FF :I am not sure I have ever been to Ghana. But like me, I am sure many people get carried away thinking they know the country very well. After all, it’s just next door and every Nigerian has Ghanaian friends.
A friend went to Ghana for a couple of days and sent me this interesting post on what he saw out there.
- My first observation was when I landed. The Kotoka Airport is smaller than MMIA but what struck me was the cleanliness and order. The immigration people were professional, the baggage carousels were labelled and effective. Heck, even the toilets were extremely neat. Add the fact that customs people were not asking the ‘wetin you carry’ question and it was love at first visit for me. I understand the terminal was opened 6 months ago and its still spick and span. I was understandably ashamed of MMIA.
- Ghana is a much smaller country than Nigeria but I noticed that while their roads are smaller, they are in very good condition. This was so in Accra and even when I took a road trip to Akosombo, 2 hours away, the journey was extremely smooth. Not sure if this is replicated all through the country but the 2 towns I visited had roads in good condition. As an aside, I went on a 2-hour road trip and there was no policeman stopping us to ask stupid questions. Bravo!
- Living in Nigeria and getting used to our heightened sense of security, whether over Boko Haram or even the dare devil armed robbers, it was a pleasant surprise to go to a country where they did not have issues like that and where one did not need to go through bomb scanners when going into hotels or malls.
- Still on security, the President’s residence and office are smack in the middle of town. What struck me was that there was no security outside the gates, save for 2 sentries I saw. In addition, it’s on a major highway, meaning that vehicular traffic around the president is very high. I am still in shock as to how simple the whole thing looked.
- Accra looks like a massive half-finished construction site. The most obvious evidence of the recent economic recession we have been hearing about. There are many ambitious projects which have been abandoned in the wake of the economic recession in Accra and the Oil price crash.
- Talking about the recession; power in Accra is at an all time low. From 24 hours a few years ago, to scheduled load shedding last year, Ghanaians are now used to what we experience in Nigeria; unscheduled, long periods of time without power. This has also affected the roads as most Accra roads are not lit as part of load shedding. I understand that the Minister of Power promised to resign if there is no uninterrupted power supply by 31 Dec 2015 [FF: Indeed he has resigned]. However, a few weeks ago, he tempered that with ‘barring unforeseen circumstances’. Ghanaians are waiting for what he will term ‘unforeseen’. They don’t expect him to honour his word.
- Prior to leaving Lagos, there had been a lot of talk about Nigerian manufacturing companies moving to Ghana. However, my ‘sauces’ in Ghana insist that the reverse is the case. They mentioned that Cadbury had recently closed up shop in Accra and that most of their consumer goods are imported from Nigeria. I also know that Kimberly-Clark manufactures pampers in Nigeria for export to Ghana. In addition, a lot of companies operating in Ghana are scaling down seriously. A lot of people got their sack letters this December. My friends work in banks and they mentioned that their clients and even their employers are letting people go on a large scale. As I typed earlier, it’s all very confusing and does not line with the impression of Ghana one reads about on Nigerian twitter.
- Talking about Nigerian exports to Ghana, Nigerian music is a big deal here. No party is complete without Nigerian music. Even the wedding I went for, people did not start dancing until Davido came up. I also saw a lot of our ‘oil and gas’ companies: Oando has a number of stations in Ghana. Same for Sahara, which has a company in Accra. Don’t ask me what they do there though. Just saw this nice Sahara Fire truck in my friend’s house (picture below). Another noticeable export is Silverbird cinemas, which is one of the biggest in Ghana. When I saw the Silverbird logo, I remembered again that Ben Murray Bruce heads one of the largest entertainment outfits in Africa. Still difficult to reconcile this fact to the man’s tweets. Politics really makes people do strange things!
- One company that’s not sacking people anytime soon has to be the company that promotes Game and Shoprite stores. They are as ubiquitous in Ghanaian malls as they are in Nigerian malls. Whoever set out their business model and expansion strategy is right on the money (another Shoprite opened next to my house in Lagos this December)
- Still on the economy, I have to mention how difficult this fx issue is. My Nigerian cards did not work in Ghana. CBN does not want us using cards in African countries again. In addition, my friend was in Nigeria in 2013 and I changed USD into Naira for her. She had leftover naira and wanted to change to USD. Let’s just say she was shocked that her naira that was worth 100 USD is now worth a little above 50USD.
- Coming from Lagos where weddings are such elaborate events. Was pleasantly surprised to see that Ghanaians still keep weddings simple. My friend’s dad is CEO of a bank and even at that, the wedding was small and very unpretentious. In total, we had less than 200 people. The reception was in the club house of their dad’s estate; other users of the club house were going about their normal sporting activities while the reception was on. There was no unnecessary show off. The picture below shows the entire wedding venue
- Talking about simplicity, Ghanaians are very simple and nice. I met the VP of Ghana at lunch in my friend’s house and if you had not been told who he was, you would never have guessed. Came in a convoy of 2 cars, about 4 security personnel (including drivers) and sat with us like any normal guest. In addition, his security detail were quite discreet and not overzealous like their Nigerian counterparts. Very refreshing
- Ghanaians, like Nigerians, are a very superstitious lot. Coming from the airport, we passed a portion of the road where there were thousands of bats flying. This is just in front of 37 Military Hospital, one of the biggest in Ghana. I understand that the bats are there because a very powerful chief died in the hospital. The bats escorted him there when he was sick and they never left because they are still waiting for their principal to be discharged. This is local folklore but its quite strange that there is no congregation of bats anywhere else in Accra, at least on such a large scale. More here.
- If you thought religion was big business in Nigeria, I would posit that it’s even bigger business in Ghana. Everywhere I went, I was inundated with many billboards advertising churches and pastors: I daresay there are more billboards advertising churches than companies! In addition, there are so many churches. In fact, on one street, there were 3 massive churches next to one another. Wonder how they manage to hear themselves.
- I cannot end this without mentioning how popular President Buhari is in Ghana. The man is loved and I understand some Ghanaians have started naming their children after our president. They also wish their president was a bit more like PMB. Understandably, they do not feel GEJ was a good president; the impression I got from the people I spoke with was that he was very weak.
- Arik Air took off on time both when I was leaving Lagos and heading back to Lagos. In fact, we left Accra 15 minutes early. Even the pilot was shocked by this that he had to mention that he never thought it was going to happen that an Arik flight would be 15 minutes early. It bears repeating. ARIK AIR WAS ON TIME!
- My take on the Jollof rice war. What Ghana has should never be called Jollof. It is a travesty for our Jollof to have the same name as that ‘red rice’ they make. Their waakye (rice and beans combination) is absolutely fantastic. Take with Imodium though….
The final word on Ghana – my impression is that this is a country that is fast slipping into the rut Nigeria has found herself. I am really hoping that they pull through especially as I really felt at home there. Accra has the best Lagos has to offer, while managing to avoid some of the worst bits of Lagos. It is the first town outside Lagos I can comfortably live in without missing Lagos too much.
The author is @oladayo01 on twitter.