when in china, do as the americans

May 21, 2008 - Leave a Response
A macdonalds sign board in China

A macdonalds sign board in China

I now recall with some embarrassment, hours of debate with friends and colleagues about the cultural implications of globalization. Generally there are two sides to this argument. Those who believe that this phenomenon we call globalization is a great thing for cultures all over. We will call them the optimists, and those on the other hand, who like myself are worried that cultural globalization is leading to the homogenization of culture globally.

During such debates I have dutifully supplied all the standard arguments, pointing out how Hollywood is using its powerful machinery to promote American brands and lifestyle world-wide. How globalization is killing diversity in God’s rainbow world, and turning us all into coca-cola drinking, burger munching, CNN watching Americans. Often I have taken these same ideas to the classroom and subtly encouraged my students to view the cultural dimension of globalization from a similar perspective.

Admittedly and thankfully, its not that clear cut, and some scholars of globalization have rightly argued that the phenomenon has often led to cultural hybrids, where the best from different cultures have come together to give birth to beautiful creations in music, film, cuisine, and other cultural expressions.

However on the whole it seems as if the cultures and traditions of the rest of the world are under siege from an all powerful American culture. In discussions of this nature I have always used Ghanaian youth culture to illustrate my point of view. The urban youth in Ghana are very westernized, and the youth are heavily influenced by perceived American values. There is also to a lesser degree, some British influence. This westernization is most evident in the way the youth dress, the music we listen to, our speech, and our irreverent attitude towards some age-old traditions (which is not always a bad thing). Today, because of the power of satellite television the most popular football teams among the youth in Ghana are no longer Accra Hearts of Oak and Kumasi Asante Kotoko, as they were ten years ago, but teams in far away London and Manchester.

So for someone who has been preaching against this cultural invasion for some time, you can imagine how embarrassing it was for me to rely heavily on two all-American brands on a recent trip to China. CNN for the news since I don’t speak Chinese, and McDonalds at least once a day since the food was not always to my taste. I even had the impudence to be irritated when I occasionally had communication problems with some of the locals who could not speak a word of English, as if its mandatory for all peoples of the world to speak English.

The moral of the story?

A teeny weenie bit of cultural homogenization is not such a bad thing after all.

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rename this street now

April 15, 2008 - 2 Responses

Obasanjo\'s street in Accra Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo for years carried himself with the help of the International Community as a true African statesman. Often he was portrayed by the media as one of the more progressive African leaders. He was even one of the architects of the much talked about New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), which was supposed to spearhead a new African renaissance.

But as the old African saying goes, “one never knows the true length of a frog until it is dead”. Since leaving power last year, Obasanjo’s carefully crafted image is falling apart. In recent weeks, there have been some very serious charges of financial and moral impropriety against him. In spite of being one of the biggest oil producing countries in the world, Nigeria is often ridiculed by less endowed African countries for its long-running energy crisis and rampant fuel shortages.

According to the BBC, A House of Representatives committee recently found that $16bn of investment in the energy sector has brought little improvement. The committee found that the former President and his energy minister personally approved $2.2bn worth of contracts without going through a bidding process. A company chaired by Ex-President Abdulsalami Abubakar was also given a contract to build a power station by 2009. Till date, only 5% of the work has been completed.

More sensationally, the son of the former leader, Gbenga Obasanjo has told a divorce court in Lagos that his wife Mojisola slept with his father to obtain Government contracts. The BBC reports that Obasanjo has so far kept silent on the subject.

Unfortunately, Obasanjo is just another example of the bad kind of leadership much of the continent has had to live with. Bad as he may be, it is for Nigerians to deal with him as they see fit. My beef is with the Ghanaian Government. It is no secret that the former Nigerian leader had a close relationship with the Kufour administration and many theories have been thrown out there to explain that special relationship. I feel incompetent to discuss any of those now. What irks me though is the naming of a prominent road in the capital after Obasanjo. Considering that there aren’t that many good roads with working traffic lights in Accra, I feel it should be named after a more deserving personality. Perhaps Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka who has done so much for African literature, as well as the promotion of human rights on the continent. Or perhaps we could just name it Abuja road, after the Nigerian capital. As a symbol of the enduring brotherhood of our two nations. As for Obasanjo, he just doesn’t deserve it.

 

walking for peace in africa

April 11, 2008 - Leave a Response

Last week, the third Africa International Media Summit was held at the Abou Nawas hotel in Tunis. During the summit, a press conference was held to make an extraordinary announcement.

