Monday, June 27, 2011

I didn't know we don't process most of our Shea Butter nuts

Shea Butter is big business in the US now. But according to this PBS documentary we export most of it in nuts without processing them. It looks like it doesn't take much to process. Maybe I should get into the business - process them in Ghana, employ some people and make some money.

Kudos: To PBS for a nice job on Ghana. The story gets to the point without the "these poor africans need our help" drama we see when the western media covers Africa. And I'm glad they are talking about Ghana. Not Africa.

Disclosure: 100% pure organic Shea Butter made in Ghana has been my lotion of choice for the last 10 years and counting.

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Whose land is it anyway?

The other day I spoke with one of the richest men in Ghana (founder of a large financial institution) and he told me he stopped buying land in Ghana because he has lost all faith in the land title process.

A few months before, I heard how a man in East Legon was almost burned alive (literally) by a rival group in a dispute over land. Forget juju! We are literally killing each other over land in Ghana now!

There are some plots of land in East Legon that have 3 or 4 owners locked in court disputes for decades because some unscrupulous local chief and his family sold and resold the same plot of land to different people.

My question is how come the 3rd and 4th buyers didn’t know the land was in dispute? Shouldn’t there be an easy, convenient, accessible, and authoritative way of finding out who owns what plot of land in Ghana and which are in dispute?

This issue is so fundamental to the future of our country but I wonder why nobody bothers to ask our “honorable” parliamentarians what they are doing to address the problem. I guess everybody is busy talking about how our newly discovered oil will magically make Ghana like Norway. Walahi!

It’s one of the reasons land in places like East Legon is overpriced by at least multiples of 5 (i.e. land that should cost about $10,000 a plot costs $50,000 a plot). Since there are so many plots of land in dispute, any legitimate piece of land will cost you more. This is why homes in Trasacco Valley cost almost $750K. Do you really believe those houses are worth $750K? Of course you are paying for the peace of mind. Would you rather buy land for $100K to build a house in East Legon and be locked in court battles for 20 years or would you rather just pay up now and know beyond a shadow of doubt that you own a house - albeit an extremely overpriced house.

It’s serious enough that one of the richest men in Ghana will not dare buy land anymore. Just pause for a minute and think about the economic implications of that.

What would it take to solve the problem? Who are we waiting for?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The tragic tale of my talented tailor

I’m done! I’m totally done! You ask why?

Well, let me tell you why. My family has known this tailor for about 10 years now. He honed his skills in the early 90’s in Lome, Togo when it had an “economy” and its French-West African styl and strong currency was the envy of some Ghanaians. After Togo, he worked for famed Ghanaian designer MKOGH in Accra before setting up his own shop. Somewhere along the line he met my mom and he’s been our tailor ever since. His sewing is better than most.

The problem with our family tailor is that over the last 10 years he has proven himself over and over to be a first class “deceiver”. Tales of his deceptive ways run like Ananse stories in my family. There was the time when he promised to finish my dad clothes and bring them to the airport before his flight. Of course he never showed up. Then there’s the story of how he has kept my grandma’s sister’s materials for over 3 years and never finished clothes until she passed away (may her soul rest in peace). Then there are the several uncles and aunties who gave him material many years ago and haven’t seen the material or their shirts at all. One of my uncles has threatened to call the police to get his material back from this tailor. When you think about it, it’s borderline fraud. He takes peoples’ material with the promise of providing them a service and basically never provides the service or returns the material. That is fraud! It’s the moral equivalent of taking your car to the dealership for servicing and they don’t service it but they won’t give the car back to you – with promises of comeback tomorrow, don’t worry; I’ll finish it for you!

Given all this history I figured I could use economic incentives to get this tailor to sew my African outfit in the time agreed. First of all, I paid him fully for all his services when I gave him the material. Then we agreed that he’ll have my stuff ready in 4 days. Basically, it took 5 days (record time) and several threats of violence to get the tailor to bring my hurriedly (and haphazardly) completed outfits.

Now, here’s the moral of the story. Being a tailor in Ghana is such an integral part of Ghanaian culture, considering the several outdoorings, funerals, and parties we attended in new clothes. That a tailor with such talent is so careless with his job is a reflection of how a lot of people live and work in Ghana.

In a normal world, this tailor will send samples of new styles to me ahead of my arrival in Accra. In his distorted world even after paying him fully before he starts work he doesn’t complete his assignment in the time agreed.

Like many in Ghana, he is very talented in his field of work but he wants something for nothing. He doesn’t want to put the structures in place to build a successful organization that lives up to his potential. This is why I’m official done! I’m in the market for a new tailor.