steel villages and concrete fences

13 May 2008

Everyone waves from their steel-corrugated shacks, children smile and get excited, parents and elders are welcoming – looking out over the shanty town roof tops that extend as far as the eye can see in each direction you can’t help but wonder that within this poverty and desolation mixed with laughter and happiness – what potential can be harnessed, what community action can be inspired to make South Africa’s future brighter by and for those who live here.

The government built lavatories and sinks for the informal settlement so sanitation is good. They provide building materials for brick houses through the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP), but where are the education improvements? the health support? the food subsidies? A government can’t do it all and so places like VVOCF exist!

This all made me think more about the African health worker crisis as I see the direct result of it, the effectiveness of government funded health care, and the access to nutritional information and education.

From Oppression to Development: Chevron’s Policy Rethink in the Nigeria’s Bayelsa State

Presenting my research in style (photo credit: Nick Micinski, 2008)

As a Research Assistant to Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie in 2008, I participated in researching for Resource Scarcity and Abundance: Oil Democratization, and Conflict it he Niger Delta. The research proposal was submitted to the Global Area Thematic Initiative (GATI) 2006 in conjunction with two other Michigan State University professors.

My research is focused on the tripartite relationship between the Chevron corporations, communities in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state, and the Nigerian government. A relatively new state in Nigeria, Bayelsa is at the tip of the Niger Delta, but has a long history of oil oppression. Oil corporations have long used government forces to violently repress opposition among communities who are unhappy with the exploitation of their resources. More recently oil corporations have started focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well as more community friendly development projects.

Related blog posts:

chinese exodus of influence

In the early days of African discovery soldiers, missionaries, and explorers led the way towards the attempted understanding of and preceding conquest of Africa. This push came from the world powers of the day in Western Europe – now we see a new wave of settlers moving in on the African continent. However, this exodus should not be a surprise. Lured by the increase in wealth, property, and life style, Chinese migrants are starting new lives in Africa. Approved by the Beijing government, the migrants are involved in agriculture reform, construction (which is a huge Chinese business in Africa), and trade.

The Chinese relationship with Africa is strong and this new development should not come as a surprise. “To build a unified front against imperialism,” was the Chinese goal in the 1950s. This involved supporting the growing African decolonization, nationalist movements, and revolutions. There is a strong history of economic ties between China and Africa. We can see this in Chinese blue and white porcelain found at African gravesites from the expeditions of Zheng He. Zheng He left the Cape of Good Hope with the gift of a giraffe. Trade relations with China only increased from there.

China began its first bilateral agreements in 1956 with Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, and Guinea. China had been in agreement with the Soviet Union in supporting African revolutions, but China became more interested in providing financial and military support for nationalist movements. In the 1960s there were nineteen African countries with official ties to Beijing. The recent wave of nearly 750,000 Chinese migrants are not the first. In the 1960s Mao Zedong sent people to forge political ties with the continent. This newest wave or Chinese people is to strengthen the Chinese claims over raw materials and markets. The head of the China Export-Import Bank has said that he will support this migration with “investment, project development, and help with the sale of products.” Mr. Li says,”There’s no harm in allowing [Chinese] farmers to leave the country to become farm owners [in Africa],” he added.

Mission of the China Export-Import Bank:

The main mandate of the Bank is to implement the state policies in industry, foreign trade and economy and finance to provide policy financial support so as to promote the export of Chinese mechanical and electronic products and high- and new-tech products, to support Chinese companies with comparative advantages to “go global” for offshore construction contracts and overseas investment projects, to develop and strengthen relations with foreign countries, and to enhance Sino-foreign economic and technological cooperation and exchanges.

