Category Archives: Say what??

You know how stuff happens in real life and you have to ask yourself “Did that just happen?” This section is dedicated to those moments.

When Will Simply “Being African” Be Enough?

Living in the digital age is exciting, isn’t it? I imagine our predecessors in the Stone Age felt the same sense of euphoria after they discovered the many uses of fire that we now feel whenever some new technology emerges that makes our lives easier, better and more fun.

“Oooh! Hey guys! Look what I made!! Let’s call it fire…”

“Ooooh! Hey guys! Look what I made! Let’s call it Skype…”

See?

Living in the Digital Age means we can gather and disseminate news and information at speeds never seen before, and for once, Africans have not been left out on the wrong side of the divide. We have embraced social media like a pair of too-small khaki school shorts on a secondary school boy’s buttocks, and as such, our diverse cultures and talents are being seen and recognized in unprecedented ways. Just a few weeks ago, “tweaa” was trending worldwide on Twitter, and British news anchors were fixing and twisting their lips to get the “tsch” sound at the beginning of the word just right. It was a moment of personal pride for me.

But what does “tweaa” mean? They would ask. What can we compare it to?

Well of course, there is not definitive answer. Tweaa, like ugali, exists all on its own. It’s unique. Ghanaians grappled to find something in Western linguistics that would help our European friends understand it better.

“It’s like ‘rubbish’ or ‘nonsense’.”

“Kind of like ‘pshaw’.”

Ah. What were these lies these men were telling the international media? It’s none of these things! It’s TWEAA!!! It was annoying, so I did what I do when other things irritate me: I turned on Star Trek and refocused my attention on Patrick Stewart’s tight pants.

It is only recently that I have become more aware of the trend to compare the African human experience to that of the supposed superior Western one. I wouldn’t mind if these were one off instances, but it is pervasive inclination, now turned a rule. It has become the norm to hold up something African and juxtapose it to something American…as if this African cloth, song, shoe, literature or what-have-you cannot exist on its own merits.

MajidIn Ghana for example, Majid Michel has been dubbed “Ghana’s Brad Pitt”. Joselyn Dumas has been nicknamed “Ghana’s Oprah”. At her recent reading in Atlanta, Chimamanda recounted how her American agents fretted over how to market her to the US audience because she is so unique.

“We don’t know what to DO with you,” they said. She remarked her surprise, mulling over her belief that American publishers did not have much faith in the reading American public.

When you’re an African, you become accustomed to being compared to some higher Western standard. In time, I think you become numb to it. But once in a while, a comparison so absurd and so hurtful prods you in the backside that it jerks you out of your sleep, and this week, the BBC did the unthinkable:

They compared WizKid to Justin Bieber.

Now, let me be clear. I don’t care too much for WizKid (although that Caro song is my JAM). His fervent #TeamLightSkin stand has high school girls all over Nigerian bleaching their skin and dying in order to achieve some ungodly, unnatural standard and I despise him for it. However, I will not sit by and allow ANY African artist to be compared to Just Bieber. How possible?!? This is a gross injustice, a diss and an insult that parallels no other. To quote Edith Faalong “WizKid is NOT Nigeria’s Justin Bieber. He is Nigeria’s WIZKID.”

Full stop; the end.

Will there ever come a day when Africans are recognized for the merits of the art and innovations we produce? What will it take? I am of the view that if we are always trying to make ourselves and everything we do marketable to “them” we will never truly achieve the prominence we so deserve and are capable of. Chimamanda said something to address this at the reading I attended which I thought was so profound. An audience member asked her if she thinks of US audiences when she writes her books. Her answer was a resounding “no”.

“When Faulkner was writing about Mississippi, I don’t think he ever imagined a Nigerian girl would be sitting down to read it and possibly loving it, but I did. In the same turn, I don’t think my ancestral Nigerian village is any less important or relatable than his small town in Mississippi.”

Comparison analysis in culture is nothing new, and is still as sinister as it has ever been. African Americans have endured similar experiences throughout their history in the country, culminating in the phrase ‘credit to one’s race’ whenever one did something considered exceptional. Nat King Cole, Jackie Robinson and Diahann Carroll were all considered ‘credits to their race.

Have you ever had your work compared to something else as an inferior standard? Are there examples you have seen in the media that give you pause? Do you think it’s not such a big deal to have African culture compared to Western culture? Discuss! ↓

 

 

MOM is a Finalist for the Social Media Awards!

Of all the things I could have forgotten to blog about, this is certainly the worst. How could I neglect to tell the MOM Squad, Random Readers and beloved Trolls that the blog is up for an award?

That’s right! Mind of Malaka is a finalist at the Ghana Blogging Awards. All of my non-Ghanaian Squad readers who have endured my rants about Ghanaian politics, social issues and economics can rest assured that it has all not been for naught. Even if we don’t win, it still feels good to know – in the immortal words of A-Dub – that “I’m on the list!”. As you will see, there are many wonderful blogs and writers on the list for the competition. No matter who takes home the trophy that night, every individual is deserving. It’s going to be a thrilling contest, and none of us would have it any other way.

In order to encourage you all to vote, I went deep into MOM Mode and made this video in hopes that you will click this link , find my name, and vote for it. I’se be much beholden to you if you would. As an added incentive, you should all know that my father has promised to strut on stage and collect the award in my stead if we win, so get your cell phones ready.  He’s so excited about the possibility of triumph. We’re both hoping his gout doesn’t act up that night…His gout reduces him to little more than a hobble, and we can’t have Daddy hobbling in public.

