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02.04.2004 Feature Article

The Need For Research IV

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This is the fourth and final part of the serial and discusses an implementation plan and the final conclusions. Implementation To become a research-cultured society and experience situations such as that of Akwele and the fitter there is a lot we must do. The seven categorised recommendations presented in part 3 are crucial and require a lot of attention, time, effort and funding by the government, other agencies and everyone. Nevertheless, the ball could be set rolling with the input everyone can make. Getting the government support will be difficult if not impossible since each government has its own agenda and more so keeps facing the hard challenge and troubles of not being able to deliver them. The key strategy in implementing the recommendations is the use of informal education through seminars, workshops, joint discussions, etc.

In Ghana, knowledge sharing is a problem in that the avenues for doing that is limited in our system and as mentioned in part two, our educational system has not helped much either. On the other hand, our system has incubated a culture in which individuals tend to keep knowledge to themselves only to share it on some few occasions, sometimes, to display their ego. Although Ghana has a limited but good stock of fairly educated experts, the bulk of Ghanaian experts are residing and working abroad due to limitations and problems at home and other personal reasons. Informal education thus provides a platform wherein Ghanaian experts can share their knowledge to others. In so doing, we create a learning spirit which forms the basis of a research culture and at the same time help to reverse the brain drain.

Many of us are experts in our own rights. Most Ghanaians abroad have taken a great effort to further their education to very high levels. Many have also had the opportunity to participate in lots of projects, etc which has led them to build their expertise. We have engineers of all kinds, medical practitioners, financial gurus, computer and information experts, nuclear engineers, psychologists, rocket scientists etc. Most of these people have a lot to share to our fellow Ghanaians.

Most of the industries in Ghana are failing and are in ruins. In many respects, we don't even have any – like the insignificant leather industry. What we can do is have all these industries be organised in terms of their respective associations and cooperatives. I believe the related government agencies or ministries can furnish the details on that. If this is not available with the government then you can tell how badly we need research. Thus workshops and seminars could be organised for these associations and have experts from home or abroad share their expertise with them. As can be seen many areas exist for improvement and one critical area that our brothers in the Diasporas can help in is the area of industry trends and benchmarking – what is happening elsewhere, how and what other people are using to improve, and how these methods and tools can be adopted locally. To illustrate this point let us consider this situation:

Mr Kwaata has been abroad for some time. He left Ghana many years ago with barely anything but his precious G.C.E O'level certificate in science. Although he had barely passed in chemistry and addmath, he trusts he could be a great engineer. After arriving in country UZ, he realised there was much he could do with his certificate although he couldn't go to sixth-form with it at home. On settling with some few jobs he takes the opportunity to further his education in mechanical engineering. He finds the first term a bit difficult given that he has to comply with stringent course timetables and work at the same time. In the subsequent terms however, he is able to adapt to the speedy learning environment and applies his midnight candle-burning techniques he picked from Ghana and becomes one of the best students in class. In the long run, he becomes one of the brains in mechanical engineering with postgraduate degrees, consultation and research experiences. All these while, he keeps thinking about home. Most of his friends who made it to the sixth-form could not continue to the university. He reads the news articles and hardly sees any improvement in terms of national development. He is very eager to help especially with his expertise in manufacturing plant design and product engineering.

One day, he goes home after 23 years abroad and on his visit tries to look for avenues wherein he could share his expertise. He goes to the respective ministry and tries to establish some good contacts and seek audience with some key people. He realises that his mission is deemed strange and told that there were a whole lot of experts whom the government could make good use of when necessary. The junior staffs however are interested in him dishing out some few cedis since he has been in 'abrochie'. In his frustration he acknowledges that there couldn't be any avenue by which he could help his motherland by sharing his expertise.

