Wednesday, October 29, 2014

African Economic Conference to discuss continental transformation through knowledge and innovation

The continent of Africa can easily be described as a paradox. This is one continent that is so endowed and yet its poverty is so palpable. The paradoxical nature of reality on the continent seems to defy any logic and efforts including foreign direct investment, donor support in loans and grants and internal effort at economic and social transformation. The continent also has the highest penetration of mobile telephony services, which in recent times has been identified to contribute to economic growth.

The drive to move the continent out of the doldrums is being taken from various angles, by some governments, civil society organizations and financial institutions.

In the first week of November 2014, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, (UNECA), the African Union (AU) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) would hold the annual African Economic Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The theme for the conference is “Knowledge and Innovation for Africa’s Transformation”.

In the background note to the conference the organizers argue that “how well Africa harnesses knowledge and innovation will shape its future and the fortunes of younger generations for many decades to come.”

The organizers say the AU Agenda 2063 and the African Common Position on the Post-2015 development agenda identify science, technology and innovation as key pillars for Africa’s development.

“As the continent pursues its agenda of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena, success will depend on adequate accumulation of skills, technology and competences for innovation”, the note said.

While admitting that most African governments recognize the importance of knowledge generation and innovation, it indicates that “the continent continues to experience an acute skills deficit in areas that are critical for the realisation of the goal of structural transformation.”

Arguing further, the organizers said the fact that a significant number of engineers and science graduates are unemployed in Africa further underlines the many facets (including the slow pace of structural transformation) of the mismatch between the demand and supply of skills that exists on the continent.

“The proliferation since the 1950s of institutions of higher learning and think tanks devoted to addressing the various challenges of Africa’s development has not brought about a significant narrowing of the continent’s skills/innovation gap. Neither has it enhanced the employability of the labour force. Instead, while opportunities for new economic activities and entrepreneurship have expanded in recent years, the skills mismatch has made it impossible, in particular for the youth and women, to derive direct benefits from economic growth. Consequently, the relevance of the knowledge proffered by African institutions of higher learning is increasingly being called into question,” it said.

While admitting the failure of efforts to lead to transformation, the organizers pointed to a bright part of the story. “On the bright side and despite these challenges, a new crop of innovative digital entrepreneurs is rising in Africa with Africa’s youth showing a keen propensity for absorbing and adopting new technologies,” it said.

The organizers say, a key goal of the Conference will be to examine the best ways in which to use knowledge and innovation to boost youth employment and foster the adoption of new technologies by the wider economy as a result.

Monday, October 13, 2014

John Kerry calls on other countries to do more to stop ebola

I am sharing with you an op-ed by US Secretary of State, John Kerry on the ebola crisis that has hit the world.

A few rich nations are now providing most of the money and doing most of the work. That has to change immediately.

President Obama has made it crystal clear that Ebola is an urgent global crisis that demands an urgent global response. The United States has intensified every aspect of our engagement, and that includes providing Ebola treatment units, recruiting first responders, and supplying a critical set of medical equipment. The administration is working as a team to make sure that we bring all our resources to this effort; for my part, I am working extremely closely with Rajiv Shah, the USAID director, Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom and our Ebola Coordinator Ambassador Nancy Powell.

But I want to expand that effort with an urgent plea to countries around the world to step up even further. While we are making progress, we are not where we need to be. There are additional needs that have to be met in order for the global community to respond effectively to this challenge — and to make sure that we protect people in all of our countries.

Those needs are described in these slides. They show the very real need for more countries to move resources of specific kinds. It is not just a question of sending people, though it is vital to send people. But we need Ebola treatment units. We need health-care workers. We need medevac capacity. We need mobile laboratories and staff.

We also need nonmedical support: telecommunications, generators, incinerators, public communications capacity, training, construction. There is a desperate requirement for major assistance to strengthen health systems of stricken countries, for cash to support them in this critical time and for transportation to get equipment to the right people and places.

All of these things are frankly urgent if we are going to move quickly to contain the spread of Ebola. We need airlines to continue to operate in West Africa and we need borders to remain open. We need other African countries with the capacity to send responders to join the effort. And we need to make sure that the brave health-care workers who go are properly trained, properly equipped  and supported to prevent additional infections.

