The simplest question I would have asked Prez Akufo-Addo

At the Flagstaff House [the seat of government], in the Greater Accra region, the President invited journalists to come listen to him tell Ghanaians what he has achieved so far after six months in office.

On Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at exactly 12:30pm, the President’s guests were seated; so was the larger populace, outside the Flagstaff House, either glued to their television or radio sets waiting to hear the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces speak. Touching on almost all sectors of the economy, President Akufo-Addo touted his government’s achievements. He noted he has restored the teachers and nursing trainees’ allowances which will take effect at the beginning of the 2017/18 academic year. One thing that got me admiring His Excellency was his frankness on issues. Questions posed to him that were beyond his wits, he directed to his Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, and others.

On security, the President was spot on as he admitted that incidents of the Delta Forces and Invisible Forces (vigilante groups within the New Patriotic Party) have brought the government into disrepute. Social media was flooded with score cards on who asked the most intelligent question as journalists took turns to do so.

For instance, Citi FM’s Bernard Avle, Joy FM’s Evans Mensah and Ghana Broadcasting Corporation’s Abdul Hayi Momeen were highly praised. On the flip side, Abusua FM’s Kwame Adinkra was not spared the rod of ridicule. Social media commentators have described his question to the President on road infrastructure in Kumasi (Ashanti region) as that of a typical serial caller on radio.

Personally, I think Kwame Adinkra was too bias in his question. He implicitly implied that the former President, John Dramani Mahama’s administration did nothing for Kumasi. As if his politically bias question wasn’t enough, he went about needlessly praising the President on how nice the African print he wore was.

For Heaven’s sake, this is the president of the nation and no one expects him wear tattered shirts!!! I was not present at President Akufo-Addo’s media encounter so I did not get the opportunity to ask my question. However, if I did, I know by now social media would have still been discussing me. Yes! I would have been the talk of town. I would have, however, pardoned whoever would call me stupid or insane. Why? This is because I would have asked the simplest of questions. “Hello Mr. President.

My name is Solomon Mensah and I work with Media General (specifically 3FM and TV3). Could you please tell us the last time you passed through the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange, Kanesehie, Lapaz, Madina and other suburbs of the capital city?” Having asked this, I would add, “If you have had a pass through these suburbs of Accra since coming into office, did you [with all due respect] see the filth engulfing the city of Accra? Would you say the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources you created has been of help so far? Thank you.”

Until recently that All Nations University students in the Eastern region launched a satellite into space, what pertains beyond the clouds has not really been our concern. One of our major concerns, however, has been how to battle filth. Sadly, all the measures the Mahama administration put in place to deal with this canker did not work because they were themselves problems. Talk of the National Sanitation Day where we are indirectly told to fill the gutters with rubbish and go back to clean it at the beginning of every new month.

Sickening! When President Akufo-Addo created the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, I thought our problems were going to be dealt with. Six months on, I will score the ministry a lousy 1 out of 10. They have basically done nothing substantial to improve upon our sanitation! The biggest mistake past and present governments have made is to entrust the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to spearhead the agenda of cleaning Accra. I have said on many occasions that the AMA is more incompetent than the word itself. In fact, I strongly believe that apart from the responsibility of drivers at the AMA, almost all the other roles could be played by class one pupils. Recently, the AMA issued a statement threatening to exhume dead bodies buried illegally.

Even inmates of Pantang Hospital will not consider this as the best solution to curb illegal burial in Accra. Perhaps, officials of the AMA must be sent to Sunyani, the capital of the Brong Ahafo region, on a study tour to learn how effective and efficient things are done there. To the best of my knowledge there is no way one can bury their dead at any cemetery in Sunyani without approval from authorities. Why? There are security men at the gates of the cemeteries! Mr. President, my colleagues asked about the number of jobs you have created and whether you have been tamed.

They were all good questions. I am much concerned about the basic things that require no certificate but common sense to handle― sanitation. If you really have your promise of seeing Accra become a clean city at heart, please, let the AMA stay away from this. The traders, for instance, who were recently ejected from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange are happily back to their business there. Circle, despite the facelift, has become dirtier than before.

