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14.07.2008 Feature Article

Welcome to Ghana! (Made in China)

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I love Ghana. And I love Ghanaians, the most wonderful people on God's Earth. That's why this Kwesi Obroni is still living in Africa's Golden Gateway after leaving his home country of England to teach here in 1998.

I want to do as much as an individual can to contribute to the development of the nation. That includes financially: when I bring my pounds to spend in Ghana, I want to see them stay in Ghana, not go straight back to aborokyire.

Unfortunately, in this current “Pineapple Biscuit” era, spending money on made-in-Ghana goods is proving increasingly difficult. Of course, it is not yet possible to buy a made-in-Ghana car, mobile phone, DVD player or computer. One day, one day. Worryingly, though, is the plethora of other, more basic, foreign items flooding our streets, which are only contributing to the all too common complaint of “No money in the system.”

When you buy something, how often do you read the small print to find out where it's from? Even the sellers themselves sometimes have no clue of the origin of their wares. Try asking “Efiri he?” as well as “Eysn?” next time you go shopping.

Our streets and supermarkets are full of imported goods such as; Sri Lankan biscuits, Argentinian corned beef, Singaporean pineapple juice, Malaysian chocolate, Dutch chicken, Italian tomato paste, Thai rice and Indian razor blades. The biggest player seems to be China, who is swamping the market with anything from handkerchiefs and mosquito coils to condoms and chale wote. How much money is spent on the import and export of these items and their transport over thousands of miles? More importantly, when you buy your packet of ginger biscuits, how many pesewas are staying in Africa and how many are going to Asia?

Ask an Englishman to explain to you the old saying “Taking coals to Newcastle” and you will find it a very fitting analogy to what is happening in Ghana today. We have pineapples, yet import pineapple juice. We have cocoa and sugar, yet import chocolate. We can make biscuits, clothes, rice, etc, etc, but all these things continue to be imported. I am sure that it is not as easy to find Ghanaian fruit juice and chocolate on the streets of Singapore or Malaysia.

The problem is compounded by the widely-held belief that foreign goods are always better than Ghanaian goods. This is both untrue and unpatriotic. How can one orange juice be better than another orange juice? It's all orange juice! Some savvy manufacturers are even cashing in on this belief by imitating foreign packaging on their local goods. Another paradox is the fact that many of the companies in Ghana engaged in juice bottling, tuna canning, plastic recycling, bush meat farming, etc. are owned by foreigners.

Reading the packaging will also reveal another grave concern: not for our economy, but for the health of our children. Wooden kiosks and hawkers' heads up and down the land are offering cheap, foreign sweets and toffees for kids to spend their “thousand” on. Have you seen the ingredients of these things? They are full of chemical additives and E-numbers which have been proven to negatively affect children's development. Europe and America are full of crazy kids with behavioural problems like Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity, caused by all the toffees and junk food they eat. Children should be eating fruit, not sweets.

The ironic thing is, everything you've just read is probably not new to you. I'm sure you already agree that we need to support our local industries, improve agriculture, increase exports and stop being so reliant on the white (or yellow) man. The trouble is, most people simply offer the defeatist response of “Because of our leaders…”, rather than looking for a solution to the problem.

In this case, you can become part of the solution. Next time you're walking around Makola, or at the kiosk down your street, tell them you want to buy made-in-Ghana. If all 22 million of us do it, we'll keep the money in the system.

It is a travesty that 21st Century Ghana remains a poor country. Yes, we are blessed with plenty of bauxite, gold, diamonds, timber, foodstuffs, oil, etc. but still we have hungry and homeless people who can't afford school fees, transport or even their daily bread. The words of Peter Tosh, from 30 years ago, still ring true: “Africa is the richest place, with the poorest race, and to me it's a disgrace.” We don't have to wait for our leaders to address this problem- we can do something ourselves. Buy made-in-Ghana, not made-in-China.

The writer is the author of “M'adamfo! The Essential Guide for all Obronis in Ghana”

Email: [email protected]

Ian Duncan Utley
Ian Duncan Utley, © 2008

The author has 7 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: IanDuncanUtley

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