Business in Ghana

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Political Sand Dunes – Davos St., Agbogbloshie. Critical News, 26th January 2014

Posted by Business in Ghana on January 26, 2014

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

If there was one thing I always thought I would do, it was to travel the Sahara Desert, circle back through the Horn of Africa, a much wiser and seasoned wayfarer.  I dreamed of the ultimate storyteller I could become and regale listeners with endless stories of “the trip” as long as I lived.  In those days if we had Twitter and Snapshot, I would have no chance of getting lost, location by GPS, tons of pictures to show, and a You Tube video to verify my escapade.  I dreamt about this for so long, I mapped every oasis and sand dune along the way and knew the route off the back of my hand.

Then I read about sand dunes and thought, wait-a-minute.  There is danger out there.  Dunes exist where there is a source of sand, prevailing winds to move the sand, and a place for the sand to collect. Eroded canyons and washes provide plenty of sand, and winds always blow (especially harmattan time), and there are many areas in the cities where the sand is “trapped” by human geographic features such as road curbs, no grass along the side, no Zoomlion contractors to collect the sand with GYEEDA fitments, RLG “bola taxis” traveling the opposite direction, defying physics with slanted tires, side boards distorting the center of gravity with increased effort applied by aged men, way above the thirty-five-year youth limit, but looking to eke a living out of this economic mess.

And I ended up not making the Sahara trip, but my brother Ralph made the trip and came to tell all the stories I wanted to hear.  “At least”, I say to myself, “I have proximity”.

So President Mahama offered Dotse Malor a job to be in charge of Deputy Ministers Kwakye Ofosu, Murtala Mohamed and “out of jurisdiction” NDC spokesperson Johnson Asiedu-Nketia.  Now I don’t mind much who the President appoints, I worry more about who he disappoints.  We need plenty humor to de-stoke political fires, so why spoil it all by engaging a professional? Where will we be without the Deputy Ministers and their bungling apologies about truths we already know?  Good luck Dotse, I hope you find your rhythm fast.  Just check your left flank, always.  Koku Anyidoho is back with the Blue, waiting for his flag and staff, where he assumes he belongs.

Which GYEEDA are we investigating?  The one that Abuga Pele alone contrived or the one that Ministers in the NDC Government built into a potent election war chest?  Former Acting National Coordinator Abuga Pele and Philip Akpene Asibet have been charged for causing willful financial loss to the state among other counts.  During the NPP NYEP we had 8 modules by 2009 with 108,000 beneficiaries, spending was ghc7million/month.  By 2012, the NDC GYEEDA raised the bar to at least 13 modules, 433,000 beneficiaries, ghc721million, added training components, and still exceeded budget by 193million according to the Auditor General’s report for 2012.  If you do the arithmetic, the NPP NYEP cost the taxpayer ghc778/beneficiary, compare to the NDC GYEEDA bump up to ghc2,111/beneficiary.  This Ministry of Finance report was written before we heard more about the mess and could be grossly understated.

So if Abuga Pele has been offered to Ghanaians to pacify us that the Government is serious about addressing corruption, we have to either accept the sacrifice or reject it.  For the record, me Ghana Citizen say thanks, but no thanks.  ‘Tis not Abuga we want, we want bigger fish.  Agambire and Agyepong will do nicely for starters.  Abuga has pleaded not guilty, he can make history if he gets a good lawyer and turns in those who were a part of all this.  Your choice Mr. Pele.

We figured out the dumso problem this week.  Electricity Company blamed the VRA, GRIDCO, Bui and everyone else for the emergency load shedding they must carry out over the next three weeks.  After a lot of persistence and hard questioning, Bernard Avle and his Team at Citifm found out that the numbers used to calculate supply of power are misstated to the public, creating the impression that we have enough supply.  And as demand increases, supply shrinks.  NDC-nomics.

Our President came away from the World Economic Forum in Davos with the usual positive statements and a disconnect from a world where immediately after the conference, stock markets tumbled as fund managers switched from emerging markets to more secure and reliable western stocks and bonds.  I wondered if he said anything at the Forum to impact fund manager decisions, but I am being mischievous.  Could his stature and that of Ghana be that big in the global economy?  Maybe we should have allowed the President to read some of the messages from Dr. Kofi Amoah about the state of our country, CiTi Fm, Friday morning.  Made a lot of sense to me.  But we are still talking and January 2014 has ended.

So as I started, dunes are long on the windward side; political “sand” is pushed up the dune and gains are painstakingly made.  A gradual push and pile up of gains over time.  Then there is the shorter “slip face” in the lee of the wind when you can unfortunately slip and slide very quickly.  The valley or trough between dunes is called a “slack” and a “dune field” is an area covered by extensive sand dunes such as is the settlement of Agbogbloshie.

It consists of about 6,000 families or 30,000 people, situated on the left bank of the Odaw River, and in the upper reaches of the Korle Lagoon in Accra. There are at least four different social and economic factors driving the establishment and growth of Agbogbloshie.

A spill-over population associated with the size and growth of the adjacent market, migration from the North of Ghana, as an outcome of tribal conflict, social downward movement by those forced out of more expensive areas in Accra, partly attributable to the impact of the Structural Adjustment Program initiated in the early 1980s, and cheaper settlement area free from bureaucratic constraints and high rentals in recognized formal areas in Accra.

The Agbogbloshie site started as a foodstuff market for onions and yam. Over the years it has sand-duned into a slum with people dealing in all kinds of scrap, and a dumping ground for old electrical and electronic products and household waste. The scrap yard has grown steadily and painstakingly into a popular recycling area, where old and discarded E-waste is put to use.

The scrap dealers discovering the place as a good location for business started to erect temporary stalls and sheds to house their wares and activities. The National Youth Council (NYC), the custodians of the land was approached by the scrap dealers for a portion of the land as a permanent base for the scrap industry. The dealers later registered with the NYC as the Scrap Dealers’ Association of Ghana, and the land was leased to them in 1994. To date Agbogbloshie has become the hub of informal ‘recycling’ industry in Ghana.

So when large multi-national companies twist your arm and you back down from implementing a windfall tax, the lee-side political slope is there in your face.  The brakes are off and the climb back is near to impossible.  And in Agbogbloshie, where struggling artisans have piled their assets for decades, the proverbial fire disaster, takes away any hope fired by Davos.

A Senior Disaster Control Officer at NADMO, George Agbenatoe, who spoke to Radio Ghana said, the spate of fires in the country is worrying and attributed it to carelessness, mismanagement and lack of education.  My slip face lee side slope.

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

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