Saturday, December 10, 2011

How travelling within Africa is prohibitive for many Africans

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Travelling within Africa can be fun - real fun. Because meeting other Africans in their own countries adds a certain flavour to one's experience of the continent, a good opportunity to share in the continent's alluring natural scenes.

It is even more exciting to taste other African meals.

The experiences can be at certain times surreal and at others awesome. But travelling within Africa is burdensome, hectic, and almost impossible for most Africans, and that in itself has contributed to a large extent to the lack of knowledge among Africans of each other's culture and general worldview .

The challenges of travelling within Africa begins with the high cost of transport fares both by air and by road. The cost of travelling to neighbouring countries is prohibitive for many Africans, sometimes more than it costs to travel to Europe or the USA.

Most average Africans cannot afford the transport costs ranging around $1000 or more.

There is also the high cost of hotels on the continent.

Then there is the visa requirements, often more stringently applied for Africans than for Europeans and Americans. Indeed, it is often easier for citizens of these continents to acquire visas to African countries than it is for Africans themselves.

For instance on the website of the South African High Commission in Ghana is a list of 40 countries exempt from requiring visas to enter that country and the only African country on the list is Botswana! Probably all other South African Development Cooperation (SADC) countries, 12 of them might be exempt as well, but there is no information on the website about that. Botswana is a member.

I started writing this piece as I waited at the Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek Namibia on transit to Durban via Johannesburg on December 1, 2011.

My trip itself was eventful. It started with the application for visa at the South African High Commission in Accra. I filed my application two days to the start of the trip on December 30, 2011. That was so because I had only returned from another international assignment in Addis Ababa the previous Friday November 25, 2011, late in the afternoon and therefore, the only time I could put in my application for a visa to South Africa was Monday November 28.

The Embassy staff minced no words in telling me that I couldn't apply for a visa when my trip was only two days ahead! I overheard some applicants being told to return for their passports in two weeks! What?! I thought. How should a visa to South Africa take two weeks to process? But that's the rule!

There is however, this very intriguing story of a friend I met in Addis Ababa. He told me of his ordeal in the hands of immigration officials at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. He was in Ethiopia at the invitation of a state institution. There is no Ethiopian Embassy in the European country where he lives and so he had to get his visa on arrival at the airport. But on arrival at the airport, he was detained and questioned over what he was coming to Ethiopia to do! Meanwhile, as my friend was being questioned, other visitors of another race were being waved through immigration with broad smiles.

He asked the officials why they have detained him an African and yet allowed the visitors who might be coming from Europe to go through so easily. This was what the official told him, "these are tourists and our country's economy depends on tourism."

In spite of pointing out to the officials that he was in their country at the invitation of a state institution and that they should check on the list of guests for the specific event that he had mentioned, indicating that his name was on the list, they were adamant, until one official recognised him, because of his job in the media and asked his colleagues to let him pass.

A week after this sore incident, my friend returned to Ethiopia at the invitation of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), just as myself and he was detained again. It took the intervention of an official who recognised him during his first detention to get my friend out. This is Africa, and yet Africans cannot enter each others' countries freely.

Well, back to my story with the South African High Commission in Accra. I was given the visa on Wednesday afternoon November 30, 2011 and I was able to make my trip.

But my experience at the High Commission was no different from what I would have gone through seeking a visa to a European country. Interestingly however, my experience at the US Embassy in Accra was smoother than I had thought, but it is perhaps, because I was going to the US at the invitation of the US Department of State Foreign Press Centre. And my experience at the Ethiopian Embassy so far was the best! Each time I had applied for a visa, it was issued the same day within an hour! And all I needed to submit were my passport, one passport photograph, an invitation letter from my hosts, an introduction letter from my office and the visa fee.

At the South African High Commission, I was asked to submit my hotel reservation form and bank statement, even though my trip was being fully sponsored by Siemens Southern Africa. I was asked to submit an introduction letter from my office, even though this is not indicated on the requirements for a visa on the application forms. It takes more than four hours to go through the visa application submission process with a cranky security man at the gates calling the shots and deciding on who he would let into the premises.

Meanwhile, the requirements for applying for a visa as stated on the application form are as follows: A passport; proof of booking of airline ticket; two identity passport photographs; prescribed visa fee if not exempted; supporting documentation confirming the purpose of the visit and vaccination certificate if required. But at the High Commission, officials would ask of bank statements and letter of introduction from employers - these are not stated among the requirements for visa application!

Travelling from Ghana to Nigeria by road can be a nightmare! The unnumerable security checkpoints on the roads and the extortions are just unbelievable, often done brazenly and cruelly in broad day light by uniformed officials on duty.

It is equally gruelling to travel from Ghana to Ivory Coast. Some of the drivers collect money from travellers to bribe officials on the way, just so they would have smooth passage.

Only last month the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) organised the first Africa Trade Forum that looked at how Africa can trade itself out of poverty. And some of the issues that came up were the physical and non-physical barriers that exist beween African countries.

Although global trade is valued at around $30 trillion, Africa's share is only about 3% and intra-African trade is currently estimated at an abbysmal 10%.

It is necessary for African countries to take a second look at the facts that create these difficulties, that obviously hamper the continent's growth. It is being trumpeted now that this is Africa's time, as the continent has been experiencing growth, in the face of the challenges facing Europe and the US.

A good example that other African countries can also learn from is the relationship between neighbours South Africa and Namibia. As I experienced at the Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek, I was able to purchase Internet airtime at the airport using the South African rand and was given change in the Namibian dollar. The currencies of the two countries are valued at one to one. I gave the attendant 100 rand as I bought 20 Namibian dollars worth of airtime, and I was given change of 60 Namibian dollars and 20 South African rand!

That certainly is a good example worth emulating by other African countries, apart from making travelling across the continent less cumbersome even as countries take into consideration security issues.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How Ghanaians abroad are building the national economy with remittances

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Remittances from Ghanaians living abroad have become a very important component of Ghana’s economy.

By sending money home to relatives to cater for the sick, pay for education, acquire landed property and feed households, Ghanaians living abroad are building and sustaining the country’s economy.

The importance of remittances from Ghanaians abroad can be seen in the fact that it has outstripped even Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) or international aid.

Notwithstanding the fact that international aid is an important source of external finance for the government budget, the amount remitted into the country is above the total amount of ODA, consisting of loans and grants from donors.

Many of Ghana’s donors having realised that all non-income Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are likely to be missed, scaled-up their ODA to Ghana in recent years. ODA now accounts for about 42% of the national budget.

In 2009, the Bank of Ghana reports show that remittance inflows amounted to $1.6 billion, higher than the World Bank’s recorded $1.5 billion and almost 10 times the $114 million recorded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

There are over 500,000 Ghanaians living in the UK alone, the British High Commission in Accra has said, and according to the World Bank, there are 111,000 Ghanaians living in the US, making Ghana the fourth country with the highest number of its citizens living in the US after Nigeria, 211,000, Ethiopia, 140,000 and Egypt, 133,000.about 1000 Ghanaian doctors living and working in the US.

There are Ghanaians living and working almost in every corner of the world in various capacities who send money home to their relatives.

In 2010, remittances or private unrequited transfers (net) in the year amounted to $2.12 billion, the World Bank Ghana Country office told And that amount exceeds the total volume of ODA that the country received in that year.

According to figures provided to by the Public Relations Office of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, in 2010 the total amount of ODA the country received was $1.8 billion.

The breakdown as provided by the Ministry is as follows: Grants – $612 million; and Loans - $1,242 billion.

Remittance receipts in general, according to a joint publication by the World Bank (WB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) titled, ‘Leveraging Migration for Africa’, generate large benefits for emigrants’ countries of origin.

“At the macro level, remittances tend to be more stable than other sources of foreign exchange; their variation is often countercyclical, helping sustain consumption and investment during downturns; and they improve sovereign creditworthiness, by increasing the level and stability of foreign exchange receipts,” it says.

At the micro level, it adds, both country studies and cross-country analyses have shown that remittances reduce poverty. They also spur spending on health and education, as a result of both higher household incomes and—according to some studies—the devotion of a larger share of remittances than other income sources to these services.

In addition, the study indicates that remittances provide insurance against adverse shocks by diversifying the sources of household income. For example, a recent study finds that Ethiopian households that receive international remittances are less likely than other households to sell their productive assets, such as livestock, to cope with food shortages.

According to the Migrations Factbook 2011, published by the World Bank, the stock of Ghanaian emigrants in 2010 was 824,900 and the stock of emigrants as percentage of population was 3.4%.