Over to you guys now! Voting ends on March 28th. I believe you can vote once a day, so don’t be shy or skurrd. Have a Super Saturday!

A Valentine for Benedict Cumberbatch

It’s no secret that I dig on Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s a weird looking dude, but that voice…my word! *swoon*!!

I was going to write an open letter to my latest crush, but three things have persuaded me to abandon the Open Letter Course; at least for the moment.

1) My sister, whom I primarily blog for, doesn’t have as much time to read as she previously has now that she’s given birth to her second child

2) I read out there in the ether that Open Letters are soooo passe, and that we need to close the door on open letters…which is a shame. I really like reading open letters, but admittedly, I am usually a year (or 4) behind on web trends.

3) Now that hubby has kitted me out with this video maker software, I find that I rather enjoy vlogging! But don’t despair! I will keep writing always and forever.

4) I know I said three things persuaded me, but I’ve just thought of another: a video montage that assaults the eye is far more pleasurable than a bunch of still shots of Benny Cumberbaaaatch…. at least that’s what I convinced myself at midnight when I was up cobbling this video together.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Oooh, ooohhh!! Let’s play a game! What are you wearing RIGHT NOW? Did you choose this outfit to honor the day or to spite it? Who’s wearing black because they HATE  Val’s Day. Confess! I know you’re out there.

How Dwarves have Destroyed Ghana’s Economy

I have no words. Which is why I had to make a video.

 

Dwarves. DWARVES and wizardry are destroying Ghana’s economy.

 

SMH…

The Three Stooges go to Hollywood

I wish this was a comedic post. Lord knows I do… But it ain’t. It’s about a kidnapping, an assault and a violent gang rape. Are you feeling warm and fuzzy yet? Good. You can thank @ABYalley on twitter for bringing this story to my attention and *gasp* requesting my opinion.

The story in question centers around a report that came out of a small Florida town by the name of Hollywood. Hollywood is a relatively small, racially diverse seaside city (72% of the inhabitants identify as “White”), with a total population of 140,768 as of the 2010 census. The median household income is $40,587, approximate $6000 less than the state’s median household income and $10,000 less than that of the US in total. The violent crime index is at a 6 (with 1 being the lowest and the national index at 4), where violent crime is defined by the FBI as being composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

On November 1, 2013, a 16 year old girl was the victim of 2 of these 4 offenses. Her attackers were Erica Avery – also 16 – and Patricia Montes, 15. They conspired with three other men ages 17, 18 and 19 to video record the beating the two girls meted out against the victim, and then to finally gang rape her. When she was finally released from their grip, she was left with shattered bones around her eye sockets (where they pounded her head into concrete), a swollen face, and internal injuries resulting from the rape. One of the girls had been her friend since kindergarten.

I have never been to Hollywood, FL, and intuition tells me that there will be no business that would compel me to ever visit the city. Intuition also tells me that with a crime index that high, and the average purchasing parity that low, there are a lot of bored people wandering around Hollywood. I believe this was the impetus behind this poor victim’s attack.

When queried by the police as to why these girls might attack her, the victim said she “honestly did not know”. The six people involved in this savage incident had convened to “drink beer and smoke weed” at one of their homes. In the video, you can hear one of the male perpetrators saying “these girls really don’t like her” and one of females responding “I told you somebody was getting f*cked up tonight”.

“Somebody” is getting f*cked up tonight.

What else is there to say? That’s all the motive a teenager barely in possession – let alone the development – that God gave her needs to injure someone with such boorishness, it defies reason. It shows a total lack of control, a total lack of reasoning, a complete lack of compassion (obviously) and no ability to look into the future. Or does it?

ericaDuring their bail hearing, Erica Avery grinned and smirked on several occasions and had to be admonished by her lawyer to get herself under control. The child has none. The entire ordeal is a joke to her…and why wouldn’t it be? Florida has a notorious reputation for letting murderers walk free. In addition to that, Avery and Montes have one thing in their favor: they are both under the age of 18. They will most likely be tried as juveniles and be sent to a minimum security prison where they be released upon reaching their respective 18th birthdays and be free to rejoin society where they will sell their stories to LifeTime, get on Dr. Phil and kvetch about how “mommy and daddy never loved me” and possible end up working in the mayor’s office as a communications director one day.

The Three (Black) Stooges – Dwight Henry (17), Lanel Singleton (18), and Jayvon Woolfork (19) – will all face a very different reality. For them, there is no hope of redemption, and I’m not even sorry for it. I hate to say what I’m about to say, but it must be said:

C’mon Black men and boys! Look around you! Stop being IDIOTS! You know what you are to this society, how America views you. It’s in every rap verse about coming out of the ghetto, cops looking for you, bullets flying past you…why would you do something so stupid? Why would you intentionally PUT yourselves in the crosshairs in this way? What, did you think that when your victim got home she wouldn’t tell? Did you think her parents wouldn’t ask who brutalized her in this manner? Did you think she wouldn’t name you specifically? You three cretins – and the other vermin roaming around Any City, USA right now – make me violently ill…and I hope the law throws the book at you.

They ain't lettin' you out bruh!

They ain’t lettin’ you out bruh!