Mr. President, can you enforce a by-law that will get people who litter indiscriminately pay a fine? Can you let people be responsible for their irresponsible behaviour? Mr. President, in this 21st century, it is a total shame that malaria is still among the topmost diseases tormenting Ghanaians. It is a shame we still battle cholera and other filth-related diseases. If the war on galamsey is yielding results, can we launch a similar war on sanitation in this country? A healthy nation is wealthy nation. Everything starts with good health. When we have good health, we can effectively talk about all other issues, I believe. By Solomon Mensah

Source: Solomon Mensah | 3news.com

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Rawlings declares environmental protection as his new priority

Former President Jerry John Rawlings has declared his extraordinary interest in environmental protection and contribute towards safeguarding it for the next generation.

The high incidence of “galamsey” or illegal mining in recent times, have been on several discussions and heated debates for some time now and has perplexed the minds of the general public in Ghana.

Though ‘galamsey’ affects many facets of life, one area in which its impact is being felt most is the pollution of rivers and water bodies.  The extent to which rivers have been polluted exerts significant pressure on individuals who live near and depend on river bodies as source of drinking water and livelihood.

Pushed by this worrying development, Mr. Rawlings plans to hold a public symposium on the environment at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences Auditorium at 5pm on Wednesday June 21, 2017, ahead of his 70th Birthday celebrations on Thursday, June 22.

Dr. Peter C. Acquah, former Executive Director of Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, will deliver the main address on the theme “Protecting and safeguarding the national environment for generations.”

According to a statement issued and signed by Dr. Anthony Dzegede, a member of the former President’s 70th Birthday Planning Committee noted, other panelists will be drawn from the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ghana Institution of Geoscientists (GIGS).

The symposium is being held in honour of former President Jerry John Rawlings who has taken special interest in the protection of Ghana’s environment –. Ghana is facing many environmental challenges and it is evident that climate change will worsen the spate of environmental degradation further if some bold and urgent interventions are not made.

The Directive Principles of State Policy of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, as they relate to the environment (Art. 36 (9) and Art. 41 (k)), have constituted the basis for the management of the environment of the country in recent years. Caring for the environment is a shared responsibility for all citizens of the country. The symposium seeks to boost continuous dialogue and awareness creation on the natural environment of the country.

It is also noteworthy that in spite of the steady decline in the country’s environment, there have been some limited successes in the interventions made to respond to the degradation.  It is therefore imperative for Ghana to take urgent steps to reverse the decline, build on the successes made and utilize the opportunities, benefits and co-benefits to be derived in tackling environmental degradation and climate change, in particular.

It is envisaged that the symposium will serve as a platform for Ghanaians to deepen the discourse on the need for enhanced management of the national environmental resources and their sustainable use; to illustrate that taking care of the environment is a shared responsibility; and thirdly to enhance awareness of some of the benefits, co-benefits and opportunities to be derived from addressing the environmental challenges.

Source: Ghana | Myjoyonline.com

The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II deserves commendation

A few days ago the Asante King, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II was reported to have purchased 3 Kantanka vehicles for his personal use. I was so excited when I heard the news, and I praised God for the action of the King.

My excitement is not born out of a personal interest, since I don’t have any direct stake in the Kantaka Company. My excitement rather stems from the fact there has been some action towards believing in ourselves.

One may say this has been long overdue; since the works of Apostle Kwadwo Safo have been with us for quite a long time. Yes it is true, but it is better late than never. At least for once, a Ghanaian leader has demonstrated a belief in the Ghanaian at the higher level. This is an exemplary tone worth emulating by other Chiefs, corporate institutions, state institutions and most importantly, the President of the country. It is a wake-up call to all of us who spend hundreds of thousands and even millions of Dollars to import cars, to give a second thought and buy made in Ghana.

We celebrate Auto brands such as Toyota, Benz, Ford, BMW, etc; for the quality of their products. The feat they have achieved over the years is as a result of the believe their own people have in them. The reason why most start ups in Ghana are not able to flourish  is that, many Ghanaians don’t have the patience to wait for a product to go through the various stages of their life cycle. We have been exposed to high end products from Europe, America and other Asian countries; so we quickly compare products made in Ghana with those ones and reject our own as being inferior.  This is the reason why Kantaka products have been around but we have not seen the need to use them.