Many countries are already contributing, but the scale of needs is dramatic. The United States has contributed $113 million to the United Nations response. Smaller countries have stepped up to the plate – some quite remarkably. Some smaller countries are contributing way above their per capita population.

But the fact is more countries can and must step up to make their contributions felt, and the charts tell the story. There are not enough countries to make the difference to be able to deal with this crisis. We need more nations – every nation has an ability to do something on this challenge.

As the charts show, we already have a shortfall still of some $300 million. The United Nations has identified $1 billion in urgent needs, reflected in the pie chart. The World Bank has put in 22 percent. The U.S.A. has put in 11 percent. Private sector, 10 percent. More is needed – you can see the tally.

Providing this money is a critical component of our ability to be able to meet this challenge, and we need people to step up now. Now is the time for action, not words. And frankly, there is not a moment to waste in this effort.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ebola: Lessons Unlearned

I share with you a write-up by the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Dr. Carlos Lopes. He writes on the ebola crisis in Africa.

Dr. Carlos Lopes

By Carlos Lopes

When in March this year Guinean authorities reported the first positive tests for Ebola in the West African region, the news came as a surprise for scientists and were treated passively by most. After all Ebola had killed over a period of thirty years more than two thousand people, since it was first discovered in Yambuku, in the DRC.   Never did it surface outside the Great Lakes and it has never been perceived as a threat for an entire country.

About a century ago when the Spanish flu became a pandemic, it is projected that about 40% of the population was ill. An estimated fifty million died.  People were fine in the morning and would die by the nightfall. Closer to our time we saw the reactions we got when HIV/AIDS was first discovered. It was total panic, with countries not issuing visas, putting ineffective controls in place and reacting as if it was transmissible though thin air. In fact, even closer to our times, we remember the SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, alert, that came after an outbreak in China and Southeast Asia, about ten years ago. That syndrome was indeed prone to airborne contagion, yet nobody remembers airline crews refusing to fly to affected countries. A more commonly known transmissible airborne disease is tuberculosis. Again, nobody heard, even remotely, about measures being taken to quarantine people, let alone regions or countries due to tuberculosis.

The reason it is important to reflect on history is because the African continent cannot afford a serious threat like Ebola to be de-contextualized. It brings us back to the stigmatized Africa. In the process, there will be no focus on the efforts needed to deal with the issue. The economic and social consequences of such misguided perceptions are already devastating.

Why has Ebola hit so hard?

Ebola has been stopped every time an outbreak was announced, thirteen times in fact, except this time. It is important to understand why, as well as be bold about learning from the current mishaps that contributed to the emergency this time around.

These include the fact that the affected countries have poor health systems; information flow is poor; and there is an almost total absence of good communication. We can regret the decadent health infrastructure, particularly in remote rural areas.  We can add our concern about the huge deficit of medical personnel available to combat any pandemic.  Africans have to right to be outraged that only 1% of the pharmaceutical research is devoted to diseases that affect the continent, which carries 25% of the world’s disease burden.  All of this is true and sadly well known.

The reason influenza only kills about half a million a year or that SARS only had about 12% death rate compared to Ebola’s 54%, is certainly the existence of a well developed capacity in Western of Southeast Asia countries. It is not because of the nationality or origin of the affected.

Today there are reported Ebola cases in seven countries, with over 2000 deaths and 20,000 estimated cases. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the current forms of dealing with the situation that can effectively impede say tomorrow, half the African countries having reported cases. For each African country putting in place draconian measures that are not medically justified they have to think of themselves being under the same measures, in a not so distant future, as a very  likely possibility.

This brings us to the issue of solidarity!

More than solidarity, it is about common sense. Ebola can only be tackled through massive investment to address on an urgent basis the contributing factors to the outbreak. Countries in the epicenter are over-stretched and they need the whole of Africa to put a stop to misinformation and instead join the call for action for substantial funding of the outbreak control measures. The UN estimates the need at 1 billion dollars immediately. WHO has a clear roadmap for the process. The minimum to expect is that Africa comes in solidarity for this emergency package to be implemented without any more hesitations. Time is pressing. That is the real solidarity.