A sixty one year old Italian woman Carla Perroti from April 20th 2008 plans to walk 250 kilometers of the Libyan Desert to promote peace in Africa. Apparently Ms Perroti is no stranger to the hazards of the desert. According to a press release issued by her sponsors, Vision Media, she has walked the Salar de Uyuni desert in Bolivia, the Simpson Desert in Australia, the Tenere Desert in Niger, the Kalahari in Southern Africa and the Taklamakan Desert in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur region.

In an interview with this reporter Ms Perroti admitted that this is the first time she is actually walking for a cause. Speaking in Italian, with Vision Media’s Nadia Murabet interpreting she said that, she hoped her walk would bring attention to some of the conflict spots on the continent. “Africa has given me a lot I hope to give something back”. She also hopes to inspire the younger generation globally, to take their personal fitness more seriously. She will be living on pills and simple food for the duration of the walk.

For more information about Carla Perroti and the “Desert Walk for Peace in Africa”, contact Tony Regusters by email at: tonyregusters@division-twelve.com

the gospel according to conrad

April 4, 2008 - 4 Responses

This week the world’s attention is once more on Zimbabwe. The last time I wrote about Zim, the likes of Okukuseku took me on. This time I have decided to let a son of the soil do the talking. Conrad Dube is a friend and a seasoned journalist, who has kept faith with his country and stayed in Zim throughout the troubles. This week we have exchanged emails on the situation in Zim. With his permission I reproduce one of his emails below, unedited. Enjoy.

George,
Good to learn that you had a successful trip to Tunis and thank you for your prayers.
The situation in Zim is both exciting and worrying. Exciting in that a new dispensation has begun in Zimbabwe. We have had a defacto one party system since independence. Shock and ridiculous bills were passed without the necessary scrutiny because parliament was full of deadwood geriatrics nose-sucking on Mugabe. I can assure you that for the past 28 years they have made loud noises when singing for their supper, swallowing the country’s resources deep down their throats. They flown high all over the world taking inflation up into the skies at will, galivanting at the skinny Zimbabwean tax payers’ earnings. They smuggled gold, diamonds, ivory, you name it, and fed their pockets in so much that they became fat cats overnight. We shall never forget how the distroyed infrastructer, how corrupt they have faired. Zimbabwe is on the brink of change and a turnaround, prosperity and real independence. They stalked us with their feared spy agents never to allow Zimbabweans to be themselves and some breathing space to think constructively and innovatively.
Zimbabweans are now tired of the mediocre performance and we confirmed this in the ballot box which Mugabe wants to manipulate. But not again.
George the MDC Tsvangirai has 99 seats, ZANU PF 97, MDC Mutambara 10 and an Independent candidate has one seat. This shows that the MDC which was the opposition but has now begun the ruling party, has majority and is the cornerstone for change we can trust.
However we are likely to go into a runoff between Mugabe and Tsvangirai because neither of them garnered enough votes (50.1%) required by the Constitution to avoid a runoff. This is the complication we have because it keeps the country tense and in election mode for three more weeks.
I shall keep you updated.
All the best.

Conrad

should we really care?

March 19, 2008 - One Response

It is interesting how Ghanaians are so closely following the political drama currently unfolding in the US. That in itself is hardly surprising since America is the most powerful and influential country in the world. Also, a plot involving a previously little known black man pitting himself against one of the most influential women in the country, is hard to resist.

What is surprising is the real passion with which many of my compatriots are following the fortunes of Barack Obama. Some are quick to point out that the man is a Kenyan-American and not an African-American “like other blacks in the US who can’t trace their ancestry” as a colleague put it.

But the question is this. Should we really care who wins? Will it make a difference to us in this part of the world whether the woman or the black man wins the democratic nomination? What is clear is that American Foreign policy towards Africa has not really changed significantly over the years, regardless of whether its the democrats or the republicans in power. Yes the race is of interest to me but I do not think the result will be of any real significance to me as a Ghanaian.

gangsters paradise

A couple of weeks ago, yet another attempt was made by thugs to rob me. I was driving along just after midnight when my headlights fell upon two machete wielding men in the middle of the road flagging me down. After my first close shave, I have been very alert on the road. A quick look around told me it was too late to turn around. I made the quick decision to use my car as a weapon and run them over.