Beyond the trade relations that are now ever growing, the political ties have been and remain strong. During the 1960s China provided military and financial to nationalist movements as well as increasing development dollars – $100 million. They also sent 150,000 technicians to implement projects in agriculture, transport, and infrastructure development. China was involved in numerous independence movements. In the build-up to democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China was providing financial support, but it wasn’t enough. After Lumumba was assassinated by the efforts of the CIA, the Chinese demonstrated en masse. Millions gathered in Peking, 400,000 in Shanghai which solidified the Chinese influence and support for further revolutionary movements. A new regime was supported in Tanzania (1964) until Nyerere took power. Nyerere even adopted the Mao-style uniform. Chinese engineers built a railroad from Zambia to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania showing the Chinese economic might and proving that China was serious in Africa. China supported many nationalist and revolutionary movements (see map) with arms, money, medical supplies, scholarships, and guerrilla trainings and camps.

In 1971 China received 76 votes for a permanent UN Security Council seat. Of those votes 26 were from African countries and by the 1980s fourty-four African countries had established diplomatic ties with Beijing. These ties soon faded out, but have recently been rekindled in the 1990s and more recently in 2006. In the third China-Africa forum 48 African countries were represented. China now represents the leading Asian developing giant, above India, Singapore, and Thailand. China now rivals OECD countries or the developed West in providing foreign aid (rogue aid). China now outbids the World Bank and in 2006-2008 provided over $10 billion in loans to African countries.

China has regained its strong influence in African countries. Their power is unmatched and their recent wave of settlement unprecedented. This is a point of contention for both Western powers who may be afraid of the growing Chinese power and the people of African countries who should be wary of another exploiter. The Chinese may have a history of support, development, and influence, but that does not justify current action.

Featured entry on The Issue: China in Africa

young people are the key drivers of social change

Harry S. Truman Scholarship Policy Proposal by: Alex B. Hill

Problem Statement
International development is a vast and complex issue. With over 18 million people dying each year from the lack of development assistance in health infrastructure something new needs to be done. Within the US there is a trend that foreign aid dollars are coming more from private NGOs and nonprofits as opposed to official government agencies. For so many years international development was tackled in simplified single-issue campaigns, which only created any effect in the short-term. This can be attributed to the fact that most Americans have a limited worldview. Most Americans have not traveled internationally, especially to developing countries. Therefore international development issues remain remote and abstract to most Americans. International development is a long-term issue. It is inherently complex and difficult to understand. There is no single enemy, and outcomes are rarely clear-cut or translatable through numbers. Faced with this challenge, some countries have opted to undertake broad-based efforts to build increased public understanding of development issues.4 There are a number of programs that promote volunteering and global engagement, such as the Peace Corps and Volunteers for Prosperity, through USA Freedom Corps. While these programs offer opportunities for highly educated and skilled Americans there exists a great void for those who are inspired and motivated, but may not have the degree or skills to qualify for these programs. The way to bring about increased political will on development issues in the US will lie in the creation of a long-term cultural and social movement, spurred by young people, to change the way in which many Americans think about international development. If this movement is to achieve change, it will be vital to increase the knowledge and understanding of development issues among the public.

Proposed Solution
Young people are the key drivers of social change. Considering this fact, there needs to be a policy focused on engaging young people in order to build a domestic constituency for international development that will create lasting connections. The policies on education and participation related to international development need to change. Young people have grown up with internet, global popular culture, and easier communications and travel, which has made the world smaller, more connected, and more accessible. Young people, specifically college students, have the opportunities to study abroad and are almost constantly encouraged to participate in global exchanges. Young people are left out of the equation when they exist as the greatest asset to making change in the development sector. If the problem is to be remedied then there needs to be a two-step plan. The first step needs to be increased support for a development curriculum in middle and high schools. This is where the US has fallen far behind Europe. European education efforts have focused their resources on offering learning initiatives for young people. Focusing on youth has been a key strategy of both European NGOs and government for many years. Countries that have embraced a long-term vision of youth-focused development education have the highest public awareness and support for development. According to the OECD the US spends less per capita on development education than any other OECD country. The second step needs to combine the learning activities of the school curriculum with action opportunities. The traditional classroom will not be enough to keep the engagement necessary to build an active constituency for change. Having action programs for youth will be a great method of measuring the success of the educational component. Pivotal to both steps will be increased support for a collaborative body dedicated to promoting development education. The US Development Education Alliance has been largely ineffective because it lacks support from both NGOs and the government agencies. This body needs to be coordinated at the national level and networked internationally so that efforts can be combined for maximum effect.

