View Full Version : Ghana, A Developed Country By 2025?

31st March 2011, 01:41 PM
I began making half-hearted notes for this article after the images of the 11th March Japanese earthquake and Tsunami began to appear on television screens around the world.

It remained a set of notes for a long time until I received an email from my Haitian friend with whom I have been debating since the catastrophic earthquake that hit Port au Prince over a year ago. In one of the emails she wrote, “if you really wish to help your country, fight for the re-location of your national capital before you die!” I said to myself, “that’s it.” I was not exactly sure where I was going to publish it. Then I read my ‘long lost friend, Ato’s article on Ghanaweb and decided to “bring myself”, by commenting on it.

If we really wish to bring our country out of its 250 year-lag (250 years behind the developed world), then there are two major policies we must embark upon immediately. The first one is to relocate our national capital somewhere in the Brong Ahafo Region; the second is called Education, Education and Education.

Relocating The National Capital

During the last of my annual visits in October, I did not do much driving for some personal reasons, but going round Accra and the Central Region in taxis and other rented vehicles, I was convinced that the country I love so much is a major disaster waiting to happen. How does anyone get anything done in the country and especially Accra? How do people involved in an accident that need urgent attention get to the nearest medical centre? If a major earthquake should strike southern Ghana tomorrow, followed by a Tsunami, how will we deal with it? I would like to find out from a genuine investor who has brought $1m to Ghana to invest in the past year, how much of that money still remains, what profits he/she has made and what the way forward is. I would also like to find out (off the record), how much of that sum has gone into illegal payments, to get things done.

I read somewhere that we should replicate Accra at Agona Swedru, Akim Oda, Tamale and other places. Instead, with the forthcoming windfall from petroleum production in mind, I will propose that we build a new national capital which will be a hybrid between Berekum and Abetifi, raised to international standards. This new national capital will have well defined city limits with a green belt of at least five kilometres around it where nobody will be allowed to build any structure whatsoever. In developing this city no individual would be allowed to own or build a residential property until all the national institutions have been completed. Important national officers like the President and his vice, the Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice would be housed on the outer perimeter. Other cabinet ministers will be housed in a Downing Street style national housing complex.

Any officer who moves into any of these state houses would only arrive with his or her suitcases, no crockery, no bedding, nothing else and leave with nothing at the end of their stay. Anyone who turns his or her house into a pig sty will pay for the cost of refurbishment from whatever legitimate entitlement they deserve at the end of their tour of duty. Civil servants who work in the city will commute from specially developed satellite cities. The national capital will be served by light railways, buses, trams, bicycle lanes and restricted vehicular traffic. There will be circular roads round the outer limits and the central parts of the city. Much of the city’s main infrastructure would be built on BOT (Build, operate transfer) basis, more of Brasilia or Yamousokro than Abuja. I am still working on the details of the plan and would be glad to share them with any interested group or individual.

Before anyone starts pointing fingers, I do not come from any of those regions, but having travelled through most of Ghana doing geophysical/geological or NADMO fieldwork, I can say with authority that the only parts of Ghana that have maintained and continued with civilised town and country planning practices are the Brong Ahafo Region, the two Nzema districts of the Western Region and the Kwahu scarp. Abetifi in particular, has the best community toilet I have seen anywhere in the world. The system is served by harvested rainwater which is stored in an underground reservoir. Every state building in the new capital will be equipped with a rainwater collection and storage system and solar energy will be its primary source of energy.

The ‘Coastal Boundary Fault’ which lies about 22 kilometres off the coast of Ghana, has been responsible for all the documented major earthquakes that have affected Ghana over the past five hundred years. It runs nearly parallel to the coastline of Ghana, joining the mainland as a series of complex normal faults around Denu (Ofori Quaah, Unpublished structural study.) Recent microearthquake activity has centred on a two kilometer circle with its centre around the junction between this fault and the Akwapim Fault zone, at Nyanyanu. The Akwapim Fault zone is as much as 10 kilometres wide in places and continues northeastward from Nyanyanu through Togo, Benin and Niger. It has caused earthquakes in each of those countries in the past five hundred years. Before the recent Japanese earthquake, nobody dreamt that such a catastrophe could paralyse highly developed and most earthquake-conscious Japan.

The fault that caused the earthquake had not moved for some seventy years. When it did, it reportedly moved the whole of Japan by an incredible eight feet! Then there was the Tsunami. Some of the cities that have been washed to sea were as much as five kilometres inland. Most of the major institutions and buildings in Accra are located less than three kilometres from the beach. Are there any contingency or continuity plans for any of these institutions? Will Accra survive even a minor Tsunami? I don’t believe so. Did I hear anyone talking about nuclear power stations for Ghana? Japan has just provided the answer: forget it. Even Britain has decided to revise its impending nuclear power programme. Let us spend the money on locally developed and produced solar panels, wind power and other renewable resources. In seismology it is said that “the longer it has been since the last ‘Big One’, the closer it is to the next one.” The Coastal Boundary Fault has not moved for over seventy years. It is a sleeping lion. Let us get away from it before it wakes up. It may be wounded.