Believing I didn’t have the guts to go ahead they stood their ground, only jumping off the road at the last minute. Soon after I felt something hit the car but I drove on until I got home. When I inspected the damage in the safety of my home, I discovered that the back glass had been smashed to bits. Thanks be to Jah I lived to fight another day.b.jpg

let’s not join the club of oil impoverished countries.

February 27, 2008 - 3 Responses

Last year, when Kosmos Energy and Tullow Oil claimed to have found oil in commercial quantities West of Cape Three points in the Western region of Ghana, many of us thought it was a belated April fool’s prank. After all prospecting for oil in Ghana dates back to the 1890s and there have been many false dawns.

It has quickly become apparent though, that this is no joke at all. According to our paper of record, the Daily Graphic, the quantity discovered so far is about 3billion barrels, with serious drilling starting next year. Fantastic news…or is it?

Ghana is not the first African country to strike oil. In those countries that have preceded us, oil seems to have brought out the worst in the ruling elite. Greedy politicians, opaque policies, corrupt bureaucrats, complete disregard for the environment, and contempt for those living in the communities where oil is drilled. Countries like Sierra Leone which are rich in diamonds, have experienced a similar fate. The failure of oil revenue to transform these economies only goes to prove that a country’s most valuable resource is it’s people, and not the mineral resources to be found under it’s soil or territorial waters. It does not matter how much natural resources Africa is endowed with, so long as the crisis of leadership the continent faces today persists, we are going no where fast.

Robert Guest in his controversial book The Shackled Continent, painfully points out that oil has fueled wars in Angola, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, and Sudan. The continued conflict in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria where militant groups target expatriate oil workers, as well as oil installations is well documented elsewhere.

It is no surprise then that Ghana, which prides itself with being smarter than the rest of the continent put together, has convened an oil and gas forum. The forum which began on Monday brings all the “stakeholders” (that word again) together to explore ways in which our oil can be effectively managed for economic growth. The stakeholders will also examine where other oil producing countries on the continent went wrong, so that we can avoid the pitfalls. The forum is said to be the brain-child of our dear leader himself- President Kufour. Let’s just hope that this is not just another brilliant exercise in window dressing. After all, it is the same President who in assuming office for the first time in 2000 launched a Zero Tolerance for Corruption campaign, with messianic fervour. A campaign that is now widely acknowledged to be a monumental failure.

Shall we now pray….

That this new-found blessing, is not a curse in disguise. Amen.

george who? « Kofibaaboni’s Weblog

February 20, 2008 - Leave a Response

george who? « Kofibaaboni’s Weblog

george who?

February 20, 2008 - 2 Responses

b-036.jpgIn the last few days I have attempted to impose a news blackout on myself, an ostrich-like attempt to avoid all the Bush-centred news in the media. For days before his arrival in Accra last night, our biggest newspaper, the Daily Graphic had been advertising it’s special Bush supplement. Radio presenters have been inviting listeners to present their wish list to the visiting American President and an endless succsession of experts have discussed American foreign policy towards Africa, and Ghana’s special place in the equation.

Of course all this noise makes me mad, seeing the guys face on the front pages all week, as if there is no other news. I dislike Bush for his unilateralism in dealing with climate change, and the mass murder he has supervised in Iraq. He deserves to be dragged before the International Criminal Court to answer for the tens of thousands he has killed in Iraq, and the prisoners that continue to be held without charge in Guantanamo Bay with no prospects of a free trial.

Much has been made of the substantial amount the American government has invested in fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. However I feel that there should be more debate about the the millions of AIDS money that is being channeled through American religious groups who preach abstainance rather than safe sex. For these groups, promoting condom use is tantamount to encouraging adultery and fornication. But anyone with a little bit of common sense knows that abstainance is not a realistic policy, not in America and certainly not in Ghana.

I just can’t wait for Bush to f***k off, and go back where ever he came from. The fact is that my news blackout is not working. Driving back to the office after an errand today, I was appalled at the heavy military and police presence all over the capital. Machine gun weiding security personnel may reassure some, but for most of us, it just makes us nervous. I also noticed the poor school children who had been dragged from their classrooms to line the streets in the schorching sun to cheer the President. The picture accompanying this story was taken surreptitiously from behind my steering wheel, since the Ghanaian police are famously jittery at the sight of cameras. Even when I avoid the media, the reminders of the man’s presence in my country are every where. Blocked streets, policemen crawling all over the place, and thousands of school children playing truant under the supervision of the authorities.

