hospitals, schools, factories and homes across the cities of Accra and Tema, might be without treated water,  as a result of the cessation of production, occasioned by  an unresolved  dispute, between the Ghana Water Company's (GWCL) production unit's management and workers. Apparently, the workers have threatened to down tools, if management does not accede to their demands.

 The question is: why should a dispute over the discontinuation of overtime payments  and a reduction in workers' perks (the distribution of  bags of rice and cooking oil), inconvenience  millions of law-abiding residents of those two major cities? The provision of treated water has public health implications when it is disrupted for an extended period, does it not, I ask? Why pile on yet more misery - at a time when  hapless Ghanaians are being asked to pay increased tariffs  for treated water?

 Enough is enough. Workers of state-owned utility companies providing what are essential services to the general public, must not be allowed to continue holding Ghanaians to ransom, with such impunity. It is time legislation banning strikes by public-sector employees, whose pay takes up  as much as 70 percent of total national revenue, was enacted by Parliament.

The  GWCL's production unit's  management must resolve this particular  dispute quickly and avert a halt in the  production of treated water for distribution  to the residents of Accra and Tema. If they fail to do so, they will be failing Mother Ghana - and for their information, there will be painful  consequences for all of them.

The  minister for works, housing and water resources would be wise to keep an eye on this potential human tragedy and PR disaster  for the government of which he is such a prominent member, and make sure that  it is resolved swiftly. A word to the wise...

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Let Us Reach Out To Those Under Severe Stress - We Could Be Saving Their Lives

Stress in the frenetic-paced world we live in today is unavoidable for most working people. It is also a fact that many young people in our country are dying early deaths from stress-related conditions - such as stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure. There is a need for awareness-creation campaigns to get Ghanaians  to understand the importance of striking a good work/quality-of-life balance in their lives.

 That campaign to get Ghanaians to adopt balanced and healthy lifestyles could be taken up by the media in Ghana - as a collective effort to help  prevent preventable deaths: such as the tragic demise of Komla Dumor in faraway London. It is clear from the messages that he is said to have sent to some of his former colleagues at Joy FM, that Komla Dumor was under tremendous stress and overworking himself.

In our determination to be successful individuals, we must not sacrifice our health on the  high-alter-of-achievement, regardless of the cost to our personal  well-being. The wise old  Akan saying, "Onipa ebeyebi, na wanbeye ninyinaa", is something that must guide each one of us. Alas, the world will not stop when we die - and since we are not indispensable beings in the overall  scheme of things,  we will be quickly replaced, were we to die in harness.

 We must all  learn to ask for help when we are unable to cope with the stress we come under, when executing tasks assigned to us at work. It is neither a sign of weakness,  nor failure, to seek help in managing work-related stress. Perhaps Komla Dumor would still be alive today, if he had been advised to put his health and personal well-being ahead of carrying out assignments for the BBC World Service, even when he was at the point of complete exhaustion physically.

Above all, we must reach out to others, when we sense that they might be under severe stress, and need help in coping. Having seen what it can lead to,  in the case of Komla Dumor, we could actually be saving someone from certain death, by so doing.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A Tribute To Komla Dumor

It is a measure of the high esteem in which he was held in his native Ghana,  that so many ordinary people were stunned to hear Komla Dumor had died suddenly,    in his London home - and were saddened by the unwelcome news.  Many Ghanaians felt a sense of pride that he anchored the BBC World Service's flagship African programmes.

Komla Dumor's unalloyed patriotism, contrasted sharply with the mean-spirited partisanship of the many Lilliputians,  who tried to fill his gigantic shoes,  after he left Joy FM for the BBC - as was his quiet self-confidence a world away from their tiresome and loquacious self-importance (not to mention  their irritating pretentiousness).

One of the few Ghanaian journalists of his generation that  I respected, I admired him for his professionalism,  and wrote a number of articles to congratulate him, for some of the award-winning work he did whiles at Joy FM. Indeed, I often thought of him as ministerial material - and hoped that one day he would be a member of a Ghanaian government made up of honest technocrats who would put the national interest ahead of party advantage and personal ambition.

Having reached the pinnacle of his career by joining the BBC World Service, little did one  know that he would streak across the firmament brightly and briefly like a shooting star, and disappear for good, so early in his life. At this tragic moment, our thoughts are with his wife and children in London - and his extended family clan in Ghana. Komla Dumor, who opened doors for many in African journalism, will be sorely missed throughout the continent. Komla, dua eni amanehunu  - and may your soul rest in peace.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Ghanaian Politicians Must Abandon Plan To Mine Bauxite In The Atewa Range

I was flabbergasted when I heard Ghana's minister for communications,  the Hon. Dr. Omane Boamah, who was once a deputy minister at the ministry of environment, science and technology, talking about an integrated aluminum industry in Ghana, utilising the bauxite deposits in the Atewa Range, on Peace FM's Kokrokoo morning show - at a time when global climate change is impacting the Ghanaian countryside so negatively.

 It made one wonder the kind of advice senior civil servants who advise our elected  leaders, give  to government ministers. No one who has any knowledge of the importance of the Atewa Range's role as  watershed for the three major  river systems that most of southern urban Ghana depends on for its drinking water supply  -  the Densu, Birim and Ayensu rivers -  will fail to foresee the catastrophe that will befall our nation, were bauxite mining to take place in  the Atewa Range. Yet, we have a senior government minister saying such things, at a time of global warming - and at a time when urbanisation is taking place,  at such pace, that soon a majority of Ghanaians will live in the urban areas of our country. Incredulous - and extremely worrying, indeed.