The economic impact

The economic impact of the Ebola outbreak will be significant. Estimates by the Economic Commission for Africa confirm that several points GDP reduction are to be expected in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, due to a combination of factors. These include significant reduction of mining operations, disruption of agricultural cycles with direct impact of upcoming harvests, restriction to domestic and cross-border trade, substantial reduction of air travel, postponement of already negotiated or foreseeable investments, spectacular diversion of public funding towards combating the epidemic, impact on fiscal space and, finally, inability to pursue initiated reforms.

Investors are influenced by the panic mode that has been spreading through the media. They think it is a risk to deal with entire countries. It is as if the Ebola bodily fluids transmissibility had gone from individuals to countries. This is fuelled by the concentric circles of quarantine, neighborhood shut downs and border closures, all highly publicized by the international media. The gear used by the medical personnel that can afford it reminds us of the images of Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Economic consequences are never far from the social ones.  Humanitarian actors are complaining that instead of opening arms for their work they are being restricted. The ethnic or regional stigmatization has had tremendous costs for segments of the population that were already isolated geographically. Individuals suspecting the symptoms may not be sure they have Ebola, but are sure that the devil is in the hospitals. Behavioral issues such as what one eats, how one conforms to hygiene protocols or plain human right for care and decent death, require a humane and compassionate attitude. More than half of the victims have been women.  Food price increases and local markets disruption or closure, are threatening fragile consumption patterns.

Africans are only going to win this fight if they deal with its spread. As much as vaccines can and should play their role, at this stage they are not at the centre of the response. The serum of the Ebola survivors is already being considered the most immediate resource for the victims that reach a medical unit. But even that commands considerable means and capabilities.  We need to have such facilities first. There must be a special emphasis on containment, prevention and preparedness. It is unprecedented to have such a high number of medical personnel, as many as 120 so far, dying from a transmissible disease. It only becomes possible if one does not possess basic equipment.

The world is showing that it has unlearned from inflectional diseases, rather than learn from accumulated knowledge. Ebola is just the last episode in a long course on hysteria faced by the continent. This time around instead of succumbing to it Africans need to fight back.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ghana’s media landscape is cloudy, time to consider non-profit news

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
Image Source: European Parliament

Ghana to a large extent used to have a strong and dedicated news media that pursued high standards
of professionalism in news gathering, packaging and dissemination soon after independence and during the 1980s. These periods were difficult both during civilian and military dictatorships but most committed journalists and publishers stood true to the principles and ethics of the profession.

In their book, ‘The Elements of Journalism’, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel have argued that changes in politics, technology, culture and taste have occurred in the world around us requiring that journalists adapt to the changes without abandoning the elements of journalism that remain fundamental and enduring.

“To survive, journalism must adapt in form and style to reflect changes in culture, politics, taste and technology. But as journalism changes, those who produce the news also must keep in mind the purpose and principles of producing accurate information on behalf of the citizens.”

Meanwhile, a cursory look at Ghana’s news media landscape today shows a cloudy, shady news ecosystem. Generally, the news is shallow, one-sided, and often not the news at all.
This situation is prevailing in spite of the fact that the country has been practicing democracy since 1992 and Chapter 13 of the country’s Constitution stipulates in very elaborate terms and unambiguous language the freedom of the press. A freedom, unfortunately that seems not to be exercised fully by news practitioners that it seeks to protect, eventually making space for nonprofessionals with no news gathering and disseminating training or skills to hold sway, creating the impression that anyone with a good voice, good looks, a command of language that might not necessarily be good and could scribble away something or anything to put themselves up as journalists.

The act is so inundating to the extent that good quality journalism has been eclipsed.
There are hundreds of private FM radio stations and several hundreds of registered newspapers and almost 20 TV stations, but not much positives can be said for particularly the news component of these organizations.

What can be referred to as good quality and professional news is sparse and far in-between. What is news in the professional sense is not often covered well, and not enough is being done to enhance news coverage in ethical and professional ways, because most of the news organizations are owned by politicians both in the ruling party and opposition. Depending on which political party is in power, its supporters and influential members are allocated radio and TV frequencies and they often seem to have the financial capital to invest in media organizations. This development has become costly for a country like Ghana that is struggling to figure out a development path, because often the facts are clouded and judgemental, and depending on whose interest is being served, the facts are skewed in that direction with little or no commitment to ethical demands of journalism and the pursuit of truth.

