Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ghana’s growing mobile phone industry – any health implications?

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi


Do mobile phones really cause cancer of any kind? Is their use in any way connected with the occurrence of diseases such as leukemia and impotence?

Ghana’s mobile phone industry is growing fast. Records available from the National Communications Authority (NCA) show that mobile telephony in Ghana has exceeded 7,604,053 subscribers. And the number of mobile phone companies is growing. There are currently about six mobile phone operators licensed to do business in Ghana. Certainly, the growing number of providers will see an increase in subscription rates and accompanying increase in the number of sophisticated handsets that Ghanaians use.

Subsequently, there will be an increase in the number of base stations or transmitter towers that mobile phone companies need to be able to make subscribers make and receive phone calls.

But has the side effects of this growing and essential industry been taken into account and adequate policy made to handle them, should they occur?

Scientific evidence

Some scientists say that the technology used by the communications industry emits a type of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that poses a health hazard to people. But local mobile phone companies, on the other hand, say, “it is only speculation.” In their view, there is no scientific fact to back the claim.

These days, mobile phones have become the most convenient mode of communication these days. And this technological advancement has turned the world into a globalised village, and Ghanaians are happily part of it. But at what costs?

For a mobile phone to send and receive calls, it must be within range of a transmitting tower. A mobile phone works just like a radio does: if you are too far from the station’s signal, your radio (or phone) cannot pick up the music (or receive a call). Radio stations, in order to transmit to a larger area erect transmission towers. Mobile phone companies also use transmission towers to relay messages to users at great distances.

The towers, and to a lesser extent, the hand sets, generate electromagnetic radiation (EMR). While most EMR is not considered to be dangerous to humans, scientific study shows that the EMR from mobile phone, radio and TV transmitter towers very likely is.

Prof. Kofi Oduro-Afriyie, a Physicist and Vice President of Central University College, Accra admits that no specific research has been done with regards to mobile phones in Ghana, but was quick to confirm that EMR is a known health hazard.

“Even though our human bodies need a certain level of radiation to survive, too much of it will cause genetic mutations, leukemia, cancer and impotence,” he said.

He explained that “electromagnetic radiation is all the more dangerous because these diseases take about 20 years before they show.”

Evidence of the danger comes from studies done in other countries. For example, the “EMFacts Information Service” a publication specialized on radiation issues in Australia, states that “although the exposure to the radiation from mobile phone towers is extremely low, the risk of cancer and other diseases is increased when the exposure is for long periods” such as for people living near these towers.

EMFacts also reports that a research team led by Dr B. Hockings found that children living within four kilometres of TV transmission towers in Sydney showed higher rates of childhood leukemia, the disease most often implicated with exposure to EMR. In fact “childhood leukemia in the exposed (closer) group was 60 per cent higher than in the control (further) group.”

In this study, the level of EMR was 1000 times lower than the Australian standard. Of great concern to researchers is that children seem to be more affected by EMR than are adults.

In other research, a 1990 study by Richard Hayes found that men who were exposed to micro and radio waves had a greater incidence of testicular cancer. A 1987 study by Dr W. Morton of the University of Oregon’s Health Science Centre, found excess cancer among people living close to radio and TV broadcast towers.

A Polish study found that soldiers exposed to EMR suffered from increased rates of leukemia and lymphoma. At the same time, Drs Henry Lai and Narendra Singh in Seattle, USA, found that exposing rats to ’safe’ levels of radiation resulted in increased breaks in the DNA of their brain cells – and damage to DNA is associated with the initiation of cancer.

Expanding networks

Whatever the health risks and associated demands on Ghana’s health budget, the mobile telephony companies are here to make profit, and they won’t be the ones paying the hospital bills, so what do they have to lose?

Ghana’s trade liberalization policy, linked with a desire to strengthen the private sector, the zeal to open the country’s doors for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) has opened the door to a proliferation of private phone, radio and TV companies.

These companies are employing aggressive and competitive marketing strategies, they have together won millions of Ghanaians. With the growing demand for more services, the number of transmission towers will multiply, and they are, on a daily basis. These expansions are being pursued without considering the possible health hazards associated with the EMR these towers pour into their surroundings.

And these days, it is not uncommon to see cell sites and transmission towers sited in densely populated areas, and these apart from the dangers of radiation do pose physical dangers to residents. A recent incident in Tema where a transmission tower collapsed over a building during rainstorms is an example.