Educating Our People

The education system as we know it today is not working. In fact, it has not worked for the past twenty-five or more years. I have used its products in various areas, and I have also served as thesis supervisor or external examiner for several departments of our traditional universities, so I know a thing or two about the system. The system has failed the children, their parents and the nation at large. It needs a major revamp. Cosmetic changes will not help, it needs a major surgery.

The last time I looked at an empirical study, the wastage at the Junior Secondary School level was about 80%. It is probably worse than that today. At a personal level, I know that only about ten pupils from my own village school in the central region have passed well enough to qualify to go to good senior secondary schools since the JSS system began and none of the lot did well enough to go to university. In other words, the old MSLC scandal whereby teachers unashamedly collected money from children to give to invigilators who looked away while teachers called out answers to pupils is back in force. My wife observed it with sadness at her old school in Kinbu in the mid 1980s. I once employed a gardener who had apparently passed that examination very well in a ‘good school’ in Accra, but could not count up to 100. You can imagine what happened in the countryside. There is an equally large amount of wastage at the senior secondary school level.

Travelling around the country, it was obvious to me that these educated illiterates are simply cloning themselves. They have no useful skills, and they generally show very little interest in their children’s education. What we are doing is creating a huge underclass, and that is a great danger for everyone. The family lands which used to support thirty or forty people in most villages are now farmed by one hundred or more, and they are still using the hoe and cutlass, praying that the rains will come. The situation in the cocoa farming areas is equally dire. Is anybody surprised why we have Sodom and Gomorrah and other such ironically-named ghettoes all over the place?

Technical and vocational education

When the British government foolishly turned its excellent polytechnics into degree-awarding institutions, we sheepishly followed them. The result in Britain was what one professor referred to as “Mickey Mouse Universities with Mickey Mouse degrees.” I doubt if Ghana has done any better. For more than forty years after independence, highly skilled technicians of our technical schools (mostly from my Alma Mater, real Giants!), kept Ghana Airways and Ghana Broadcasting Corporation in the air, often with very basic tools and amazing native ingenuity. It was the same with State Transport, Public Works Department, Electricity Corporation, Ashanti and other Goldfields and mining concerns, Waterworks and many others.

As a student on vacation training at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission in 1973, I witnessed the trials of a body scanner that had been designed and built by one of these technicians, with local materials. Ghana would have been at the forefront of the design of scanners for medical diagnoses. I once worked with one of the most creative people I have ever come across. If you talked with this gentleman for one hour, he would be listening and contributing fully, but by the end of the conversation he would have designed five implements that ranged from farm tools and gas cookers, through automatic garage door operators to office bells.

Yet with one stroke of the pen, we suppressed and will probably lose these talents forever. The system as we have it today produces pen pushers at the top, very little in the middle and unemployable semi-literates at the bottom. We need to re-direct our resources. We need to begin to reproduce those who as students, spent fifteen to eighteen hours a week at the workshops designing and building the parts that they replicated at Abosso Glass Factory, Bonsa Tyres, Takoradi Cocoa Products, Ghana Airforce, Sekondi Boatyard, Railway ‘Location’ and many other places. Many of those people were not at the top of their class in academic subjects, but they were tops with their hands. That is why Ghanaians still clamour for Mrs. Nkulenu’s palm soup around the world. That is why Mr. Tuyee’s chalk is still tops.

The legacy of British Colonialism in India and Pakistan was technical education and they wisely continued with it after independence. That is why they are the only two former colonies with nuclear capability today. That is why India produces every mechanical device that is used in India today. The TATA conglomerate builds cars, ships, tanks, bombers, earth movers, everything. We were privileged to observe it at first hand in Hyderabad, when our second son was posted there a week after he was employed by TATA Consultancy services. India produces over a million graduates a year. Ninety-nine percent of those are computer literate, not just in the sense of word processing or excel.

They are the computer literate graduates that you employ today and can put on the system to process a seismic line, design a high rise building with solar panels on the roof or begin to turn grassland into an arable wheat producer the next day. Those who study languages are able to translate German or Dutch with ease or hold BBC World Service level English conversations with all comers. That is why multinationals are outsourcing to Indian companies. That is why today, 80% of all software, including those of Microsoft, BT and ITT among others, are written in Hyderabad. Having had a solid technical education foundation, the transition to computer technology was easy. In the twenty-first century, any country that churns out graduates who cannot replace bulbs or fuses in their own homes is in very serious trouble.

In the next instalment, I will outline the Polish Technical education system and how we can adapt it to turn the large pool of unemployable school leavers into an army of nation builders in ten years. Fidel Castro turned a country with 90% illiteracy into 90% literacy in ten years. We can do it, with “the right good will and the right good mind.”

This article has been meant as a challenge to myself, and anyone who has Oman Ghana at heart, and as a basis for debate. No insult please, and let me caution anyone who would be tempted to enter it with insults, I have both streaks in me. My grandfather used to tell me, “Kobena, don’t stoop to their level.” But I can also remember my grandmother with her aside, “sometimes you have to fight if you are a man.” I can hear her standing at the edge of the gutter, “urging me to dish out as much as I received”, and ready to help clean me up after I got out of the gutter. Stay blessed.

Source: Quaah, Amos Ofori