You see, Patricia Montes is already out on bail. That’s why her friend can sit beside her and chuckle. Who’s going to bail you out? 22% of the folks that live below the poverty line in your city, and I’d bet my left cashew that you are smack in the middle of it. No one is coming for you, boys. NO ONE. You are 17, 18 and 19 years old. You will all be tried as adults and you will be sentenced harshly. They built these prisons for YOU! The cops roam the streets looking for YOU! There is a judge that gets a hard on just thinking about sentencing YOU! Stop being idiots! Stop letting people who think they are “down with your clique” use you and your body. If Erica Avery and Patricia Montes wanted to rape that girl, they had every means to do it on their own. You are not an animal to be bred with and used for sexual deviance. I’m sure if anybody asked you if you thought you were “a man”, you’d thump your chest and proclaim it. Act like it.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care if you had a daddy growing up, or your mama was strung out on crack, or you were raised by your senile, diabetic one-legged grandmother – you know right from wrong. You know what it’s like to be hurt and therefore what impact you have when you hurt others. You three had a conscience that night, and you chose to ignore it. What’s worse, you chose to ignore the reality of what it means to be a Black male in America’s justice system. The scales are not balanced, and they are not in your favor. You will rot in prison, and it’s your own fault.

 

Rant over/

The Latest from Field Ruwe: Money is the root of all evil

 Money is the root of all evil

by Field Ruwe

 

“Money is the root of all evil,” the email read. “It is the reason you Africans are a failure; a dependent of the West. It is the reason you languish at the bottom of the totem pole. Don’t blame us. You have put yourselves there. It is your self-interest, pettiness, and meanness that have put you at the brink of economic Armageddon. It is the greediness of your political leaders that makes you an endangered people.”

The lengthy email was from Walter, the Caucasian and former IMF official I had sat next to on my flight from Los Angeles to Boston on New Year’s Eve of 2011. I had not heard from him in months. I read on:

“It is this unbridled greed that is killing you at an alarming rate. It has turned you into beggars at the hands of the IMF-World Bank and condemned you to debt. The indebtedness, superior to colonialism, is the reason for the wanton deaths of African folk and the fast reduction of the African population. It’s a great shame for a people who have enough natural resources to feed, clothe and shelter every single soul on the continent.

“Like children your so-called economists and your ill-informed politicians get excited when IMF-World Bank announces that your economic growth has ‘surged’ to 8%, 4%, 2%… What they fail to understand is such are insignificant percentages of low development. IMF-World Bank is simply putting cheese on its traps and like mice you all are getting caught. Where are the African economists to fight this scourge?”

Walter’s last remarks on African intellectuals steered a debate across Africa that has lasted up to today. From the email it was clear that he was still following closely the activities in Africa.

“I see your president has become a victim of IMF-World Bank placebos. He has removed subsidies on maize and fuel. I will address that later. Let me first inform your readers that I love Africa. I’ve left the New York “Vulture Fund” company I worked for when you and I met on JetBlue. It was too much for me. In 1999, I moved from the loan shark IMF to a broking company that was ripping off countries like yours by buying up the debt at cheap prices and demanding much higher than the original price.

“In 2007, we sued Zambia for $40 million, after buying off some of the debt for $4 million. Chiluba paid us $15 million, and we rewarded him with $2 million. We went to the Democratic Republic of Congo and did the same thing. Overtime, I became disillusioned. I was often haunted by the view from the bedroom window of my Kabulonga home back in the 1980s.”

For those familiar with Walter, you’ll remember his words: “I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off. Your government put me in a million dollar mansion overlooking a shanty called Kalingalinga. From my patio I saw it all—the rich and the poor, the ailing, the dead, and the healthy.”

Walter reminisced: “The daily sight of funeral processions from Kalingalinga to Leopard’s Hill Cemetery have stuck to the walls of my brain—the sound of wailing, and solemn hymns. I have quit. I am no longer a vulture. I have now become a fighter for Africa’s economic empowerment.

“I’m a staunch supporter of Joseph Stiglitz whom I have always admired. I totally agree with him when he says that the IMF must be dismantled. Joe was at the World Bank when I was in Africa. The man has a big heart for Africa. How I wish some of your rational economists like Caleb Fundanga, who is familiar with the IMF, would take a leaf from Stiglitz and persuade your president to find a way of avoiding the IMF-World Bank high restrictive conditions and abominable interest rates that have brought misery to your people.”

For those who do not know Joseph Stiglitz, he is the Nobel Prize laureate in Economics who served as Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank in the 1990s. In 2011, TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He is a guru at asset risk management, corporate governance, and international trade. The man was inside the World Bank and saw it all.

In a 2002 radio interview with Doug Henwood of WBAI, New York, Stiglitz was asked what struck him when he first got to the World Bank. The reply is quoted in full because it is the reason African states are stuck with IMF-World Bank for good.

Stiglitz: “One of the most traumatic experiences I had there was just a month after I started. I went to Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world. It had a balanced budget, no inflation, and had had rapid growth for five years, had cut back on defense expenditures from 6% to 2%, even though it had come to power through military means. This is a really unusual government – no charges of corruption. And yet the IMF had suspended its program.

“I asked, ‘Why?’ The answer was that the budget wasn’t balanced. But it was. They said, ‘But you shouldn’t include foreign aid.’ I said, ‘Why else are governments giving money if it’s not for them to build schools and hospitals?’ They said, ‘You can’t rely on it.’ The government had a very good answer. They said, ‘As long as we get the money, we’ll build the schools, and when we don’t get the money, we’ll stop building the schools.’ And when we came back to Washington we discovered that tax revenues were more unstable than foreign aid.”

It bothered Stiglitz greatly to discover that both the IMF and the World Bank were exploiting Africa. At the same time it bothered IMF-World Bank that Stiglitz had discovered their horrors and gone public. He was fired.