And it listed the following countries as top destinations for Ghanaians; Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, the US, UK, Burkina Faso, Italy, Togo, Germany, Canada and Liberia.

On skilled emigration for 2000, the Factbook states that the emigration rate of tertiary-educated Ghanaians was 46.9% of the population, 924 or 37.1% of physicians trained in the country, 1,639 or 55.9% of physicians born in the country. The number of nurses that left the country was 4,766 or 24.1% of nurses born in the country.

The WB, AfDB study says many migrants transfer funds to households in origin countries for the purpose of investment. “Data from household surveys reveal that households receiving international remittances from OECD countries have been making productive investments in land purchases, building houses, businesses, improving the farm, agricultural equipment and other investments (36 percent in Burkina Faso, 55 percent in Kenya, 57 percent in Nigeria, 15 percent in Senegal, and 20 percent in Uganda; figure 4.3). Households receiving transfers from other African migrants in other African countries set up small-scale businesses, such as restaurants and beauty salons. They also invest in housing.”

The study also shows that the African diaspora has invested in service sector activities, such as import/export companies, telecommunications, and tourism and transport companies (examples include Databank, in Ghana; Geometric Power Limited, in Nigeria; Teylium, in Senegal; and Celtel, in Sudan).

It cited the results of a survey of 302 returnees conducted in 2001 which indicates that more than half of Ghanaian and 23 percent of Ivorian returnees reported returning with more than $5,000 in savings (Black and Castaldo 2007). Both studies indicate that many return migrants invest in business activity and that work experience and the maintenance of communication with friends and family while abroad facilitates the opening a business upon return.

Cassini (2005) concludes, according to the study, that the most successful Ghana-based businesses of Ghanaian migrants were owned by migrants who visited home frequently and developed social networks.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The world descends on quiet Des Moines to discuss global food security

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Des Moines is the capital of Iowa State, mid-west of the US. It is a quiet, beautiful town with a population of about 400,000.

But this quiet town is awake now, as the whole world is literally here to discuss how to secure the world’s future food production.

Global food prices are rising, and there is severe hunger and drought in the Horn of Africa. The situation in East Africa has attracted global attention, even though a little too late, efforts are being made to address the issue.

In Des Moines, pronounced ‘De Moine’, about 29 journalists from around the world have been nominated by the US Department of State Foreign Press Centre for the ‘Foreign Journalist Tour: Food Security’ reporting programme.

The World Food Prize is also organising the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium during which the Laureate Award Ceremony would be held. Ghana’s former President John Kufuor and Brazil’s Lula da Silva will be jointly honoured for their efforts to end hunger in their countries, while they were presidents .

Kufuor is being honoured for the prudent policies initiated by his government towards food sufficiency.

“His administration helped to initiate or continue improvements in farming, nutrition, education, healthcare, and infrastructure, leading to significant positive changes in Ghana during the first decade of the new millennium.

“Today, Ghana is regarded as one of the most successful countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It recently attained middle-income status and will likely achieve the first Millennium Development Goal of cutting poverty in half before the target year of 2015,” a press statement from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said in June.

“Under President Kufour’s leadership, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to cut in half the proportion of its people who suffer from hunger, and the proportion of people living on less than a dollar per day, on course to achieve UN Millenium Development Goal 1 before the 2015 deadline.

“Continuing Ghana’s tradition of stability, President Kufour prioritised national agricultural policies: Ghana saw a reduction in its poverty rate from 51.7 percent in 1991 to 26.5 percent in 2008, and hunger was reduced from 34 percent in 1990 down to 9 percent in 2004,” it said.

IFPRI also acknowledged that, “President Kufour’s economic reforms, including the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy, provided incentives and strengthened public investments in the agricultural and food sector — the backbone of Ghana’s economy — which grew at a rate of 5.5 percent between 2003 and 2008,” adding that”Growth in the agricultural sector drove expansion in the national economy, with GDP quadrupling to 8.4 percent by 2008.”

“Under President Kufour, the Agricultural Extension Service was reactivated and special attention paid to educating farmers on best practices. As a result, Ghana’s cocoa production doubled between 2002 and 2005, and food crops such as maize, cassava, yams and plantains increased significantly, as did livestock production,” it adds.

The organisers were also impressed with Kufuor’s essay published by IFPRI. The essay was titled ‘Ghana’s Transformation’, in which Ghana’s former President gives a first-person account of his years as president, describing some of his administration’s most successful projects, especially those related to agriculture.

In the essay, President Kufour, who is currently a Global Ambassador against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Programme says, “Food is the most basic of needs, it decides not just the health of individuals but also the health of communities.”

Kufuor who describes food security as the catalyst for improving an economy and instituting democracy, served two terms as President of the Republic of Ghana from 2001 to 2008.

Achievements by this year’s winners also demonstrate that committed leadership combined with evidence-based policies can eliminate hunger and reduce poverty, says IFPRI.

On Brazil’s former president as joint winner, the World Food Prize Foundation said “President Lula da Silva made reducing poverty and hunger a top priority when he assumed the presidency of Brazil in 2003.

“The country’s Zero Hunger network of programmes represents one of the world’s leading efforts to decrease hunger and improve nutrition, providing greater access to food and education, increasing rural incomes, and empowering the poor. Under his leadership, Brazil cut hunger in half, exceeding the first Millennium Development Goal,” it adds.

Chicago’s O’hare International Airport was full on a sunny day Monday October 10, 2011 as larger than normal number of airlines landed with passengers on transit to Iowa. As our flight took off, it was the fourth plane in line taking off from the tarmac at the same time, and the waiting area was crowded leaving most Chicagoans wondering what is attracting such large numbers of visitors to the sleepy Mid-West town of Des Moines.

On transit in Chicago, I had the pleasant and rare opportunity of running into Sir Dawda Jawara, the former President of The Gambia. Until that great opportunity came, the closest I had come to him was what I had read about him in primary school. I didn’t miss a photo opportunity with him!

The town is so small that people walking by you on the street will stop and say hello!

But before I arrived in Des Moines, I already had links with the town that I have suddenly fallen in love with. When I told my friend Joyce Maxwell who lives in Massachusetts that I was coming to Des Moines, she told me her mother-in-law was born there. And then there is Ghanaian doctoral candidate at the Iowa Universtiy, Etse Sikanku, who has been looking forward to meeting with me whenever he came to Ghana, but now we will have the chance of meeting in Des Moines.

Traffic moves very fast on the roads, and I am yet to hear a car honk!

As I understand, it is also the heart of agriculture and food production in America. I have already seen the signs of some agribusiness institutions already.

As the events continue and come to a climax by October 15, 2011, quiet sleepy Des Moines would have spent long hours being awake, that it would probably sleep for a long time trying to catch up on lost sleep.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Remittances from Ghanaians abroad higher than international aid to country

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Remittances from Ghanaians abroad is a major part of the country’s economy, available figures show.

And even though Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) or international aid is an important source of external finance for the government budget, the amount remitted into the country is above the total amount of ODA, consisting of loans and grants from donors.

Many of Ghana’s donors having realised that all non-income Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are likely to be missed, scaled-up their ODA to Ghana in recent years. ODA now accounts for about 42% of the national budget.

In 2009, the Bank of Ghana reports show that remittance inflows amounted to $1.6 billion, higher than the World Bank’s recorded $1.5 billion and almost 10 times the $114 million recorded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The significance of these citizens living abroad cannot be overlooked, as there are over 500,000 Ghanaians living in the UK alone and about 1000 Ghanaians doctors living and working in the US. There are Ghanaians living and working almost in every corner of the world in various capacities who send money to relatives back home.

In 2010, remittances or private unrequited transfers (net) in the year amounted to $2.12 billion, the World Bank Ghana Country office told And that amount exceeds the total volume of ODA that the country received in that year.

According to figures provided to by the Public Relations Office of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, in 2010 the total amount of ODA the country received was $1.8 billion.

The breakdown as provided by the Ministry is as follows: Grants – $612 million; and Loans - $1,242 billion.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ghana’s efficient country system for aid management not complemented by donor conduct – Study

 By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

A major new study on aid effectiveness to be published in the run-up to the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) in Busan, South Korea has found that even theough Ghana has made significant progress in applying  Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) or international aid by using country systems, the unwillingness of donor countries to change their attitude is a drawback to achieving the objectives of the Paris Declaration (PD) and Accra Agenda for Action (AAA).

