Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sometime in our lifetime (we need to build a new capital city in Ghana)

Yes! Accra is great but we all know it’s not perfect. It was the seat of the government when we took over from the British Colonial Government in 1957. So technically we can all agree we didn’t have much to do with its planning. Close your eyes for a minute and just assume the last 50 plus years of self determination (albeit painfully nonexistent for long stretches of time) didn’t happen.

It’s time to build a new capital city! A city by us and for us the way we want to live. Let it be a statement of our independence. We need to show the world that if we had control over our affair (which we do now) this is how things would be.

It will be great if we could gather a committee that includes all the political parties NDC, NPP, CPP, PNC, PHP, Architectures, Town Planners, Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Doctors, Teachers, Bankers, Lawyers, Market Women, Construction workers, School Children, Retirees, Farmers etc to design and build a new city.

Of course it will be expensive and it will require building a new international airport and all the things that come with a capital city. The time for small thinking should be over by now.

Here’s what I’d like to see in our new capital:

  • Designed and built by the best of our engineers and town planners
  • Priority to qualified Ghanaian owned businesses and subcontractors as much as possible
  • Home Addresses
  • Post office mail with home delivery (if we still have snail mail by then)
  • Central drainage and sewage system
  • Covered gutters
  • Water, Electricity, and Gas on demand
  • No abandoned uncompleted buildings
  • Industrial Area with 24/7 electricity connected to the grid and backup (ancillary service)
  • Major hospital with free quarterly medical checkup for resident tax payers
  • Major tolled road from Accra with rest stops and ambulance stations and police patrol
  • Street Lights
  • Parks, Tennis Courts, Running tracks, Picnic and Recreational areas
  • Public Library (hopefully we won’t need a huge building because Google would have scanned every book ever written by then)
  • Speed Limits and police issuing speeding tickets
  • Garbage collection service
  • Discourage Plastic Water Bottles and sachet water
  • Major irrigated commercial farms outside the city limits that grow as many of the our foods as possible
  • All bulbs will be energy efficient by law
  • Tailors and seamstresses who are licensed by a board and can make most of the suits and cloths we import.
  • Multi-use buildings
  • 21st Century open air African market with bargaining as we like it
  • Heavy dependence on light rail and sustainable public transport
  • Tax private vehicles by tolling most roads
  • University of Ghana (NewCapital Campus) that pays 100% tuition and is only subsided for governments employees and their families

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top 10 Ghana - Greatest Highlife Artists of All Time

By now you can probably tell I have a fascination with lists:

  1. Amakye Dede
  2. Daddy Lumba
  3. Kojo Antwi
  4. Ben Brako
  5. AB Crentsil
  6. George Darko
  7. Nana Acheampong
  8. Nana Tuffour
  9. Pat Thomas
  10. Jewel Ackah

The top 3 are interchangable based on the time of day and where the music is being played. What say ye?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Planter's Lodge - Takoradi

Planter’s Lodge was built by the British Air Force for their flying officers in 1934 in Takoradi, in the Western Region of Ghana. It was later sold to a British company who used it as a hotel. The is now owned and operated by Ghanaians.....more on their website

I love Ghanaian businesses! Take a break from Accra and visit Planter's Lodge, would you?

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Summer Reading List

Here's my summer reading list:

  1. Telex from Cuba
  2. The Bad Girl: A Novel
  3. The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam
  4. The Guns of August
  5. The Pillars of the Earth
  6. The White Tiger: A Novel
  7. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  8. All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories - Edward P. Jones
  9. Lost in the City - Edward P. Jones
  10. The Known World - Edward P. Jones
  11. Gilead: A Novel - Marilynne Robinson
  12. The Africans - David Lamb
  13. The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America
  14. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

3 Down, 11 to go!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Responsibilities of Ghana’s Ruling Elite

In the days leading up to the French Revolution, it is said that when her assistants informed her that the peasants had no bread to eat Marie Antoinette, the frivolous queen, said “Let them eat cake”.

And so goes the story of many of the “Ruling Elite” all around the world. It is the story of Batista’s Cuba before Castro took over. It is the story of the largesse of the America’s CEOs and business leaders before the “depression” of 2008-20XX. It is the story of NPP government’s ex-gratia demands of a $1million government funded NGO for the ex-president. That the ruling elite become detached from reality as they acquire and protect their wealth is nothing new.

The Ruling Elite or Ruling Class is not necessarily only those holding elected office in this great land.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition:

The ruling class is a particular sector of the upper class that adheres to quite specific circumstances: it has both the most material wealth and the most widespread influence over all the other classes, and it chooses to actively exercise that power to shape the direction of a locality, a country, and/or the world.”

You know we have 3 classes in Ghana, right? The upper class, marginally poor, and dirt poor. So we can agree that the Ghana’s Ruling Elite are the people in a society with the most material wealth and the most widespread influence in Ghana. I’m sure you know a few such people if you are not one yourself.

So my question is this; as a young a fragile democracy, what is the responsibility of Ghana’s Ruling Elite to the country that has given them such wealth and influence.