In some instances, residents have gone to court to stop mobile phone companies from erecting transmission towers in their communities, citing possible side effects of radiation on their health as reasons.

Contrary evidence

The mobile phone companies appear unconcerned. For them profit is everything. To them the issues that are being raised by scientists are speculations with no real proof. And of course evidence exists elsewhere showing that some very influential mobile telephony companies have commissioned scientific researches of their own that have shown proof to the contrary – that there are no dangers to health from using mobile phones.

To achieve their lofty targets and maximize profits, the mobile phone providers are “extolling the benefits and denying the risks, in spite of mounting scientific evidence to the contrary. In the face of these challenges, what should be done in Ghana? What national safety standards should be set to regulate EMR emission levels?

Regulating the industry

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency responsible for regulating the environmental activities of businesses, has not identified the mobile phone companies as having a significant impact on the environment. According to an EPA insider, mobile phone companies are required to register with the EPA but not to submit Environmental Impact Assessments before they commence business. And there have been instances where some of the companies have gone ahead to erect transmission towers without permission from the EPA and have been asked to pull these down after residents have drawn the attention of the EPA.

The Ghana Standards Board (GSB) has likewise not considered setting standards for mobile phones. A source stated that they respond to the immediate needs of the country and that when a need is identified, they are willing to work on it. If faced with the evidence, they will study it and set up a technical committee to come out with standards.

The National Communications Authority (NCA), seems to simply give licenses for mobile companies to operate. They even lack the necessary clout to get these companies to meet the requirements for their operations such as providing quality services for their subscribers.

Until recently, when the NCA showed that it has got teeth, it has always been seen as a toothless bulldog. It opened wide its mouth to bring some sanity into the industry by ordering two of the service providers to clean-up their acts. They also ordered the two companies to halt any further signing on of new subscribers until they improved their services.

But it is yet to be seen, whether they can really bite, because, there is strong suspicion among Ghanaians that the companies are still increasing their subscriber base even after the directive.

Benchmarks for radiation control

Ghana can take a cue from other countries of the world that already have permissible levels of radiation emission.

Countries, like the USA, Britain, New Zealand and Australia, have set national standards to prevent high levels of electromagnetic radiation and the resulting illnesses in their citizens.

The situation in Ghana, which has no EMR safety standards, is all the more disturbing because the mobile phone companies doing business here have not taken precautions to protect their customers.

For example, salesmen of some of these companies are themselves unaware of the safety issues of mobile phone usage. When asked about what they tell customers, they simply said, ‘we tell our customers not to use the phone often - because it is expensive.”

Another salesman said he advises his customers to get a leather jacket for their phones and to carry them somewhere other than a breast pocket to minimize the health dangers such as cancer.

However, one marketing manager ruled these out as safety measures, insisting that they only advise customers to get leather jackets to prevent scratches on the phone.

About 20 mobile phone users who were interviewed confirmed they have only been taught how to use the phones, nothing more. Nothing was mentioned to them by company employees about health dangers associated with mobile phone usage.

Lack of adequate information

The communications companies would like their customers to believe that there is no health controversy. Neither would they like the people who are living and working near their transmission towers to question the effects of the electromagnetic radiation these towers give off.

However, in other parts of the world, the controversy rages on and for us in Ghana, the emerging facts about the issues can be looked at carefully in our context.

Looking at our Ghanaian situation, where we have limited, if not zero resources to handle the ill effects of electromagnetic radiation, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

It is our duty to inform our people, so they can make informed choices.

It was nine years ago when I first raised the flag, but no one seemed to have seen it.

Dr Bockings, the Australian Researcher, recommended then, that, “it would be prudent for some countries to set up perspective epidemiological cancer studies of possible effects of mobile phones -both base stations (transmission towers) and hand held units - so that in 10 years we have some answers.”

This advice was given in 1998. Tens years on, nothing concrete has happened.

I hope government would initiate moves with environmental groups and research institutions; with funding from the mobile phone, radio and TV companies, to conduct studies to establish the facts concerning the possible health hazards associated with communications technologies, so that at least, in Ghana, the tide of the cases of cancer, leukemia and impotence can be stemmed, to prolong the lives of our people.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ghana's mysterious 'Big Tree'

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

There is a tree which stands at 90 metres in height and 396 centimetres in diameter. According to Ghana’s Forestry officials, it is the biggest tree in the country.