Walter writes: “I was in Washington D.C. when Joe was fired. Some African presidents and Finance Ministers celebrated. It was Joe who opposed the privatization of national assets. He was against high interest rates, and trade liberalization. But he was alone. Your president and your Minister of Finance disliked him. He was standing in the way of their commissions. They were making tons of money by associating themselves with the IMF and the World Bank. It was in the Washington IMF and World Bank offices that money became the root of evil. It was here that the “carrot and stick” game was played like Russian roulette. Ministers of Finance were staking their country’s assets for a commission and we kept winning, even when they shot themselves in the head.

“Now you know why the Ministry of Finance is the most sought in African countries. African Finance Ministers are the richest of the cabinet and are confidants of the president because they are the carriers of the begging bowl. Their best telephone call is the one from Washington D.C.

By the way, I was appalled, but not surprised when one of your junior ministers was quoted as saying “we will continue borrowing; we are in a hurry to develop.” Watch him. He’s drunk with power.  It is this chronic borrowing that has worsened your county’s debt and increased poverty. A debt results in cutbacks in spending on health care, and is the reason people in your country continue to die from HIV/AIDS and poverty-related diseases. I have seen his picture; he looks chubby and is always smiling. I am sure he has a relative or two who are not as fortunate as he. If I had it my way, I would arrest him, lock him up, and throw away the key for mortgaging a country in which the majority are poor. He’s a half-hearted economist; an impetuous and selfish fellow.

“This is the type of foolish behavior I saw at IMF. The so-called African economists sent to Washington didn’t care how much they borrowed, at what interest rate. They didn’t bother to read the fine print. They did care if they flogged their electricity and water companies. They simply didn’t care about the poor back in their countries. It was what was in it for them and their president—period. And we didn’t care how much we dished out as long as we kept a country such as yours below the poverty line, and within the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).

“I began to lose respect for African economists, dressed, as they were, in their tailor-made suits, with golden cufflinks and draped bowties. Not one of these African Iscariots I met during my stay at IMF said anything negative about IMF; not one could see the drastic impact IMF and World Bank was having on their people. Not one could see that IMF and the World Bank were merely credit risk agencies.

“Field, how do you like the tag HIPC on your country? That’s what Zambia is and will always be—a Heavily Indebted Poor Country, that’s right. IMF and the World Bank love it. It’s a way of separating lepers from society. Your president, Chiluba, sold everything for a nickel and your country slipped to 164 of the 187 countries on the United Nation’s Development Index of poverty. You are still lepers, all I know. You are a country without an airline, meaningful mining and manufacturing industries, and now no subsidies—nothing. You are a country without health, education and development. Look at your dilapidated hospitals, schools, roads—just look at them. It’s shameful.

“When I read that your president had removed subsidies on maize and fuel, two reasons came to mind. The first is obvious; your president has no choice. He needs to maintain the IMF and the World Bank (your new colonial masters) seal of approval. Your country will not get help from Western donor countries without the IMF and the World Bank endorsement. That’s a smart way of keeping your country colonized, poor and dependent. If your president refuses to remove subsidies he risks having the extension of your country’s loans denied. This is what I call ‘loss of state sovereignty.’ Like you and other writers have hinted, when a country removes subsidies, it allows the market to determine demand and supply for food. This reduces support for farmers, and leads to the poor failing to afford essentials.

“The second reason is often ignored, but true. It is what Stiglitz calls the IMF riots. Stiglitz observes that when a nation is, ‘down and out,’ the IMF squeezes the last drop out of it. I dare add that the IMF-World Bank can be political at times. Don’t forget your president is not a very likable man in the West. They think he has become a puppet of China. He has been placed under the radar and is being watched. When you make the West uncomfortable, they will have you removed. The IMF and the World Bank know that when subsidies are removed, essentials will become unaffordable and people will riot. In your country maize and fuel are good dynamite with which to blast the ruling party. If they fail this time, I can assure you they will succeed next time.

“Joe is right. He’s speaking from his heart when he says IMF has failed. It is true IMF has purloined enough from poor countries, but, unfortunately, it is only Joe and a few like me who understand this. Your president and his economists don’t. We know that the West did not develop under such harsh conditions as those imposed on Africa. They kept subsidies for domestic industries. Your economists know this, and yet they can’t see that your country is being duped through monetary austerity; fiscal austerity; privatization; and financial liberalization. What a shame.”

Walter has spoken. I shall add no more.

 

 

Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012

 

 

 

 

ARSON AT MAKOLA: LATEST IN A LONG LINE OF ATTACKS ON MARKET TRADERS


The importance of market women can never be exaggerated. For centuries, these women have held the purse strings and purchasing parity of West African families, deciding what gets sold and at what price. These markets, now little more than stalls or windowless containers were once the nerve center of West African commerce. Now, in the names of  of ‘globalization’ and ‘modernization’, they are under attack, with those at the helm of government facilitating their demise instead of redirecting services that would aid these women in providing Ghanaians with quality food and materials in sanitary conditions. These cowards are literally burning the markets down.

The market holds a special place in my heart because it has saved the life of many a girl. I have a number of (female) primary school mates who could not afford to finish school who were forced to sell in the market, sometimes from the tender age of 12. Through wit and savvy business practices, they rose to become economic power houses in their own right, out-earning even those of us who went on to get degrees. It is therefore obvious why pernicious elements within local government would seek their destruction. They are blinded by greed and motivated self desire. My dear friend Nana Ama Amamoo explains below:

*******

The third incidence of arson in Accra’s central business district in as many weeks, is the latest manifestation of racist and misogynistic policies of colonial and successive governments, and traditional rulers in Ghana and elsewhere in British West Africa. The arsonist(s) may get away with it, because the target of their psychopathic acts are dismissed as powerless market and street traders, the majority of whom are women. The latter have been vilified for decades simply for having the chutzpah to resurrect again and again from the ashes, despite all attempts by the authorities to snuff them out!