Major Obstacles/ Implementation Challenges
The major challenge facing this policy proposal is the US education system. In the US is largely determined locally, as opposed to Europe, where national governments set education policy standards. This will be the greatest difficulty in implementing a development-oriented curriculum. The next challenge will be government support. Having a coherent government platform to support development education will lend recognition and incredible support to the effort. Without a government backing, the policy will likely fail. Likewise, the US Development Education Alliance will need greater support from NGOs and government agencies, such as the USA Freedom Corps, Peace Corps, and USAID, in order to push for a change in policy.

Check out the Development Education Association, based out of the UK, it is a network of all development education organizations.

the longest driveway

On our way to the village of Danfa, where we were to conduct our community health diagnosis, it all became clear to me why the roads that we had driven on were being so developed. I learned from one of our interpreters that there was a new presidential palace being constructed on the top of the mountain past Mampong Regional Hospital. I learned that the roads before had been very precarious and dangerous, but nevertheless the entire route from the main road near our hostel in Accra-Shiashie all the way up to the mountain communities near the palace saw road development to the extreme. It was to be the president’s new driveway. The longest driveway that I know of, but when you get a police motorcade that clears the roads to take you home, why not have a smooth path in the name of development? This makes me wonder. . . will the surrounding communities benefit? Will they get development help and road improvements? I think not as evidenced by the poor side roads and lack of interest in rural communities (or so it seems). Is a long driveway really necessary (too much snow in Michigan)?

17 June 2007
We arrived back in Danfa, as we had previously visited, and moved into our guest house near the community health clinic. The clinic was constructed back in 1969 with the help of the University of California (no one knows which one) and serves six local communities of over 60,000 people. Many medical students stay in the guest housing to conduct community health diagnoses. This is why ours was to be in the village of Otinibi, just down the road about two kilometers. We were to interview four individuals with pre-determined backgrounds to see how well the community was doing in regards to health. Here is where many students first saw a very rural village with not much development. However, here there was a fair degree of development due to the involvement of the University of California and other NGOs from the UK and Norway. This is where I felt most welcome and at ease. There is no rushing in the village, there are no hawkers, no one will lie to you for help, the scenery is beautiful – mountains in the background, heart wrenching picture opportunities of children, the freedom of the wilderness, there is just such a better atmosphere and disposition that it is very difficult to explain. It is because of villages like these that I fell in love with Africa. The guest house was a very nice place where we could all live, cook, clean, and work together. Everyone took turns cooking a meal and cleaning up, playing cards, singing songs, kicking a soccer ball around, and just having a good time. Hurrah for group bonding!

18 June 2007

The very next day we awoke early to cook (Team 3) oats, eggs, and cinnamon toast – believe me this is an amazing breakfast. After eating we met our interpreters for the day. They would assist us in interviewing community members about health practices. We split into groups and were assigned an interpreter. Elkanne, 18 years old and son of our coordinator, was our interpreter. He was a very nice kid and was very good at helping us understand the health of the community. We walked the two kilometers to Otinibi and began interviewing. The village is like many that we have seen here. In the early stages of ‘development,’ a hardworking chief, mud buildings, sheet metal roofs, no defined pathways, a borehole for water, coconut trees, and lots of ‘bush.’ The village is beautiful and I can’t get enough of it. We conducted our interviews, meeting a great array of people from a man who spoke for his wife, a not so enthusiastic bachelor, and an awesome grandmother who supposedly grows the best of the best peppers. We learned of many different aspects of community health and saw a great deal of the community to assess its health. We chatted with the chief as he passed by and attempted to climb coconut trees. Elkanne was much better than I was.

While we were heading back to our guest house in Danfa, after completing interviews, we passed by a kente cloth weaving ‘factory’ of sorts. We came across a young boy weaving so fast and with such skill, it was amazing. Later we found out that this was a place of child labour and that these children did not attend school, which is against the law. On leaving we informed the chief and he said that he was going to register all the children in the area who were supposed to be in school. He would then confront the man running the operation and extend some help for the children.

