Chewing Stars – This is how I celebrated Ghana @56

Independence day and so many ideas on what to do. Parties, beach visits or marches abound or the popular version of sitting in the shade with a drink and complaining….Well this is how my day went.

In the morning, I tried to not do this:

I mean,we do still have issues with water,healthcare and electricity while a country like Malaysia born in the same year as we were is almost totally free of such issues but who’s comparing?

(Yvonne did it for me).

At lunch, I refrained from discussing the Hope City launch featuring a certain Chris Brown.

Why rlg will spend $1M on CB whose popularity and clout has been as mixed and inconsistent as that of his relationship with Rihanna. Again, there have been questions about why a supposedly middle income state on paper but lower income on the ground will dole out a million bucks to a 23 year old who already has too much money for his age. But hey, you and I have no say in what Roland Agambire chooses to use his monies…

(Kwame did it for me)

In the hot afternoon, I wanted to remind myself I wasn’t required to go to work, like Maya maame:

I hope that those in Ghana and around the world have found a way of celebrating today, as unfortunately a very hectic work day has stopped me from trying to celebrate. The only thing I managed to do was check out Google Ghana’s picture of the day:


So, I ended up doing a BBQ with family and chewing some Carambole or starfruit to celebrate the star of Africa, Ghana at 56!

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Ghana, a Country of Perpetual Power Problems?

 In Monday’s newspaper, new schedules for “lightoff” or power sharing were announced (Unfortunately not yet on LightOffGH). Again? Before the election, we were told that shortages were due to a cut in the gaspipeline from Nigeria, but although that has been fixed apparently power is currently scarce and scheduled to going off every other day, all day or evening! Now, that’s is worse than ever!

The implications of this situation is devastating for growth, business and –  face it  – sleep in a country that keeps to a cosy 30 degrees also at night and offers a darkness full of malaria mosquitoes. Without a fan, life is difficult!

You toss and turn

Then try to lie still as to not work up a sweat

You look over at your window

The curtain hangs as still as was it made from stone

No breeze tonight

You sigh

You close your eyes and think of the beach

Wind in your hair, waves hitting the shore…

…wait, what is that sound…bzz…. a mosquito?


I am still to hear about a plan for how Ghana will get out of this energy crisis. The vision offered on the Ministry of Energy’s website seems overtly ambitious: “To enable Ghana become a net exporter of fuel and power”. What is the medium term or even short term plan?

Dear Minister of Energy (do we even have one?), will we continue to live in darkness in 2013?

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Interview with Dr. Abu Sakara of the CPP

On Friday, I did my second Frontline 2012 interview. This time, I had Dr. Abu Sakara of the CPP in the studio and the initial nerves from the maiden broadcast were gone.

Some other things were also different this time, for instance, we had to change studios as Ghana is going through a power sharing exercise due to damages on the West Africa Gas Pipeline, but I guess that is another blogpost…

Many of you want to view the interviews online. The TV3 team is working on putting the show on YouTube or similar, in the meantime, let me share some comments from viewers on Twitter:

Next week, Dr. Papa Kwesi Ndoum of the PPP is my guest, if you have questions for him, you can tweet or post them as comments here.

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Black Out, Media Ban and Coup D’Etat in Mali

Phew, what a busy news day!

It all started yesterday around 7.30 PM when the lights flickered like they do before an unplanned “power off”, then complete darkness followed.

Apparently the black out affected the entire nation of Ghana and still GRIDCO cannot account for how this could happen again – this was the fourth country wide black out this year. I had just completed by dinner and this power outage sent me straight to bed. Unfortunately, it also sent three very sick people at the ill equipped Komfo Anokye hospital in the Ashanti region into eternal sleep as their life support machines went off and the generator was not kicking in.