Busia was dismissive of them as illiterate women. Acheampong likewise rebuked them for the economic problems that his policies engendered; Rawlings, Akatapore et al blamed them for inflation and the shortage of commodities, stripped them naked and lashed them publicly! Others have since lined up to pour scorn and blame on them.

Now our markets are being torched to make way for expensive shopping malls to sell us shoddy goods from the East! We should not look on helplessly but it is worth reminding ourselves of some key issues:

  1. Market Women’s Associations (MWAs) predate colonialism. There are reliable records of regular trading sessions at Techiman and other markets in the sub-region. MWAs are the most important socio-economic organisations that African women own and control.
  2. Now classed as prime real estate sites, large markets such as Makola and Kejetia  sprang up on the periphery of the business and residential districts of the colonisers, to serve the food and other requirements of the growing urban African population.
  3. Lord Lugard’s policy of Indirect Rule appointed local African chiefs to collect his hated Land Poll Tax (lampoll). Market women were sitting ducks, an easy and obvious target to collect from, unlike farmers and fishermen who were mainly or exclusively men, and whose work schedules were inconvenient for the tax collectors!.
  4. African women fought back vigorously. See: http://www.blackpast.org/?q=gah/aba-womens-riots-november-december-1929 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aba_Women’s_Riots.
  5. However, they have been losing the battle since the Aba Riots in 1929, as the system of Indirect Rule continues unabated. Today, staff from local government and traditional rulers carry on collecting ‘lampoll’ from them on a daily basis, without providing any amenities!
  6. As the women do not have leaseholds on their trading spaces, it does not make economic sense to invest in improving their work environment; besides, that is what they pay the ‘lampoll’ for.
  7. So we now have the sorry situation in Ghana (and other African countries) where everybody, from the President to the lowliest beggar, sources their food, daily, from these filthy places, with grave implications for public health!
  8. In Ghana, every government since Dr. Nkrumah’s, has continued the twin-track economy inherited from Lord Lugard’s Indirect Rule. They zealously implement IMF/World Bank policies that harm our economy, and carelessly ruin the market traders who together with subsistence farmers, constitute the backbone of our economy!

What can be done?

  1. Sort out once and for all, who owns the land that these markets operate on; is it government or stool land?
  2. We should stop limping on a two-track economy: a ‘mainstream’ one, full of toxic policies dictated by the IMF/World Bank, and an ‘informal economy’ which is teeming with entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are women!
  3. Pay attention to Market Women’s Associations and sell them the land (peppercorn rate, freehold, leasehold, whatever), and allow them to construct purpose-built markets with adequate storage, security, toilets, running water and crèches.
  4. Security of tenure/leaseholds of their trading sites for members of MWAs would in one fell swoop, create an asset-rich class, eligible for bank loans; and taxation of them would be justified.
  5. They are an important socio-economic group that will help grow the economy and create jobs, thus avoiding the welfare system that has blighted western economies.

 

 Nana Ama Amamoo is the Director at T.A.F.F. TRADING CO (UK) LTD, a civic and social organization in London, UK

Meet the Man Who Is Ruining Ghana: Rashid Pelpuo

pimpleConsider a pimple – a whitehead to be exact. Over the course of time – a week perhaps – you see and feel it erupting slowly, breaking through the surface of the skin with powerful stealth until it blooms and settles on your face with opaque grotesqueness.

Frantically, you begin to stab at it, vehemently cursing the offensive acne with all your might.

How dare you show up on prom night/ my wedding day / during my job interview! This is most inconvenient and inconsiderable indeed!

So it is with Presidents and politicians.

Take John D. Mahama for instance. Like all presidents before him, and certainly all that will follow after him, the failures and/or successes of his beloved Ghana will be thrust at his feet in contempt or upon his shoulders in celebration. They will say “Mahama built us roads and bridges!” or they will say “Mahama was a thief who robbed the country blind”.

In truth, John Mahama is responsible for neither the country’s failures nor its successes. That burden belongs to his cabinet, either elected or appointed. These are the women and men who are truly responsible for the state we find Ghana in today. The “Ghanaian experience” means different things for different people. For some (meaning  few), it means a life of immense wealth and luxury. For others still, it is a life riddled with strife, want and lack. Neither of these things are Mr. Mahama’s doing. He is merely a pimple – a whitehead. Attacking or praising him is to no avail. If we are to correct Ghana’s image, we need to look beneath the surface and root out the infection manifesting as a blemish.

That infection is Rashid Pelpuo.

I’ve always wondered who the imbeciles that were ruining the land of my birth were, and now I know. No one man or woman is capable of ruining an entire nation. You need the implicit assistance of 23 cabinet ministers, 10 regional ministers and all their deputy ministers in order to collapse a nation; or in the case of Mr. Pelpuo, Minister in-charge of Private Sector Development, express assistance.

I know very little about Ghana’s government. I’ve never taken an interest in politics. I was groomed to be suspicious of all politicians and to treat them with the contempt they deserve. If you’ve seen one politician in Ghana, you’ve seen them all: and they are all swathed in crook’s clothing. This year, I have chosen to eschew willful ignorance about the inner workings of my native country’s government, and now I’m beginning to regret that decision. The cogs, I have discovered, are largely rusty and ill-fitting. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the person of Rashid Pelpuo.

Mr. Pelpuo first caught my attention when I was forwarded this article on PeaceFmOnline (http://business.peacefmonline.com/news/201305/164557.php). It was entitled: We Won’t Protect Local Business Against Competition Says Gov’t.