One thing we should note is that quality doesn’t come at a go, it results from continuous improvements. Until now, Toyota and other big auto brands recall millions of their vehicles due to malfunction in one part or the other. So what stops us from trying our own?

The previous government made us aware that they handed over about 640 vehicles to the new government. This excludes the ones some of them bought for themselves. Most of these vehicles are Toyota brands. A few days before they left office, they also acquired about 41 brand new V8 engine Toyota Land Cruisers meant for the Judiciary. Put these numbers of Toyota vehicles together with those used by other state institutions, companies and individuals and you can guess how much we contribute to the Japanese Economy.

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Toyota V8

We give the little we have to help boost their economy, and once in a while when they donate something to us we praise them as if they are doing us a favour. We are their customers and they do that to renew and strengthen our commitment to them.

Today, Kantanka has made a customized “KANTANKA OTUMFUO” for the Asantehene; tomorrow they can make a customized “KANTANKA OMANPANIN” for the president of Ghana if he so wishes. The same way General Motors, Ford and other companies make cars for the US President. The ‘Beast’ used by President Barack Obama is a customized Cadillac a brand of General Motors. Japanese Prime Minister uses a customized Toyota Century; Chinese state officials mostly use Hongqi brands, just us British Prime Ministers use Jaguar brands – a company which began as bicycle manufacturer. All these leaders we revere use home-made products and are able to generate a lot of revenue, satisfy their people and even donate some to us.

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Kantanka Vehicle

So what is holding us back from accepting our own?

President Akufo-Addo has taken a bold decision to freeze the purchase of new state vehicles. Perhaps this could be an opportunity for him to ensure that at least 50% of vehicles the state will purchase subsequently will be from home. When we are able to do this, we will keep a good chunk of our revenue home, which can be pushed into other industries to help them grow. Gradually, we will be building international brands and our economy will take shape organically.

After all, who will buy your product if you yourself don’t trust in it?

It is time for us to face the realities of the world in which we are, and stop behaving as if someone else has been tasked to do it for us; and that person is failing to do it. Our destiny as we always say is in our own hands and the earlier we take full responsibility for ourselves the better.

People are willing to be patriotic to help build our country, but they are looking up to some leaders to set the tone for them to follow. This is where most of our leaders have failed. And it raises questions as to whether they really love the country or they only lead to satisfy their self-actualization needs.

Read also: Otumfuo buys 3 Kantanka vehicles (photos)

The situation is gradually eroding the hopes of the average Ghanaian; no wonder 1.7million Ghanaians applied to migrate to United States in 2015 alone. It is the highest number among all countries in the world.

We have to put hope back in our people, by believing in ourselves and accepting and improving upon what we do by ourselves.

This is why I commend the Asantehene for accepting to drive a Kantanka vehicle. Actions of this nature are needed not only in the auto industry, but also other industries so that businesses can expand to employ the teeming youth; and to turn round the fortunes of our country.

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The writer, Abraham Gyekye is a Chartered Accountant and Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Ghana. His email, gyekye2@yahoo.com

One-district-one- factory: can it really transform our country?

Considering some of the actions taken by President Akufo-Addo since he took office on January 7, 2017, I have no doubt that the man has good intentions for our dear country.

The credibility of some of his appointees and his commitment to making basic education free for the underprivileged children in our country gives me some hope for the future ahead of us. My hope is built on the fact that quality education is the key to the doors of every person’s destiny. I have always held the view that as someone who has taken close to two decades to prepare for this position, he has no option than to deliver, in order to vindicate himself and the people who have trusted in him.

Delivering the promises to “make Ghana work again” as he puts it, however, requires a realistic approach so that we can be sure from the word go, that we are on the right path of the transformation we have been yearning for. I am one of several Ghanaians who do not believe in Party Manifesto as the means to developing a country. This is because, once the developmental agenda is tied to the vision and ideology of Parties and not the collective vision and ideology of the country as a whole, then we are bound to see parties leave office with their visions.

This is one of the major reasons we have not made much progress over the years. Visions are always truncated along the way. And whenever there is a change in political power, our development process starts afresh as if we just got independence.

