Friday, February 27, 2009

E-waste destined to Ghana caught in Amsterdam port

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

A container full of e-waste destined to Ghana has been arrested at the port of Amsterdam in Holland, according to a Radio Netherlands report Friday February 27, 2009.

The report said inspectors from the country’s environment ministry intercepted the container filled with broken electronics equipment from a major Dutch store chain, but ministry officials declined to name the store.

According to the officials, the container was filled with broken deep-frying pans, water cookers and other electronic waste in the port of Amsterdam ready to be shipped to Ghana.

According to the report, a Ghanaian exporter has bought the items without proper documentation from a trader who had bought the items from the store. The names of the Ghanaian exporter and the Dutch trader were also not given.

The report also indicated that charges would be brought against the store, trader and Ghanaian exporter.

The inspectorate reportedly has announced a crackdown on recycling companies, recycled goods shops and collectors of electronics waste which violate environmental laws. has contacted sources in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam and will keep readers updated on developments.

Ghana and other African countries, notably Nigeria have become the dumping grounds for e-waste from developing countries, especially Europe and America.

European countries have passed the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) to control the handling and disposal of e-waste of electronics waste. But it appears poor supervision is encouraging unscrupulous organizations and individuals to export the cocktail of poisonous chemicals into Ghana and other developing industries.

The US is one of three signatories to the Basel Convention, including Afghanistan and Haiti which have not deposed instruments of ratifications.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive global environmental treaty on hazardous and other wastes.

It has 170 member countries (Parties) and aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects resulting from the generation, management, transboundary movements and disposal of hazardous and other wastes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bob Geldof believes biofuels can eradicate poverty in Africa

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The biofuels debate isn’t going away anytime soon, just like the global financial meltdown, the food crisis and energy crisis, which is directly related to the surging interest in biofuels as alternative sources of energy.

There are also growing fears that the festering global financial crisis which has already impacted the eating habits of many people, coupled with the growing interest in biofuels would greatly change eating habits.
Renowned singer, philanthropist, political activist and biofuels advocator Sir Bob Geldof believes that biofuels can be developed from feedstocks without impacting food production, thereby, providing a positive impact on poverty-stricken communities by giving the opportunity to develop energy independence and eradicate poverty across Africa.

Information available to say Sir Geldof is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the World Biofuels Market 2009 to be held in Brussels from March 16 to 18.

He is expected to present the outlook for biofuels sustainability in Africa.

He says, “Africa has always used biofuel as a primary source – wood, dung, residue, etc. and can build responsibility on this tradition.”

Sir Geldof recognizes that instrumental procedures must be in place such as regulated industries, sustainable cropping in a sustainable economy, and utilizing non-arable land for non-edible crops.

He also believes that the biofuels cultivation in Africa could provide an influx of capital into the economies of African nations.

This position is however in sharp contrast with that of the UN’s top adviser on food, Prof. Olivier de Schutter. He told the BBC in May 2008 that investments in biofuels are “irresponsible”. Earlier his predecessor Jean Ziegler, had condemned biofuels calling their production a “crime against humanity” and called for an immediate ban on their use.

Ghana as a country is vigorously involved in the biofuels industry. Gold Star Biofuels, a subsidiary of Gold Star Farms Ltd., is cultivating five million acres of land in Ghana to plant jatropha for the production of biofuels for export.

In April 2008 Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed an agreement with the Ghanaian government to produce sugarcane for biofuels in Ghana.

The agreement was signed while he was in Ghana for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XII).

During the signing ceremony, da Silva said, “in Ghana we are developing a project that will result in growing 27,000 hectares (of sugarcane) for the production of 150 million litres of ethanol per year that are destined for the Swedish market.”

And then in November 2008 a Norwegian company ScanFuel Ltd., was reported to start operations outside Kumasi in the Ashanti region to produce biofuel. The reports said ScanFuel will initially cultivate Jatropha seeds, considered high oil-yielding on 10,000 hectares of land.

The company which has a Ghanaian subsidiary, ScanFuel Ghana Ltd said its Ghanaian unit has contracted about 400,000 hectares of land, with up to 60 percent reserved for biofuel production, “not less” than 30 percent for food production and the remainder for biodiversity buffer zones.

But some analysts continue to argue that the growing interest in biofuels could negatively affect food crops production on the African continent. The argument is based on the fear that productive agriculture land could be ceded for the cultivation of crops for biofuels, and this obviously could exacerbate the food crisis.

Indeed, it is now known that with the global financial crisis, many people are changing their diets. Reports indicate that because people do not have enough money to spend on healthy meals, they have resorted to eating unhealthy foods which could potentially have adverse effects on their health.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Would aid save Africa from effects of global financial crunch?

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The global food and energy crisis, and now the financial crisis are making the future of life in Africa more uncertain, especially for the poor, and Africa has been relying on aid for over 60 years now to solve its economic and development challenges. To what extent has aid worked?

The developed world has spent around 600 billion dollars on aid since 1958, and yet the number of sub-Saharan Africans living in poverty keep increasing.