Of course my interest was piqued immediately. The slant of the title alone was very damning, and one has to wonder what government official of a such fledgling economy would have the gall to admit that the government would tacitly allow foreign companies to overrun local business.

In the article, Mr. Pelpuo reportedly opines that the government of Ghana would not relent to requests by local businesses to protect them from the rampant influx and influence of foreign competition. In his rebuff, he advised local business owners “to endeavor to offer their best to enable them withstand the competition or at best, undo it.”

This is where I got stuck. I skimmed through the rest of the article, frantically searching for a hint of redemption in Mr. Pelpuo’s regard. Surely, someone who holds the title Minister in charge of Private Sector Development ought to hold the capacity to understand that vast majority local Ghanaian businesses are in no shape to compete against multi-national conglomerates? These organizations come flushed with capital, technology, investor backing and in some cases, the backing of their own governments. How is a Ghanaian Mom & Pop shop supposed to compete against that?

In discussing the abysmal utterances with others, I found that they were equally aghast.

What Mr. Pelpuo suggests in itself is not inherently asinine. It’s actually good business advice. If you want more people to buy your product, then you need to offer them your best. However, this advice falls under the category of marketing and advertising (at best), and does nothing to further the cause of implementation. And for local business owners and manufacturers to compete effectively against foreign companies, they will need government assistance in ways Mr. Pelpuo has probably not thought about.

Despite the hype and propaganda, Ghana is not yet in the position to protect itself from the effects of foreign oligopolies; and as usual, it all comes back to failed and crumbling infrastructure.  As  @geoessah points out:

george tomatoes

For those of you who do not live in Ghana, the true test of any of our newly constructed roads comes during the rainy season, when torrential rains are literally capable of washing away entire sections of a street over the course of a few months. Why these roads are so fragile comes down to an age-old plague: corruption. A contractor gets the bid to build a road, several officials get their share of the money that is supposed to be invested into the road, a few of the workers may siphon off coal-tar and gravel to use at home, and the result is a shoddily built road. Happens every year.

In this instance, which repeats itself in industries all over Ghana, the industrious and hardworking tomato farmer spends the growing and harvesting season getting his crop ready for market. As he loads up his produce, he discovers to his dismay that his cargo is stuck on the road in the middle of the country due to poor road conditions. He is unable to get his goods to market and fill orders. He devices a work around, perhaps sending his tomatoes in smaller batches. Now the transportation costs have gone up. He has no choice but to pass this costs along to the consumer, who in turn does not understand why a tomato with a short shelf life and nearly rotten should cost so much. Enter the government’s alternative solution: Let’s not fix the roads. Let’s rather do a deal with Monsanto and offer the public genetically modified tomatoes with a shelf life of 2 months. We know just how to spin it! This is what they are eating in America.  It’s better for you than our local foods anyway… because it’s from America, land of prosperity.

Mtsewww….

I did some digging around on Rashid Pelpuo’s background to find out what made him such an authority on Private Sector Development. You’re going to love this.

Abdul-Rashid Pelpuo  has a degree in Education from the University of Cape Coast and later earned a Masters in International Affairs from the same institution in 1998. He entered the parliament of Ghana in 2005 on the NDC ticket and was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports in 2009 after the resignation of his predecessor. He was replaced by Akua Dansua after a cabinet reshuffle in 2010, to be appointed deputy Majority Leader in Parliament instead.

Fair enough. What deals has Mr. Pelpuo brokered to make him an authority on Private-Public partnerships and development? I could find none. What I did find was a number of rants calling for Chris Brown’s arrest for smoking weed on stage, a denial that he owns a fleet of cars, and other inconsequential things. Whether this is a failure of Ghana’s media to report on his achievements or an indication that he actually has not achievements outside of an unexplained trajectory through the ranks of government, I cannot say. But what I do know for sure is that this man and all those of his ilk are ruining the country through their unabashed hubris and willful ignorance.

We need true experts who have demonstrated a capacity to work with players at all levels of development in order to get Ghana working, not just some guy with a Master’s degree offering platitudes about private citizens “offering their best”.

I’m sure if we dug through the backgrounds of all of our parliamentarians, we would find them woefully lacking in the capacity to hold their posts. Rsahid Pelpuo just happened to catch my special attention (and ire) at the moment.

We cannot afford nepotism, favoritism and 30 other isms in this juncture of Ghana’s development. We are in a new century for Heaven’s sake – with phones that talk and cars that can go under water! Can we get some people in office who know how to at least draw up policy to encourage our student population to get a footing in the technology race? I’d do a handstand if a leader would open his/her mouth to admit that they were even thinking in that direction, instead of waiting for private citizens to do it on their own… otherwise, what do we need government for?

Tell me if I’m wrong ↓

 

Does Ghana Have Anything to Fear From Monsanto?

monsantomonsanto2

Hmmm… I think Ambolley wants me to write about Monsanto. Done!

Does Ghana – or Africa as a whole, for that matter – have anything to fear from Monsanto? The short answer is “yes”. Anytime a huge US conglomerate takes an active interest in developing nations or any geographic area perceived as being bereft of privilege, there is cause for concern.

I first heard about Monsanto while watching the documentary Food, Inc. I have to be honest: it was pretty terrifying stuff. The idea that one company had the power to change the face and nature of the types of food we eat, dictate how our crops are planted, and make farmers solely dependent on their agricultural products because the very nature of that product (i.e. seeds) had the capacity to alter the state of the very soil it was planted in so that nothing else but genetically modified seed could thrive there is a little disconcerting. The antics of the Greek god Ares come to mind, for some unexplained reason. I visualize carnage… carnage everywhere.