The study conducted by the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), says ” While Ghana has made much progress in reforming country procurement systems, this progress does not seem to have been complemented by changes in donor conduct. Donors’ own reporting suggests that the extent to which they use country systems has not changed a great deal.”

The report to be published at the end of November 2011 focuses on six country case studies including Namibia, Uganda, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ghana.

The report titled, “How to spend it: smart procurement for more effective aid,” will be published to assess progress towards these aid effectiveness commitments. The report includes suggestions for a new and ambitious agreement in Busan and it constitutes one of the few civil society research reports ahead of the HLF4.

The report investigates how aid is actually spent, who the beneficiaries are and what the local economic impact is.

In its summary on Ghana,  titled: “For whose gain? Procurement, tied aid and the use of country systems in Ghana”,  the report argues that “the use of recipient country systems can increase the effectiveness of ODA by enhancing ownership and harmonization, reducing transaction costs and strengthening institutions.”

“Channelling ODA through country systems facilitates the alignment of aid allocation to national development plans. Using country systems is therefore a central pillar of the current aid effectiveness reform agenda as agreed on in international agreements, in particular the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action,” it adds.

According to the report almost all of the donors interviewed for the study noted that in recent years progress has been made in improving Ghana’s public financial management and procurement systems.

“Past and ongoing reforms have enhanced donors’ confidence in the country systems, and scaled-up budget support has led to open dialogues between donors and Ghanaian authorities on the quality of the Public Financial Management (PFM) system, and how to improve it,” it says.

During interviews for the report most donors said they would channel more funds through the country system, in particular through the Multi-Donor Budgetary Support (MDBS) framework.

“However, the actual figures in the most recent official assessment, the 2008 Survey on Implementing the Paris Declaration (PD), give a different picture: the proportion of aid using country public financial management systems actually decreased to 57 per cent in 2007 from 62 per cent in 2005, contrary to the commitments made by donors,” the report says.

The report however, noted that the use of country procurement systems showed a slight increase, from 52% to 57%.

While it indicates that some donors, such as France and the Netherlands make full use of the country procurement system for all their ODA, it has been totally side-lined by others such as the USA and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The report however says in a previous research on the use of country systems in Ghana carried out by Eurodad, it found that the US aid agencies are constrained by policies and regulations set at headquarter level. Moreover, the large number of vertical funds in Ghana, in particular in the health sector is also a contributing factor for the continued underuse of the country systems, despite an increase in their quality.

According to the report, some donors, mainly European Union (EU) Member States, explained that although they committed to using country systems as a first option, they use their own procurement procedures in cases where the procurement involves supplies or services which need to be procured internationally since they are not available on local markets.

Donor representatives also pointed to persistent structural or political constraints for using country systems. These are for example risk aversion by donor country parliaments which require that spending is visible and attributable, and well-documented and properly accounted for. Real or perceived fiduciary risks lead to the continued use of parallel implementation by donors. Some donors also continue to tie technical assistance and provide consultancies in kind rather than in cash, it said.

Citing a study by Osei Baffour titled “How tied aid affects the cost of aid-funded projects in Ghana“, in which he drew the conclusion that “there is significant mark-up on the prices of the tied funded inputs, and that the mark-up translates to a significant cost to Ghana,” the report said empirical research has shown that tied aid makes aid less efficient and less effective.

Since 2001, Ghana, the report noted  has undertaken a large number of reforms of its Public Finance Management (PFM) system in general, and the procurement systems in particular. Central is the Public Procurement Act, passed in 2003, which provides a comprehensive legal framework for public procurement. New institutions such as the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) and the Appeals and Complaints Panel have been set up to formalise and improve procurement processes, it says.

It also acknowledged that the development of software for procurement planning, a standard bid document and short –term training modules as well as the Public Procurement Model of Excellence (PPME) for assessment and monitoring have aided in enhancing the image of public procurement.

Several interviewees, the study said, explained that the PPME represents a significant step forward for monitoring the performance of public procurement entities and their compliance with the legal provisions.

The PPA and the Auditor General have indicated that the implementation of the Act has reduced leakages and led to more transparency in public spending. However, many government officials’ respondents bemoaned the delays associated with the implementation, it added.

The study therefore, recommends among others that all donors should deliver on their aid effectiveness commitments and use country procurement systems as the first option, while at the same time providing scaled-up support to strengthen local procurement capacities and improve accountability of the procurement process.

It suggests further that, where donors continue to procure themselves, they should end all practices of formal and de facto aid tying. They should also thoroughly assess their procurement practices and remove all barriers which hinder better access and participation of local economic actors, with the final aim of maximizing the share of contracts which are awarded to Ghanaian firms.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rise in world food prices has implications for Ghana

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

I first wrote and published this article elsewhere in 2008 at the onset of the global financial and food crises.

As the world faces the emergence of another food crisis, I thought I should share with you, especially if you didn't get the chance to read it.

Ghana’s recent successes in the agriculture sector could suffer setbacks as a result of the rise in world food prices if the appropriate steps are not taken.

Ghana is still celebrating the positive mention it received in the recently launched World Development Report 2008 of the World Bank. In this Report, Ghana was extensively used as a case study, indeed as a success story in agricultural growth in sub-Sahara Africa, including halving poverty by Millineum Development Goal benchmarks.

Unfortunately, the rise in world food prices for grains, especially wheat, could possibly erode the gains made in agriculture in the country.

The world price of wheat has risen to $19.88 a bushel on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGE) according to the website, World Socialist, and that rise is 79% higher than a year ago. The site says that the surge was as a result of the announcement that Japan had purchased 190,000 tons of US wheat shortly after the Egyptian government bought 235,000 tons, and in anticipation of weather-related food disruptions in China.

The Financial Times (FT) reports that in Chicago wheat and rice prices for delivery in March 2008 have jumped to an all-time record, soyabean prices are at a 34-year high and corn prices at an 11-year peak.

In early trading on Monday according to the FT, the new benchmark price of wheat for March delivery rose 30 cents to $10.09½ a bushel, more than 7.5 per cent higher than the expiring December contract of $9.39 and first time it has traded over $10 a bushel. The December contract expired on Friday and the March 2008 contract became the market’s benchmark on Monday.

New benchmark prices for corn are also more than 5 per cent higher than previously. Corn for March 2008 rose to $4.43¼ a bushel, the highest level in 11 years for a front-month contract.

The benchmark prices for soyabeans delivered in January rose on Friday to a fresh 34-year high of $11.92¼ a bushel.

Rice, also for January, has jumped to an all-time high of $13.310 a hundredweight.

The FT report quotes Bill Lapp, analyst at US consultancy, Advanced Economic Solutions as saying “We’ve already seen food prices increase this year at their fastest pace since the early 1980s, but the full brunt of those increases will begin in earnest in 2008.”

The agricultural commodities price rises are the result of high demand, poor harvests and low stockpiles of food. Emerging economies, where rising incomes are boosting consumption of meat and dairy products, have added to pressures already generated by the biofuel industry.

Cereal supply was this season lower than expected as several countries suffered weather-related losses. Jean Bourlot, head of agriculture commodities at Morgan Stanley in London, said: “High cereals prices are here to stay.”

The US Department of Agriculture has predicted that global corn stocks will fall to a 33-year low of just 7.5 weeks of consumption, while global wheat stocks will plunge to their lowest level in at least 47 years at 9.3 weeks.

But the World Food Programme (WFP) has predicted that the price of wheat will remain high for atleast the next two years.

According to the group, Action Against Hunger, an NGO that is in the forefront of fighting hunger in the world, the cause of the rise in the world price of cereals was due to some factors including increased consumption of cereals both as food and for animal feed in China and Brazil.

The challenges facing food production in most parts of the world according to Action Against Hunger are, biofuel production, increase in fuel prices, and global warming.

Biofuel’s effect on food production is as a result of the use of productive land for the production of non-food crops.

The increase in fuel prices has affected agricultural production, because farmers have to pay more for less energy sources to produce.

The effects of global warming on the world is being felt in the loss of water sources. Most of the world’s water sources are drying up as a result, and this is affecting agricultural production.

There is also the challenge posed by deforestation, loss of soil fertility and land degradation which have resulted from other industrial activities.

Most developing countries now have to spend a lot more on food imports. It is estimated that developing countries spend between 70%-80% of their budget on food imports.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the global trade in foodstuffs has grown rapidly and changed radically over recent decades. Between 1970 and 2001, gross world food imports, measured in terms of calorie equivalents, rose by almost 60 percent.