In the mornings we listen to popular radio channel Joy FM, belonging to the Multimedia Group. I especially like their morning show in which government representatives are often called upon to explain to us why development projects ahve stalled, salaries not been payed, goals not met. Today they announced that Ghana’s government had placed a ban on the Multimedia group, not allowing them to government press conferences and not granting interviews anymore. The deputy Information minister James Agyenim Boateng was reported to have said:

“We’ll find other platforms to carry out our messages. Multimedia journalists are not invited to cover state events”

This might sound very strange for a government to do during an election year, especially since the Multimedia Group is so popular. However on Twitter far from everybody was worried or surprised:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/nautyinaccra/status/182760268399521792″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/nii_ayertey/status/182794155846672385″]

Kojo Pumpuni Asante from the Center for Democratic Development was more concerned and suggested the move to ban a media house from state events was unconstitutional and a threat to press freedom,

“Chapter Five of the constitution on the Bill of Rights is very clear: it guarantees the freedom of the press. Chapter Six, on the Directive of State Policy, imposes an obligation on the executive and all arms of government to ensure that we have a democratic state. Article 21 of the constitution talks about our Right to Information, Chapter 12 of the constitution guarantees the independence of the media.”

In the evening, the government issued a clarifying statement outlining their grievances and events leading up to the decision. Also the statement ended on a hopeful and peace seeking note:

“Government remains committed to press freedom and would ensure that these freedoms are guaranteed at all times. In this regard, the Ministry of Information has accepted a request by the management of Multimedia for a meeting”

Follow the continuing discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #MultimediaBan

Finally, Mali, a West African country that has been a stable democracy for 20 years however with a growing conflict in its northern provinces, had its military take control of the country in a coup d’etat.

A foreign researcher in Mali, Bruce Whitehouse shares on his blog, a detailed and personal account of this tumultuous day starting at 7.30 am. The last section reads:

8:00 p.m.: Africable TV airs a pre-recorded interview with Capt. Amadou Sanogo, leader of the CNRDR. The journalist asks him, what assurance can you offer that you won’t organize fraudulent elections and cling to power yourself? Sanogo responds by saying he is an honest, sincere man who knows what he wants. At several points his remarks elicit applause from the soldiers gathered around him. He reiterates his goal to preserve Malian national unity. I notice he wears a US Marines eagle, globe and anchor pin on his fatigues: has he undergone USMC training at some point?

Asked what will become of overthrown president Touré, Sanogo replies in a roundabout way that the Malian people “know who is who, and who did what,” and that everyone must answer for what they have done. The final question concerns whether Sanogo is being manipulated by “certain members of the political class”–to this, Sanogo responds that he is so apolitical, he has never voted in his life.

Living in West Africa is most days not at all eventful, but rather relaxing, intriguing and fun. Today was a day when I instead felt drained and saddened by what seems to be steps backwards instead of the much awaited leap ahead.

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ECG Corruption Revealed by Anas Aremeyaw: The Reactions on Twitter

Ghana’s favorite (and only?) investigative journalist has done it again – revealing excessive corruption where the general public had a hunch something was fishy. Last time it was the Ports and Harbors (GHAPOHA). This time the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has been monitored over 8 months as Anas Aremeyaw took up work with the company. And what stories!

This morning, as radio station JoyFM carried Anas Aremeyaw’s story, I was first alone to be tweeting on it, but soon the Ghanaian Twitterverse exploded. I’d like to share some of the comments with you here (with a little help from widget BlackBirdPie):

[blackbirdpie url=”!/kajsaha/status/161355926832562176″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/nautyinaccra/status/161368470578139136″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/Ghanareporters/status/161371755976474624″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/SorayaSpeaks/status/161392936909668352″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/oBiii/status/161393883480207360″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/manifestive/status/161388592063713280″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/kinnareads/status/161385070756757504″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/grahamk5/status/161391241840431104″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/MacJordaN/status/161389414247972864″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/Joselyn_Dumas/status/161392577919205376″]

In Ghana, Twitter is quickly gaining ground. I believe social media can be highly useful to create momentum around a topic such as this, as many tweets or short posts, apart from showing the people of Ghana’s rage, also came with suggestions on how to move forward and who to hold accountable.



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Earth Hour in Ghana Everyday

While the world is getting ready to voluntarily turn off the lights for an hour, we in Ghana are again getting ready for involuntary power sharing…

In Sweden, there will be a big concert in down town Stockholm and many (most?) companies and municipalities have joined the cause.

In Africa only nine countries are registered. Ghana is not part of the official Earth Hour celebrations one can see from the Earth Hour website. Actually, for West Africa only Nigeria takes part – see the official blog here.