To hear a number of American farmers tell it, they feel “enslaved” to Monsanto. No doubt this sentiment arises from the voluminous contracts the company is the habit of handing out to those who be willing to make a deal with the Dark One. (You can read about it here.)

In fairness to Monsanto, the company has done some unquestionably impressive things in the realm of science since the company’s inception in 1901.  Some of its more harmless achievements include creating and selling the artificial sweetener saccharin to Coke; it became the first company to start mass production of (visible) light emitting diodes (LEDs); and it gave us AstroTurf, which is an imperative must at the Super Bowl.

aoHowever, some of its more sinister inventions include DDT (which eliminated malaria in America, but destroyed bald eagle shells, sending the population into decline), Agent Orange (the toxic effects of which still persist 51 years later) and lastly, genetically engineered seed.

It is the last component that I am most concerned about with regard to Ghana in particular and Africa as a whole.

There is no doubt that Africa has a problem feeding itself. It is estimated that every 5 seconds, a child dies from a hunger related disease.  As usual, and as it is with every African crisis, our leadership looks outside of its borders, way across the sea and into some Westerners science lab of carpeted office for solutions to the same problems that these labs and offices created. Enter Monsanto. And Bono. And Kofi Anan. And President Obama.

Looking at the lineup, we should trust all of the gentlemen. They are Nobel Laureates and by the world’s standards, very intelligent and well-meaning individuals. The trouble is none of these guys are farmers; for if they were farmers, they would know better than to engage in this sort of sanctimonious frivolity which has gotten the Western world nowhere but fat, sick and nearly dead.

We don’t have to go very far into the past to see the future effects of genetically modified food. Take a stroll around Any Mall, USA, and you can see the direct effects of bovine somatotropin, a hormone injected into cows pituitary glands to increase milk production. Bigger udders on cows = bigger boobs on little girls. Throw a Σ and a few Ωs in there, and you’ve got yourself an equation for disaster. Other unforeseen consequences of genetically modifying our foods in such an aggressive manner include indecent acts against these unnaturally buxom young ladies of the R. Kelly variety, which then translates to increased prosecution rates and overcrowding of our prisons.

But for the purposes of our discussion today, we are looking to Africa’s fertile land scape… not the waxy surfaces of North Point Mall.

From the little that I have read on genetically engineered seed (GES), I have learned that these plants are extremely aggressive. They take over native crop varieties and either strangle them or at best, cause them to mutate. There is also the alarming phenomenon of Monsanto seed – marketed as ‘Roundup’ – causing glyphosate resistance, whereby overuse of Roundup creates aggressive, herbicide-immune super-weeds. In turn, these super resistant weeds require more toxic chemicals in order to suppress them. It’s the agro-equivalent of Super Gonorrhea.

Ghana, along with Tanzania and Ethiopia, has signed on for Phase 2 of the so-called Green Revolution, which in simplest terms in the business of creating ‘higher yielding crops’ (not necessarily higher quality) in Africa.

This is where I get stuck… because it’s obvious that someone in the Kufuor/Mills/Mahama administration did not do their homework before inking this deal (as usual) and putting the farmers – our country’s backbone – at risk. I smell a kick back.

I can’t speak for other African nations, but the fact is, Ghana’s feeding problems have less to do with output than how to get the product to market. How often have you driven through a village and seen women and children scrambling to sell their wares to passers through? Depending on the topography, they will all be carrying similar items: okro, garden eggs, tomatoes, and/or pineapples. People in the villages who carry out subsistence farming eat very well. Ironically, they produce more than they need to get by. The failure of the government, private industry and other stakeholders has been in engaging these farmers in a meaningful way, and helping them bring their goods to market in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Ghanaians die not only from hunger, but from malnutrition in alarming and needless rates. Because the cost of transporting food is so high, our diet is severely limited to basic carbohydrate saturated staples like kenkey, gari, rice and over fried fish, when we need to be eating more greens, fruits and legumes – which are grown in abundance.  Tragically, every few months there are reports of crops tumbling from the sides of tipper trucks en masse, or worse, being left to rot in one production center or another because the lines of transportation were either ineffective or broken. Truthfully, there is no reason that a country that harbors iron ore in its hills and oil in its seas should not have an advanced rail system at the ready.

And now Ghana is going to let Monsanto come in with its high-bred GMOs to devastate the soil, alter our environment, and cause genetic mutations in our population because Obama and Bono said it’s an excellent idea? Tell me, someone, how do the major players plan to distribute this new-found genetically modified manna? On the wheels of ‘hope and change’? Pshaw!

Agriculture is big business, and there are billions of dollars at stake whenever these sorts of deals are hashed out. But at the other end of that of those negotiations also sits a mother who is trying to feed her family. How much consideration is she being given?

*****

I know that there are quite a few scientists and health professionals that read MOM but rarely comment. Don’t make me call you out *cough* Stella and Karimi! *end cough*.  Would you be so kind as to share your views on GMOs, either good or bad, and enlighten us all here?  I’m only writing about it because Gyedu asked me to.

I know that Misty (yes, I called you out) is also a big champion of organic food. I’d like her and other parents like her to share what influenced her to make these choices.

Oh heck. Everyone just speak all at once here ↓

Rick “Raping” Ross and his Relationship with Reebok

reebokThere’s a pair of Reebok’s on sale at the shoe store I work at. Garish, in-your-face little things, they are. I typically wouldn’t even look at a shoe like this, but it’s one of the few for sale in my store with a pivot ball on the sole – which, if you do Zumba, you know is really good for dancing. The colors are bright enough to allow me to cra ft an entire 80’s outfit around them, and perhaps spend an afternoon in pretend proficiency in breakdancing, if I ever chose to.