Ghanaian politicians -  from across the spectrum - must understand clearly,  once and for all, when invoking his name to justify their lack of original thinking in such matters, that Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah would never have  mooted the idea of using the bauxite deposits in  the Atewa Range,  to establish  an integrated  aluminum industry in Ghana, had the world been faced with climate change, at the time he ruled Ghana. The welfare  of the masses of the Ghanaian people, and the well-being of society, underpinned his vision for Ghana - not GDP growth at any cost.

Instead of such shortsighted folly, faced with the harsh  realities  of global climate change, President Nkrumah would have abandoned his plan to set up  an integrated aluminum industry in Ghana, and rather suggested to Guinea  that it could partner Ghana,  to set up a West African integrated aluminum industry -   in which the aluminum plant in Ghana would be fed with Guinea's abundant bauxite: in a  win-win
value-adding-partnership for both nations. Let today's politicians seek such a partnership with Guinea for an integrated aluminum industry that benefits both nations and the  rest of the sub-region too.

 To protect it, the whole of the Atewa Range must be turned into a national park. The economic  future of the areas with human settlement in the Atewa Range lies in eco-tourism, not bauxite mining that will lead to the destruction of the watershed of the major river systems that supply most of urban southern Ghana with its  drinking water - a disaster that will lead to a hell-on-earth existence for millions, including residents of Accra, Ghana's capital.

The time has now come for Ghana's shortsighted politicians to finally drop the absurd idea of mining bauxite in the Atewa Range. At a time of global climate change it is a reckless, irresponsible and very dangerous idea. Our politicians must do some original thinking for once, in this instance. They cannot toy with the lives of Ghanaians. This is a vital human-survival and  quality-of-life matter that will  impact the welfare of  present and future generations of our people negatively, were the wrong decision to be taken. At a time of global climate change, Ghana's politicians must abandon the disastrous plan to mine bauxite in the Atewa Range, for good - as its terrible consequences will be irreversible.  A word to the wise..

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Let Us Leverage Continent-Wide Goodwill For Ghana To Boost Exports And Create A Jobs Galore

One is often baffled  by the  fact that our nation's ruling elites seldom see striking bilateral relationships with all the nations in sub-Saharan Africa, as an effective  means of boosting Ghanaian  exports across the continent - and giving younger generation Ghanaians the  opportunity to interact with citizens of sister African nations:  each one of which Ghana must have free-trade and visa-free agreements with.  

Naturally, to ensure that such visa-free travel does not become a means for Ghanaian criminals to extend their footprint-of-crime to sister nations that our nation has such agreements with, and vice-verse, all nationals entering both nations must immediately  report to the   immigration and national police authorities, to have their fingerprints and DNA samples taken. They must also be required to provide a verifiable address they will stay at throughout their trip, with the proviso that they must inform the authorities each time they change accommodation.

 The incredible energy one feels when out and about in urban Ghana, needs to be harnessed. If we had a  visa-free agreement and tariff-free trade relations  with Rwanda, for example, could young Ghanaian entrepreneurs not end up making  the traditional  northern smock for men a top fashion item in that nation?

If such agreements existed between us and other  sister African nations, could some enterprising young seamstress not set up a fashion house with an Angolan  partner - and employ Ghanaians to sew kaba-and-slit apparel  for Angola's fairest damsels, I ask? Ditto the brilliant young jewelry designers who work with gold in chic parts of urban Ghana? And could companies like GCB and SIC not become African giants by  opening subsidiaries across the continent?

As a result of tariff-free bilateral trade agreements with each of the member states of the African Union (AU),  Ghana's wonderful world-beating dark chocolate produced by the Cocoa Processing Company, could indeed become a favourite across Africa. Kasapreko's assorted drinks, Special Ice mineral water, the products of GIHOC Distilleries, to mention a few of Ghanaian industry's finest, are all  world-class  products that could become household names in nations across Africa - if we had a bilateral tariff-free trade agreement in place with each AU member-state. Ghana must breathe new life into such  existing agreements with that in mind - and sign  new ones where none exist today.

 Ghana must not wait for a continental common market to come into being before making pan-African trade a pillar of its economic transformation. Whiles we await an African common market, let us use bilateral tariff-free trade agreements to gain entry into the markets of  all the members of the AU: regional free-trade areas notwithstanding. Our nation has tremendous goodwill across  Africa, as a result of the impact of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah's activism for the pan-African cause, during his years in power in Ghana. Let us leverage that goodwill to boost our export trade and create a jobs galore in our country into the bargain. A word to the wise...

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Africa Needs Peace And Stability In Order To Prosper

No African who is a pan-Africanist, will fail to be worried and saddened,   by the unfortunate violence breaking out in places like South  Sudan and the Central African Republic. What today's Africa needs is peace and stability in order to develop and prosper - not senseless tribal and religious conflict.

Harrowing  photographs of displaced fellow Africans,  seeking refuge in United Nations compounds in South  Sudan,  and traumatised Nigerians huddled together in small groups at the arrivals hall of Nnamdi Azikwei international airport in Abuja, after being evacuated from the Central African Republic, are an indictment of the ruling elites of both nations.

Their selfish disregard for  the welfare of their people, and the well-being of the  societies  they dominate in such brutal fashion, is shocking and reprehensible. This is the  21st century information age  - not the Dark Ages. No tribe in the continent is superior or inferior to another. And genetically we are the same people more or less.

The African Union (AU) must do all it can to ensure that mediation efforts now underway to end the violence in both nations  meet with success. It is unacceptable that ordinary people anywhere on the continent have to experience such abominable and unspeakable acts of violence, because of the failings of their leaders. What Africa needs is peace and stability - to enable it  develop and prosper. We must rid the continent of selfish, narrow-minded and violence-prone leaders for that reason.