Growing in the forests of Akim Oda in Ghana’s Eastern region, the tree known locally as “the Big Tree” is of the Bako species and its botanical name is tieghemela heckle.
The sheer size and height of the tree leaves so many local people in awe making them deify it. It is a mystery to them, and believing it must have some supernatural powers, they regularly visit the tree carrying gifts and sacrifices.

Many have dug holes around the giant roots of the tree where they leave their sacrifices with prayer requests for good fortune.

“The Big Tree” does not only serve the curiosity of local people, it is also a tourist attraction.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mining in Ghana – paradox of profits, pollutions and poverty

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Mining in Ghana has been going on for over 100 years now. And 100 years of any business venture is long enough to show visible signs of progress and understandably positive returns, both economically and socially.

But whatever benefits mining in Ghana has brought the country, can best be seen mostly in the mining entities. Not even Ghana as a nation can boast of any appreciable return on investments in mining, having invested lands, people and to some extent the humanity of some of its people including their culture and traditions.

The mining companies rake in huge profits from their activities in Ghana. For in stance, in 1995 a mining company operating in one of Ghana’s mining towns made a profit after tax of US$105 million.

The mining sector in Ghana earned an unbelievable US$ 2,099.43 million in 1999. But these huge earnings were made at the expense of lives and property belonging to ordinary Ghanaians whose peaceful and subsistent lifestyles had to be sacrificed on the altar of national economic expedience. But these benefits in terms of their national dimensions remain, ever questionable.

What is however, interesting about the contribution of mining to the national economy shows glaringly when it is compared to the agriculture sector.

Between 1993 and 1997 mining contributed just 1.5% to Ghana’s GDP as against agriculture’s 40%.

It is estimated for instance, that since 1985 Ghana has attracted external investment in the gold sector alone to the tune of over US$ 3.2 billion in new mine development and expansion.

Despite these huge figures, it is widely believed that only about 10% of the value of gold comes to the country.

Unlike agriculture though, the mining sector is spiced with so much incentives for investors, making it the most attractive and lucrative sector to invest in.

But strangely, Ghana is an agricultural country. However, the country doesn’t seem to pursue a vigorous agriculture expansion programme, at least not for the moment.

Mining as a sector, makes minimum contribution to employment and offers very high wages than the local average. Yet less than 8% of Ghanaians are in formal employment in the mining sector.

Meanwhile, over the last decade, mining has significantly added to the country’s ecological destruction amounting to around 7% of the country’s GDP.

Enter any mining community in Ghana, and what hits you right in the face is abject poverty.

The first middle aged man you are likely to meet might look older than his actual age. He is obviously hit, knocked about and tossed around by poverty. He is listless, and despondent. He might also be suffering from a disease resulting from mining pollution.

These people strut around hopelessly in their native lands, and they are typical examples of casualties resulting from the uncontrollable urge and penchant for profits by mining companies.

These companies have the unflinching support and backing of the governments in power. They needlessly carry on their operations with impunity and gross disregard for human life and right to property.

I have had the privilege of working in some mining communities in Ghana. It is not only appalling poverty and resignation that greets you, but also grim pessimism of local people.

While we are it, every year government declares how much profit the country has earned from mining activities. But even then, the suspicion among mining industry watchers is that, government does not declare the true figures. The figures that governments declare are not the true reflection of how much is made from the venture.

Royalties that are paid to stools in these communities hardly reach their intended target, but no one cares. To most of the people in charge, it is only important that the royalties are paid. They care less if any one benefits from the income. This meager royalty that is paid to local people is supported by laws, laws that seem to only favour the multi-nationals and protect their supreme interest for profits.

A few individuals are believed to pocket royalties meant for communities. And often these monies are shared in phony contracts of some sorts. Some of the roads and schools that are constructed from these monies do not last, because they are hurriedly and poorly constructed to cover up the greed and corruption of the few soulless individuals for whom the majority are a bunch of weak ignoramuses whose plight one must exploit to make some money.

The effects of mining on Ghana as a nation have been downplayed over the years. The profits are used to placate a restless populace. We are told to shut up when some of us want to cry foul and demand proper accountability.