They were too expensive though. I waited for them to go on sale, and last week they finally did. At 30% off, I could easily afford them now…but then I read the news and discovered that I didn’t even WANT them.

It’s been all over the news for the last 2 weeks or more: Rick Ross’ pro-rape lyrics in the song U.O.E.N.O. (which I have no idea what is abbreviated for and have no interest in discovering.) One verse in particular had women’s rights and advocates for rape victims in arms and engaged in battle. In my view, their reaction was apt and warranted.

That nigga sold you that re-rock, you ain’t even know it
I die over these Reeboks, you ain’t even know it
Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it
I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it
Got a hundred acres I live on, you ain’t even know it
Got a hundred rounds in this AR, you ain’t even know it
Got a bag of bitches I play with, on cloud 9 in my spaceship
Zoned out but he stay fresh from Zone 1 through Zone 6
Bricks all in my blood, birds all in my dreams
Boats all in my yard, lemon pepper my wings
I’m bout to get you f*ck niggas wacked, you ain’t even know it
Your main nigga bout to turn his back, you ain’t even know it

This is my first time actually looking up the lyrics outside of the reference to drugging his date and raping her while unconscious. I’m a bit perturbed by the rest of the content. Like most Top 40 rap today, it’s nothing more than gibberish about flaunting wealth, bagging b*tches and killing other Black guys. You know, just your run of the mill hood jingle. The only thing that distinguishes one rapper from the next is some gimmick he is forced to employ, and so you have L’il Wayne sporting nut hugging leopard print pants (which he has the audacity to sag) and a portly Rick Ross exposing his grotesque belly at every opportunity. The point is, if you’re looking for a song for which to use as a protest against the myriad of ills that plagues American society, this one certainly qualifies.

U.O.E.N.O has now earned the shameful moniker of “Rick Ross’ date rape song”, something I’m sure he never imaged when he penned his “lyrical masterpiece”, and yet there you have it. My problem with the song is not that he wrote it, or even put it to music. It’s that all the adults in the room listened to each syllable and didn’t find anything wrong with it. This is an issue that is playing itself out in music studios all across the nation: there is no sense of accountability. None whatsoever.

In the wake of Steubenville, the rape and impending suicide of Audrie Pott and hundreds of stories of rape that we will never hear about, Rick Ross’ situation becomes particularly poignant. Rick Ross is not a role model for anyone under the age of 40, but he does possess the same privileges and certain the same platform of the cherished title American society has heaped on the gaggle of hapless dimwits we love to idolize.

He is a musician, and music is –and always will be – influential.

I’m guessing the average consumer of Rick Ross’ music is young, male and urban (or wannabe urban). As was exhibited by the case in Steubenville, most of this segment of society doesn’t have the sense of a boiled crab. When you make suggestions of this sort – that you can drug a girl and take her home, and “enjoy that” without her even knowing it – and don’t follow up with the possible consequences of this action, which include arrest and incarceration, well then that makes you dangerous.

As predicted, several members of the hip-hop community like Drake and Tyga came out in defense of Rick Ross, citing freedom of speech and artist oppression. They said activists and righteous groups were grasping at straws, using anything they could to quell the message of hip-hop.

“I mean activists, and all those righteous groups. That’s what they do, they probably don’t even listen to Ross’s music. I know they don’t know who Rocko is,” said Tyga.

No one needs to know who ‘Rocko’ is. I believe celebrities have a right to privacy. He’s an entertainer, and all we need to judge him by is his product – and at the moment, he has produced a song that glories date rape (along with owning a plantation and murdering other Black men. But that’s a discussion for another day.)

Tyga’s utterances are problematic, because they convey and are rife with a pervasive notion of entitlement: That one is entitled to say and do whatever they want for any reason they can conjure – or not conjure. After all, this is America. No one really has to give an account for why they do one thing or another, or so we’re raising this generation and those that follow to believe. Ask Rick Ross why he thought it would be okay to violate a woman in a state of unconsciousness and then write a song about it. Bet you he looks at you with that blank stare my 4 year old gives me, shrugs and goes “I dunno.”

I have discovered that rape is not only about power, but also a false sense of endowment. Men and boys who disseminate and consume poisonous lyrics like these grow up more and more convinced that they have the right to harass, belittle, and rape whomever they wish. I can’t say that they are only to blame. Video whores who have sold out the gender for fleeting fame have contributed to this new idea of capturing the moment on camera and spreading the images around. The only difference is, they get the benefit of being aware and complicit in their actions. The Steubenville victim and Ms. Pott did not.

rrUltimately, I’m glad that Reebok decided to drop Rick Ross from its endorsement deal, but I feel like it was too little too late. Their lack of a swift reaction says to me (and many others) that the corporate brand was waiting to see if this whole “date rape thing” would just blow over. If the company felt strongly about what it is supposed to stand for – the health, fitness and wellbeing of its consumers – they never would have chosen such a slovenly, oily, misogynistic representative in the first place. For Heaven’s sake; Even Nike dropped Tiger Woods from its endorsement deal without prompting, and all 4,853 of his sex-capades where consensual!

I’m not saying Rick Ross can never make another date rape song again if he wants to – I’m just saying we don’t need to reward him and other foolish people like him. He has a right to free speech, and I have a right not to give him or his sponsors a rusty red cent if it’s going to send our society further into the bowels of Hell.

So discuss, discuss! What do you think?