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25.10.2014 Feature Article

Things On My Mind

Things On My Mind
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As I write this, I am seething with anger.Two mobile phone numbers I have been trying to call in Ghana have not been made available to me for the past six hours! One is an 027 number, while the other is an 024.

I don't know which phone companies run these numbers, and I don't care to

know. What I care about deeply is that in 2014, my country should continue license any phone companies that deny service to would-be customers for six hours on a working day.

Suppose someone had heard that some Ghanaian shares are going for a good price and wanted to instruct a stockbroker to go in fast and purchase a few for him/her? Wouldn't the business be taken elsewhere?

'The number you're calling is switched off!' one is told time after time. Balderdash. I have said before that I tried to call my own phone with another phone in Accra once, and that although the two phones were lying side by side, and were both switched on, the message from the phone companies was that they had been switched off or were out of range.

When will our Government wake up to its responsibilities and get these phone companies to stop their nonsense? If Ghana wants to attract business people to invest here, then flawless communications must be number one on the list of attractions it offers. People don't have time to wait these days. They will take their business elsewhere if they can't make contact.

Ghana's communications supervisors should employ people whose sole duty is to make calls all day - both within Ghana and from overseas - and note how connectible our phone calls are.

The companies that fail to perform must be fined heavily - in millions of dollars, so that they can learn that non performance can be extremely costly. Repeat offenders should be punished with the suspension of their licences.

We cannot allow phone companies to strangulate our business and social contacts, just because they probably distribute free handsets and pre-paid SIM cards to those who should be monitoring their operations.

Those who take these bribes should ask themselves: should we be starving Ghana of business and social contacts and make telephone companies rich for doing nothing?

Okay, let me be fair: suppose the phone companies have been affected by a shortage of electricity? I am afraid that is not an excuse.

Even private homes, operated by people who are hardly wealthy, now rely most of the time on their own electricity generators, because they know fully well that electricity has become a rare commodity in Ghana.

Phone companies must factor in reliable generators as part of their investment. If they cannot do that, then their business plans are defective and they must not be given licences to operate in Ghana.

Our airwaves are meant for those who can fully use them, not some bojiwa-bojiwa (fly-by-night) companies out to make a quick buck without performing at a high standard. Favouring inefficient companies means cutting the throat of Mother Ghana.

Our neighbours will take all the businesses meant for us, although our people are recognised everywhere to be polite,hard-working and relatively honest - t h e r e f o r e , good as business partners.

The Ebola disaster is bringing out some interesting facts. First, many of the news media in Western countries have gone completely overboard in stigmatising Africans as a whole to be potential carriers of the Ebola virus.

Liberians in America - some of whom have not been anywhere near their country for years - have felt it necessary to make a film carrying the message: 'I am a Liberian, not an Ebola virus.'

Night after night, I have watched NBC Nightly News lead with an Ebola story, although only three people have so far been infected with Ebola within America. So much has the hysteria grown in America that people who are mentally disturbed are pretending to be Ebola sufferers.

In one instance, a man on a bus shouted, 'Don't mess with me - I've got Ebola!' Everyone in the bus fled, and the man was arrested. The bus was quarantined.

Another example: a woman who was blind drunk went into a hospital and claimed that she and her son were both infected with Ebola.

She became violent when the hospital staff tried to find out what was wrong with her. When they discovered that she was blind drunk, they put her behind bars.

A magazine called The Onion has published the opinions of several humanitarian scientists and businessmen, all of whom make the point that if Ebola had broken out in predominantly white - and rich - societies, instead of in black and poor areas, a remedy would have been found and put on the market by now.

But because 'big-pharma' has no profit incentive to devote all its energies to finding  cure, it will take some time - and many more deaths in Africa - before a vaccine against Ebola, or a treatment for it, is put on the market.

It is sad, but yes - the reality is that we live in two worlds: one for the rich and powerful, and another for the poor and helpless.

But God helps those who help themselves, so we should do our best to use our own God-given intelligence to protect ourselves against this terrible plague.

And let us really get serious about thoroughly cleaning up our cities! Disease thrives on filth. Why should we give disease the food it needs to grow fat to eat us up? It's as bad as that.

By Cameron Duodu

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2014

Martin Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a career as a journalist and editorialist.Column: CameronDuodu

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