Meanwhile, the full impacts of the global financial crisis is expected to hit the continent, but the extent of the effect is not known yet, making the outlook even more ominous.

Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, said on October 7, 2008: “Although Africa is relatively protected from the initial impacts on the financial markets, the continent could be seriously affected by the weakening of global economic growth and a decline in demand for products from emerging markets… The current crisis will increase the cost of borrowing on capital markets, and make access to the markets more difficult… Budgetary pressures resulting from the various rescue plans could reduce the volume of aid and investments in Africa, and lead to rise of protectionism.”

While the banking sector on the continent has not as yet felt the spiraling effects of the global financial collapse, FDI, remittances and African economies in general are shrinking.

According to an IMF World Economic Outlook Reported of October 2008; “Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is expected to moderate in the face of the financial turmoil and high energy and food prices… Overall growth is projected to decline from near 7 percent in 2007 to just over 6 percent 2008-2009.”

For instance in Ghana inflation for January 2009 has hit over 19% and Nigeria, the largest economy in West Africa which in 2005 paid up its external debt of $14 billion is now piling up external debt, which has so far reached $3.76 billion and inflation in that country is rising.

Ghana on the other hand received debt forgiveness. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and other debt forgiveness programs canceled billions of dollars in debts and as a result, Ghana’s debt fell to around 41 percent of gross domestic product in 2006, from 70 percent of 2005.

However, high state spending deficits, partly due to measures to alleviate electricity shortages and high oil import costs, pushed government debt back up to 52 percent of GDP in 2007, according to ratings agency Standard & Poor’s – that was in June 2008.

The country is currently running a budget deficit of 13.3% of GDP.

Analysts do not think Africa can come out of the woods by depending on aid. Indeed, it is feared that even aid inflows to the continent would equally shrink as donor countries battle their own recession.

The Accra High Level Conference on Aid Effectiveness held in Accra, Ghana in September 2008 emphasised the fact that aid is not sufficient to deal with the continent’s development problems, and other factors ought to be looked at. Factors such as corruption, the strengthening of internal mechanisms and fair trade should be tackled to address the continent’s development challenges.

A large amount of aid money to the continent is siphoned into individual pockets and there are no properly established check and balance mechanisms for the use of aid money, and in instances where they exist, they hardly function effectively to make sure aid money meant for development go into these areas.

Dabansi Moyo, an economist with the World Bank is of the view that “development is not rocket science, it is very clear what works in terms of development. Africa has got lots of role models and doesn’t have to look to America and Europe, but can look to emerging economies.”

She told the BBC that Africa can do what these economies have done. “They have not relied on aid, they have gone to the capital markets, they’ve attracted trade and foreign direct investment and encouraged microfinance.” She advised that a very important factor like microfinance can be done on individual bases and “we don’t have to rely on governments to do that.”

She said further that there is no need to argue on the basis of a strong moral imperative to help Africa. She said, “We as a global society need to decide whether we want Africa to continue to be a drag on the global economy or to participate as an equal participant on the global stage?”

“If we want to see Africa and Africans as equal partners and its economies to grow, and its people to break out of the chain of poverty and grow,” she argued, “then this is the model, the model that we know works, it must be through trade, entrepreneurship, through capital market and fdi and through participation of locals, this is the model.”

She expressed concern about the fact that 60 years on Africa has no infrastructure. Most African countries are not growing because there are no entrepreneurs and the governments cannot raise the money through taxes to invest in education, health and other social services, she said.

Comparing Africa to some of the rapidly emerging economies, she said 60 years ago some of these countries were poorer than Africa. These countries she said, did not rely on aid, “they figured out what to do,”she emphasized.

“It is time for Africa to break out of the vicious aid cycle,” she said.

The global financial, food and energy crisis is not relenting anytime soon, and Africa as a continent must take a decision to move beyond aid and do the right things that have worked for other countries, especially, emerging economies of Asia, because aid won’t save the continent.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ground Floor: Ghana’s myth-breaking Election 2008

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Welcome to Ground Floor a new column on This column will discuss every topic under the sun, from the sacred to the most mundane. On the floor, the engagement would be in a no-holds-barred fashion and no subject will be treated with fear or favour.

We are taking off with a look at the recently held Election 2008 in Ghana. The election was the most historic in the country for many reasons, and it was no wonder that it broke some myths.

Ghanaians are very religious. And to quote one of Africa’s famous theologians, the Prof John Mbiti, they are “notoriously religious.” As religious people they believe in myths together with the rest of Africa and even the entire world. Because, in the sense that the elections broke some myths, the entire world was with Ghanaians.

Myth number one: The media is so powerful and can be used to do everything.

Myth number two: The National Democratic Congress (NDC) would never come back to power.

Myth number three: It is not possible for an incumbent party in Africa that has won the first round of an election to lose in a second round.

Myth number one: The media can be used to achieve anything including winning an election.