According to Kovach and Rosenstiel, “Journalism provides something unique to a culture: independent, reliable, accurate, and comprehensive information that citizens require to be free. A journalism that is asked to provide something other than that subverts democratic culture.”

The news organizations seem to have become unsuccessful in performing their role as ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm’, even with the obvious ineffectiveness of the country’s often ruling party dominated Parliaments to hold the Executive in check - a situation that in itself should compel the journalist to rise up and play the watchdog role with zeal.

 Parliaments in Ghana are on record to have passed into law questionable agreements and have also in some cases rushed to pass laws without adequate debate or enough information to the public. A case in point was the repeal of a 1974 law making right-hand drive vehicles illegal and the passing of the law to make genetically modified organisms legal in the country. Some questionable sale and purchase and loan agreements have also been passed without much information to the public – literally behind the back door.

What has also become common is that most of the news organizations do not seem to probe deeper into and rigorously question political decisions and actions of government and the opposition as required by the tenets of journalism. Often, it is the word of one government official against an opposition figure and often outright falsehoods are carried in the news without cross-checking simply because a public official has said so. Most news organizations have simply become platforms for propaganda and the spread of often suspicious official views.

Some companies put out misleading advertorials that get carried by news organizations without any questioning because majority of these news organizations are commercial entities and they depend largely on advertizing revenues to stay in business.

The incidence of businesses using advertisement as a control tool to get news organizations to feign ignorance when they flagrantly abuse laws and regulations governing business practices in the country is on the increase. Some news organizations that expose the misconduct of companies are denied advertising.

In the past for instance, it was common practice for news organizations to vet advertisements and if they do not meet the ethical standards of these organizations, they would reject them, but not anymore. Adverts that are in obvious contravention of laws such as the food and drugs law, the safety of children and public morality are accepted for broadcast and published by some of these organizations.

Knowing the importance of advertizing revenues to the sustainability of these news organizations, some company executives are known to regularly threaten news organizations with withdrawal of advertisements on account of publishing factual information about their operations.

Some outstanding journalists have lost their jobs for insisting on publishing the facts against the wishes of their employers, while others have had to quit their jobs because they couldn’t ignore the facts and kill stories that owners and marketing officials of the organizations do not want to see published even when all the professional conditions for doing such stories have been fulfilled.
Other journalists sometimes kill stories half way and after completion or they simply do not look into them after receiving primary information.

Ghana no doubt has very highly trained journalists and some of them can stand at par with the best in the world. Indeed, some have excelled in various beats both at home and abroad including receiving prestigious global journalism fellowships at Ivy League institutions. The bigger picture of journalism in Ghana is not a true reflection of the caliber of journalists working in the country, it is a reflection of media ownership and the large number of news organizations established not for the basic principles of journalism but for profit and in most cases for political purposes only.

That being the case, one possible way out of the depressing quagmire is to consider non-profit news. Non-profit news has been used in most developed countries to pursue what has become known as crusading journalism. Non-profits are set up for the single most important purpose of publishing the truth in the public interest and non-profit news organizations are not encumbered by the parochial interests of politicians and the corporate world and therefore exist to serve the greater interest of the public to know the truth.

Kovach and Rosenstiel say journalism’s first obligation is to the truth; its first loyalty is to citizens; its essence is a discipline of verification; its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover; and it must serve as an independent monitor of power.
They add that journalism must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise and must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.

At this very crucial stage of Ghana’s nationhood, where in spite of constitutionalism, there is very little transparency and accountability, the need for non-profit news organizations has become more important.

The role of journalists in holding governments and their allies in the corporate world to account on behalf of the people cannot be overemphasized and no strings attached non-profit news organizations could be one of the important players in this regard. Journalists should be able to do their jobs without fear of offending political figures or business people whose interests their employers serve or on who they depend for sustainability. They should not be compelled in doing their jobs to favour any individual or groups, but the truth.

Due to the suffocating influence of nonprofessionals on news, it is so hard at this moment to get a good, fair and balanced idea of the state of affairs in Ghana by looking at the newspapers, listening to radio or watching TV. Facts are often not facts by and in themselves but because someone, most often a public official has said so. And despite the strong belief and perception of growing public corruption among Ghanaians, news reports about corruption are often denied by public officials or their assigns making journalists and news organizations look bad, and not many of the reports exposing corruption can be proven because most of these reports are either one-sided or not dug into efficiently, often leaving more room for doubt. Additionally, not many of the so-called ‘revelations’ can stand as evidence in courts of law.