But this growth differed markedly among both country and commodity groups.

The FAO reports that gross imports of food by developing countries grew by 115 percent over this period. Imports by developed countries, which already import a higher proportion of their food, grew by 45 percent.

A closer look at the data reveals that food imports by developing countries increased rapidly during the 1970s, grew more slowly during the 1980s and accelerated again over the 1990s. This pattern holds true both for the volume of food imports and for the ratio of food imports to availability for consumption per capita.

The expansion of food imports meant that the food trade surplus of US$1 billion of developing countries was transformed into a deficit of more than US$11 billion during this period. Moreover, this trend is expected to continue: according to FAO projections, by the year 2030, the net food trade deficit of developing countries is expected to swell to more than US$50 billion in constant 1997-99 US$.

These figures do not portend good for developing countries in the light of the challenges.

African countries in particular, like Sierra Leone and Liberia that depend so much on rice and Kenya which depends on corn are likely to be hard hit by the developments.

Ghana, which also imports a large amount of rice would likely face great constraints on the country’s budget.

According to the FAO, at an annual growth rate of 12.84 per cent, Ghana’s rice import grew from 121,000 metric tons in 1993 to 507,600 metric tons in 2002.

An environmental group, Environmental Rights Action, based in Nigeria, has put Ghana’s rice imports from the USA alone at 166.400 metric tons between 2004 and 2005.

The challenges that the rise in world food prices could pose to Ghana, is the diversion of funds for other sectors into food importation.

This could bring short term relief. But for a long term approach to the challenge, the Ghana government must go back to the drawing board and have a second look at agriculture in the country.

Particular attention should be given to developing irrigation systems.

Agriculture research institutions should also be given attention and the funding they require to develop new varieties of crop for farmers, especially pest and disease resistant varieties.

While Ghanaians are entitled to celebrate the achievements documented in the World Bank’s World Development Report 2008, the challenges posed by the rise in world food prices, should goad the country on to more pragmatic and goal oriented agricultural practices.

It is time to move away from lip service to the agriculture sector, it is time to put more money where it is needed most, and that is the agriculture sector, so that Ghanaians can be well fed, because well fed citizens always have the energy to build a better, stronger nation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Ghana curbed maternal mortality with international aid

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Adwoa Kesewa is 19-years-old. She has to drop out of Junior High School(JHS) when she got pregnant. Her 21-year-old boyfriend Kwesi Prah also a school drop-out, suggested abortion, but Adwoa refused, citing the fear of death and the fact that she has heard if things went wrong she might never be able to conceive in the future.

In anger and frustration, he warned her sternly to stay away from him if she keeps the pregnancy as he is in no position as a truck pusher to support her and the baby. “You should not even mention me as the one responsible for your pregnancy! You are on your own now,” he growled. Kwesi bare survives on his meagre income as a truck pusher at one of the markets in Accra to be able to support a mother and a child.

“You said you loved me, and you will never leave me. But you are now turning your back to me, is this my reward for all that I have done for you?,” Adwoa muttered with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Adwoa’s story is common in urban and rural Ghana, where young people without sufficient sex education, with little or no vocational training and no jobs become parents when they are not ready.

With no regular sources of income or sufficient funds they are unable to acquire ante-natal care, and the pressure on the national budget for health, especially as malaria management takes a large chunk of the resources other areas within the health sector are deprived of funds.

In 2009, Ghana’s Minister of Health at that time, Dr. George Sipa-Adjah Yankey said the government spends over $760 million every year treating malaria.

The amount used in treating malaria is almost the entire budget for the health sector. In the 2009 budget for instance, an amount of over GH¢921 million was allocated to the health sector. What that means is that very little is left of the budget to treat other diseases.

The British government intervened by providing funds for maternal health care in Ghana.
In 2008 the British government provided a grant amounting to £42.5 million to support a government programme to provide free maternal health care for women. The programme is aimed at reducing the country’s maternal mortality ratio by three quarters before 2015.

In 2003, Ghana’s maternal mortality ratio was high. The country was recording one death per every 35 women during pregnancy or child birth. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report put the maternal mortality ratio in the country at 540 deaths per 100,000 live births.

But before the inception of the free maternal health care programme in Ghana in 2008, the World Bank funded the National Health Insurance programme in 2006, through which the country made a strong effort to extend health insurance coverage to people employed in the informal and rural sectors. More than half of Ghana’s population is now covered, according to the World Bank.

About 70 percent of the insured, including children and pregnant women, are exempt from paying premiums. The 2009 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) shows at least 90 percent of pregnant women use antenatal care services, and births attended by skilled health staff rose from 40 percent (1990) to 59 percent (2008).

Following the beginning of the free maternal health care programme, Ghana received commendation from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The Executive Director of the UNFPA, Ms Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, said it was good that Ghana introduced the programme as a way to control the high maternal mortality rate in the country in efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG5), which aimed at improving maternal health.

She was cited in a report by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) as saying: “This means if the programme is well sustained, all pregnant women, right at the community level would have access to free maternal health care, thus preventing a woman from dying from childbirth”

However, there have been calls for more to be done to make the programme sustainable and some challenges have been identified.

One of the major challenge facing the programme is ironically low patronage of antenatal care in some health facilities in Ghana.

According to a GNA report the low patronage of antenatal care and normal delivery care services at the lower level health facilities in Ghana could affect the sustainability of the free maternal health services.

The report citing Dr Emmanuel Ankrah Odame, head of the Public Health Division of Ridge Hospital said cost of free maternal services have been consistently higher at high level facilities putting so much stress on the British grant meant to improve financial access to maternal services.

Dr Odame said in order to reduce Ghana’s maternal mortality rate from the 451 per 100,000 live births and meet the Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) by 2015, there was the need to sustain the free maternal health services and ensure that people access the lower levels of health facilities.

According to him, when the pressures put on the high level hospitals are not lowered the facilities in the southern center of the country alone could exhaust the British Grant in 13 years.

Dr Odame, according to the report therefore, recommended the placement of specialists in the lower facilities to attend to clients, saying, “this will let pregnant women access the lower level facilities and not use the issue of no specialists as an excuse.”

Despite the challenges however, available research data shows that Ghana has made tremendous strides in curtailing maternal and child mortality.

An estimation taken in 2001 showed that maternal deaths in the year 2000 stood at 740 per 100,000 live births.

However, the 2010 World Health Organization Report shows that maternal mortality has reduced to 560 per 100,000 live births in the country.

These achievements couldn’t have been possible without international assistance, looking at the fact that other areas within the health sector are competing for scarce resources. And young women like Adwoa, would have become part of the statistics without the free maternal health care programme.

As the world gathers in Busan, South Korea in November for the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness to discuss the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action (AAA), Ghana’s success in the area of maternal health care which has been implemented with funds from international donors can be showcased as a success story of aid effectiveness.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tackling corruption is necessary for achieving aid effectiveness

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

For most developing countries, international development assistance (IDA) or aid is a very important component of national budgets without which a lot of development projects in health, education, water and sanitation, security, infrastructure development and transportation could not be achieved. Ghana for instance received as much as $1.2 billion in grants in 2009.

However, corruption remains one of the biggest means of revenue and income loss to developing countries.

While it is not easy to define corruption in one specific term, its different manifestations lead to loss of much needed money that otherwise could have gone to use in the public good or welfare of the majority. Corruption is an effective means of siphoning public funds into private pockets of individuals and companies.

A study by the World Bank says nearly $1 trillion is lost to corruption around the world every year.

The World Bank also says billions of dollars are lost through corruption in developing countries each year.

And for a continent like Africa that has an infrastructure financing gap of $35 billion per year, tackling corruption must be a priority. Ghana for instance requires $1.6 billion annually for its infrastructure development.

According to the World Bank, although the exact magnitude of the proceeds of corruption circulating in the global economy is impossible to ascertain, estimates demonstrate the severity and scale of the problem.

“An estimated $20 to $40 billion is lost to developing countries each year through corruption”, the Bank said in a report titled “Barriers to Asset Recovery” which was released Tuesday, June 21, 2011.

According to the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, 2007, 25% of the GDP of African states is lost to corruption. It adds that the amount lost to corruption each year totals $148 billion. And this amount it says covers the full range of corruption, from petty bribes to inflated public procurement contracts.

The World Bank, Star Report of 2007 also indicates that proceeds of corruption in bribes received by public officials from developing and transition countries are estimated to be between $20 billion to $40 billion per year, and this figure is equivalent to 20% to 40% of Official Development Assistance (ODA).