And that myth is based on a simple myth in Ghana that apart from the fact that the media is powerful, the average Ghanaian, indeed, including even the educated believe everything that comes out of the media, and as a result the Ghanaian politician built an unmatched faith in the power of the media as an influential tool. That notion was unfortunately derived from the knowledge of the Ghanaians’ gullibility – and the average Ghanaian has been gullible for a very, very long time.

Indeed, that the average Ghanaian is docile and to a large extent malleable particularly by powerful people, the Ghanaian is more likely to believe everything “a big man or woman” says in the media. And so, hapless politicians who see themselves as “big men and women” went into overdrive and decided to use or more so as I heard one politician tell someone who works on a radio station, “manipulate” the media to mislead the Ghanaian public.

Some of these politicians, went ahead to set up newspapers, radio and even TV stations with the sole aim of staying in power. And then they began to churn out lies in all ways possible using an acquiescing media much of which they had in their palms anyway. They maligned in some instances the very people they were trying to convince. The intelligence of the average Ghanaian was incessantly abused through unfettered lies, some of which were very outrageous.

Having the unfortunate and unpleasant duty of listening to these demagogues every day, all I often hear is reasoning turned upside down and good old logic yanked off the table and thrown down the Korle Lagoon

They went on and on into the election year. Steeped so deep in their own arrogance and misguided belief that falsehood sells in Ghana, one of the lies they have told so many times that I have lost count of was that the National Health Insurance Scheme was being accessed for free, but that couldn’t be true because Ghanaians pay premium. They lied about their opponents and even about one another when it suited them. And while they were at it, the greedy ones among them waddled in corruption and downright thievery.

Living with the self assured notion that the media would do everything for them the New Patriotic Party (NPP) spent all the time they had talking and talking on one radio station or the other. They seized every chance to show their faces on TV screens, even if it was for the purpose of telling another lie or painting their opponents black.

Their campaign plan hung on the media and come Election Day, they were so sure that it was a done deal. But not so - Ghanaians have become wiser. They proved them wrong and broke the myth that everything one says in the media is gospel truth – they were kicked out of power long before they knew and they are still struggling to come to terms with that reality. And to assuage their pains and shame, they have started attacking and blaming one another for losing the elections.

Myth Number two: The NDC would never some to power.

As a matter of fact, The NDC itself knew it was all over for it. The party has had such a hard time in opposition that it never believed in its own ability to come back to power, but the election must be contested any way, and so it did.

With its limited resources and battered image, the party struggled through the campaign, and to show its desperation it had to plagiarise the campaign slogan of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and went about blatantly claiming it was its own slogan.

Not too sure of winning power, the party bid its time wearily and then as not to be expected it won power. And because the party was not too sure of winning power, it is yet to realize it is the party in power. It appears to be dazed by the reality of being elected back into power after winning with a very slim majority.

Overwhelmed by the reality, the party is already making mistakes in its very infant days in power. Some operatives of the party, refusing to acknowledge the fact that they won power because Ghanaians are law abiding and peaceful, have resorted to arbitrariness and the morbid display of naked power and lawlessness.

I understand some of the party’s operatives have started harassing some Civil Servants over their legitimate jobs. We shall be watching from the Ground Floor.

Myth number three: No incumbent party in Africa would ever hand over power to the opposition after taking the lead in a first round of voting.

Even the international community doubted Ghana’s ability to go through the second round of nail-biting elections. The second round was as tension packed as could be imagined. And then enter – Tain, the decider.

Not many expected a peaceful transition. Investors were reported to have held back their investment. Some businessmen left the country in anticipation of trouble.

I had the privilege of being invited to the New Year party of the World Bank Country Director, Ishac Diwan, at his residence. And during a conversation with a British citizen who works with the Bank, she told me in clear terms that “You Ghanaians did so well. My people would not have accepted this result, winning an election with just 40,000 votes.” She was emphatic that even in Great Britain if the results of Ghana’s elections were had there would be trouble.

I was astounded, but that was the fact. The whole world was expecting Ghana to go the way of Zimbabwe, Kenya and the rest of Africa where elections have become the reason to burn down countries.

Scanning through the media and press in Africa, I read very interesting comments about the elections in Ghana. The Ugandans are making fun of Ghana, saying it is a joke for an incumbent party in Africa to claim the opposition had rigged an election that it organized and supervised, when the NPP suggested that the NDC had rigged the elections.

The Nigerians are at it each other’s throats – some are using Ghana as an example of the best thing to have happened to democracy in Africa and calling on their greedy politicians to learn from Ghana. But there are others, who do not think that Ghana is a good example at all, claiming the elections was not devoid of irregularities.

Whatever anyone thinks, the myth has been broken, Ghana is still in one piece after a cliffhanger run-off elections.

For me the long suffering people of Ghana are the winners. They proved their sophistication and taught the politicians a life’s lesson. They have spoken, they have broken all the myths in the last elections – they decide who should rule them, they cannot put up with power drunk leeches who claim they are offering leadership.

And the NDC would not be treated differently, if they continue in their oblivion; there would always be another election year!