While, there is consensus among Ghanaians that the journalist is important in the pursuit of a progressively accountable and transparent society ran on good corporate governance principles, one way to empower the journalist to play that role is to consider the provision of funds or a source of funding to enable not-for-profit news outlets to play that role.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Africa, Ghana rising? Whose Africa? Whose Ghana?

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Some citizens protesting bad governance and economic decline in Ghana.
Only as recently as 2012, Africa was in focus as the world’s economic rising star. The continent posted very healthy figures in GDP growth over a decade. Foreign direct investments (FDI) rose, there was growth in real estate development and declining inflation.

In 2012 for instance Chinese contractors were reported to have had a turnover in housing in all 53 African countries to the tune of $40.8 billion, and the top three countries were Angola, Nigeria and Algeria, accounting for 41.7%.

These were record investments in Africa, and the economies of some African countries were feverishly and ecstatically rebased to reflect ‘realistic’ economic data.

When the list was drawn for the world’s 10 fastest growing economies in 2012, about seven were African countries including Ghana and Eritrea.

Never mind that Eritrea is one of the poorest, conflict ridden countries on the continent and it is ruled by a suffocating and ruthless dictatorship with a nauseating record of haunting and hunting down its own citizens, but nonetheless it made it to the list.

Ghana’s economy in 2011 grew almost 14.4% and inflation dropped to about 9%. The country became a good example of democratic success on the continent, as if to say democracy necessarily stimulated economic growth.
A sign announcing Ghana's capital Accra as a Millennium City.
The broken texts reflect the mismanagement and neglect of the country's economy and infrastructure.

Incidentally, one of the factors that put African countries in focus was the fact that the developed countries were struggling to recover from the ripples of the global financial crisis of 2008 which was precipitated mainly by the housing and banking industry in the US. African countries luckily were untouched by the devastating effects of the crisis, for the simple fact that the financial systems of the countries on the continent were not well developed as that of the west and more importantly, these economies were not integrated into the financial systems of the west.

Ghana, for instance had just rushed into producing oil, and the investments in oil infrastructure had boosted the economy, but sadly that was soon to be seen as a flash in the pan. The country suddenly entered an election year, and the records show that in every election year the country’s economy runs out of control due to government over spending. There was also the case of poor planning riddled with so much ‘political expediencies’, short sightedness and lack of political savvy, and just after 2013, the country’s economy started to show rapid decline.

Whatever the western media saw to start proclaiming the rise of Africa is hard to tell. May be they were looking at the figures - it could also possibly be that they were doing penance. The western media might have been moved by guilt to start singing the chorus of Africa rising after having spent several decades declaring the continent hopeless and dark.  The media probably felt it owed the continent ‘fair’ and balanced reporting, and the continent’s leaders lapped it, including academics. Not many questioned the data. The few who tried to be skeptical were labeled, blacklisted and somehow punished in subtle but notable ways that showed that everyone believed in the data or at most, didn’t want to probe further to ascertain the veracity of the data. “Numbers don’t lie’ some argued.

But the growth like a bubble didn’t last long and burst. In the case of Ghana, long before the government of the day began admitting there is decline, the same western media is already hammering the economic decline which is now dimming the faint glimmer of hope that most of the country’s poor held when oil was discovered.

Ghana has been touted as the continent’s great example of a modern democracy on a continent ravaged by conflict resulting from electoral disputes. But long before the country was raised and praised as an adorable symbol of democracy, some Ghanaians who observed the system critically pointed out that the country’s democracy was a façade. The closest the country had got to a democracy was to organize elections and announce results. Despite evidences of rigging and intimidation of citizens and the media during electioneering activities, long-suffering citizens have always accepted the final results as announced by the country’s electoral commission for the sake of ‘peace’.

Results of the 2012 presidential elections were disputed and eventually went to the Supreme Court. After several months in court the matter was settled and the opposition accepted the outcome. The Court declared the incumbent government winner.