The devastating effects of corruption can be felt in poor quality of services in health, roads and education.

A Transparency International Global Corruption Report of 2006 estimates that 50% of health funds is lost to corruption. The report says this is the estimated percentage of allocated funds that do not reach health facilities in Ghana.

A UNDP report titled Accelerating Human Development in Asia and the Pacific released in 2008 says corruption accelerates the depletion of natural resources, notably primary forests and inshore fishing grounds, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods.

And citing an example, the report says the government of Indonesia has estimated that lost forest revenue costs the nation up to $4 billion a year or around five times the annual budget for the Indonesian department of health.

Corruption is also a major setback to achieving the Millennium Development Goals in many developing countries.

According to a Transparency International Report released in 2008, corruption raises the cost of connecting a household to a water network by as much as 30%, inflating the cost of achieving the MDG on water and sanitation by more than $48 billion or nearly half of annual global aid outlays.

It has been found that Ghana had met only 45% of the commitments it had pledged to improving water and sanitation in Washington DC in 2010 where the government pledged to invest $200 million a year in providing water and sanitation, which means that the country is still not going to meet its MDG target.

Corruption is a major hindrance to aid effectiveness and therefore, should be one of the issues that the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) in Busan, South Korea gives considerable attention to.

The principles of the Paris Declaration which stipulates Ownership, Alignment, Harmonisation, Results and Mutual Accountability can be effectively implemented if corruption is put on the radar.

The ideals of the Paris Declaration that it is now the norm for aid recipients to forge their own national development strategies with their parliaments and electorates (ownership); for donors to support these strategies (alignment) and work to streamline their efforts in-country (harmonisation); for development policies to be directed to achieving clear goals and for progress towards these goals to be monitored (results); and for donors and recipients alike to be jointly responsible for achieving these goals (mutual accountability) can effectively be reached if corruption is tackled.

In the same vein, the Accra Agenda for Action or AAA should also be pursued with zero-tolerance for corruption.

The AAA which takes stock of progress and sets the agenda for accelerated advancement towards the Paris targets, proposes the following three main areas for improvement:

Ownership – that countries have more say over their development processes through wider participation in development policy formulation, stronger leadership on aid co-ordination and more use of country systems for aid delivery.

Inclusive partnerships – which requires that all partners – including donors in the OECD Development Assistance Committee and developing countries, as well as other donors, foundations and civil society – participate fully.

Delivering results – that aid is focused on real and measurable impact on development.

With the counter-productive and development-eroding effects of corruption, the hard work of dedicated civil servants, citizens, honest governments and civil society in developing countries won’t amount to the money’s worth of donor countries and agencies, and development targets can’t be attained no matter how much aid money is given to developing countries if the canker of corruption is not tackled headlong.

The development of country systems and capacity development must factor the fashioning of anti-corruption mechanisms to keep an eye on the efficient and effective use of aid.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ghana expected to shift attention from mining to oil

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The government of Ghana is expected to shift its attention from the mining sector following the emergence of the country’s oil sector, which is seen to be leading the economy since commercial production began on December 15, 2010, according to a Business Monitor International (BMI) Ghana Mining Report for the third quarter of 2011.

The report says the shift of attention from the mining sector over the next few years will be necessitated by a drop in revenues from mineral output, expected to fall to 2.4% of GDP from 7.4% in 2010 by end of BMI’s 2011-2015 forecast period.

Despite the fall however, BMI says it still sees a healthy mining sector growth going forward, “particularly as regards gold production, as a number of new projects come on line.”

“We see further opportunities outside of the gold sub-sector with Ghana’s bauxite industry hoped finally to begin operating at its full potential following the acquisition of a majority share in the country’s Awaso mine by Chinese mining firm Bosai Minerals Group, ” it says.

The takeover is expected to coincide with the building of an integrated aluminium production facility at the mining complex and we project overall bauxite production to increase by more than 60% over the forecast period, it indicated.

According to BMI, Ghana’s share of global gold production has risen gradually in recent years as foreign investment in the mining sector has increased.

“The country’s contribution to African gold production has grown more markedly still, increasing from 14.1% of overall output in 2006 to 19.7% in 2009 while gaining ground on the continent’s largest producer, South Africa. We expect production to continue to trend upwards over our mid-term forecast period,” it says.

Citing preliminary statistics from Ghana’s Chamber of Mines, it says the country’s gold production grew at 2.5% in 2010 to 2.97 million ounces reflecting the positive trend in international gold prices over the year.

It says gold production will continue to drive industry growth with several major new projects due to come on line over its mid-term forecast period.

“The largest of these, Newmont Mining’s Akyem mine in the country’s Eastern region will add an additional 500kozpa to Ghana’s production when it begins operations by end-2013,” it adds.

Mining has been going on in Ghana for more than 100 years. Oil production started on December 15, 2010.

Meanwhile, Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor said the government is expecting to earn GH¢1.2 billion from oil in 2011.

On Thursday July 14, 2011, when he went to Parliament to seek approval for a supplementary expenditure for 2011, he said the estimate was based on the new oil price assumption of $100 per barrel as well as the revised estimated average oil production of 84,737 barrels per day and the new exchange rate assumption, total revenue from oil including the National Oil Company’s carried and participation interest.

He however indicated that, of this amount the Benchmark Revenue is estimated at GH¢923.4 million.

The remaining, he said is the amount due the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) as its equity and cash ceded to it.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mobile Number Portability begins in Ghana - Are you ready to change your network provider?

Today July 7, 2011, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) comes into effect in Ghana, bringing another revolution into the country’s already dynamic telecoms industry.

On Thursday June 30, 2011, Parliament adopted the report of the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation on the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Regulations 2011, Legislative Instrument (LI) 1994, and by that action, MNP received the legal backing to begin.

MNP is a process that allows a mobile subscriber who for any reason chooses to change from the existing provider to a competitor to do so and still keep his or her favourite mobile number including the code.

Porting is a process that allows subscribers on network ‘A’ to move to network ‘B’ without having to be assigned a new number. This development is likely to make Ghana’s telecoms sector which industry players have described as ‘extremely competitive’ even more competitive. And this competition has been cited to have led to innovation in the sector.

Initially, MNP was scheduled to have started on July 1, 2011, but was postponed to July 7, because July 1 was a public holiday.

The system to be implemented in Ghana, according to Mr. Joshua K. Peprah, Director, Regulatory Administration at the NCA is “recipient network driven”. What this means, he says, is that the network that the subscriber is switching to is the one to initiate the move. “The subscriber only has to go to the recipient network, or the network he or she wants to switch to and the switch is initiated at that point.”

He said the donor network or the network provider the subscriber is switching from would only have to accept or reject with reasons.

According to the NCA there are only few reasons for rejecting porting. These are: number not being active on the donor network – that is the network that a subscriber is moving away from. Fraud having been reported; phone reported stolen; not enough of the ID items matching with the request.

The request to port to a different operator may not be rejected in the case of debt still owed to the donor network, according to the NCA.

It also says the donor network is obliged to refund any unused portion of deposit that the customer paid to it, after subtracting unpaid bills and usage that has not yet been billed, especially in the case of post-paid customers.
Prepaid subscribers however, would lose their credit if they switch to another provider before they have exhausted their calling credit, the NCA says.

The porting or switching to a new provider, according to the NCA, can be done within 24 hours of the request.
It is however, not clear who the biggest gainers would be among the country’s five mobile operators. Six companies are licensed to operate in Ghana – these are MTN, Vodafone, Tigo, Airtel, Expresso and Globacom. But Globacom is yet to start operations.

Even though, some subscribers are excited about the prospects, and have indicated their desire to port, service quality, price and what other value added services the providers offer are likely to determine which network the largest number of subscribers would move to.

Some mobile subscribers on Facebook have written on their pages that they would port. One person however, wrote on the Facebook page: “A friend’s description of MNP is moving from one crappy network to anoter”.

The steps to porting are simple. A subscriber who wants to port would have to go to the recipient operator or provider that he or she wants to switch to with the phone. Subscriber must have a valid ID card to be able to initiate the process, because ownership of the phone would be verified, it is important that one uses the same ID card that one used to register the phone.

The recipient network would initiate all the necessary processes and a new SIM card would be provided to the subscriber, provided there are no valid reasons as outlined by the NCA for the donor network to reject the porting request.

Porting should have cost the subscriber $2.5 but some of the providers, have offered to absorb cost.