Here’s what I think it should be:

  • Use your collective influence – there are Joneses in every culture and I believe it is human nature for everybody to want to be like the Joneses but I think more so in Ghana than anywhere I have lived we are such “good followers”. If the Ruling Elite (remember? those people with the most widespread influence) could exercise their widespread influence collectively in a positive direction imagine what great impact it will have on our country.
  • Establish businesses that make things or provide services and employs people.
  • Patronize locally made products and reduce your dependence on foreign imports as much as you can. For example, have a local manufacturer make you a juicer and have the house help make you some fresh squeezed orange juice with oranges from farms in the hinterland instead of drinking the South African orange juice that comes in the paper box with so much high fructose corn syrup – nothing against South Africa. A glass of organic Orange Juice in a trendy New York City restaurant costs about $5 but Ghanaian elite want to drink boxed orange juice from South Africa with High Fructose Corn Syrup). Most American Corporate CEOs (especially in the Midwest) have foreign cars in their drive way but for political reasons they always drive that big old American car to work from Monday to Friday. It is good politics and good business.
  • Keep (your friends in) government accountable. Don’t condone stealing (Oh sorry, taking things).
  • When (not if) you travel outside the country (the more you do the more elite you are in Ghana) spend some time outside the shopping malls and learn something new. Don’t go looking for things you can buy to sell in Ghana. Take a tour of the city and learn how it was built you’ll be surprised to learn that Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes ordinary people with a simple idea and some serious planning to build everything we love about western cities.
  • While your kids go to all the private prep schools, keep an eye on the quality of public education in your village or your neighborhood. We need everybody on board for a better tomorrow.
  • Don’t promote tribalism. Come on! It’s 2009. You have all these degrees after your name. You’ve travelled the world. You know better.
  • Support the Arts – get some good Ghanaian paintings in your house or office and get a traditional dancing group to perform at your wedding. In any country the ruling elite support the arts as a means of promoting and projecting the elegance of the culture. During the Renaissance era artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, and Michelangelo were used by the ruling elite to preserve western culture. Think about this; thanks to paintings like Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper many people today think Jesus Christ was a blond haired blue eyed man from Italy. We all know Jesus was a Jew.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Prof. Mensah

This guy does the perfect impression of a typical 50-60 yr old Ghanaian man. Check it out!

Friday, April 3, 2009

East Legon Circa 1989 (We used to have enough water for the lawn)

The last time I was home I heard my dad talk about how he woke up around 4am and realized the tap was flowing so he woke the boys to pump some water to the rooftop reservoirs. He sounded like it was some kind of serendipitous accomplishment that he happened upon a “flowing tap”. But seriously, can you blame the man? The tap hadn’t flowed for at least 3 weeks.

That in our beloved capital city of Accra, Ghana in the year 2009 A.D. cannot deliver water consistently to a household that is willing and able to pay water bills is beyond shame. Even if the government and “we the people” are forgetting the utilitarian benefit of having consistent flowing water in our capital city, the Capitalist in me cringes at the thought that someone (the government, the water company etc) is missing an opportunity to make decent consistent money.

It wasn’t always like this you know. My family moved to East Legon in 1989 and I remember we used to water our lawn most evenings up until it became impossible to do in the late 90s due to inconsistency in the water schedule. These days, our lawn is very green in the rainy seasons and completely brown in the dry season. So what exactly happened? Have we regressed as a country?

We have more Jaguars and Range Rovers on our streets than ever before and we don’t even have water in our homes. I’m not one to knock people who like nice things. God knows we Ghanaians have good taste in all things money can buy. I have heard some people in Ghana say “I absolutely insist on driving only German cars!”…..maybe someday soon they can say “I absolutely insist on drive only German cars on decent roads only after I’ve taken a good shower (not from a bucket)!” Hello?!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Will Ghana’s Emeril or Jamie Oliver Please Stand Up

What are the top 10 fine dining restaurants in Accra? Somebody help me out here:

  1. La Chaumiere (French)
  2. Monsoon (Australian)
  3. Tante Marie (Who knows??)
  4. Rhapsody (South African)
  5. Dynasty (Chinese)
  6. Buka (Ghanaian)
  7. Haveli (Indian)
  8. ????
  9. ????
  10. ????

Say you have some client’s or guest from overseas (or overland) in Accra and you just signed a major multi-million dollar agreement with this client at your sprawling office complex in Airport City (this should be happening more and more now seeing that Ghana is gradually becoming the preferred business destination in the West African Sub-Region). To celebrate the deal the client requests dinner at an authentically Ghanaian Fine Dining establishment with an exotic wine list and a reputable Ghanaian Chef – owned and operated by a Ghanaian. What are your options?

We have had Ghanaians living and working in Japan, Italy, France, etc for the last 30 years. How come we don’t have a “Ghanaianized” Italian Restaurant somewhere in Accra operated by a returnee? How come we don’t have any well known Chefs who make the best Ghanaian food and experiment with our traditional dishes? Does everybody have to be a lawyer, parliamentarian, or a contractor? Does everybody have to work at a bank or as a project manager or for an NGO?

Will the Ghanaians who have money to go to Dynasty etc patronize such an institution?

My First Blog

So I've made the leap! After following a few blogs for some months I have decided that I have something to say. I look forward to sharing with you.