Incidentally, while Ghana is considered one of the countries in Africa with free expression and a free press, journalists are often intimidated, and while it’s hard to prove, a few influential ones have been bribed into burying facts and instead they trumpet and defend propaganda.

Majority of media organizations are owned by politicians and their allies, and media organizations that follow the professional path are punished by being denied advertizing and sometimes accreditation to cover national events.

The façade is so glaring but as usual, most people are playing the ostrich.

Now the country seems to almost hit rock bottom. The budget deficit continues to widen, becoming a major constraint to fiscal and debt sustainability and the government has turned to the IMF for help. But if one listens to both the president and the finance minister, it is hard to tell what the government has gone to the IMF for – however, the suspicion and belief among most citizens is that it has gone to the IMF to seek a financial bailout, and other citizens have suggested it is a subtle way to reign in government expenditure and bring about fiscal sanity based on IMF conditionalities.

Perhaps the western media was too quick to praise the continent and that might have gone into the head of its leaders, most of who recorded evidences has shown to think more about the power they grab and wield, much more than creating wealth and ending inequality.

Don’t tell me Africa is rising yet. I live in an African country, I will know when it does, and while we are at it, there goes Ghana, already losing her shine.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Occupy FlagStaff House protest must be signal to all political parties

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The significantly historical protest of July 1 2014, called #OccupyFlagstaffouse should be a signal to all political parties in Ghana. 

The die is cast and Ghanaians won’t sit down and watch a motley collection of people come together to form political parties, ride on the back of the Constitution, mislead Ghanaians, get citizens to vote them into office, and then they spend time taking care of themselves and paying eternal debts to their cronies and sponsors.

Since Ghana adopted Constitutional democracy, the conducts of politicians before and during electioneering campaigns have been consistently inconsistent with their conducts as soon as they are elected into office. They become tin gods and only seek to fill their bellies. It becomes like they said in Kenya ‘time to eat’.

The fact that the Ghanaians who joined the protest in the face of vulgar police intimidation and the outpouring of rains shows a people now determined to strongly tell political office holders that occupying political office is a responsibility and not a favour. Political office holders in this country live in free housing, have luxurious cars at their disposal, draw free fuel and have police escorts protecting them at the expense of the people and yet they are unable to address the economic realities of the times. They now call these issues ‘challenges’ as if to say they are unavoidable and therefore, can’t be resolved. 

Most Ghanaians are simply appalled by what has become the standard of public service in this country – which is simply talking, while they enrich themselves under very strange circumstances. 

As they do, most ministers of state spend a large amount of the time at their disposal talking on every available air time in the country, and often repeating themselves sick, without any substance. What is worse, they are lying and spewing inconsistencies as if Ghanaians are undiscerning. 

Ministers of state are falling over each other to be noticed -  and they do that by seizing every opportunity to talk, as if that’s what they have been appointed to do. It’s mindboggling to consider the amount of time these public officials spend talking instead of doing the actual work they have been appointed to do and are being paid for, with all the luxurious pecks that come with it including traveling First and Business Class.

Notwithstanding the fact that the evidences of their ineptitude and non-performance are becoming legendary, they are paying hirelings to do hatchet jobs for them by maligning decent citizens.

You contested an election and won, now you must work. All the ‘challenges’ are yours to deal with, that’s what you are in public office for. Stop acknowledging and telling us about the ‘challenges’, the depreciating cedi, the irrational foreign exchange directives, the high inflation rate, talking of rising inflation I remember when ‘single digit’ inflation was sung hoarse into our ears as if it was such a great achievement of government. Now it’s rising and it is ‘challenges’. Only yesterday, the Central Bank which approved the withdrawal of millions of dollars which was sent to Brazil in a manner one can simply describe as irresponsible and objectionable increased the interest rate to 18%! Is the government taking responsibility for that? As it did when it was falling?

That period is over, when Ghanaians mostly sat back and threw their hands up in desperation, now they are willing to hold public office holders to account, and this won’t change, no matter which political party or politician is in power. 