Unofficially, we celebrate earth hour every week, sometimes every day. Africa still produces and consumes much less energy than the rest of the world, and yes, sometimes totally involuntarily. According to this article from the Economist in 2007, Africa generates only 4% of the world’s electricity supply. Three of those percent are generated by, and for, South Africa and the northern African countries – leaving the lion share of Africa to 1% of the world’s generated energy!

We need to save our planet, but lets also stop being naive. We don’t have any electricity to turn off in Ghana!

The amazing picture was borrowed from NASAhere.

Ps. Seems like we will rather spend the hour between 8.30-9.30 PM tonight romancing.

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>Ex-President Rawlings’ House on Fire: Was It Electrical?

The shocking news reached us yesterday morning, the former president J.J. Rawlings’ residence in Ridge was on fire.

Today, facts are a bit more clear:

– Nobody was hurt
– Only Mrs. Konadu Rawlings and one of their daughters were at home
– The ex-president was not at home, but came to the sight early in the morning
– The fire started at 4 am
– By 9.30 am the house was completely burned down
– Three months ago, an electrical fire almost broke out in the residence
– The house was a colonial style bungalow, in much constructed in wood

(Sources: GNA here and Joy FM here and here).

Immediately a debate broke out on electrical fires caused by the common fluctuations of power in Ghana. The night before the fire, it was raining heavily and a substation broke down in Tema. However, GRIDCO, the distribution company found that such a discussion was premature before a proper investigation had been carried out, see here.

However, even if it was an electrical fire, what will we take from it? Has anything changed at all since Ghana’s Foreign Ministry burned down in October caused by an electrical fault?

As I heard the rain coming down heavily that night, I woke up and as I anticipated power to fluctuate I anxiously went to pull the plug on all computer equipment (beacuse yes, I am a computer nerd). Then I went back to sleep.

Next time, I’m not so sure I’ll be able to go back to sleep.

Pictures borrowed from

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>Good News for Ghana’s Economy


“We want to move the economy forward quickly and we want to try as much as possible to make an impact on the road sector, which includes city, urban and feeder roads,”

was the message from the Finance minister yesterday according to Joy FM, as he announced the government is releasing 160 million Ghana Cedis for projects that were stopped after the 2008 election.

Can I say hurray?

1. Roads for development = yes, thats the analysis! (when will power and water be on the list, by the way?)
2. At the time, I supported freezing funds as there were transparency issues for some contracts, but as time went along…and business life in Ghana almost came to a complete stop I ehhr…changed my mind.
3. Hopefully, this action will have a trickle down effect (although it is a long way from 25 big companies and the Kofi and Ama on the street)and might turn the Ghanaian economy around.

Or what do you say, am I being way too optimistic now?

Pic: A collapsed sign from an totally unrelated project.

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>On Ghanaian Internet Cafés

>As I returned home from dinner out (my favorite Indian!) I passed by this Internet café in Tema’s Community 8.

It is nothing special, probably actually a typical Ghanaian one. After paying 1 GHC (75 cents) for two or three hours you sit on uncomfortable chairs in front of old, thick, unportable screens displaying the internet slowly, slowly with frequent freeze-situations. And power-cuts.

Still people are determined to learn about ICT, the Internet and what is out there.

What we go through just to enter the beautiful world online.

Pics taken minutes ago in my hometown.

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>Africa Report x 2

> Today, I came across two interesting Africa Reports that I wante to share with you.

AR#1. The African Commission’s Final Report.

The African Commission , set up by the Danish government last year, is a high level group wanting to bring light to Africa’s opportunities and add new strategies to the development cooperation. I wonder if Dembisa Moyo that I wrote about last week thinks they succeeded.

Anyways, the group of really distinguished Africans and others includes Nigerias former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who I wrote about here and the Commission presents its recipy for development as follows: (this is the quick version, the 90-page report can be downloaded in pdf here).

