Business in Ghana

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Street Lights and Potholes: Seek Ye First

Posted by Business in Ghana on July 4, 2011

By Sydney Casely-Hayford,

Every year, we have a party of sorts.  The rains come down to stay for about two months and they invite their cousins, the potholes to join in the festivities.  This year is no different.

Everywhere in Accra there are roads with potholes of varying sizes, just waiting to destroy a shock absorber or two.  We run rivulets of precious water all around Accra.  Even the most visible parts, especially the most visible, like Nkrumah Circle are terrible spots of floods and debris floating around with no place to go except into choked gutters.

And the citizens have no choice than to step cautiously around the mini dams of water to catch a Trotro to wherever they can.  It is a pity to see so many pedestrians standing forlornly at roadsides or under awnings hoping for a lapse in the rain before they continue a journey home, which will take three if not four times as long as on any ordinary day.

I was speaking on CiTiFm’s “Point Blank” program on 1st of July.  Republic day came too soon this year.  The question I could not answer as confidently as I thought, was related to this proverbial conundrum.  “How come Malaysia has done so much better then we have?”

I struggled with it because this question poses a double-suicide-edged answer.  Are we struggling because we are black and not capable of handling our own affairs, contrary to what Kwame Nkrumah made us to think?  Or are we struggling because we have tried to fix the politics first and left the economics in the wake?

I convinced myself many years ago that I am just as capable as the White man of looking after my affairs.  I have worked competitively against White people and I have succeeded on many issues and proven that I am just as capable, if not better than some of them.  I have lived and worked abroad for many years and I understand issues in my field just as well as any other accountant and financial analyst, be they black or white.  Back home in Ghana now, I ask myself everyday.  What is it?  What is wrong?  Why is it so difficult?

Why so many potholes all year round?  Why can’t we collect the refuse we make ourselves?  Why does the water not run everyday, all the time?  What is it that the streetlights cannot come on?  What is wrong with our traffic lights?  Why does the Korle Lagoon stink so?  Why is there so much traffic in Accra?  How come the hawkers always return to the streets?  Can I exhaust this list?  And where is the electricity supply?

Or are we too smart for the White man, using their development aid money and pretending to be too stupid to cope?

Show hostess Shamima Muslim asked me a point blank question.  “Are we not capable of handling our affairs?”

My Great Grandfather Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford was part of the lead in protecting the rights of the Aborigines in Ghana and West Africa.  Those tumultuous days fighting British rule and preserving our heritage and culture surprised many colonialists around the table.  If we could have taken the mantle then and recognized that even the British came as traders first, we might have dropped the largesse and political praise in latter years.

But the political kingdom is here.  We have found it in democracy and the rule of law.  I think we should have reversed the cart and resolved the economic issues first.  Hindsight, I believe this would have been better.  But without prejudice, I say we have fixed the political kingdom.  Time to put politics on the back burner and start mending the economic chains.

If we accept that the political experiment has not worked, we will turn in the economic direction, which is where we should be.  Clearly, the politicians have not provided answers to our woes.  Every change of Government comes and leaves with lame excuses, blaming the opposition.

Self-government now or self-government in the shortest possible time has been debated and will never be resolved.  There are die-hard politicians on both sides of the debate who would still like to carry this debate on as if there is no more an engaging pragmatic debate than this.

My solution is that we have a team of serious and competent executive who will think and implement what must be done and not what is politically expedient to do.  We must do this properly and quickly.  We are too far behind others who started the race with us and those who missed the starter’s whistle have come past.

Are we capable of running our own affairs?  Look around Accra and tell me.  Look at our institutions and tell me.  Where do you want to start from?  It is all a big mess.  Do you realize we have been talking about decentralistion since 1993?  Talking!

17 Responses to “Street Lights and Potholes: Seek Ye First”

  1. Sydney, I am very glad that you have lived and worked abroad and as a result have seen the foundation on which the western economies were built. Look, our problems are numerous but let us just start from the issue of culture. You see, our culture makes us lazy, selfish, unproductive, irresponsible, greedy, just to mention a few. How many Ghanaians living in Ghana work hard?, you can count them on one hand. I am a Ghanaian lawyer who practice law in the UK. Tell you what, my father is also a top lawyer in Ghana, If I compare the way I work here to the way he works in Ghana, I just laugh. I am in the office Monday to Friday at 9am and I finish at 6pm, not a minute earlier. I take a half an hour lunch break and then straight back to work. My father goes to the office in Accra at 11 am, takes a two hours lunch break and leaves the office not later than 5pm on a good day, Other times, he does not come back from lunch at all. Cliets that are paying him good money wait in is office for hours in vain without any service. Sorry dad, I need to say this. I have colleagues that work in the Attorney Generals and the Registrar Generals Departments. Some days they do not turn up for work at all. On the days that they attend, they spend 5-6 hours tops in the office and skive off for bid long lunches and go home after that, Yet they are on full fat salaries. Now, this is the attitude of Ghanaians to work. How can any nation, irrespective of the abundance of its natural resources attain any proper, visible and sustainable economic growth?, never. The English have next to nothing in terms of natural resources, yes, they did have a head start and plundered the natural resources of the rest of the world in the past, but then its sustainable economic growth was, and is still based on very hard work. Ghanaians who live in the UK see that, they work extremely hard when they are here, but the moment they arrive back in Ghana, 99 percent of them revert to the lazy, irresponsible, unaccountable, selfish and greedy way of life. There is no hiding from the fact that hard work pays, if every Ghanaian, from the President to the street sweeper decide to put in an honest day’s hard work, I can tell you that Ghana will begin to make a noticeable upturn economically. You did mention the pot holes on our roads for instance. Who is responsible for our roads in the capital?, of course it is the Ghana Highway Authority. Do they know what their duties are, of course they do, do they perform them?, of course they definitely dont. Does anyone in that organization work hard then?, it does not take a brain surgeon to tell you they dont. You see Sydney, if every individual in our beloved Ghana take it upon themselves to work hard at whatever they are paid to do, we will succeed, but until then, gold or no gold, oil or no oil, Ghana will be smelling the promised land but will struggle to get there if ever at all.

