Effects of Ebola in West Africa and Ghana

Living in West Africa, one cannot help but think about the effects of ebola on our part of the world. Clearly the effects on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea which have been directly affected are enormous, but Ghana and other West African countries have been affected – economically – as well. 

This article put forward by the Nordic Africa institute focus on the effects for Liberia. They say:

“The economies of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have already been hit hard by Ebola. A major question is whether the negative effects will be temporary or more persistent, according to Eriksson Skoog. The World Bank has lowered its economic growth forecast for Liberia this year, from 5.9 percent to 2.5 percent as a result of Ebola. The budget deficit is expected to grow from 7.1 percent to 11.8 percent of GDP. The economic impact could become much worse if Ebola is not quickly tamed.

The World Bank distinguishes between two types of economic effects from Ebola. On the one hand, there are the direct and indirect costs for healthcare and production loss. On the other hand, there are the behavioral effects due to fear of contagion. People avoid crowds, workplaces shut down and travel and trade are disrupted. The effects caused by aversion behavior are by far the greatest. Hence it is important to address fear as quickly as possible in order to mitigate aversion behavior and normalize business activity.

The article also discusses problems with aid, for instance donations of rice disrupts the local rice market.

The American CBS Economics of Ebola article was also an interesting read. It says:

“Looking good today does not make people feel confident that they will be sitting pretty in two weeks,” said Stephen Morrison, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and director of its Global Health Policy Center, in an interview. But “While they are vulnerable … [Ghana and Ivory Coast] have the basics of a functional public health system, which was absent in these other countries. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be overrun with an influx of cases.”

Ghana, a country of more than 25 million, shares a border with Ivory Coast. It is also where the U.N. has decided to base its mission to respond to the Ebola epidemic. Washington has provided $1.7 million to the Ghanaian government for Ebola preparedness and response planning. Officials in Ghana, who have made gains in poverty reduction in recent years, have lamented that fears about Ebola have hurt their country’s tourism industry. Fear of the disease is something that economists will continue to monitor.”

Except for the Business&Financial Times story linked to above, I haven’t read too much about the effects on tourism in the region (this article suggests however the sector in Ghana is “collapsing” and the B&FT lamenting story ironically reports a World Tourism Organisation (WTO) conference, “Branding for Africa and Africa’s Image”, which had been scheduled to be come off in Accra from September 9-11, was postponed), but know from my interaction with Swedes that the trip I took home is not on anybody’s wish list – although Ghana has not even been affected by Ebola! That “aversion behaviour” is likely killing many livelihoods in all West African countries. 



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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=”https://twitter.com/#!/nautyinaccra/status/182760268399521792″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/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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How is the unrest in Ivory Coast affecting Ghana?

In short: It seems very little.

However, longterm the conflict in Ivory Coast will of course have an effect on Ghana. When our neighboring country, instead of being a business and political partner, is at war or dealing with the aftermaths of war the conflict will be felt here. Currently, Ghana has not really taken a stand in the Cote d’Ivore situation, refugees are crossing the boarder and I have heard that cocoa beans do the same…

Holly writes about the Ivory Coast issue focusing on Gbabgo’s interests in Ghana and on the surreal feeling of being close to a big chaos.

“It’s days like this when the distant din of news – of CNN and BBC and Al Jazeera reporters ‘on the ground’, reporting disasters and developments around the world, come just that once step too close to home. “

Myjoyonline reports about two Ivorian women taking the conflict over the Ghanaian boarder to the western town of Takoradi.

“The two females who were quarrelling in fluent French wore opposite white T-Shirts with portraits of their political idols, embattled Laurent Gbagbo and internationally recognized winner of last November
disputed polls Alhassan Quattara embossed in them.”

Interestingly, the altercation reached a fever pitch when the one wearing Gbagbo’s T-Shirt pushed her opponent and a scuffle ensued between them but they were quickly separated by the onlookers who were visible enjoying the squabble even though some of them who did not understand the French kept on shouting repeatedly “Gbagbo and Quattara in Ghana Part 2”

But this isn’t a sequel to a popular movie, it is reality and people are killed as I write this – if not from bullets so from a failed state where social amenities including health care, food and water cannot be accessed anymore.

What would a responsible neighborly response be at this late hour?