The Interpreters:

Our Findings
We identified four key areas that contributed to the community health of Otinibi: Nutrition, Sanitation, Water Source, and Health Service Use. Each of the four people we interviewed told us that they ate only kenkey (pounded maize) and fufu (pounded cassava), none of then had anything else to supplement their diets. No fruits, no proteins, no vegetables. We wondered what effect this had on the community health as much of the diet was composed of starch. We then asked about waste removal and everyone told us that they used the dump by the bush, only the grandmother told us that sometimes they burned it. For human waste they all went to the bush, which as you may guess is very unhygenic. The public toilets have been broken for some years (collapsed). This moved us into asking where the families got their water. There is a newly installed pipe tap which everyone said they used, but we were told that it cost 200 cedis per bucket. Is this really the primary source of water? I can’t imagine everyone paying for a bucket of water every time they need it. Before the tap, the community used the borehole (pump well) to get water. Everyone told us that they knew the water was safe to drink because they drank it and didn’t get sick. Or did they? This is where we wondered if the common ailments of headache and fever, which were diagnosed as malaria, were really due to the water. There was also a stagnant pond that some people used to get water for bathing.

As far as the decision of what medicine to use, we observed self-medication, use of orthodox and traditional medicines. In the community everyone told us that the Danfa Clinic was their number one choice of medical care. I contributed this to the construction of the Danfa Clinic and the subsequent outreach programs conducted in the surrounding communities. No one, except the grandmother, even touched on the use of traditional medicine. The grandmother did not like the orthodox medicine because the pills made her sick. When we visited she was cooking some leaves from the bush for her fever and she said that these worked very well. However, she did not see an herbalist and knew what to use herself. This use of traditional practice when the modern approach does not work was also seen at the bonesetter’s clinic. One man did not want metal inserted in his arm another could not get placed in a modern clinic. In this scientific age the traditional herbalists/bonesetters are using modern x-rays to do their work and it seems to be working well. We also visited the traditional birth attendant (TBA). The one we visited happened to be trained and served the larger community including Otinibi. She was trained in 1996 and before that she just used her experiences and teachings from elders to do her work. We learned that in many cases traditional medicine is reverted to for reasons of proximity, emergency, and convenience. The vast majority of the Otinibi community used the modern medicine and ‘knew’ that it was the best option. The father we interviewed even went to the chemist (pharmacy) to pick up headache medication for his wife. When I asked Elkanne what he thought about traditional medicine he quickly responded that he only used the Danfa Clinic, but why not? His father worked at the Clinic and the parental influence is very strong in Otinibi. The parents we interviewed would take their children first to the clinic before themselves.

Our Recommendations
We observed a number of open pits and stagnant water sources. There was an old open well that had accumulated a disgusting degree of trash, fecal matter, and god knows what else. We recommended that these holes be filled in to reduce injury risk and mosquito breeding. Our next recommendation was for a separation of trash and regular removal. We also saw a positive in starting a composting project. This could help with the community’s subsistence farming. Since it was the rainy season many homes had closed windows and poor ventilation. For this we recommended screens or mosquito nets on the windows to keep out pests and provide ventilation. For nutrition we recommended maybe introducing beans to be grown and eaten as a source of protein. We also recommended that the people eat what they grow. A number of those interviewed grew vegetables and other foods, but only to sell. Eating the local fruits would also help the nutrition of the community. These were just the small ways that we saw to improve the community health. I would say that the community was for the most part healthy and just needed to act on some simple measures to ensure a greater wellbeing. I also noticed that there was a great lack of emergency transportation. There was none except for the local vehicles. I saw people hurriedly carrying sick people into the clinic, the TBA talked of childbirth emergencies with no transport, I have seen and heard this before – investing in an ambulance may help.

While in Danfa/ Otinibi we had number of delicious Ghanaian dishes:

Palava Sauce (spinachy) and Boiled Cassava

Groundnut Soup with Chicken and Rice Balls

We saw a scorpion! In Ghana they are seen as very evil creatures and are the evil-doers of witches. This one was caught in the gutter and after we all took our pictures and left was probably smashed to a pulp. Scorpions are hated with the passion of a million fires in Ghana.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

a mixture of black, white, red

14 June 2007
Our third visit to the Volta Region.
We visited the Akosombo Dam, creator of the largest man-made lake in all the world. This dam was constructed in a brief three years by Italian engineers. The Lake is formed from the Black, White, and Red Volta Rivers coming from Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire. Volta in the local language means ‘rapids,’ now there is just a giant dam. The dam was built to be used for electricity and to create a source for fishing. The dam was huge and presented a great mark on the landscape of Ghana’s lush forests near the Volta Region. The dam provides all the power for Ghana, but currently there is an energy crisis. We have experienced this crisis with frequent black outs and power outages al across Ghana. We discovered why this is happening by viewing the extremely low water levels for the operation of the dam. Our guide told us that they are waiting for the rainy season to get into full swing to fill the Lake Volta and increase the power.
No pictures were allowed of the operational side of the dam, but here they are. After learning all about the dealings and history of the dam and how it works we walked back across the bridgeway and I noticed that there were less power lines heading to the north of Ghana and a great number headed to the Accra city center and southern Ghana. This seemed to be an all too common theme and yet again more evidence of the disparitites between North and South in Ghana. Kyle noted correctly that this was a great scar of development. The dam stopped up the rivers that now create the Lake Volta which covers one fourth of the country. It harnesses the water for electricity and development. It sits high and heavy on the once beautiful landscape on Ghana and screams of a continued practice of harmful ‘development.’

Seeing Lake Volta for the first time reminded me of an article that our professor showed to us about child labour in the fishing industry on lake Volta. The article was from the New York Times and followed the stories of families that could not eat and sold their children into labour for money with the promise of seeing their child once a year and being sent more money. Those promises rarely hold up and often the children are beaten, overworked, and never return home. The article covered the story of a young boy who worked on Lake Volta, fishing in the potentially dangerous waters with little sleep or rest, and a lot of work. Child labour is not beyond the ‘most developed’ country in Africa. It happens here, in the very eyes of development.

We headed over to the Volta Lake Hotel to have lunch. The hotel was a great Western hub catering to Obrunis (this is the correct spelling) and providing one of the most delicious meals yet. I forgot to take a picture before the meal, but here is the after picture of my ravaged plate. I was quite hungry by this time and the fillet of perch with a cocktail fruit drink and fresh fruit hit the spot.
Our bus driver was very tired this day since the day before the bus needed repair and there was trouble finding the part, he had been up since 5 am that day. He took a little nap.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

definition of development

7 October 2008 Update:
Read a more comprehensive analysis of the definition of development in a more recent post here:
definition of development (revisited): beauty in the palm of your hand.


After lecture, and another drum lesson from master drummer Chris, on Monday I gathered a group of people interested in visiting the Peace Corps offices. Six of us worked to get taxis outside of the University with a certain degree of difficulty – probably because no driver knew where it was located. It seems that our group is very good at choosing destinations of which no one has heard. All we knew was that the office was located at 26 W. Cantonments Road – nothing more.

After a great deal of roundabout driving, a couple stops for directions, and some backwards driving (as in driving backwards) we found the offices located on Switchback Road near the house of the Ambassador of Cote D’Ivoire. It turns out with all our driving that we arrived right at closing time for the day with no appointment – I guess that helps. There happened to be a few volunteers at the check-in guard house and thankfully just as we were about to be turned away one of the volunteers claimed that he had gone to school with one of us and he just wanted to show us around.

Alex showed us around the compound and answered any and all questions we had about the Peace Corps. He also shared with us his experience. He is near completing his second year and is located in a very remote farming village in the north of the country. Originally from Nebraska, he was selected for the agriculture and natural resources area. His village is on the cliffs of the north where a ten year war has just ended between neighboring clans. He has started a cashew cooperative with 13 area villages, teaches at a secondary school, works in a hospital, started an HIV/AIDS club, and is attempting to work towards reconciliation between the former warring clans. The Ghana country coordinator had at first called Alex’s assignment ‘hell,’ but he is really enjoying himself and is working very hard to make the most difference that he can. After hours of talking we accompanied Alex to dinner, since we had made him late for a previous dinner engagement – it was ok he said, “they were just high schoolers.” It was really great talking to Alex and hearing his experiences and it really solidifies my plans to join the Peace Corps after college.

This discussion with Alex really made me think about ‘development’ as the word was thrown around a lot that night. Alex has said that he really likes the Peace Corps model because it deals with integration. A volunteer is placed in a village or area and works with the people to improve their situation. This as opposed to some large organization or institution just giving out money to big plans they believe will work. But, what is the definition of development? Who gets to determine what development is? Who is allowed to call one developed or developing or underdeveloped? Is development all based on a desire or push to become Western? Yes, I think in the very recent past it was and really still is to a degree, but for me development holds a different definition. Development for me mirrors positive progress in people’s lives. Development should be based on getting and giving people their basic needs (rights) for survival and life. Even in this regard the almighty ‘West’ needs development.

Read a more comprehensive analysis of the definition of development in a more recent post here:
definition of development (revisited): beauty in the palm of your hand.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

inside africa

It is very interesting to be actually in Africa and get the news about Africa. I am actually in the continent that I have covered and studies so much.

2 June 2007
Woke up at noon from a late Friday night. I jumped in the plan with some other students to go to the Makola market and then the beach. There is just something about Makola market that I love. It is not like the other markets or anywhere else in Accra. It may be crazy and seem very frightening and insane to some people, but I love it. The people are hospitable, they are nice, they are business people. They are there to make an honest sale, to run a business, to get you what you want. Many store owners who do not have what you want will direct you to where you need to go. They will not hold you up and try to get you to buy something that they have like most other places. I did not go to buy anything, but people watching is a favorite pasttime of mine. Sure, I am usually the one being watched, but I have come to find out how to be a less imposing and conspicious Obrooni. I have taken to wearing my flip flops often, as many Ghanaians do, my clothes are not flashy or ‘American,’ I have learned more Twi, and I carry only small bills, nothing larger than 10,000 cedi note ($1 USD). I am still obviously an Obrooni, but now after 3 weeks I am slightly more accepted because I know – to a tiny degree – Ghana.

The next day I watched the CNN special show called ‘Inside Africa.’ From being in Ghana (Africa) and getting the news about where I am is really exciting. Namibia is having troubles with illegal ivory trade, Tanzania is developing its gold production industry with foreign investment, Uganda is constructing a power plant on the Nile, Tony Blair is taking his last official Africa tour. He is calling for the West to keep promises of aid because it is a duty and in self-interest. During his term British aid tripled, and some citizens have called it, “… a waste of English time and tax dollars.” Bono was interviewed about the G8 summit in Germany – as usual he stated to keep the promises. He noted that now in the 21st Century people die from a simple mosquito bite – why? how? He also can see a social movement growing in the US and Europe. Finally in the news, the Nigerian president is sworn in, but are the people really happy with the status quo? In Nigeria 77% of the people live on less than one dollar a day, yet their president is re-elected.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

imperialist footprints: the development story from the inside

Day 10 | May 21, 2007
We actually woke up on time today. It was probably because it was very difficult to sleep with sunburn. I kept tossing and turning to find the right angle to get some rest. Without the sheet it was too cold because of the AC on the sunburn, with the sheet it was too hot on some sunburned areas. Having sunburned hands I think s worse than sunburned feet or shoulders. When you even wash your hands it sends s shooting tingle through your hands. At any rate we were up and enjoyed toast and eggs for breakfast. It was a very overcast day and for once my sunglasses were not needed. Rain seemed imminent. The sky was so dark as we headed to the University for lecture. We arrived for lecture and the skies grew darker yet.

During lecture the lights flicked and soon the rain came pouring down. Our professor had to speak up to be heard over the roar of the rain on the roof. As the lecture progressed the rain seemed to increase and the ceiling began leaking profusely. Lecture was on colonialism again, with emphasis on de-colonizing and colonial legacies. Another day to zone out and relax. Sixty-eight years old, not an ounce of gray hair, and chasing 20 somethings across the African continent in his khakis, collared safari-style shirts, straw, old man hat, water bottle and bug spray clipped on his belt at the ready, he may not always hear us or understand what the Ghanaians say, but Ted Tims, Teddy Bear, T-bear will always be a great travel partner and has definitely, at his young age, not lost his passion and sense of adventure. Can you imagine 68 and still traveling the world? I sure hope I can do that and without gray hair.

As I sat in lecture I listened slightly and thought about how the colonial legacy was so strong in Ghana. The leading bank is Barclays, a prominent British bank, sponsor of the Premier League of Football in England. The tourists that I encounter are mostly from the UK and when you see an Obrooni it is most often a British accent that responds. The game of football is huge, this may not be a colonial legacy, but as I wrote before, many Ghanaians stopped for the final game in the British football league. Interestingly British Airways has the only flight that comes to Ghana from the US connections or Europe. Ghana is also marked by the English language – anglophons surrounded by francophones. The BBC is a top source for news in Ghana. The education system also is very English. One of the very prominent and important colonial legacies is religion. Almost 70% of Ghanaians are Christian and that shows from the motto and phrases pasted on the backs of taxis, trotros, trucks, and storefronts: ‘Trust God’, ‘Triumph’, ‘God’s Will’, ‘All to Him’, or ‘God is Great.’ These British footprints have a colonial legacy that is amplified by the political and economic implications of colonialism for Ghana.

Politically the Ghanaians adopted the English parliamentary system of governance. They even used to have a governor general like Canada and Australia, but eventually got rid of that stain by adopting the more American system with a Presidency along with a Parliament. The development story of Ghana has largely already been told in a earlier posting on the development of Ghana, but this is what I have been taught and seen from being in Ghana. From the colonial time period Ghana was made to produce cocoa and now they are trapped in that mono-crop (cocoa) production of raw goods. In the 1970s Ghana attempted some ISI (import substitution), but it failed to have an impact because this was just not possible with Ghana’s situation of having limited abilities for industry. From 1970 – 1980 is what is called the ‘lost decade of development’ for Ghana. Ghana began to liberalize its markets with the involvement of the IMF and World Bank and their Economic Recovery Programs (ERP). Ghana still struggled and had difficulty and was soon named an HIPC (highly indebted poor country). This title limited their possibilities for development and aid. Ghana was relieved of its HIPC status later when its debts were forgiven and it began taking, “ginger steps toward standing on our [its] own (Prof. Johnson). This is what Ghana is working on now. The ginger steps of development in this globalized economy driven world. As a few points of interest on development: the government has nothing to do with land ownership – only taxes on businesses, China is Ghana’s number one foreign aider (rogue aid? – see earlier post on subject), and so far I have only seen a handful of micro-finance and lending groups.

I have noticed that the only real developed region is the Accra region, where most ofthe people and aid organizations reside. The other areas to the north and even to the immediate south are left under-developed and neglected. Cocoa is their number one export, but if the country is to develop they need an industry established to produce a finished good with that cocoa. That is impossible however because that role is already set up in the Western industrialized countries. How is Ghana to develop? More foreign aid? I have noticed that there is an interesting relationship with Iran and some development projects. Not surprisingly the US has withdrawn its aid and has nothing to do with Ghana besides USA rice.