Are you ready to port?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

When Ghana becomes a theatre for political jingoism

by Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Ghana, once and always a beautiful country, has now been turned into a theatre of some sort for the display of the theatrical skills of a few in a play I choose to call “political jingoism”.

Never mind what I mean. You don’t have to look far to make meaning of this title. Simply pick any Ghanaian newspaper you can lay hands on and read just the front page. You will find the meaning of the title of the play.

It is the misdirected struggle for power we call politics. The abuse of power, corruption, cronyism, patronage, and lack of respect for due procedure, statism and the lethargic performance we are told to call statecraft.

The story is both an irony and tragedy intertwined between sheer sarcasm and surprisingly some hazy sense of altruism, rather beautifully scripted to excite the restless minds of the millions of hapless Ghanaians and to lull them into taking some sort of placebo.

I shudder to say, that not only is the stage filled with self-conceited and self-appointed so called political elites, they have also arrogated to themselves the right to determine how the rest of Ghanaians think, live or even die.

The scenes are haphazardly arranged and the lines are muttered in most often inaudible tones, letting out not so much discernible phrases.

Hasn’t our kind of politics become the bane of Ghana? I would say it has, quiet clearly the meaning of politics has been so obscured that it is not what it ought to be anymore. It is now like an auctioned piece of valuable, only the highest bidder can afford. The ordinary man, no matter how wise or gifted he is in leadership would not dare to show interest in it. Because it has been made expensive too.

Meanwhile, the waters have been so muddied and the path so murky that nothing decent would be permitted to appear on the stage.

Believe it or not, the harbingers of truth, the media, and the press have been cajoled into endorsing and applauding this perfidy.

The media, watchdog of the society, ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm’, has become lethargic, often appearing moronic and absolutely clueless, not knowing what its role in the lounge of this theatre is. Eventually becoming a lapdog! Lapping up every and anything the paymasters spew out!

Truly, no matter how hard the media has tried to justify her connivance in the gargantuan fraud of an opera that is been inflicted on Ghanaians, she could not exonerate herself. Because, Ghanaians are not so credulous, they are knowledgeable enough, and so they know. They know that the media has shirked her responsibility for a pottage of meat. For temporary pleasure and personal gain, the media has become part of the theatre - acting roles, applauding and sometimes reviewing the play with cooked up surveys and public relations gimmicks that are obviously tailored to massage the ego of the dramatists.

Ghanaians are not so irreverent of life, they have for so long held the sanctity of human life with high regard, but the show has so inundated their collective conscience so as to maim its ability to show open disdain for ignominy. And possibly this could be accounting for the public show of the open thirst for human blood that is exhibited in unrestrained callousness and brutality before our very eyes.

Daylight robberies and murders are being witnessed with its concomitant heartlessness. In the face of these plagues, the theatre still goes on undisturbed. The actors are acting with such fervour and excitement as though possessed by the one time famous Tigari shrine. It is difficult to tell what is goading them on.

What could be their inspiration? I mean the actors in this theatre of political jingoism. Probably, their motivation is the greed for popularity and filthy lucre and or the sheer delight of being seen on any part of the stage regardless of what role they are playing either major or minor. Or it is to satisfy their insatiable hunger for power? May be, no one knows.

I could guess that if Karl Marx was alive today in Ghana, he would do one of these two. He would either abandon his ideas and dreams for a socialist world in despair or he would simply gather the masses to resist the pretenders on the stage and upstage the cast to bring the reveling actors’ hypocrisy to an end.

Marx’s historical materialism was rejected in his time, but became very popular during the 70s, especially in Latin America and in parts of Africa. But sadly, it was practiced and followed by half-baked zealots wearing the garb of politicians and revolutionists.

And then there was western democracy which certainly stood at variance with Marxism, but both ideologies were clear as to what they wanted their worlds to look like both ideally and realistically.

Western democracy preached freedom to live and to have as much as you want if you are strong enough to, while Marxism believed in equality for everyone including equal access to resources, where the supremacy of the state reigns.

For western democracy again, the guidelines included an open and fair playing field for all or so it is said, and it comes with a baggage, known simply as capitalism. The unfettered officially and morally authorized greed for profit by all means possible. It comes so often with truncated and vague labour laws that always make the employer the king and the employee the loyal servant, locking the two in a marriage of convenience to the disadvantage of the worker.

It also comes with a judicial system that always lends itself to manipulation by the rich and famous, and mostly treated with suspicion by the ordinary person.

Just take a look at the so called socialists among the cast, they are simply mischievous. They claim allegiance to Marxist ideology but cling so tightly to the fringe cloths of unfettered capitalism and its insatiability for vulgarity, ostentatious living and intellectual skulduggery.

Ghanaians are a very noble and dignified people. But they have been dealt a raw deal. They did not bargain for this kind of tragicomedy, in fact, they have been shortchanged.

I remember one politician in this country referring to his opponents as ‘riff-raffs.’ It was in the heat of some political speech of some sort on a political platform of a kind. He was said to have made the statement in the heat of party political campaign. Of course they all do that and always too. They mount party platforms and say things they couldn’t say even to five-year-olds.

This nice fellow who most probably got drunk with political fresh wine and labeled his opponents was later reported to have apologized and even hoped for a role in the cast. But he never got it.

Others have even called their own colleagues thieves, when they haven’t caught them stealing anything. And when they are reminded that the lines in the script are not clean enough, they plead temporary insanity sometimes from the blinding effects of high anticipation of being in power and ruling the whole country or some part of it like a constituency.

But you see, on this stage where mediocrity is sanctioned and applauded, these actors can say anything and get away with it. Sometimes, it appears Ghanaians like it that way. It appears as though, they really do not care, and ably supported by the media, these actors continue with careless abandon to go on with the show in clear disregard for any rules of etiquette on stage, decorum or even show some restraint for the sake of posterity.

Well, the play goes on, the theatre of political jingoism which premiered long ago and is in top gear is revealing to discerning minds the ludicrous and yet not too hilarious part of some of the actors.

As the show goes on, it is not likely Ghanaians would like to continue watching it, because, it is getting rather boring. It is yielding very little returns for most Ghanaians. They can hardly derive any mirth from the show being put up by an amateurish cast acting in frenzy.

What could have become a beautiful show has been twisted into a scary re-enactment of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, where treachery, blood thirstiness, greed, betrayal and disguised corruption have become the norm.

But hopefully, these theatricals would have to come to an end one day. The curtains would surely come down.

And then the day would come, when Ghanaians would be entertained with the most beautiful and appropriate play that they so much deserve, and with it, the quality of life that the Ghanaian must rightly enjoy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

African proverbs and gender construction - Perspectives on women

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

I wrote and published this article elsewhere about four years ago. As the International Women's Day is celebrated March 8, 2011, I have decided to share it with cherished readers here, hoping that it would generate some discussions.


The African continent is known for its rich oral traditions. Proverbs are the most widely and commonly used in this tradition of oral arts. The use of proverbs permeates the entire African society - it is the foundation of social and cultural wisdom.

The influence of proverbs on African thought is so strong to the point that even the concept of gender is so persistently carved from it.

According to Ssetuba (2002:1) in Africa, “the proverb is regarded as a noble genre of African oral tradition that enjoys the prestige of a custodian of a people’s wisdom and philosophy of life.”

Finnegan (1970:390) also posits that “in many African cultures a feeling for language, for imagery, and for the expression of abstract ideas through compressed and allusive phraseology comes out particularly clearly in proverbs.”

Finnegan’s idea is reflected in this Igbo proverb which says, “Proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” (Oha, 1998:87). If proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten, it is logical then for words that portray gender to be embraced in proverbs.

Proverbs, therefore, to a large extent form the basis of African thought, including gender construction.

There is however, a disturbing trend in the interpretation of proverbs. In African societies, proverbs are considered to be absolute truths. Major decisions in life are often taken based on truths that are inherent in proverbs.

Ssetuba (2002) reports, “definitions of the term ‘proverb’ have centred on its economy of words, origins in human experience and observation of social phenomenon, folkloric and communal belonging as well as the claim of being general or absolute truth. Of all the definitional ingredients, the claim over truthfulness is rather disturbing. It actually reflects the user’s or society’s aspiration for control and desire to impose a given view of life as unshakeable and accepted. This is where the proverb helps patriarchy to live on from generation to generation by presenting it as a stable immutable part of social order.”