Photo of Abidjan borrowed from Myweku.com

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>Adidas Hidden African Inspiration: The "Kenta" Shoe

> Yesterday,Kwabena, a fellow blogger alerted us Ghanablogging members of that Adidas is using Ghanaian Kente cloth on a shoe calling it Kenta and acting as they invented it.

Kente is Ghana’s (and Togo’s) pride, being delicately woven in narrow strips by skilled craftsmen – almost always men. Kente is then sewn and worn at very festive occasions such as weddings or just a few strips over the shoulder as a sign of beauty and wealth.

An interesting debate weather or not one can say Adidas “stole” has arisen on ghanablogging’s mailing list (hopefully soon the other side of the debate can be read here and here). I’m all for intellectual property rights, but can a country or an ethnic group have the right to a weaving technique? Have we even tried to patent it? Sure, it would have been nice had Adidas recognized their (potentially huge) market in Ghana and West Africa and called Kente by its real name…but it is a crime not to do so?

As has rightly been pointed out, African Americans, Caribbeans and also other ethnic groups in Ghana have also claimed kente as of late and I don’t hear them saying it is Ghanaian/Togolese.

Actually, these days a lot of the Kente for British and American markets is made by Asians, see this book Money has No Smell by Paul Stoller for more info on this interesting transnational phenomenon.

So rather than forming a blog-war against Adidas, should we instead sue China?

Let me also offer a bonus conspiracy theory: Adidas call it “Kenta” to avoid any legal issues with people claiming “Kente”. Aha!

In the Pic the famous Kenta shoe. Photo credit to Adidas.

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>Kwame Nkrumah: The City of Tema (Part 1)

> Over this week, we have a Kwame Nkrumah theme at Ghanablogging.

I thought I’d write about an important aspect of Nkrumah’s legacy. The industrial harbor town of Tema. My new hometown. (I know its beside the point, but also there is almost nothing about Tema, GH, online!)

Let’s start my exposé on Tema with Nkrumah’s own words. We go back to February 10th, 1962 and the Official Opening of the Tema Harbor. Kwame Nkrumah walks up to a podium and gives his speech.

“By taking advantage of the river systems of West Africa, it should be possible – again, by concerted action – to connect the hinterland, far outside the boarders of Ghana, with this great port of Tema. Thus, in this harbour of Tema, we see a unifying force and an essential requirement in the progress towards African Unity”

Hence, Tema was just one part of the grandiose plan of Africa rising. Tema should be a harbor not just for Ghana, but for Africa. Still today, Burkina Faso, Mali and other landlocked countries are highly dependent on the Tema harbor. What whould they be today without this sea port?

Nkrumah continued his speech with comparing the existing Takoradi harbor “designed by the colonialists to facilitate the exportation of the wealth of the country” to this new sea port. He said:

“Tema is the sign post of the future. It represents the purposeful beginning of the industrialisation of Ghana. It is the signal for industrial expansion, a challenge to our industry and intelligence and a hope for the future.”

Tema and its connection to a bright Pan-African future will be my starting point for future deliberations on Tema.

Pic: My first view of the Tema harbor, Xmas 2004.

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>No Rain in Africa? Few Reports on Flooding in West Africa

> One might almost think that there is no Rain in Africa, judging from the extremely sparse Ghanaian journalistic reporting about the flooding that has misplaced 600 000 people in Northern Ghana and other West African countries. According to some reports 25 Ghanaians have already died in the floods.

While BBC had this flooding among its top news yesterday, see for instance here, the issue was glaringly absent from the Daily Graphic front page, the most read newspaperin Ghana on the same day.

On popular news site Ghanaweb, I find only this article on the floods, source CNN (!)

Also reliable radio channel Joy FM, do not place any significance on the flooding in the country. The same CNN article (!!) is what they have listed under Africa/International on their webpage here.

One would think since Ghanaians are dying and we live relatively close to the scene, Ghanaian journalists would be the first to report on this horrible situation to the surrounding world. But sadly, the situation has not improved at all since I blogged about the flooding in 2007 here . What I said then was

people write me about the floods in Ghana – note the irony of that I write a comment on it on my blog “Rain in Africa”. Anyways apparently these floods make it to the news in Sweden, Spain and the US.

Is this news not relevant to Ghana? Do we not care?

Map borrowed from BBC.co.uk/Africa

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