By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
Yes! Our Ghana Experience. Sometime towards the end of 2019, precisely in November, two of my colleagues, Mercy Hill and Michael-Jude Nwolisa, and I, made a historic trip to Ghana, West Africa.
The journey was actually for the maiden edition of the Young African Leaders’ Summit (YALS), held at Accra International Conference, Centre (AICC), Accra, Ghana, from November 21 to 24, 2019. Incidentally, it was our first trip to Ghana.
THE YALS SUMMIT
As a way of bringing African Youths together to brainstorm and champion the cause for a better African Continent of our dream and contribute to discussions that will shape policies, as well as strengthen ties across Africa, a group known as Young Politicians and Leaders Network (YPLN), organized the 2019 Maiden Young African Leaders’ Summit (YALS). The theme of the Summit was, “Securing the Future of Africa: The Role of African Youths, Young Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs”.
Registration and participation were open to all African youths across the continent. We got to know of the summit through the Facebook. And, as a youth leader in the Church and society at large at various levels, from my Junior Secondary School days, to date, I was keen to be part of the delegates so as to explore, learn, network, and add more values to my potentials.
Three of us (Mercy Hill, Michael-Jude Nwolisa and I, Ifeoma Ezenyilimba) all of who happen to be Fides members of staff, were part of the over 20 Nigerians that participated at the summit as delegates.
Dressed in our new branded Fides tee-shirts en route Ghana from Nigeria, we won the admiration of many with that outfit. Some delegates curiously asked how we got the beautiful uniform. And we proudly told them it was the FIDES BRAND.
And right from Murtala Mohammed International, Airport, Lagos, to the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana, and throughout our stay in Ghana, people continued to express interest in Fides Media Limited. With that we introduced them to the booming Fides Online Presence. They were actually amazed at what they saw and started following Fides online from that moment till today.
TAKE HOME LESSONS FROM THE YALS SUMMIT
The Summit featured a good number of panel discussants on various topics that bordered on leadership, entrepreneurship and more.
Discussing one of the topics: “Is Africa Facing a Leadership Crisis?”, the discussants and the delegates agreed that leadership in Africa had failed in all facets. The Summit advocated for sanity in Africa, an ethical standard which would not be compromised at any cost and an economy that would support growth and development in Africa.
The Summit also advocated for the need for African leaders to be held accountable, insisting that leadership role was a responsibility and that leaders should speak for the voiceless. The need for positive change of mindsets and attitude on the part of everyone for that better Africa of our dream, was also stressed.
YALS 2019 also called for clear cut government policies that would promote growth and development so as to enable entrepreneurs to thrive. Youths were advised against get-rich-quick syndrome, which the Summit said, killed the spirit of entrepreneurship and industry. Entrepreneurs were advised to focus on their businesses and learn how to add more values to their potentials so as to thrive.
Focusing on another topic titled: “Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment: Accelerating the Creation of More Job Creators and Less Job Seekers”, the delegates called for clear cut government policies that would promote made-in-Afica goods to facilitate job creation and employment. Strategizing, organizing oneself, partnering and networking, the summit pointed out, were very important in the 21st century. The YALS offered us the great opportunity to develop ourselves the more, add more values to our potentials, partner and network with other people. We indeed had an enriching experience.
HAS GHANA REALLY DEVELOPED THAT FAR?
Discussing with some Ghanaians, especially, the ordinary people, I was able to find out that it appears Ghana has far developed more than some other African countries. Let’s consider the following:
1. GOOD WORKING SYSTEM: Ghana as a country has a good working system, both in the government and economy. Ghana has 24-hour electric power supply. One of the Ghanaian friends we met, by name Abigail Teiko, told us that the generator is a necessity in Nigeria, but a luxury in Ghana. Yes, she was correct. In Nigeria where we experience constant epileptic power supply. The generator is a necessity but not in Ghana. The air and noise pollution produced by generators in Nigeria is not experienced in Ghana.
2. GHANA HAS GOOD QUALITY CONTROL: Surely, the cost of living for a common man is high in Ghana. But one thing is certain, Ghana has a very good quality control system. Even the sachet water in Ghana also has quality control. One will always be sure of the quality of any purchase he makes in Ghana, unlike Nigeria, where the reverse is the case. Some of the Nigerian importers even go as low as to pay the foreign manufacturing companies to reduce the quality of products they bring into the country to the detriment of the consumers. I think Nigerians will have to learn from this.
