Business in Ghana

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Confusing The Big Man On High. Critical News, 6th April 2014

Posted by Business in Ghana on April 6, 2014

Sydney Casely-Hayford,

What does a man who owns A Rolls Royce in Ghana look like?  I wondered as I wandered through the Golden Tulip Hotel in Accra, surreptitiously ogling any man I thought would fit my owner-description for the sleek black Rolls parked half up the curb outside the Tulip.

As I entered the lobby, I Ghana-friendly extracted who owned the topmost car status symbol from the door guards whether the person was Ghanaian.  And he sure was.

Elated and suddenly proud to be Ghanaian I puffed my chest and dared any of the expats crowded at the counter to even dare suggest that we wallow in poverty in Ghana.  If the Golden Tulip was good enough for visitors to queue for a room in this four star hotel, the status symbol of wealth parked outside was good enough to push us into a middle income economy.

So I cased the lobby and trundled through all the rooms and the restaurant, looking for my quintessential Rolls owner, determined to befriend and congratulate, just to get a flavor of the daring that says a Ghanaian just like me can flash wealth in an ailing economy classified as “heading for crisis” and be free to do so.

I knew he was male, such as I had gathered from the entrance, but I did not see anyone I could say for a fact fit my description of a Rolls Royce owning Ghanaian.  And why was it my concern?

So he was pampering his ordinary self, probably was headed to the Osu “kaa djaano” after the Tulip to get some shrimp and domedo with Kenkey and black shito.  With no visual of my profile I headed back to the entrance to waylay the man as he came out, so I could stereotype him.

But.  The Rolls was gone and I was left with a vacuous image of a man who could be any of us walking Oxford Street, Ashaiman or Kasoa.

I took my confused mind back inside the lobby.  Konkonsah was done for the morning and I turned my mind to the Bukom Banku and Ayittey Powers fight date rescheduled, but not on TB Joshua’s day.

But somehow my mind drifted to the Economic Partnership Agreement between Europe and us.  We are pondering whether to sign.  The arguments I have heard so far, just yell neo-colonialist imposition.  The fact that we have been talking about signing this agreement since 2007 and six years later we still have not moved the trade agreement ahead does not seem to be the issue.

I am yet to see a quantitative net impact on Ghana if we sign.  There is too much emotive analysis and not enough business determination.

Look, we are a small country; our market size is constrained because regional ECOWAS, which can grow trade if we developed the markets between us, is stagnated with poor cooperation and restrictive borders.  We have not moved trade in the region in 39 years and we are not going to do so any time soon.  Nigeria will not even deliver contracted gas to Ghana as negotiated.

Here we have an opportunity to tap into a larger market, with higher purchasing power and an abundant production base and we are failing to assess the opportunity dispassionately; rather we are stuck in our neo-rewritten colonial zeal, shouting foul because the EU is pushing us to make a commitment, therefore they must have an ulterior motive.

Europe wants to expand its markets to compete with the US, China, Russia and rest of Asia.  What do we want?  To be stuck in this small world fighting Boko Harram and its religious antecedents?  Read this presentation on Chilli Peppers as a clear example of competitive advantage for a Ghana product.

Of course there are competing interests.  And we are not smart enough to carve out how to seize this opportunity and rise to the challenge in a modern world?  The age of communist inferior tactics ended a long time ago.  This is where we have to grow up and fight like a nation destined to buff our black star.

Buy a Rolls Royce even in the midst of poverty; show that you are adept, despite the stacked odds.  The colonialist rhetoric is an easy cop out.

And somewhere between the mind of the President and that of the Minister of Finance, resides a de-coupling of borrowing strategy.  The Minister of Finance re-emphasized in a speech to Parliament that in his view, no more borrowing except for pipeline commitments until we align the targets to available cash and manage better our fiscal control and financial assets.

The president on the other hand sees no reason why he cannot continue to borrow his way through the criticism by ordinary citizens and particularly the opposition NPP “Economic Spartacus” Dr. Bawumia.  His (Bawumia’s) speech at the Central University College cannot be the reason for the Finance Minister to get in the face of Parliament to explain today’s economy and try some confidence restoring to the international community, especially Fitch and Co., for the down-rating they have recently (since the NDC came to power there have been several of these) engaged in, purposely to embarrass the Government?

I am not sure how the President is digesting the advice he is hearing from numerous advisors (Fiifi Kwetey, Nii Moi Thompson, Seth Terkper, Ofosu Kwakye, Samuel George, Ahwoi’s, Tsikata’s) and lord knows who else and what other higher order voices he is paying attention to these days, since he took a swipe at those who talked about his recent new-found spirituality, but I think a bit of confusion has set in.

He wants to borrow for purpose, and I agree with him totally.  All I say at this time, “JDM, please publish in the national papers all monies we have borrowed since 2009 and demonstrate the purpose of the borrowing.  And while you are at it, also show the deliverables you expected and whether you achieved the objectives of the borrowing or not”.

Why not? It is the people’s money, innit?

We seem to be confusing the almighty President on high with what we want from him.  The Charismatics and mainstream Churches are calling for different ways to manage rights of Gays, they are still miles apart on the issue of miniskirts, premarital sex and adultery and now economic advisors are spotting many diverse ways to manage an undersized developing economy.

Unlike the Christian and Islam God who handles all counter-acting requests in his own grace, our President has to factor all these issues into his everyday working life, all very new to him.  He is a recent entrant to this fused President-as-Christian thing, after he tied his canvas laces to the late President Mills’ hockey boots and it is becoming tougher to depend on the Lord on high to come to the rescue when you do not want to work that hard.

I think we are confusing him, and maybe it is time for the NDC to relieve him of the Christian yolk so he can focus on the President bit, which is where we need him to toughen up at this time.

Peers are still interrogating Alban Bagbin’s Parliamentary corruption accusation and it looks as if we are heading for a whitewash.   If such a majority of us are corrupt in the nation and we have a majority religious population, the minority cannot be the most corrupt in our society.  Of course, we are not practicing what we preach, because if we did we would all be so pious, theft and corruption would be an aberration.

And there is something wrong with the Ridge Hospital expansion project.  Seems to be perfumed by The House of Corruption, yet the majority in the house blames the minority for holding the people of Ghana to ransom by calling for a re-look.  And Bagbin knows all about this.

I spent a wonderful, well-choreographed Heroes Of Change evening, organized by the MTN Foundation on Friday night.  It was a night to reward community changers, people who give to their communities and bring change into lives of less privileged persons.  Kudos to Dr Kwame Abrokwaa-Yankyera, a plastic surgeon who took the top spot and whose humility so shone through, my chest swelled with pride when the audience appreciated his selection and vindicated our juried choice as the best of a lot of six hundred, parried down to twenty and then finally six persons, worthy of cash prizes of ten thousand cedis each, final winner taking fifty thousand cedis to continue the good work.  I salute MTN Foundation for this.  The entertainment was good, the event was great and the awards were “gy3”.

Proud to have been a jury part of it.

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

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