Business in Ghana

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My Cross Too Bare. Critical News, 15th September 2013

Posted by Business in Ghana on September 15, 2013

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Making a small stop at the local Engen station just before Weija, I met a most interesting person.  Kwayemu Mensah sells herbal concoctions with a skill that engaged my mind for close to 45 minutes.  Waiting for a quick oil change before my trip to Cape Coast on Saturday, which I abandoned when I got to Mankessim because the roundabout was choked to grid lock, Kwayemu was prescribing medicines to all around him, explaining his solutions, throwing in a few “ntosuo” prayers and his customers were lapping it up.

Previously, as I drove into the station, I was approached by a very attractive young twenty something swaying thirty-eight inch hips in stretch jeans and a Tee Shirt struggling to hold back perky breasts, who pitched me with a health shop flyer, offering herbal, massage and other solutions in direct competition to Kwayemu’s partially broken herbal basket packed with deep rust brown discarded Voltic bottles of fluid guaranteed to cure Kooko, erectile dysfunction, early ejection, general body pains, urine difficulties and any disease you could conjure.

Before I could even explain my ailments, Kwayemu, sensing a deep-pocket customer started preaching the values of his concoctions, mixing powders and twigs, each one delicately dropped in the bottle to a “kwayemu” chant and call to the ancestors to cure the ailments, fish out the evil spirits malaria ridden eyes turned to the Gods not to embarrass him with this patient who needed a watch-over.

So I interviewed Kwayemu for the period, his roots from childhood, family business and stories of his trusted and blessed father who had handed him this knowledge.  If you believe the story, he spends days in the forest frequently asking for direction from his God for the herbs and treatments he will give to his patients on his circuit.

His knowledge and skills were ordained from childhood and he was the chosen one of his other fifteen siblings to follow his father’s trail, the medicine man in the family.

I soaked up the story and bought eighty-five cedis worth of twigs and herbs.  I didn’t even pop into the better and more clinically reassuring health shop and it was only after that I wondered why I was more engaged with Kwayemu.

He a salesman supreme and me, a curious buyer of herbs and their untapped, undocumented pharmacopoeia of cure.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has it all mapped out, the Indians have their Ayurvedic system and we have Kwayemu and his fellow divine curists calling on the “gods” power to take over where Western cures fail to add divine ingredients to prescriptions.

Later, talking to a medical confidant we mused why we could not, smart as we are, turn this opportunity into a thriving and vibrant business.  I flashed to an interview with GBC radio earlier in the week on Ghana’s rankings in the Global Competitiveness Index and remembered that one of the top four issues we drooped was Access to Financing, followed by Corruption, then Tax rates and Poor work ethics in our national labor force.

Where do I think Kwayemu will go to get some working capital for his trade should he want it?  Susu, Microfinance and Money Lenders?  All rip off institutions allowed to ply on without effective monitoring by the Central Bank, until they all start making off with depositor’s monies.  So finally the Bank of Ghana saw it fit to raise the barriers of entry for Microfinance Houses, increasing the nominal threshold five times.  Does Kwayemu care?  Totting up his sales for the one hour I was there, he cleared two hundred and twenty cedis.  His cost?  Time spent away from his three wives, plucking at God’s forest.

I have now exhausted reading all the verdicts of the Supreme Court and like Nana Akufo-Addo, the most sought after politician in Ghana today, I have accepted that we have to move on, but I disagree with the verdict.  So much of the reasoning is totally illogical to me and I find that even a call for reform of the electoral system is not getting any traction.