1. The creation of an African Guarantee Fund in partnership with the African Development Bank aimed mobilizing loans for three billion USD and reducing the cost of access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises, SME’s. Africa’s SME’s provide 80 percent of output and jobs in Africa;

2. Ensuring access to energy at the local level by launching a new initiative in partnership with the EU and the African Development Bank. More than three-quarters of Africans lack access to electricity – a major constraint to economic development, doing business and standards of living;

3. Improving the business climate and Africa’s competitive edge by making sure that the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report covers all African countries. More than that, the Commission will work with a range of Africa-based entities to ensure that the findings of this benchmarking process is followed-up by the development of detailed policy responses and concrete reforms;

4. Unleashing the power of African entrepreneurship, both in start-up and existing enterprises, by providing advisory services and access to finance in order to allow young people to translate their good ideas into practical plans. The initiative will be implemented in partnership with the ILO and Youth Employment Network (a partnership between the UN, ILO and World Bank). It is expected that this initiative alone will create 40,000 new jobs and 20,000 new businesses;

5. Supporting higher education and research. Specifically, the initiative will increase the quantity and quality of artisans through apprenticeships, especially in the rural areas. Also, it will link tertiary research and business practices especially to expanding agricultural output.

I like how the Commission acknowledges the lack of electricity and how that is a basic problem in Africa (see what I wrote on it here). Also education is key, of course for development and currently the future for the African academy looks rather bleak. Just as in the north, links with research and businesses need to be improved. So, far I agree.

However, I am more sceptical towards yet another fund, the African Guarantee fund – I think many times it is information and reporting that is scarce – not a complete lack of money. And then sometimes I think the people in those high level meetings overstate the influence of their instruments. I mean, can the “World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report” really improve the business climate in Africa?

What do you think?

AR#2 Magazine The Africa Report.

I picked up a copy of this mag I haven’t seen before. I am a huge fan of news magazines like Focus on Africa and The Economist and today I found one that can compete.

In this mag, I liked the topics and the rich ways of describing current issues in Africa. I have studied it now for about 45 minutes, but is nowhere near done. I like that type of publication density.

The current issue of The Africa Report gave a very illuminating report of Mills’ first 100 days in power and came with an interesting economic report-booklet of Cote D’Ivoire.

I guess that makes it three Africa reports today…

In the top pic Africa’s future on the beach in Kromantse, Central Region, Ghana.

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>Lights On

> Since I came back I have not only been named obolo, I have also discovered that the electricity problems have been reduced with fewer and shorter power cuts. Something has changed in the right direction!

In the news it says the Akosombo dam has shown a bit higher water levels again and I heard something about that the power plant the mining industry is building should be up and running by now.

But apparently the news is not as good as I first thought, I realize when I do some digging. The power situation only seems to have changed due to import of electricity from neighboring Ivory Coast, most likely of political reasons due to that the leading party NPP has promised that the situation would be solved within a year (power “sharing” started in august 2006). Since elections are coming up next year, this is not the time to break one’s vows. Although it must hurt to import something from an unstable country to which Ghana used to export.

But still we have scheduled power cuts or “lights off” and they are still disturbing, and sometimes funny. Yesterday, I was at some friends’ house and as the TV and all the lights go out, the five year old playing on the floor shouts:

-Where are my eyes?

Picture from a live recording of one Ghana’s popular TV-shows “Stars of the Future”.

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>No light in sight

>I have earlier written about our power problems here in Ghana. Since no new power stations have been built since the Akosombo dam (see picture)in the 1960ies the supply is not enough for the demand, and then on top of that the dam is drying up…

At present two out of the six turbines in the dam are running. To make that power last, we have scheduled power sharing. We have power 24 hours then it is turned off for 12 hours (by everybody called “light off”), altering day and night. Yesterday, the Ghanaian radio station Joy FM got their hands on a secret technical report which suggests that if the water inflow does not rise before the end of this month one of the remaining two turbines have to be shut off to not empty the dam, halving the supply of power in Ghana.

On a personal level, I can see how this is very serious. However, it means either never again have anything refrigerated or toasted OR buying a generator and some environmentally unfriendly fuel. Probably the latter. For the nation, it is just devastating. Not only is the fuel running out due to all generators, inflation rising due to that companies have to add the cost of fuel to their products, also the productivity is coming to a halt. It is simply difficult to produce without electricity. When I a few weeks ago paid a visit to one of the government agencies that is to be working on this problem, the person I went to see could not turn on his computer.

“Our generator is not working and today is light off”.

The poor power situation is indeed a very vicious circle.

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