Interestingly, for the most part, some of the people who speak for the mining companies are powerful fellow Ghanaians. They are catered for very well by these mining companies, their heels are well oiled. They are often noble Ghanaians who have spoken so loud about equality, justice and a fair country for all some time past, but they have suddenly turned coat and joined the powerful miners.

And when they do, they unleash on the rest of us a cacophony of raucous tunes that persistently jar our ear drums. They do these with unmatched alacrity in impeccable Queen’s English, making the rest of us look like less mortals, who must acquiesce and believe everything they are telling us.

But all that glitters is not gold. It is not all that is said in faultless English that is the truth.

Agriculture in Ghana has suffered the most palpable neglect and slow development including the adoption and adaptation of modern technology.

And that is not withstanding the fact that the agriculture sector is the single most important sector of the country’s economy. The sector employs about 70% of all Ghanaians employed in the country and contributes about 40% to GDP.

It is the main source of sustenance for the country. But mining is favoured against agriculture.

So many cocoa farmers have had to reluctantly give up their ancestral farmlands spanning four to five generations to mining companies. It is usually the case that when mining companies acquire a land in a community for prospecting, that local farmers are required to abandon their farms. They are paid some compensation, though, but these compensations never meet any economic or moral requirement for such huge losses.

Pittances are paid to these farmers and their cocoa trees and other crops are destroyed to make way for mining.

That would not be the end. And once the mining itself begins, there appears more serious challenges to contend with. The modes of operation of these mining firms dispose most residents to health and environmental risks.

Usually, these companies involve in surface mining instead of the better option of underground mining. They do because surface mining is cheaper.

The process of gold mining involves the blasting of rocks, which is accompanied by deafening noises, vibration of the ground which sends dust and particles in the air and water.

To extract gold, toxic chemicals such as cyanide, arsenic, sulphur dioxide are used and other gases are produced with serious health consequences - these chemicals leak into underground sources of drinking water, exposing local inhabitants who most of the time lack potable drinking water to danger.

Local people might drink water from poisoned streams or even eat fish from polluted rivers.

Large craters resulting from blasting are left to collect stagnant water, and these breed mosquitoes leading to high incidents of malaria in these areas, part of which the country spends over US$77 million yearly to treat. Skin diseases and diarrhea are common in these areas.

Following in tow are sexually transmitted diseases, pulmonary tuberculosis, acute conjunctivitis, poverty and a rising crime rate.

The pull factors of mining communities are not only the lure of gold, but also the attraction for other jobs, which are often non-existent.

Prostitution is very common in these areas also because not only do both men and women troop there to grab a share of the hard cash that is to be made, but even local women and girls whose husbands and fathers have lost their sources of livelihood, which used to be the farmlands they once owned, tend to become merchants of the flesh. They are both compelled and attracted into the sex trade.

The cost of living in these areas is so high because there is expatriate money to be made, and local people are forced to live like paupers in their own land.

They fall prey to all kinds of NGOs who hold claim to their salvation. While some of these groups are genuine and they fight relentlessly for the rights of these people, there are charlatans among them who feed fat on the misfortune of local people like leeches.

They sometimes exaggerate the real issues without particularly having a good understanding of the situation on the ground. They make so much noise and in some cases they even attract the attention of the international community. But in the end, they benefit at the expense of the victims of mining.

Local people are dispossessed, displaced and divided. The few who know what ‘is good’ for them betray the majority and side with the merciless exploiters.

As we all watch in dismay, some mining companies play the corporate responsibility card and win a few favours and applause from the absent minded crowd who only watch at a distance, but see only these ‘kindness’ of the mining companies.

In any case, should we as a country continue to favour mining at the expense of agriculture? When in reality the mining industry has a very short life span? When all the deposits are mined, the mines close down and often the towns and villages are deserted turning them into ‘ghost’ towns.

What are often left behind are degraded lands that can not be reclaimed or farmed on, and with these, a dark cloud of uncertainty, pollutions, poverty and even death.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Kakum National Park - better seen and felt

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The Kakum National Park, is one of Ghana’s rich natural resources. It is a perfect example of the country’s rich biodiversity, and an enthralling rainforest any country of the world would wish to have making it the tourist’s haven.