  2. Elinam said

    I respect the way you called out your beloved dad on
    bad behavior, it takes a resolute man to do that.
    If all of us can take a page from your play book, and call out our fathers, uncles, mothers and aunties on some of their bad attitudes towards work, perhaps attitudes may change. After all who are these Ghanaians we all claim are not doing the right things by us? well are they not our relations?
    Another thing is Kwame Nkrumah’s stay in the US is what had equipped him with the courage and the enlightenment to do what he did other than that, Ghanaians,- most of us- are uncultured and cowards who don’t seem to know how to hold the bull by the horn due to bad education.
    And is it not about time to introduce a time clock to our working environment?

  3. Ama said

    Investing in solar power generated street lights will help with these problems. It is not a mess my dear but rathe ran opportunity for the Government to make a big s=difference for us. Stop being negatives and see the opportunities ahead.

  4. Solar powered street lites? If there is no sun at night, how will the lights work?

    Our culture has nothing to do with us being lazy, work ethic etc………………
    We simply dont care because our leaders dont. Everything starts at the top down. If the ama mayor instead of acting civil is using force n beating up ppl like animals, if pres. Mills instead of acting bold, revered n stop commisioning useless projects like gutters n sod cutting…..the masses will act serious. The problem is if u cant see it, u cant track it.

    So we admit that gh could be worse off that it is now had western societies ended up like us. Cant we emulate a few good traits by the west?
    As at now, we dont have a minimum wage hourly policy, we dont have a postal service that delivers mail n create jobs, we dont have an address or building numbering system…..the airport hasnt been renamed like it ought to. Power in gh is still so much centralised, which breeds less acountability n more fraud n corruption. In this day n age, why must an elected president appoint a district/municipal head for my riding? Why must mayors be appointed. Why must regional ministers be appointed?
    There is clearly no reward for hard work in ghana based on these revelations, so why put in the effort. Even, the ama n the ga traditional council are adamant on changing the name ohene djan stadium to accra sports stadium…..couldnt they name it jubilee stadium instead? Are we all of a sudden not recognizing the achievemnts n inroads of the late mr. Ohene djan in our 4 nations cup trophies? We cant even seem to to win a 5th after how many yrs now?……

    Why must the central govt have so much autonomy in gh? Does each region have a budget? Does each region have a health , education, transport, agric, etc ministries replicated from the central govt? Does each region have a stadium, a hospital, a library, a university/polytechnic, etc…..
    In gh, we fail to plan. The success of our nation will depend on the success of our respective regions. We seem to have fallen victims to competition. We are afraid of being the best, n doing wat it takes to be the best. We have lost all the we dont prepare for anything. We just wake up n go with the flow. How much time, energy, money do we waste on simple directions in accra? A destination that would normally take 30min, for the lack of an address system, ends up taking more that 2 hours. How can a nation progress? Yet, our leaders r sitting there. They jus love to travel n come back to tell us stories of what they saw, no pictures sef. Why dont u replicate wat you saw overseas in gh?kuffour was travelling outside every 2 weeks? How many times has gfa head travelled outside to see better soccer facilities etc? If these so called leaders truly love their ppl or cared an iota for them, why then not replicate in gh wat you witnessed outside? Wat r the chances of a boxer or a student’s success if they dont plan before entering the ring or writing an exam? This is where ghana finds herself. These are some of the problems. Let the real men n women, the bold n proud get up n start making some serious changes like dr. Nkrumah would. Peace

    • Olu Akinola said

      I mean common mister, are you just having a joke or are you serious, solar lights operate on solar batteries charged by the sun during the day and use the battery at night to operate the light, it do’nt take a genius to figure that out.
      For gods sake this blessed country is so well positioned to use solar energy that we could if we had proper accredited polititions with a smigeon of intelligence to use the suns energy to power at least 50% of the nation.
      Most industrialised nations on the planet are gearing up using wind,solar,and tidal power to supplement their energy needs while we here in Ghana with a most bountiful supply of all 3 are still using carbon based fuels.
      God help us in the future when oil reserves run out.