African proverbs as source of wisdom

According to Gyekye (1996), wisdom, like knowledge, is conceived in traditional African societies as having a practical as well as a theoretical dimension, but theoretical wisdom must have direct rele­vance to practical problems of life, to dealing with concrete human problems. The intellectual activities of the tradi­tional African sages, or thinkers, are of course theoretical, even though the basis of their wisdom is in human experi­ence. African maxims, which are generally the creations of the sages, are intended to convey truths that are profound and abstract.

He argues further that, wisdom - both practical and theoretical-is, in the Akan culture, contrasted with foolishness or stupidity. The fool is a person who not only cannot comprehend or disen­tangle theoretical matters but also cannot apply his mind to dealing with practical issues, even issues concerning his own life.

Regarding the theoretical ineptitude of the fool, there is an Akan maxim that contrasts foolishness with theoretical wisdom:

“It is only the fool to whom a proverb is explained.”

Another Akan maxim says that the wise person, however, has the intellectual ability to grasp the profound meaning of a maxim, to comprehend the implications of such pithy sayings:

“The wise person is spoken to in proverbs, not in words [or, speeches].

The fool is constantly confused, unable to sort out the practical issues that affect his own well-being. He is careless with his life, not giving the required attention or concentration to what he wants to do. Thus the following maxims:

“When the fool is squandering his gold, he says his scales are out of order.”

“It is the fool whose own tomatoes are sold to him”.

From Gyekye’s view, it is evident to draw the inference that, in African societies, the influence of proverbs is pervasive. Wisdom is expressed in proverbs. A wise person must understand proverbs and be able to use these wise sayings to solve some of the daunting issues of life. Invariably, one of the daunting tasks confronting humans is how to perceive him or her self and how to conduct life as either male or female.

Difference between gender and sex

All societies across the world are generally male dominated. Patriarchy is viewed as legitimate by men, because it keeps women in subordinate positions to the advantage of men who do not want to lose the privileged roles, and therefore, the power their gender as men gives them, including access to power and the scarce resources available to all.

Sex refers to the biological difference of male or female. Our sexual organs are different, our hormones and chemical functions are different. Our biological and physiological conditions as male or female are obviously different. Women get pregnant and give birth, and men don’t. These fixed biological and physiological differences are what define sex.

Gender, on the other hand, is the result of cultural, social and psychological factors. These are differences acquired not through birth, but through socialization. People are brought up to act and think as male or female. Every society establishes a set of accepted behaviours to which males and females are expected to conform.

According to Hussein, “gender ideology is a systematic set of cultural beliefs through which society constructs and wields its gender relations and practices.” He argues further that, “gender ideology contains legends, narratives and myths about what it means to be a man or a woman and suggests how each should behave in the society.”

According to Hussein a society’s gender ideology is grounded largely in religious and social principles, which are then used as grounds to justify different rights, responsibilities and rewards to each gender.

Indeed, every society has a set of systems to censure and control the normative concepts of masculine and feminine behaviours. For example, “some occasions are organized to routinely display and celebrate behaviours that are conventionally linked to one or the other sex category.” (West and Zimmerman, 1987:139).

The African gender ideology is a system of shaping different lives for men and women by placing them in different social positions and patterns of expectations. In Africa, rituals, legends, name-giving ceremonies, oral narratives, proverbs, aphorisms and usages have been in the vanquard of mobilizing gender ideology. (CGSPS, 2001; Oha, 1998; Oluwole, 1997).

According to Hussein, (2004), and Oha (1998), the African oral traditions portray women in general as foolish, weak, jealous, evil, unfaithful, dependent, frivolous and seductive. However, there is the other image of women in African oral traditions, which reflects women a symbol of warmth and all nourishing goodness.

The oral traditions cultivate also, men’s prerogatives to the allegiance and subservience of women, and legitimize men to exercise their power over women to sustain the latter’s subordination and marginalization.

FGM as a means of control

This notion of control is reflected in the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). The idea is to deny women the ability to have sexual pleasure, because the woman is thoroughly, an object of a man’s pleasure. This notion of a woman’s sexuality belonging to a man is vividly illustrated in this Igbo proverb: “A woman carrying a vagina would ask to be sexed, that the vagina is her own, but when it causes trouble, the (real owner of the vagina) would be looked for.” (Oha, 1998).

So from this proverb, a woman does not even have the right to her own sexuality. The idea in the proverb explicitly denies the woman her right to sexual pleasure.

Just being curious. Let me ask. Does that explain why Ghanaian men are not romantic?

Gender and intelligence

According to Oboler, men are believed to be more intelligent than women. Women are thought particularly to be incapable of foresight and lack the ability to make and carry through sensible and realistic plans.

For this reason, it is generally agreed that husbands should administer the family estate and wives for the most part concur with husbands’ plans. It is commonly claimed that if a woman tried to manage property, she would very likely make a mess of it. (Oboler, 1985; 60, cited in Bulow, 1993;539).

An Akan proverb entrenches this idea when it says, “when a woman buys a gun, it is kept in a man’s room.” This proverb shows that women do not have the capacity and ability to manage valuable property¸ an indication that they must play insignificant and subordinate roles to men with regards to property ownership.

As a result, it is common to find in most African societies, where a wife owns a house or a car, but it is held in trust by the husband and or a son, and she would not openly claim ownership of the property. A woman, who does so, would be seen as disgracing her husband. And the only time the truth comes out, is when the marriage runs into difficulties and the issue of divorce comes up.

Women own property but the documents on those property are in the men’s names. Women therefore, are unable to access credit with these documents, further worsening their chances of economic freedom.

Another Akan proverb says, “the man is the woman’s honour”. Therefore, if a woman marries a man who is poor and owns no property and she on the other hand, is materially endowed, she would have to pretend that all the wealth belongs to her husband. Because it is the only way, the man could become her symbol of honour.

As a result of these strongly held beliefs, some men are known to have forcefully claimed property belonging to their wives in the event of a misunderstanding in the marriage or divorce.

This situation of property ownership according to gender, which is perpetrated through proverbs, has become the basis for gender roles in society.

The roles and responsibilities, constraints, opportunities and the needs of men and women in African societies have largely been defined and established through the oral traditions.

Proverbs as a tool for objectifying women

The use of proverbs in some African societies become the tool through which men control positions of social and economic influence by objectifying women and limiting their participations to domestic spheres. (Collins, 1996).

The ways women are objectified differ from one culture to the other, but there is one type which is widespread in Africa. In Africa, women have for a long time been used as a conduit through which men formed and solidified their relations with other men. Families enhance their wealth and alliance by giving away their female children in marriage, often against the wish of the daughters. For instance among the Somali, women served as a commodity to seal peace between feuding groups in inter-tribal warfare (Lewis, 1985).

The following proverbs portray women implicitly or explicitly as objects:

An Igbo proverb says “When a woman is getting old, it would seem as if money (bride price) was not paid to marry her.” (Oha, 1998)

This Tsonga-Shangana proverb says, “to beget a woman is to beget a man.” (Mbiti, 1988). A woman just can’t be a woman, she must be a man, in a sense if you have a daughter you can use her as an object to acquire a friend or build alliance with a prominent man.

Unfortunately, this idea of women as objects that male members of the society can use to acquire status and wealth has been largely used in advertising.

Indeed, female sexuality is used to sell almost everything including body sprays for men.

For instance, there is an advertisement for a male body spray called ‘Men Only’ running in the Ghanaian media. The billboard for this product for men has a five foot image of a woman sitting in a suggestive position.

And the TV advert for this same product depicts women as weak, unintelligent and objects of men’s ridicule and mirth.

In this advert, three women traveling in a car had one of their tyres punctured by an object. These women got down from the car, took out wheel spanners, but were confused and did not have a clue as to what to do about the problem. And across the street stood a muscular man who was laughing loudly over the women’s stupidity, and then a voice over booms, “for men only.”

The concept of women as marketing objects is so pervasive that, it has become near to impossible to market a product successfully without using the image of women.

Ironically, though, a woman, in spite of her perceived ‘weakness’, is supposed to be very hardworking. Her role as a farm-hand is crucial in the sustenance of the husband and the family. A woman is somewhat an economic asset and farm manual chores are part of her existence.

As a result, there are proverbs that shower praises on the hardworking woman and emits fiery scorn against the lazy one:
“A woman stands by the hoe”.
“The hardworking woman brings forth food; the lazy one, weed”.
“A lazy woman resents the falling rain”.
And “A hardworking woman allows you to keep a shield nearby at mealtime”.