The birth of Kakum

Kakum, is named after the Kakum River whose headwaters lie within the park’s boundaries. It was originally set aside as a forest reserve in 1925. The protected area of the forest covers 360 km2.

The area of the park was released for protection by six local authorities. These are; Assin Attandanso, Twifo Hemang, Assin Apimanin, Denkyira, Abura and Effutuakwa all in the Central region. The chiefs of these communities gave portions of land under their domains for the project.

The legal foundations of Kakum

Over the years, several laws have been passed to make the existence of the Kakum Park a reality. The laws were evolved for over four and half decades. In 1961 the Wild Animals Preservation Act was enacted. The main focus of the Act was to preserve the white breasted guinea fowl, the colobus monkey, chimpanzee, hippo and other animals including those whose female and young ones need protection.

Some ten years later in 1971 the legislation was amended to widen the scope of protected species that were not covered by the earlier legislation. The Legislative Amendments of 1971 identified more threatened wildlife for complete protection. And these were seven primate species, three types of pangolius elephant, lion, leopard and the honey badger.

Twenty years later in 1991, the law was amended again. This time it was referred to as Protective Legislation. When the Wild Life Reserves Regulation was amended, it included specifically, Kakum and Assin Attandanso. Following this amendment, the Natural Resources Conservation and Historic Preservation Project was launched between 1992 and 1993. As a result, Legislative Instrument 1525.1991 effectively established the Kakum National Park.

The Canopy Walkway

In 1995, the most remarkable aspect of the park came into being. The Spectacular Canopy Walk was officially opened. The canopy is Africa’s only canopy walkway and it is suspended 100 feet above the ground and from this height, it offers a bird’s eye view of the forest.

At this height, it is possible to have a good view of the birds and insects that fly across the park, something that is impossible to see on the ground The canopy is made of steel cable, netting, and has narrow wooden planks laid on the floor. It is connected by tree platforms that serve as observation points for viewing the rainforest.

Animal and plant species

Kakum contains animal species of great diversity. They include various species of the forest elephant, bongo, yellow backed duiker, nearly 300 species of birds, 100 mammal, reptile and amphibian species, with a three-quarter million insects and at least 600 butterflies.

It also contains hundreds of species of herbaceous and woody plants.

There is a beauty and radiance that the rainforest exudes, but which can only be seen and felt when you are there.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ghana Elections: It is a run-off, and the people are ready

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Being a Ghanaian has made more sense to me these few days than it ever has. I have lived in Ghana all my life and nearly half of my entire life, I have worked as a journalist, therefore, I know there is no place like Ghana – and truly, there is none.

The conduct of the general elections of December 7, 2008 has further enhanced my sense of belonging and being a Ghanaian. Because when it comes to elections, Africa as a continent in general is not a good case. Most African countries have gone up in smoke before and soon after elections.

There are so many examples, like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire where election disputes have led to fellow countrymen and women hacking each other to death. Some of these countries are still struggling to come close to anything resembling a state.

Ghanaians on the other hand held together despite pre-election tensions which were created by FM radio stations and some newspapers, and these were simply doing the bidding of their bosses and financiers, they were not reflecting the true nature of events on the ground.

Ghanaians thankfully, held their heads up, and refused to take the bait. They coolly voted and allowed the power of the ballot to speak.

At the end of the day, when the results were declared, everyone accepted it. No one, even for some of those who are displeased with the outcome at their constituencies resorted to violence of any kind. Indeed, the altercations that were reported are so minor that they had no significant impact on the society.

The results as declared by the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan were as follows: Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) polled 4, 159, 439 representing 49.13% of total valid votes cast, and Prof. Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) polled 4,056.634 representing 47.92% of total valid votes cast.

Dr. Edward Mahama of the Peoples National Convention (PNC) got 73, 494 votes, representing 0.87% of valid votes cast.

Mr. Emmanuel Antwi of the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) polled 27, 889 which is 0.33% of valid votes cast.

The candidate of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), Mr. T. N. Ward-Brew got 8,653 representing 0.10% of valid votes cast.

Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) polled 113, 494 representing 1.34% of total valid votes cast.

Mr. Kwabena Agyei of the Reformed Democratic Party (RDP) got 6, 889, which is 0.08% of total valid votes cast and the only independent presidential candidate in the race, Mr. Kwesi Amoafo-Yeboah, polled 19, 342 representing 0.23% of total valid votes cast.

