My Motherland Offers Riches To The Tourist, So Why Are So Many Ghanaians Queuing Up To Come To Britain?

Culture 3

Ghana Says ‘Awaaba’- Welcome

A tale of two countries

Article by Henry Bonsu: A journalist and broadcaster (Originally published in TheGuardian)

While my primary government, in London, has been struggling to persuade people in Britain it has done enough to keep out the huddled masses from eastern Europe, my secondary government, in Accra, has also been preoccupied with travel. But rather than keeping undesirables out, Ghana’s government is more concerned with bringing people in: to spend their pounds, dollars and euros on business and tourism. And Ghanaians living in Britain are being asked to do their bit to help turn their country into Africa’s number one destination.

The tourism minister, Jake Obestebi-Lamptey, wants us to tell people that the former Gold Coast has become a “bird-watcher’s paradise, eco-tourism haven and an adventurer’s dream”. I’ve been wondering, though, how we can persuade the locals that they are sitting on such a goldmine. Stroll past the British high commission in Accra on any given evening and you’ll see Ghanaians bedding down, hoping to be the first in the visa queue the next morning.

And the 35,000 Ghanaians who were granted short-term entry to Britain this year, and the similar number of rejects, are just a fraction of those who dream of fleeing poverty. With doctors, nurses and teachers in the vanguard, ministers have been insisting on loyalty clauses for ambitious graduates. Not for nothing are we called the “Jews of Africa”, with an estimated 200,000 Ghanaians and their descendants settling in this country alone since independence.

Some people are used to thinking of Ghana as a “beacon” country of stability and inward investment – the symbolic destination for African-Caribbeans and Americans who wish to reclaim their heritage. Didn’t the IMF and World Bank lavish praise on former president Jerry Rawlings and his successor John Kufuor for their growth rates of 5%? Haven’t Japan and the EU given Ghana millions of dollars for skills training and poverty reduction?

Indeed they have. But when I visit my motherland this summer, it will, once again, be a tale of two countries. I’ll marvel at the beach hotels, luxury estates and free press, and revel in the power of the pound, which takes me from bohemian Brixton to the elite of Ghanaian society in six hours.

But this is the Ghana of the expatriate, and the rich business and political classes, who travel in and out of Britain, but have no intention of staying because their standard of living cannot be replicated in any European country.

The other Ghana is that of my cousin, a pastor, who ministers in the densely populated areas of Greater Accra. Maamobi is typical; a district of shanty housing, open sewers, malaria and mass unemployment. If you are lucky enough to have a job, your minimum wage has just gone up to 11,000 cedis (65p) a day.

My aunt is a typical resident, full of incredible hospitality, but she talks about her own future with little ambition, investing all hope in the children she’s managed to send abroad. Swatting away flies under the burning sun, she chats about whether things can change in “Mother Ghana”, with frequent references to gye nyame (“only God can help us”).

Perhaps such fatalism is understandable in a 60-year-old, who has witnessed colonial rule followed by decades of strong-man politics. But it is more distressing to see the fight go out of younger people, who can spend years in limbo, waiting for an overseas relative to pay some middle man a £3,000 “connection fee” to ease their passage. Ironically these are the same Ghanaians who, once here, will hold down two or three jobs, and contribute their share of an annual $1.5bn in remittances to sustain their family.

When cousins ask me how life is in Britain, I warn that although the 60s Nkrumah generation – which includes my parents – have largely succeeded in grooming their children for a middle-class future, things are more unpleasant for recent arrivals; that unless they have key qualifications (medical, educational or social work), they will have few choices – hence around 60% of London’s parking attendants are Ghanaian or Nigerian.

Perhaps naively I offer to help them do business locally alongside the mechanics, seamstresses and shopkeepers, who somehow manage to make ends meet, but then I hear of Ghana’s frighteningly high interest and inflation rates, the soaring price of utilities (a consequence of foreign-inspired privatisation), and the stop-go electricity supply. If, like my uncle in Kumasi, you take up farming, which comprises 36% of Ghana’s GDP, could you compete with cheap subsidised goods from the west, without being given access to European and US markets?