Our own interpretation points to the well-fed man who, as a result, is always ready to go to war but generally, the ‘shield at mealtime’ is taken to be the man’s hand gesture to indicate to his wife that he is satisfied and should not be served more food. (See Walser-1984).

It should, however, be understood that the images of the woman in the above proverbs do not necessarily relate to what she is but rather what ought to be. It is basically a matter of the way she is ‘seen’ and ‘wanted’ and not the way she is. This is an illustration of culturally imposed and enhanced stereotypes that, ultimately, aim at conditioning the woman’s perception both by her self and others. (Ssetuba, 2002).

The timeliness of proverbs

Some African proverbs have become outmoded and of no use, except for their literary and historical significance, while others are for all times.

Indeed, in the face of social change, and the economic empowerment of women which to some extent have been influenced by western thought, education and democracy, proverbs laden with allusions of female subordination to males have been challenged and in most cases discarded.

There are proverbs according to Ssetuba, that articulate women’s unfitness to assume important places in society, and by implication, emphasize the necessity of their social and emotional dependence on men.

An Oromo proverb says, “women are bulky, but not great.” This proverb is an express depiction of women as inferior and therefore unable to exercise authority or occupy public office.

An Acholi proverb that “women have no chief,” is the patriarchal view that women by nature are a weak group and no woman is thus better than the other.

However, events in our world today, even in Africa shows that, this notion is changing. We currently have a female elected as president in Liberia.

Ghana's Chief Justice is a woman, the first in the history of the country. The country has created a Ministry for Women and Children.

There are women in parliament, and other women are occupying cabinet positions in government in Africa. And in most societies of the continent, the role of women have been appreciated and accepted in leadership.

There are numerous examples of successful female CEOs in industry and commerce. Women have been elected as presidents, chancellors and pro-vice chancellors of universities and colleges all over the world. Women have therefore, been accepted as employers of men and men take instructions from women in the performance of their official functions without friction.


The regard of proverbs as an important aspect of the literary genre of the African society is significant. It is to the extent that, proverbs permeate every aspect of the African society. While some of these proverbs have been documented by scholars, others, though, widely in use in the oral traditions of Africans are yet to be documented.

Proverbs are the foundation of social and cultural wisdom and therefore, serve as the basis for formulating concepts that govern social relations. These social relations include gender relations. But largely due to the patriarchal nature of the African society, just like most societies of the world, the subordination of women has been prominently expressed in proverbs, which has further exacerbated the disadvantaged conditions of women.

The changes in our society have affected the meanings of some proverbs with regard to the role of women in some African societies. These days, women in some African societies, who hitherto, have no right to own property, and assume leadership roles, have now taken up to such roles with ease and immense success.

The traditional stranglehold on African societies notwithstanding, the challenges confronting African thought and concepts of gender in recent times will gradually portend a shift in the ideology and give women their rightful place in the society.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

World Bank Group extends suspension of $225m political risk insurance for Ghana's FPSO

The saga of the suspension of a $225 million political risk insurance for the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel that is producing oil at Ghana’s largest oil field – the Jubilee oil field does not look like it will be ending anytime soon.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a member of the World Bank Group and its partners have said they are extending the suspension of the $225 million political risk guarantee contract for the FPSO.

A brief statement posted on MIGA’s website Wednesday February 2, 2011 says “MIGA announced today it has agreed to extend for a brief period the suspension of its Contract of Guarantee for Equity Investments entered into with MV21, a subsidiary of MODEC, Inc., in relation to the Jubilee FPSO.”

The statement did not give reasons for the extension.

On Thursday July 29, 2010, MIGA published a joint statement on its website announcing the suspension of the $225 million political risk insurance for the FPSO. The statement said, “the parties agreed to this suspension in order to conduct due diligence into the conditions of a service contract between MODEC and Strategic Oil and Gas Resources (Strat Oil).”

When enquired about progress of the investigation, Mallory L. Saleson Senior Communications Officer of MIGA said in an email response Monday September 27, 2010, “The process of looking into the issues is still ongoing. There is no conclusion yet.”

Meanwhile, Texas-based closely held oil company, Kosmos Energy has said the investigation of MODEC, for alleged corruption could lead to extra cost at the Jubilee oil field.

MODEC is a Japanese contractor for the FPSO facility.

Kosmos indicated in a document filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission January 13, 2011 that partners in the field as well as the International Finance Corp. (IFC), part of the World Bank, “are working with MODEC and its legal advisors to investigate” some “potential violations by [the contractor] under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

“As a result of these concerns, MODEC’s long-term funding from a syndicate of international banks for the repayment of funds originally loaned by [Kosmos, along with partners] Tullow Oil PLC (TLW.LN) and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) for the financing of the construction of such FPSO has been suspended pending this investigation,” Kosmos said.

Kosmos said financing for the FPSO vessel–worth $875 million–used by MODEC had been suspended pending the investigation and said partners in the Jubilee field may be required to contribute further funds as a result.

The World Bank first announced in a statement in August that MIGA had entered into the $225-million-dollar 20-year contract to provide political risk insurance for the FPSO vessel on June 30, 2010.

MODEC however has said the ongoing investigation has found no evidence of wrongdoing on its part. “This investigation has found no evidence of any violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or any other applicable jurisdiction’s anti-bribery laws in relation to its arrangement,” it said in a statement in January 2011.

The Ghana Country Director of the World Bank, Ishac Diwan however told in December 2010 that the investigation that led to the suspension of the $225 million political risk insurance for the FPSO vessel will be completed in January 2011 and everything will normalize.

According to the latest statement from MIGA however, it doesn’t look like the investigation will end soon for everything to normalise.

Commercial production of oil however, which started in December 15, 2010 is ongoing with the first oil that was lifted already sold.

Due to time difference between the US and Ghana, has been unable to contact MIGA officials for further clarification on the matter before publication.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ivory Coast crisis: ECOWAS has eggs on face, West Africa Central Bank lies about freezing account

The drama that is going on in Ivory Coast is becoming farcical, as the actors each look ridiculous and unfit for their roles.

The actor with the worst act in the drama has turned out to be ECOWAS, the West African regional grouping made up of 15 countries, some ruled by dictators and known lunatics who are hounding and killing their own citizens daily. There are even suspected murderers with no known democratic credentials parading the corridors of ECOWAS as presidents.

It was therefore, funny when ECOWAS, despite its inability to raise an army under the circumstances jumped the gun, joined the chorus of international community to order Laurent Gbagbo to step down or be removed by military force.

The ECOWAS obviously, eager to be seen to be part of the international community in condemning the situation in Ivory Coast, issued the threats against Laurent Gbagbo without any careful analysis of the issues at stake.

The other joker whose jokes fail to amuse the audience is the West African Central Bank (BCEAO). Despite joining the IMF, World Bank and others to impose economic and financial sanctions on the Gbagbo faction, the Gbagbo government is said to be drawing money from the Dakar office of the bank every day.

Allasane Ouattara, the man the international community believes is the winner of the November 28, 2010 election run-off complained to journalists in Washington in a conference call that the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, was still receiving central bank funds on a daily basis.

Gbagbo is still withdrawing money daily from the BCEAO, headquartered in Senegal, Dakar.

Apart from the financial muscle Gbagbo has as a result of the BCEAO’s decision to allow him access to the country’s funds, despite telling the whole world that it has frozen the accounts, Gbagbo says he can’t guarantee the safety of the millions of ECOWAS citizens in that country.

Now stuck in a quagmire, ECOWAS seems to be embarrassed with no clear answer to the political stand-off in Ivory Coast, which without any doubt is a threat to regional stability.

Right from the word go, it was possible to tell that ECOWAS has no political will to invade Ivory Coast with an army to remove Gbagbo from office. The act in itself would have been catastrophic for the people of Ivory Coast and its neighbours, particularly, Liberia and Ghana. The high number of refugees already fleeing to Liberia and the fall in business activities on border towns between Ghana and Ivory Coast are signs that portend to what could possibly have happened, as the military invasion would lead to an escalation of violence in that country.

As Ivory Coast continues on the precipice, it doesn’t appear clearly now that the international community has an answer to the political crisis. ECOWAS, by its hasty thoughtless threat has lost the moral right to mediate a peaceful resolution, so now who would intervene?

In any case, a speedy resolution of the tension in Ivory Coast is necessarily and must therefore be achieved as soon as possible to save that country from falling headlong into destruction.

It is unfortunate, however, that over 240 people have already died and some 50 are reported missing.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi