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 Wonders Of Technology: Making The Impossible Possible

Train ferry 2

Despite many people fear to travel by air, thousands still enjoy the comfort of travelling by airplane. As a matter of fact, according to aviation experts, travelling by air is the safest, since we don’t often hear of air disasters like road accidents.

How great has technology made things impossible to be possible, as we travel to various destinations around the globe, to carry out our professionals and business duties? Again there is assurance and possibility that technology will change the entire universe within few decades for mankind to witness its impact and benefit.

Take, for example, travelling from Copenhagen- Denmark, to Hamburg-Germany by train. A route I’ve used twice and it’s amazing to share this experience. Do you know that while enjoying the Summer holidays or taking a trip to visit the family in Winter, along the line from Copenhagen, the train goes in a ferry to cross the Baltic sea?

In the train for a couple of hours, it suddenly stopped, followed by sounds of clanging metals. That’s where the work of the train finding its way into the ferry starts. I realized the coaches were entering a gigantic ferry one by one until the coach I was inside also got the chance to enter into the belly of the ferry. What a wonderful world? I asked myself.

In the ferry, we descended to the floors of the ferry, while the ferry rides us through the 45 minutes journey across the Baltic Sea. On my way to London, I have joined the ferry many times from Calais to Dover, which carries vehicles of all sizes as well, but ferries for loading train coaches are special.

It’s amazing to see rail lines weaving its way through the ferry for the train to enter across the Baltic Sea, and at the end of the ‘water’ -journey, the train transports passengers once again on land. It’s incredibly wonderful, beautiful and splendid thing I’ve ever seen.

Since the world is constantly changing through the periscope of technology, technology will continue to change our environments, electrical gadgets, medicine, transportation and our infrastructure, despite that many aren’t happy, because we are losing our jobs to machines.

Where Are You Going This Summer Holiday?

 

Holiday 7

The idiom: ‘All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy’ might be conceived by an ideologist who knows that after working very hard , life needs relaxation, refreshment and holidays, because they provide relief from the monotony of our daily routine and also significant for our mental and emotional well being.

Unlike Africa blessed with continuous nine months of sunshine, summer comes just once a year in Europe and America, and this sunny period is something special which is never wasted. The legs which have been hiding in trousers are suddenly exposed and short skirts hiding in the wardrobes become adorable fashion for the ladies.

How do we enjoy our perfect Summer holidays? People enjoy summer in various ways. Some travel to favourite or tourists’ attraction places to enjoy the beautiful scenery, landscapes and quiet places. Others prefer to stay indoors and enjoy the barbecue events with their families and friends.

Most of the time, I travel to see my mother in Africa, who is now eighty years. But this year, I decided to change the direction of my summer holiday. I chose Barcelona. Why Barcelona? Just some few months ago, I remembered that in 1986, I opened an account in one of the banks in the city.

I deposited an amount of nine thousand pesetas in my account. (I’m not sure how much that amount is in Euros.) After my holidays in Barcelona, I cashed seven thousand pesetas from the account, leaving behind two thousand pesetas. Definitely my account is now a dormant file, but 1986 to 2015, is long enough to generate certain interest.

This sounds crazy, isn’t it? But I mean it, I’m going to the bank to find my account to re-open it once again, to see how much interest my two thousand pesetas have generated. There wasn’t much computer that time, so whatever means they will use to find my account is their own business.

Holiday 3

Sometimes government takes over dormant accounts after certain period. If my account is gone, that’s not going to ruin my vacation at all. It’s stupid to be miserable in a city called Barcelona during summer holidays, when the city smiles, beautiful restaurants invite, miniskirts tempt, and the sight of beautiful people from all walks of life, makes you appreciate the wonders of creation.