Total valid votes cast is 8, 465, 834, and there were 205,438 rejected votes making a total of 8,671,272 votes cast.

The total number of registered voters is 12, 472, 758 and the turn-out was 69.52%.
The total of rejected votes comes to 2.4% of votes cast.

The winner of the first round of voting Nana Addo did not get the more than 50% of votes required to make him the outright winner of the elections and therefore, as required by Ghana’s laws, there should be a run-off. And Ghanaians, just like before are ready for it!

If this teaches any lesson, what it does teach is that, a people can choose to be violent, and Ghanaians chose not to. They want peace, because human life and dignity can be enhanced and given value in peace.

Ghanaians have shown to the world that Africans are not savages and when it matters, they would lead the way and show everyone that we are human!

The campaigning for the run-off would be tense, and of course that is to be expected in an election of this nature that produces no clear winner, and Ghanaians would reaffirm their earlier comportment and respect for due process, they would vote peacefully come December 28, 2008, and when the winner is announced, they would accept and move on with their lives.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ghana elections: The people are the winners!

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

I have always said and still maintain that Ghana is one of the most beautiful countries on this planet called earth, but it can be made better.

On Sunday December 7, 2008, Ghanaians voted. As I write this piece on Monday, the results are trickling in. Some of the confirmed results though are interesting and to a large extent revealing, because some of the Members of Parliament who are political dinosaurs or some choose to call them heavyweights have been beaten in their own backyards, in some instances, by political novices.

These developments are interesting, but the most interesting for me, is the conduct of the elections in general. Ghanaians are a great people! And they love and cherish peace.

As a journalist whose duty led me to cover some polling stations to witness the voting and watch the ballots being counted, I feel so honoured to be a Ghanaian.

The process generally went on smoothly, people stayed in the queues and waited for their turn to vote. Some centres though, jammed by eager voters as early as 4:00am became empty before the close of voting.

The isolated cases of some minor altercations were reported, but they had no significant impact on the conduct of the elections.

Ghanaians have shown to the world again that, we are matured, responsible and progressive minded. But where does the tension come from?

I can only imagine one source. Greedy, power hungry politicians! Yes. Most of them a class of empty headed blokes whose only perceived legitimate right to hold claim to political power is their bloated ego, so called connections, political lineage and in some instances, ill gotten money.

These are the lot who pollute the media, using their corrupt allies whose only interest is not the public good but filthy lucre.

They abuse the intelligence of the unsuspecting public by lying through their teeth about almost everything they say. They manipulate and misinform the public through the media and by that they create unnecessary tension, leading to violence in some cases.

These politicians by and large have nothing to lose but well, some things to gain.

As everyone, including the rest of the world wait for the final declaration of results, there is nothing so far to indicate that there would be trouble, except the meaningless vituperations of some obtuse politicians who are making wild allegations and claims about results.

Thankfully, the good people of Ghana are discerning and they would not take to the streets.

Bravo Ghana! Long Live the great people of Ghana! No matter, which group of politicians wins this elections, you the people of Ghana are the winners!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Where are Ghana’s child entrepreneurs?

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

According to available records Ghana’s population is made up of over 50% young people. They are between the ages of 18-40 years.

They are the energy soaked, ambitious and bubbling group of our population, who possibly, could determine the future of this country – whichever way they choose! But why aren’t they making headline news in entrepreneurship?

This brings me to the many fascinating stories I have read about teenagers who have earned a million dollars in the first year of their attempt at setting up business. They start on their own, while they are still doing home work with the help of parents and siblings.

Their businesses range from online, courier services, manufacturing to ICT.

One story of teenage entrepreneurs that has held me spellbound is that of Leanna Archer, a 12-year-old girl from Central Islip, New York in the USA.

Leanna’s story quickly sent my mind wandering about our cities’ major streets where most of our children have been reduced to eking out a living, as they pathetically sell sachet water. These kids weave dangerously in-between moving vehicles to be able to sell to thirsty travelers and passers by.

Some of these kids are as young as eight or nine years old. While they struggle on the sweltering sun to sell whatever, they are able to lay hands on, it is hard to tell how much money they are able to make risking their young lives in the manner that they do.