….and yet he wanted to be president.

There is another George in the news today. George Aggudey is better known as a politician belonging to the biggest socialist party in Ghana, the Convention Peoples Party. Last year, he failed to convince his party’s delegates to make him their Presidential candidate for election 2008.

In his other life, Aggudey is CEO of Gold Crest Securities, a private security company.  This morning, the offices of the company were raided and twenty vehicles seized by officials of the Value Added Tax Service. Apparently the company has over four years, evaded tax to the tune of six hundred and fifteen million new Ghana cedis. It just makes one wonder how many more “honourable” members of our society are ripping us off.

gangster state

February 6, 2008 - One Response

blogg-024.jpgA couple of weeks ago when the member of Parliament for Bongo was robbed of his car at gunpoint, I was secretly glad. It is not that I have anything against the guy but the fact is that the political elite in Ghana are less vulnerable to violent crime than we ordinary folks.

Parliamentarians were outraged at the audacity of the crime, and rightfully so. What they would know, if they had their ears to the ground, is that we plebeians have been suffering from these attacks in silence for a long, long time. Drinking bars in some parts of Accra are routinely held under siege, and the patrons robbed of mobile phones, cash and sometimes cars, by thugs wielding machetes and locally manufactured firearms. I myself was nearly a victim several months ago when I was chased in my car by some robbers, whiles dropping off a lady friend after a night out. Luckily we managed to escape thanks to some James Bond inspired driving by my humble self.

In the past month alone I can count as many as seven friends and acquaintances who have been victims of one form of violent crime or another. Some of them were badly beaten up just for their mobile phones, others for cash, and one even had his BMW 5 series taken from him.

I have always fancied myself as a great believer in the rule of law. But when citizens believe the state cannot protect them, there are consequences for society. There are now many vigilante groups in our communities, masked as neighborhood watch clubs, meting out instant justice (often death) to suspected criminals. Even though I should know better, I have heard myself say “serves him bloody right” on ocassion.

My friends and I now often talk about acquiring guns to protect ourselves. The truth is that many of those guns will not be purchased from licensed dealers and the bearers will probably not have permits to carry them. The State’s unwillingness to admit that violent crime is a real issue is leading its citizens to resort to desperate measures for self-preservation.

My happiness when the MP was robbed, was misplaced. I thought the incident would put violent crime right up there on the political agenda. I was expecting a proper public debate on the issue since this epidemic started. Instead parliament reacted by calling for more effective security for it’s members! What about the silent victims…those of us that put them in power?

Of course they don’t care. Selfish bastards.

the sweetest of them all

February 4, 2008 - Leave a Response

kt-bobby.jpgI retract all the comments I made about the black stars at the beginning of the African Cup of Nations, being held here in Accra. I am truly penitent and a fully paid up member of the Ghana Black Stars fan club. Unfortunately since I am just recovering from a flu, I had to watch yesterday’s game against Nigeria from my sitting room, rather than the stands of the Ohene Djan sports stadium.

Before the game, I had mentally prepared myself for a possible defeat by Nigeria’s fearful Super Eagles who have promptly been re-christened the “Super Chickens” after their defeat. What I under-estimated in the Stars was their courage, determination, team-spirit, and sense of history. Several times in the game the 40,000 Ghanaian fans at Ohene Djan were in despair. Nigeria scored the first goal through a penalty, after 35minutes even though we had dominated up till then. Thankfully Chelsea’s Michael Essien equalized just before half time. The next set-back was when the “rock of Gibraltar” John Mensah was sent off for a professional foul, and Ghana faced the prospect of playing another 30 minutes minutes with ten men against the eagles, with Essien having to take Mensah’s place in defense, leaving the midfield somewhat vulnerable. But through it all, our team spirit held, finally triumphing 2-1 after 93 minutes of football.

I salute our gallant soilders – Richard Kingson, John Paintsil, Hans Sarpei, Eric Addo, John Mensah, Anthony Annan, Quincy Owusu Abeye/Hamidu Draman, Michael Essien, Asamoah Gyan/Laryea Kingston, Junior Agogo and Sulley Muntari.

After defying the juju of the Nigerians, my confidence is restored. The boys have shown us where determination can get this nation.

Bring it on Afrika! Black Stars Oseeyeeeee!!!

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