  5. Kuliulu said

    I wanted to help you with answers, but your ‘WHY’s’ are too much. you left me scratching all my body for answers. erh, hmm, yes yes We are capable of handling our own affairs but in our minds only, Abee,tell ogyakromians to reduce the powers of the bigman, when square pecks are found in round holes, they must be bold remove(fire) it. And ooush! forget about improvement on street light and pot holes if you cant fight corrruption. The politicians always have big pocket holes which they must first fill before they see what the road has become. Do you think there is a clear policy or plan to lead the nation somewhere or make it better? it is all political mouth talk, cos we the people fear to talk or be the first to raise the finger. we prefer that economy cooked from heaven which Jesus will soon bring to us on silver platter. Owura Sydney,ebeyeyie whye.

  6. It is greed! It is illiteracy!

  7. Boy Kofi said

    I think we need to be a bit Scientific in our everyday dealings.My reason is that Science teaches Logics so every little thing begins with a question and answer leading to productivity and organisation.In my humble observation,I would like to blame our Administrators who have the keys to success and the chance to shape the future of this country.Our big men are very lazy in terms of projections,they do not write enough books to educate the youth about Productivity and Civil Responsibilities.We have thousands of politicians who want to lead this beautiful country but nobody has the time to elaborates his point of view in a well balanced book.We are soon going to elect our leaders next year but none of the candidates sees it important to put his ideas in a book for the public to read.I am not talking about political manifestos but a personal research.This tells you that they don’t have anything to offer.I can tell you that we are moving too fast yet to nowhere because we have not taken the pain to do the basic things
    well.In advanced countries,you are paid in hours for your performance so you can not let an hour pass away without
    doing anything.In Ghana,we must begin to pay workers in hours,they should understand why they are working and what the employer expects from them in a space and time.Workers should know how much they are paid for in an hour so that they can be productive during the time and space.Thank you.




  10. wow! what a piece. I hope we learn. We are just not getting our footing right

  11. Crazy indeed!! When will Ghanaians stop seeing things from the political party point of view only? When will Ghanaians take their elected representatives and paid officials to task for the rampant corruption? What is wrong is wrong irrespective of the political affiliation of the offender. Until we take these people to task, nothing will change because they know that they can always get away with murder. There needs to be moral re-generation, cultural change from the get-rich-quick attitude, effective working of state institutions and leadership with vision and integrity.

  12. Nana Yaw said

    Interesting conundrum. Is it corruption like some have suggested? I honestly think the mindset of the African is twisted to the extent that it prevent or rather exclude them from learning to develop.
    The physical things you see are a sad reflection of the belief system,culture and general worldview. Unless we begin to set apart the statusquo and reconstruct our world view, development will just be a dream.
    In our bid to develop we have totally ignored the culture behind development. People don’t develop for the fun of it. They are convinced of the ABSOLUTE need to do so and rely on the contribution of every single member of society. It is serious business where policies and utterances by leaders is not just banter are not taken for granted.
    I feel sad and sometimes cry for my country and people. Can we re-examine our consciousness.? I yearn to see it happen in my time.

  13. Yeboah said

    I understand there is only one contractor for the maintenance of streetlights in the whole country,All Alfra. The system is so corrupt that this contractor cannot handle the volume of work but still have the monopoly.What is so difficult about streetlight maintenance that we cannot fix.Visit Dakar by night and you will be amassed how street lights are maintained.Some official is paid every month for no work done.I am throwing a challenge to the Minister of Works to explain.

  14. It’s all part of the grand corruption that is the hallmark of Africa today. Incompetent corrupt contractors have their field day.
    The Israelis’ have developed the technology that makes road construction possible without pot holes. Just check with their embassy in Accra or our embassy in Tel Avi.

  15. said

    I think DECENTRALIZATION is the fastest way to development. No country has developed from a command and control spot. Once every region has an amount of money every year for development from national coffers, it’ll bring more responsibility on the inhabitants to develop their community.
    Having stayed and toured many european countries,i can confidently say, Europe was developed in cities and not as nations. People are more connected to their cities and towns than the nations as a whole.
    I’ve met citizens who have not been to the capital of their nation before,other who have never been to some other cities before.
    Until we develop this regional decentralization plan, we’re doomed to be walking in the gutters. This American politics been practiced is deadly to our development. It strives on hatred, anger, insults, race/tribe and sooner religion.
    The amount of money being poured into the country is so huge you wonder where it dissolves to.
    Is it an issue of black man or it is an issue of living in a colonial mind. We still see White Man as the saviour and any stupid white man thinks he’s better off than a black man.
    The many executives must come together to make choices instead of leaving these half-baked politicians to make decisions.

  16. Olu Akinola said

    what we need here is some good old fashioned ju-ju to fix these cursed pot holes once and for all.All this notion about corrupt contractors and such is getting us nowhere , we need to take a leaf out of Nigeria’s book book and do some real praying and a lot of singing to the lord for help and sustinance in this time of great impoverishment throughout this blessed land.

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