Before he gives up hope, he sights a newspaper announcement calling on members of the garage association and interested partners in auto-fitting for a one-day workshop being organised by Agency X. He makes it a point to attend this workshop and in doing so realises he could share his expertise to the participants. He decides on a topic and makes a short proposal on the details to the Agency. The agency discusses all the related issues that go into organising the workshop. The participants who are contacted through their respective association are invited as such. Mr Kwaata prepares his PowerPoint slides and handouts. Agency X makes copies of this handout and distributes to the participants. The seminar goes on very well. The participants learn new techniques from him and receive certificates of attendance and participation. Company Z a major stakeholder in the industry participates by providing kenkey and fried fish for lunch. Agency X presents a plaque of appreciation to Mr Kwaata and discusses ways in which he could further speak on other issues to other associations. The participants having learned the new techniques are eager to apply them and learn more. Agency X in turn arranges with Mr Kwaata to have him speak on other issues anytime he visits home. In the near future he familiarises himself further with the dynamics of the local industry and prepares presentations for educating the practitioners as such. As he lives abroad, he spends a good portion of his time, researching and collecting materials for subsequent presentations. On his subsequent visits to Ghana, he prearranges with Agency X for other seminars and workshops and thus teaches the participants the basic techniques of innovation, product and service development, standardisation, etc. 'Alorsman', the mechanic mentioned in part 1 happens to be one of the participants. As he tried to develop and test his exhaust system, Agency X assists him with structured guidelines; he even coordinates with Mr Kwaata and gets some more ideas with some issues he faces with the design. Finally, when the design is completed, Agency X assists him to have it patented with all the necessary documentation that pertains to it. With the motivation he got from the exhaust project, he decides to further his education through night school. In the next 15 years, he finally marches with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. The other participants who didn't consider themselves to be so gifted in innovation spent most of their time applying the techniques of business improvement and adopted the models presented by Mr Kwaata for their business. As for Mr Kwaata, he becomes a key expert to the industry and keeps developing models and giving seminars on all his trips to Ghana. Other African governments through Agency X begin to demand his services at a fee.

Mr Kwaata could be you. What is your expertise? I think you should start building some models based on the Ghanaian context now. For those of you, who are home, make time to gather data, do some readings and start asking critical questions on why things are the way they are, in say, your field of expertise. This could set the stage for you to do research or participate in a research project. For those in the Diaspora, take some time to gather data and familiarise yourself with the current local situation whenever you are in Ghana. And as I mentioned earlier, the absence of data will tell you how much work we all have to do.

Agency X could be a team of determined Ghanaians who are ready to commit time and effort to transform Ghana into a research-cultured society and find an outlet or avenue for sharing their knowledge with others. As its work gains momentum and attract government participation, it leads to the creation of a Centre of Excellence (COE) in a related field. The COE then takes over the activities of Agency X in that field, absorbs the experts into their framework and begins structured research for the government and nation at large. As the hub for knowledge and information, research and development, the COE links up with all the related institutions, professional bodies, industrial associations, government bodies, etc. It also becomes an arena where research findings are presented, tested, refined and published. Conclusion A research-cultured society in Ghana is surely the way out of this current HIPIC status and into a technologically advanced and industrial society. Whatever we plan, do and evaluate must all be based on researched facts and information. Even when research output is not implemented, further research must be conducted to ascertain why and put across solutions to deter such situations. A research cultured-society will get us to document every thing we do and say and help us to find our place in the world. It will help us understand our situation in the right context and give us a constructive guide in solving them. Anything else will lead us further away from achieving the development objectives for our dear nation and continent.

The good news is that, some key people are beginning to appreciate the need for research. Our Excellency, President Kufuor had made a desperate call for it during his speech at the fund-raising dinner dance organised by the Busia Foundation in Accra. The president had this to say and I quote:

'Ghana had not benefited from the heritage of ideas and principles that motivated the pioneering leaders to launch the political parties and traditions that were still driving the country's evolution for development and unless conscious efforts were made in a systematic manner to research, compile, analyse and publish critically those ideas and principles within reasonable time, the body politic would stand the danger of losing some of the essence of the stock of wisdom and history that motivated these great men.' He further said,

'it was necessary that the majority of Ghanaians especially the youth, be informed about the historical personalities and their divergent philosophies, principles, outlooks, associations and traditions that combined to form the nation'

And that

'Ghanaians were getting more and more oblivious of the nation's previous attempts at democratic governance largely because of the absence of properly researched and documented information put out in a sustained manner.'

What the president had realised was that there has been little or no documented research that sought to present sustainable guidelines by which the government could run. In effect, little or no research had been done in our body politic. If there were then they weren't properly disseminated and collecting dust as such. Interestingly, the same pattern runs through most of our institutions and sectors. There are little researched information or facts to guide us in our everyday planning and decision-making. This call is a positive one and I pray that it will go down to the society as whole. I will refer the reader to read the complete news cited on Sunday, 17 August 2003 at www.ghanaweb.com.

Finally, I encourage each and every one of us not to take things likely in terms of what we can contribute to make Ghana and Africa as such a research cultured-society. Let us bring all our potentials to bear and document as many ideas and concepts as we can envisage. Particularly, let us pay attention to where our expertise lie and contribute to the knowledge that is critically needed to build our nation. Most of the foundational knowledge that lay the framework of several aspects of doing things in our own context has not be done and I challenge each and every one of us to start doing some research on it. Don't wait for the government to call on you because it may never happen. The challenge goes to all. Begin some research for Mother Ghana now!

Please, you are welcome to send your comments, questions and criticisms. Jojoe Yartey Industrial Engineer Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Jojoe Yartey
Jojoe Yartey, © 2004

The author has 4 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JojoeYartey

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