I read this analysis by Kwame Adofo Koramoah and he mirrors my thoughts in his writing.  All through the case I kept hinting that this was not about law, it was procedure and the terms for the Bench were clearly set out under the CI.  I know from talking to a number of people that Ghanaians saw clearly that there was much wrong with the voting system and how it was managed.  They expected some change.  They craved change.  Now we do not see what purpose the judgment has served, except Ghana has grown in democracy and stature, and not because of the JSCs.  The disappointment from the verdict sits in our life like a nuclear cloud, its mushroom bolus spreading wide, lifting ever so slowly, our democratic verve surrendered to 2016. There is a twinkle missing in Ghana life.  The buzz and excitement of being has been sucked out of us by this vacuous verdict, taken away in a cloud of suspicion.  The country refuses to quarrel with the NDC Government and their victory is as hollow as the cash vaults are empty.

So much so that even former CPP Presidential aspirant Mr. George Aggudey’s three-month sentence for stealing ghc2.5million of taxpayer’s SSNIT money, just called for “otweaa” social media comments and questions about political thievery.  Woyome is still walking around with ghc51million in his accounts.  Is it any surprise?  He bet on the NDC immunization-win to keep him ahead of the long arm of the law and he won.  He will never be jailed in Ghana.

But sole Commissioner Justice Appau tackled a very interesting case of the sale of a GNPC vessel to defray judgment debts.  According to Minister of Information Mahama Ayariga, Tsatsu only gambled in the hedging and derivatives market and cost the country the vessel.  Very normal procedure, Tsatsu admitted he did not know what he was doing, how can you blame him?  No big deal.

Kessben Fm accused the Asantehene of the heinous crime of bribing the Supreme Court.  They have apologized, but the Supreme Court is not up in arms about it.  Maybe when they come back from recess? Contempt?

I read the accolade that bestowed the highest award, the Great Cross of the National Order of Benin on our President.  I didn’t recognize my President in the shout-outs.  A Renaissance Man, great democrat, exemplary leadership and significant contribution to the deepening and consolidation of democracy and democratic governance in Ghana?  I wondered what the Beninois and Yayi Boni saw that I didn’t and I am not sure how many persons in Benin knew how great Africa’s John Mahama.  It brought back memories of the Ghana/Guinea/Mali Federation and Nkrumah’s attempt to hoist other country debt on us at the time he was spreading largesse at the expense of our Cocoa wealth.  But in September 2009, Johnson Sirleaf visited Yayi Boni and she got a cross as well. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received one in April 2013 for his contribution to the non-aligned group.  Roland Agambire should make a trip and visit Yayi, he might increase his tally of awards so we can find grounds not to jail him because of GYEEDA.  You know how in Africa if you are too important you have automatic stay of execution.

Though our President is proud to wear his cross and carry his Single Spine one, his expression during the ceremony said something else.  It is not a very heavy cross, as bare as Benin’s cotton economy with Yayi fighting his one-time best friend Patrice Talon, who is in exile in France, having accused Yayi of seeking to amend the Constitution so he can run for a third term.  His answer to a deepening dissent in the country was to sack all his ministers and reappoint.  His Government has announced two attempted coups in as many months this year and there is a silent People’s protest called Red Wednesday, when those who disagree with the state of the economy wear red every Wednesday to mark their protest.  I think we need to come up with something similar, seeing as NSA’s Larry Gbevlo Lartey has banned us from street protests, but I am still hoping the PPP will go to court on the issue despite Government’s back-tracking its ill-informed chaos alert, because I am going to join that campaign.

So we have become a country with no Qi.  Gold price is falling and Gold mining companies are laying off workers.  Starbow wants to quit Ghana to Ivory Coast, following Virgin’s exit.  Doreen Owusu Fianko, MD and once Marketing Woman of the year was dismissed (for indiscipline?) by the Board of Ghana Airport Company, Government fired the entire Board, someone sank Ghana Gas’ floating vessel, the BECE results came out and some results have been held back for a yet to be disclosed reason and the National Communications Authority wants to join the Bank of Ghana as a combined Regulator/Retailer in its industry to sell SMS messaging.  The NPP is sedate in the aftermath of the verdict and the NDC have no one to lie to about the 20% hike in fuel prices except themselves.

Ghana, Aha a ye de papa.  Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come!

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