Among the numerous mouth-watering promises the President and his Party provided in their Manifesto, in line with their vision to developing Ghana, which they are committed to, is the building of one factory in every district of the country. As an advocate for patriotism, and the need to produce and consume our own “Made in Ghana” products, I strongly agree with any idea that will make it happen. A policy of this nature has the potential to boost employment for the teeming youth of our country. It can also reduce our level of import dependence, thereby helping to heal our negative balance of payment disease.

In as much as I support this idea a thousand percent, the proposed approach (to establish factories in every district within four years or possibly 8 years) should be reconsidered. This is necessary so that we do not spread structures across the country as factories; which cannot live beyond the current administration. Any such situation will be disappointing and will not help achieve the sustainable development we seek.

Developing a country is a gradual and consistent process and not done in a rush to earn short-term praises, without making significant impact in the long run. It is said that leaders whose main objective is to receive praises from people on their actions today, eventually die with their praises and their names do not live beyond their own generation. However, leaders who take hard decisions in the interest of their people and even thread on their toes while doing it, later receive the admiration of the people and their names live for several generations.

Building factories across the country is possible (because everything is possible) but I doubt if it can be a reality given the time frame and whether it makes financial sense. Unless maybe we want this one to follow some of the previous special initiatives, which we bragged about but did not make any significant impact on the people and failed to exist beyond the administrations that created them.

The best approach in my opinion is for us to select some districts or cities with certain unique characteristics and make them industrial hubs, with focus on specific critical aspects of the economy. We can carefully select about five cities (towns) excluding Accra and Kumasi (which are already chocked) and concentrate our attention there within the period. The effect of this is that we would likely see real significant development, increase in urban living and increase in middle class population. We will end up having additional five “Accras” in Ghana and that will be very significant. Our attention should be on developing Ghana and not satisfying every district instantly.

Over the years we have given common fund to every district but that has not brought us the development we want. So the problem is not only about equity but also lack of focus. Ghana is not such a big country and therefore, there will not be a difficulty for people to move from one town or city to work in another. The policy to revamp railway sector will even make it easier. If our people out frustration are able to pass through the Sahara Desert and even the Mediterranean Sea in such of jobs in Europe and elsewhere, how difficult will it be to move from Mampong to Techiman to work on a vibrant factory floor.

The world’s second largest economy, China began its development in the late 1970s through the “opening up policy” spearheaded by their visionary leader Deng Xiaoping. That was the period China began to allow foreign companies to pitch camps in the country. That period also saw Coca Cola establish its presence as the first major international company to start full operation in China. Deng Xiaoping had a great vision to develop the most populous country in the world, but he did it one province/city at a time. He started the development from Shenzhen, a port city in the Guangdong Province, closer to Guangzhou which is now a major city for international trade.

He believed that, in as much as he wanted the whole country to develop and to create employment for his people, he had to start from somewhere. Within a few years of focusing on Shenzhen, the approach begun to yield dividend and he extended it to Shanghai. At that time, the status of Shanghai was far less than a place like Cape coast, but today, it is one of the busiest and beautiful cities in the world and second to New York as the city with highest number of Billionaires.As we speak, the development of China is gradually covering the whole country even though it started from one city. This can be attributed to purposeful concentration and consistency.

So I belief that, in our quest to have a swift transformation of our country, we should be careful not to spread it too wide at the beginning such that the impact becomes insignificant. Wherever we put money, our focus should not only be on the people around today who will vote in the next election, but also on the millions yet unborn.

I don’t belong to the school of thought that think it is impossible to do it. My concern rather is that the resources should be channeled properly so that our attention will not only be on building and naming structures as factories. But rather we should be building factories and cities at the same time, so that in few years to come we would be able to boast of major industrial cities in the country.

We can do this by forming banking syndicates or establishing Ghana Development Bank (GDB) or National Development Bank (NDB) to solely focus on mobilizing funds within the country and across the world, and to woo investors into the country. These banks can also serve as avenues for young Ghanaians with brilliant entrepreneurial ideas to raise the needed funds to make their ideas reality, since the transformation cannot only be achieved by government.

I believe that with the right approach, we can do it.

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The writer, Abraham Gyekye is a Chartered Accountant and Member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants’, Ghana. E-mail: gyekye2@yahoo.com.