3. ETHICAL STANDARD: I think we actually observed very good ethical standards in Ghana. Ghanaians have good attitudes to issues more than some of their African counterparts. For instance, road users were much disciplined in their use of the roads. Even at junctions without traffic officers, there was decorum. Every driver knew when to move and when not to. There were actually few traffic jams on the roads. Because of the right use of the roads we and other road users were not held up in the traffic.
4. FAVOURABLE EDUCATION POLICY: I actually found some parts of their education policy very impressive. In Ghana, students don’t need to pass through the JAMB and POST UME huddles so as to gain admission into higher institutions; rather, once you have a good West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) result, otherwise known as WAEC, you are qualified to gain admission into the university and other higher institutions.
One would actually start to wonder why the stress of extra expenses on JAMB and POST-UME and hurdles to be passed through here before one gains admission into a university.
In Ghana also, we observed that students of government-owned secondary schools enjoy free education. This policy is good. But I think, however, the Ghanaian Government needs to invest in infrastructure in schools also, so as to make the free secondary school education policy workable and enjoyable.
We discovered that the secondary school students actually go to school for some months, and stay back at home for the remaining months in a term due to inadequate infrastructure.
Sources revealed that the classrooms available were not enough to accommodate the number of secondary school students that are in need of the free education at a time. So, when the first set goes to school for, say three months, they leave the school for another set for the next three months.
As a result of this, some parents tend to spend more on extramural classes for their children to meet up with their counterparts in private schools. I think there is still more to do by the government to sustain this free education policy in Ghana.
5. UBER TRANSPORT SYSTEM: Though already existing in certain cities in Nigeria, Uber is a big thing in Ghana. One just needs to download the app and register. Whenever you need an uber taxi, you just log in and book for one. Then an uber taxi driver closer to your location will get to you online and in few minutes, the driver will be at your location.
Another interesting thing about the uber is that the fare calculates itself online. The fare appears on the screen of the phone once the driver stops the ignition on arrival at your destination. The fare one pays using the uber is cheaper than other metro taxis.
6. GHANANIAN FOODS: Ghanaians actually have a good variety of foods. But we discovered that they cannot do without different types of peppers that accompany each meal. If you are served a meal in Ghana, I’m sure you will notice something in a small plastic container. That’s the pepper. They have green pepper, red pepper, black pepper, and even more. One thing amazing is that the pepper is usually served in a different container for you to add to your meal as you desire. They will even serve the pepper to one alongside the somehow sweet Ghanaian egg for breakfast and with other things for lunch and dinner. Pepper is ever present in any Ghanaian meal.
There is this interesting food I enjoyed in Ghana. They call it palaver sauce; and according to some Ghanaians, that’s one of their most expensive foods. One can enjoy it with either white yam, white rice or plantain. The taste is amazing. But to Ebenezer Sackey, another Ghanaian friend of ours, Palaver Sauce is expensive, depending on the cost of ingredients with which one prepared it.
Another food I enjoyed is what they call ‘waakye’, and pronounced ‘wachi’. This is actually a type of beans that you eat with garri snacks, stew and pepper.
I cannot conclude my story without recounting the memorable hospitality we enjoyed, courtesy of another Ghanaian friend of ours. She is Rhoda, a Masters Medical Student of the University of Ghana. One thing we noticed about her was her graceful appearance and character.
Rhoda, who we met through one of us, Mercy Hill, actually noticed that some of us were not taken good care of due to some challenges not properly handled by the organizers on our arrival day. So she took us out and gave us a good treat at the Marina Mall, Accra, and picked all the bills, including transport. She told us that Ghanaians were naturally hospitable and she wanted to prove that to us.
Ghana, from all indications, appears to have developed better than Nigeria. How many of us Nigerians remember the story behind “Ghana Must Go”? and the origin of Ghana Must Go bags? Ghanaians indeed made good use of that opportunity and took with them strategies for development. Today, even the Nigerian Naira has little value in comparison to the Ghana Cedis.