03.03.2004 Feature Article

Letter from the President: Too many useless NGO talk shops

Letter from the President: Too many useless NGO talk shops
03.03.2004 LISTEN

Countrymen and women, against people and ever-ready to sing loyalists, I am alarmed. I think that our country has become too talkative for my liking. People are talking too much about too many things in too many different place and I can't help but get alarmed. You know I have had serious problems with the many radio phone-programmes which allow people too much leverage to open their mouths too wide to spew out assorted folly. The alarm I feel right now has nothing to do with radio phone-in programmes. Thank God! But it still has everything to do with the talkative nature of Ghanaians.

These days everywhere you turn you see and hear about workshops, seminars, conferences, forums, roundtable discussions, summits and what have you. Whatever name the organizers give to these programmes, does not hide the fact that these are useless talk shops. These talk shops are competing with radio phone-ins for recognition as the most favoured platform for Ghanaians to show the world that they are the most talkative people on earth.

Today there is sensitization workshop, tomorrow there is a conscientisation seminar, the next day there is a de-stigmatization conference, the day after there is a harmonization summit or a conceptualization roundtable discussion. Maybe some people do not get tired of organizing and attending these talk shops. As for me, I am just tired of hearing and reading about one talk shop after another. People use these talk shops to make a lot of money under the guise of gathering ideas for national development. In fact, most of the ideas from these talk shops tend to be over-recycled recommendations.

I have personally decided that I will not accept any invitation to open a workshop or conference or seminar unless it is of great national/international significance. I want the members of my governing team to do the same. They spend too much of their time delivering corny keynote speeches at workshops and seminars in different parts of the country. I guess they like to see themselves on TV, looking too important and sounding very ministerial with a lanky, hungry-looking bodyguard standing behind them.

I guess we have to set up a special commission to review the thousands of workshops, seminars etc. which have been organized in this country over the past five years and determine whether those programmes have been of any benefit to us. I believe strongly that the commission will discover that a lot of the workshops did not yield any positive results. People attended the workshops all right, they made recommendations but no one has bothered to even read, much less, implement them. Who cares?

The talk shops are usually organized by so-called civil society organizations (or non-governmental organizations) of questionable origin and reputation. In our country today, NGOs are almost like business ventures. Forming an NGO is very lucrative and I will encourage anyone who is too lazy to think and work like we all do to set up an NGO. The biggest advantage in forming an NGO instead of establishing a real business enterprise is that with your NGO you can easily acquire interest-free capital.

Here are some tips.

You don't need to present any business plan and you don't need any collateral. You just have to suggest how your NGO will fight a particular social ill – the most popular one these days being HIV/AIDS awareness creation. Other NGOs are set up to fight poverty, empower women, stop mosquitoes from breeding, rehabilitate wee smokers, get children off the streets, get drop-out kids back into school, help traumatized women, provide family planning education, impress on doctors and nurses not to travel to seek greener pastures abroad, encourage men to help their wives in the kitchen, teach people how to use condoms, educate mad men to behave properly etc. The list is endless. After you have made up your mind on the objective(s) of your NGO, all you need to do is to set these objectives on paper, send it out to the media and try as much as you can to get some mention in the papers and on radio. You might need to pay the journalists 'something' to publish the news about the formation of your NGO and what you stand for. This is the only initial investment you need to make. You don't need to rent office space or buy furniture. You can work on all your correspondence in a communication centre but it is advisable to also invest in a mobile phone (and make sure it is always within coverage area and fully-charged. Well, after you've paid 'something' to the journalists, they will publish 'anything' you want them to publish about your NGO. Make sure you get all the clippings of the newspaper publications. Then go to a communication centre, get yourself a letterhead and write to the Ministries, Departments or Agencies which are directly responsible for the cause you have adopted. For example, if you want to create awareness about HIV/AIDS write to the AIDS Commission, if you want to sterilize mosquitoes you write to the Ministry of Health or the National Malaria Control Programme. Attach the newspaper clippings to each of your letters, which you will have to send personally to the concerned agency. I guarantee that you will get a lot of money to organize any workshop, forum, seminar, roundtable discussion or summit (you decide how you will call it) in any part of the country. The good news is that you will not have to render any proper account on how you spend the money yet you will never be 'Enronned'. Yes, it's easier to make money from establishing an NGO than set up a company.

When you set up a company, you will write business plan after business plan but they will all end up in some bank manager's dustbin. Those bank managers who do not throw your plan into a bin are not likely to give you the start-up capital you need and those who give you the capital you need will do so with so many strings attached that you might end up choking on the interest payments alone. The formation of an NGO is less risky, you need very little start-up capital (if any at all) and the money will surely flow in “waa waaa waaaaaaaaa”.

I wish you luck in your bid to establish a talk shop-organising NGO. But be warned that the day of reckoning will come. On that day, a lot of NGO managers will go to prison “waa waaa waaaaaa”. In the prison can talk all they want. The first to go to prison will most likely be the red beret-wearing, gari-making and oil-milling directors of Mrs Boom's political NGO.

NGO-hating President

J. A. Fukuor [email protected]

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