Would you wait for change to be delivered by Blair and Geldof’s African Commission? No, in those circumstances, £6 an hour as a security guard or a cleaner in a faraway country may sound like a better way to make money. Perhaps, like the dozens of others who’ll be bedding down outside the British high commission tonight, you’d rehearse your lines in preparation for an interview, and perhaps a passport to life in London’s underbelly. So, if you’re a British traveller huffing at the occasional delay at Heathrow, spare a thought for the other kind of global traffic heading in your direction with tourism the last thing on its mind.

The Eighth Wonder Of The World Is Anokye’s Sword In The Ashanti Kingdom Of Ghana?

The Ashanti empire

An Ashanti chief in full gold regalia in Ghana

Without any argument, Africa is a great continent. Europe and America know that the fact that Europe was built on the raw materials, gold, and treasures stolen from Africa. Britain, Holland, Belgium, Portugal etc; all had their share of what was stolen from Africa, then set on the campaign to destroy the continent through ethnic conflict, war and with medical crimes.

 

Africa is only mentioned in the time of crisis, poverty, and diseases but not what it is known for, its vast natural resources, which has fed and continue to feed the advanced countries. According to the ‘Wikipedia,’ The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is the first known list of the most remarkable creations of classical antiquity; it was based on guidebooks popular among Hellenic sightseers and only includes works located around the Mediterranean rim.

“Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio de Janeiro,Brazil, a 105-foot-tall (38-meter-tall) statue      is now among the “new seven wonders of the world,” following a global poll to decide a new list of human-made marvels. Human-made marvels? Then the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ may be probably found in the Ashanti region of Ghana.

 

Anokye's golden stool from heaven

Okomfo Anokye’s sacred golden stool which came down from heaven. The stool is still available in the Ashanti kingdom

The story of Okomfo Anokye (Wikipedia)

Okomfo Anokye was born in Awukugua-Akuapim,in Eastern Region of Ghana, West Africa, in the late 1600s. His father, Ano, and mother, Yaa Anubea, were both from Awukugua-Akuapim, part of the Ayade tribe. At the time of his birth, his two palms were firmly held together and could not be separated. Curious to know what he was holding in his hands, his parents tried to separate both palms but to no avail – about two years into his childhood. Inside his palm were totem poles believed to be from the gods.

His parents and family believe he was sent by the gods to lead the Okere people. Later in life, he attained priesthood and was given the title Okomfo; Fetish-Priest. His full name became Okomfo Anokye. His ancestral home (the house he was born in) is opposite the Awukugua Chief Palace. A shrine is also located at Awukugua and is a frequent site of meeting for the Ohum festival in October. The shrine consists of a palm tree, which he climbed wearing his sandals, and a large rock, from which he carved a game of Oware. Other shrine sites are located in Awukugua-Akuapim.

The Golden stool that descended from heaven

The Golden Stool of Ashanti, known as ‘Sika ‘dwa) because it arrived on Friday, is the royal and divine throne of the Akan people (Ashanti people). Okomfo Anokye proved he was a man with powers. With assembled chiefs, he commanded a golden stool to descend from the sky and the stool landed on the lap of the first Asante king, Osei Tutu. Such seats were traditionally symbolic of a chieftain’s leadership, but the Golden Stool is believed to house the spirit of the Asante nation—living, dead and yet to be born.

Is Ghana's Okomfo Anokye's unmovable sword one of the wonders of the world?

Okomfo Anokye’s planted sword : Every means to pull the sword from the ground has failed.

Okomfo Anokye’s planted sword every means to pull from the ground has failed.

As a symbol of the unification of the Ashanti Kingdom, Okomfo Anokye planted a sword and said if anyone removes the sword, then that marks the end of the Ashanti Empire. Dating over three hundred years, the sword Anokye plunged into the earth, remains on the ground of a hospital named after him: Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

The mysterious sword has invited many tourists worldwide to Kumasi, Ashanti region, but no one has been able to pull it off the ground.  In 1964, when Muhammad Ali visited Ghana, he tried to pull it out, but he couldn’t. Anyway let’s assume that human strength isn’t enough to pull the sword from the earth, but what about other methods including machinery which couldn’t do the job?

In my opinion, the Okomfo Anokye’s sword which no one has been able to pull it from the earth gives the sword the eighth wonder of the world.