The Trump Era And The Ghanaian Dream

After over seven decades of American hegemony which begun from the aftermath of World War II, the pendulum of world leadership seem to be swinging, and a new world order appears to be in the making. A wind of change is blowing around Europe and America, with evidences from Brexit and actions of the newly inaugurated President of United States. There is a huge clamour for protectionism and abandonment of globalization. The powerful countries upon whom the least countries depended over the years, seem to have lost the battle of globalization to a certain ‘Asian Power’, hence a call for retreat and surrender. There are calls for countries to reduce the intake of immigrants in order to focus on their own citizens; an addition to the reduction in aids and grants given to poor countries.

In the midst of this uncertainty surrounding the future of our world, the question many people are asking is “where lie the fate of Africa?” Well, the answer to this puzzle is simple, the fate of Africa lies in the hands of Africans. After years of fight for freedom from slavery and subsequent liberation from colonization, Africans have not done enough to match the words of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah “the black man is capable of managing his own affairs”. Most Africans appear to still embrace the order that existed during those dark days, owing to lack of self believe and poor leadership.

We seem to have come to some bizarre consensus not to allow the white man to buy us into slavery anymore but rather, we offer ourselves free of charge into the slavery. What is even heart-breaking is the amount of dollars we pay annually to their embassies in order to offer ourselves into this slavery again, and the number of people who die in the Mediterranean Sea and on the Sahara desert on the same mission.

Unfortunately, the White man now says he doesn’t need us anymore, they want to concentrate on their own. It gives indications of difficult days ahead of us, due to threat of deportation of illegal immigrants by the current US administration and other European countries. However, I believe this is not a time of sorrow and sobbing, but an opportune time to be the people God intended us to be. In this piece, I will focus on my country, Ghana and not Africa as a whole, and talk about how we can face this wind that is blowing towards us.

To my fellow Ghanaians, my humble plea is that, it is time to learn how to love our country and not how to leave our country, for every country develops with its own dedicated and patriotic citizens. Our old thinking that the only way one can make a fortune is to travel abroad must be revised. This notion has cost our dear country most of her geniuses. The number of brilliant young Ghanaians who leave the country in the name of going to study abroad but do not return is countless, not to mention the incalculable numbers who leave to seek greener pastures. We say America is a land of opportunities, yes it is true, but those opportunities did not descend from heaven but were created by the people themselves.

The sad thing is that some shallow minded ‘men of God’ have capitalized on the mindset of our people and are using it to extort money from them in the name of praying for them to get Visas. ‘Wo beko abrokyire’ (you will travel abroad) has become a common prophesy than you will go to Heaven. Some have even made the acquisition of Visas their calling; God has called them to give Visas to people. The irony of the matter is that, the Bible these people hold in their hands tells us that, God created us in his own image. Therefore God being the Creator, we his images also have the potential to be creators of even greater things no matter where we find ourselves; if only we believe in ourselves. As the Lord Jesus said in Mark 9:23 “everything is possible for those who believe”.

So, now that populist ideologies are rising around the world, with the advance countries retreating to look within to solve their own problems, it is time for the Ghanaian to wake up from his old dream. The ‘dream of manna falling from Heaven’, and begin to look for their thinking cups. Our fate is in our own hands not in the hands of any other country. President Akufo Addo in his inaugural address said “it is time to dream again”. Yes, he is right, but not the old dream. It is time to have a new dream, ‘the Ghanaian dream’. A dream in which every Ghanaian will feel proud to stay home and contribute their quota towards building our country.

A dream in which we will no longer be consumers of everything but producers of nothing. A dream in which every Ghanaian will consider Made-in-Ghana product as first option, and help create employment for ourselves rather than promote products from other countries and make them rich at the expense of our own people. A dream in which we will appreciate every good thing done by our fellow Ghanaians and not be saboteurs. A dream in which the Ghanaian child will be taught how to think deep and critically to promote innovation. It is time to believe in ourselves. It is time to nurture talents. It is time to make God proud, that we have begun to appreciate the great gifts he gave us and that we do not necessarily have to become slaves to other countries before we can be who He wants us to be.

When we are able to do this, a threat of dealing harshly with immigrants by some countries will not be our headache anymore.

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The writer, Abraham Gyekye is a chartered Accountant and Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Ghana.