Our second lecture was more interesting, maybe because the lecturer was more interested in passing her knowledge to us. The topic was the role of the media in the political system and political change of Ghana. The media was huge in Ghana’s political development. It was first used to combat colonialism, then was controlled by the newly independent state government, used during this time as a public voice for dissent, and finally as a promoter and grower of democracy. In 2000 Ghana experienced, for the first time, a peaceful transition of power to a new administration. The new administration was the politicians who had opposed the government since 1992. This administration had fueled the media’s public dissent and made alliances with the media. The question now is: ‘Is the current media as critical of the new administration since it had alliances?’ Ghana has a very multi-lingual media and this allows for a more participatory democratic system and society.

After lectures we headed to Makola market. Now you see whenever we tell anyone of our Ghanaian friends that we are going to Makola market they laugh, ask us if we are serious, and then tell us ‘goodluck,’ so we were a bit afraid and interested at the same time to go. After arriving it is easy to see why we got such a response – Makola market is pure insanity of commerce. Even though Makola market may seem like pure insanity there is definitely an order and control to the confusion. In the market everything has its place, there is a section for candies, clothing, luggage, seafood, crabs, fufu, pretty much anything you are looking for in Ghana is here. This is the real super (duper) market, the commercial center of the country. Most of us just went to look and experience It was actually very fun and not at all a bad experience as friends had warned. Navigating the alleyways and the crowds and seeing the extent of the market was amazing. So far this is the only place where I have experienced the real hustle and bustle and hurry. Girls with empty bowls rush back to their stands in the alley to refill and sell more, every second seems to be a lost opportunity to sell, so I often get out of their way quickly. Women call and haggle, sellers bother Obrooni and Obibini alike to make a sale. This was the first place where I heard the call “Obrooni! what are you doing here?” We responded with ‘Obibini’ and some other Twi that we had learned to the surprise of the market women. I saw quite a few Obroonis around the market that day.

I decided to not take any pictures while in the market because it had caused problems in the past – at least until we got back on the bus. Some pictures are a little blurry. Here in Makola, as in many places in Ghana and Africa, people everything on their head. At Makola I saw a new range of this skill as boxes and goods were stacked very high and carried aloft to the numerous stands. This market was nice and more fun and much more welcoming in comparison to the ‘art market’ in Osu. Probably because not many Obroonis dare to venture inside the beautiful chaos.

We arrived back at the hostel and toured the kitchen to see how we could save some money on eating costs. We decided to eat at Fresherz down the road, a very american-style restaurant with american foods. As per Ghanaian standards, after our drinks were ordered, it took nearly two hours for everyone to get their food. It was very tasty food after waiting two hours. Joseph later took us to a nice little market to get some inexpensive food. He got a taxi to take the seven of us for just 20,000 cedis ($2). First, the taxis here are very small cars, second, it is difficult to breath with someone on your lap in a small car. Five people crammed in the back, Don on my lap and two in the front. The bumps in the road were uncomfortable, but not a bad ride otherwise. Suddenly an unmarked black car drove in front of us and stopped. “Police?” we all asked, but Joseph said no. But it was the police and they began giving the driver an earful about taking seven people, Obroonis at that, in one taxi. They threatened to take his taxi sticker and asked if 20,000 cedis was worth his taxi career. In the end it was just a lecture for our driver and we were on our way again. Ghanaian police – don’t mess with them.

As we entered the small market we noticed huge flying bugs. They were very large and interesting. However they became less interesting and more bothersome as their numbers increased rapidly and they were drawn to the market lights. Large-winged, meaty flies filled the air and swarmed the lights of the market as we attempted to buy food. In our hair, faces, and brushing our legs these flies were not done kicking until their wings fell off and they all scurried away. Joseph told us that after a big rain these bugs come out and that some people catch, fry with salt, and eat them. I had heard of this before and it sounds like a treat. Maybe I can try some here.

We frequent an internet cafe down the road a ways from out hostel. We often walk in the dark to the cafe. I noticed on this night that the american tunes played in the cafe unconsciously were stuck in my head on the walk back and unknown to me I hummed them aloud. I also realized that since we were Obroonis walking on the street in the dark that we must want a taxi ride. When a taxi is empty and wants to give you a ride they honk at you. We must have been honked at over a dozen times! Can’t an Obrooni walk on the street!