I do not believe they earn anything decent enough to be able to afford a balanced diet three times a day, let alone have some change for a good savings.

It would be surprising, that with their growing numbers on the streets, and competing with some adults, that they would be able to make good sales.

Back to Leanna’s story. This 12-year-old girl is already a star in the US. And the intriguing thing about her business is; she got the idea for her business from home. She took a recipe for home-made hair products and turned it into a money making business.

Leanna’s Grandmother made the product herself, and used it on her mother. Her mother started using the hair product on Leanna when she was three years old. Leanna decided to use the recipe and produce hair products for sale. Presto! She has a business.

She has developed her own website on which she is selling the product. She makes $5000 every month, making her business a $60,000 earner every year. And from the way things look now, this business is likely to grow faster than she has anticipated.

This is how the 12-year-old entrepreneur lives her life as she wrote on her website:

“With my parents’ help, on weekends I make and package Leanna’s Hair Products at home (Hair Dressing, Hair Oil Treatment, Shampoo, Conditioner, Deep Conditioner ).

During the week, after I complete all my homework, I pack boxes from every day orders that I get online and from selected hair salons.”

Yes. She runs her business from home, finds time to grant interviews to magazines, radio and TV stations, goes around to give motivational talks and still do her homework!

I am yet to come across any Ghanaian teenager who has actually started a business while still in school and under the parents’ care.

Please, if you are reading this piece and you know any one like that let me know. I want to interview them.

I am not saying Ghanaian children are not smart, but I am yet to see these smart kids start and run a business that bring in more money than their parents earn in a month!

The truth is, when you are a smart kid starting out something beyond and above what your seniors know or think in Ghana, then you must be a witch or a strange kid. And often the thought is that you must be protected from yourself or you might be killed by enemies or witches. You are then discouraged and advised to shelve any such idea.

The thinking which is widely held is that young people are not expected to take huge leaps in life and young people are not expected to know or do better than their elders. Indeed, this is extended into the corporate world, where your boss never expects you to know anything better than he or she does.

That attitude appears to have been so ingrained in the very core of our being as Ghanaians to the extent that it comes out so naturally for us to discourage a young person or subordinate from taking ‘outrageous’ decisions that would lead to achieving anything extraordinary.

It is no wonder that mediocre and substandard performers in various endeavours become instant heroes in our midst. True to word, they don’t last – they vanish just as they appeared on the scene on the wings of cheap propaganda. Some even earn national honours!

This country in my humble opinion has not figured out yet what to do with its young people. I wish I have the voice to tell all the gifted and talented young people to rise up and be counted. We seem to be giving our young people only what we deem to be an education. That is fine, but where does that leave us? Most young people graduate from university with First Class Degrees and yet have no clue about what to do with their lives.

Only a few of them really move on in life. Those who can’t stick it out quickly run back to the universities to acquire a Masters Degree – as if a Masters Degree grants automatic immunity from challenges that all graduates face. A Masters Degree in itself is a good thing, but it does not on its own guarantee success if you can’t function and you are not creative.

Others who have the money and can afford have gone to read Law. I just hope by passing the Law programme at Ghana’s Law School at Makola, they would become good, useful and successful lawyers.

I wish I have what it takes to tell Ghana's young to live up to their dreams no matter what. They have what it takes to change their lives, families, and the country and influence the world by releasing their creativity.

Ghana’s young ought to wake up and explore their entrepreneurial skills – it is one sure way of making the country better.

There are so many opportunities around us that we can turn into life-changing products and money making ventures. It does not take age to achieve anything; it is how you use what you have. Start with what you have and how much you know. Just look around you, there is probably a favourite item your grandfather or someone might have discarded. But it might hold the secret to your breakthrough.

Leanna used the home-made recipe her grandmother has been using for years and made products out of them and sold to the world. You can do the same or even more.

All adults have a duty to groom young people to fully discover their creative abilities. Don’t stop the children. If they become successful, no witch can kill them. God will protect them. Let them explore and be productive, Ghana can move forward with the young where the old have failed us.

The time is now or never. Let us give our young the encouragement and support to be resourceful and productive. And for those young people who spend all their time on the internet watching things that add nothing to their lives but destroy their already fragile future, please put a stop to it and use your energies on things that would challenge you to be creative in a meaningful manner.

Someone please, find me Ghana's child entrepreneurs.