I have never gone on a protest in my life, not even when I was a student at the University of Ghana at a time when the ‘MOBROWA STRUGGLE’ was launched to protest increase in tuition fees. But I feel proud and gratified that I joined this protest! I will forever feel I had paid my dues to the country and my conscience for joining the hundreds of Ghanaians out in the rains who were also confronted with the glaring possibilities of state sanctioned police brutality. While the conduct of the police was generally professional, there were some isolated cases of attempts by some officers to provoke protestors so they could possibly use the occasion to be violent against them, but as good reason prevailed, the protestors did not fall for the trick.

It was the only time I wasn’t at a protest as a reporter. I was there as a protestor demanding responsible governance – it is one of the many apart from my writings and journalism that I could give to a great country, that has been brought down to her knees and made into a laughing stock by people into whose hands we have entrusted our destinies.

And let the other political parties take note that it won’t be different no matter who is in power, the downward trend the country has been going must come to a halt at some point, and we the people will demand that through all constitutionally guaranteed means.

Get to work, deal with the ‘challenges’ that’s what you are elected and appointed for. We demand accountable, responsible governance, enough of the propaganda and communist inferior tactics!

Let those who can read, understand the signs of the times.

#OccupyFlagStaffHouse #RedFriday 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Middle class Ghanaians move from Facebook to streets to protest bad governance

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Today July 1, 2014 is Republic Day. On this day history was made as elite Ghanaians moved the discussions, debates, complaints about poor governance and corruption from social media networks Facebook and Twitter onto the streets of Accra.

Hundreds of middle class citizens most of them lawyers, engineers, architects, apps developers, journalists, university professors and consultants in various fields, some of them Ivy League educated and CEOs gathered at the Afua Sutherland Children’s Park as early as 6:00am to start the protest organized by the Concerned Ghanaians for Responsible Governance (CGRG).

Notwithstanding the peaceful nature of the protest, a heavy contingent of police was deployed to stop the protestors from marching to the Flag Staff House to present a petition to the president, and that was after the protestors and the police had agreed that 50 protestors would be allowed to march to the Flag Staff House to make the presentation. The police reneged and circumvented the deal. They formed a ring around the protestors and prevented them from moving beyond the environs of the Park.

The protestors decided to disperse and go to the Afrikiko Restaurant near the French Embassy, but the police didn’t allow them, the police cut off the protestors forcing the group to converge in smaller groups at various areas around TV3, the Ako Adjei overpass and surrounding areas. The police didn’t allow any more protestors to join the rest in these areas as they sealed all connecting routes. Some protestors reported being molested and beaten by police.

It rained for a few minutes during the protest, but protestors stayed in the rains chanting and singing patriotic songs including the national anthem.

This is the first time a non-partisan protest has been held against the conduct of a government in Ghana by the middle class most of whom have better and bigger opportunities both within and outside the country, hopefully this sends a signal to the government which has made scandals its daily offerings of its brand of governance.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bring back our girls, but bring back Nigeria too

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Now it seems the world is waking up to the news of the senseless kidnapping of school girls in Chibok, in northern Nigeria. Not even the government of Nigeria showed any sensitivity to the issue, until protests from within and outside the country appear to have jolted it into some kind of action.

And typical of an African government, who all over the continent continue to be uncaring, aloof and ever greedy and selfish with often ineffective policy directions except in matters that they and their cronies benefit, the clueless Jonathan government as expected has reacted by setting up a committee. That’s what African governments do – they are experts in setting up committees to address issues they often are very much aware of or are responsible for just so they would be seen as doing something about it.

The legendary lethargy, cruelty and vulgarity of the Nigerian political class is not lost on anyone. It is the only country in Africa that I am aware of where people who steal public money spend and display that ill-gotten wealth openly. They steal and flaunt it.

The kidnapping of these girls is only a continuation of the sad state of affairs in Nigeria. The country itself has been kidnapped long ago and not many seem to have noticed. And the only way the country would start assuming any sense of state is when it is itself rescued! The kidnapping of these poor girls was because there doesn’t appear to be a state. Nigeria has lost to a large extent its statehood and must be rescued.

For the most populous country in Africa with one of the most richest oil fields in the world and now rebased as the continent’s largest economy to be in the quandary it finds itself today is unacceptable to say the least.

Nigeria is a nation lost to kidnappers parading as politicians and leaders. And as the world calls for the rescue of the girls, let’s all note that the country itself needs to be saved.

Bring back our girls. Bring back Nigeria.