18.10.2004 General News

Taking the pulse of Ghana

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On the day the BBC publishes a survey of African attitudes, the BBC correspondent in Accra, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, tries to find out what Ghanaians really think of their lives.

In Ghana, it is virtually impossible to find anyone who will confess that they would rather be anything other than Ghanaian and African.

But it is common to find people with European names, wearing Western clothes and lapping up the latest music from the United States.

They argue that there is no contradiction.

"I'm proud to be an African," says Sally Bossman, a 27-year-old post-graduate student in communications at the University of Ghana at Legon, Accra.

"I can't change my identity; I was born an African and I'll die an African. We have great people out there who've made great contributions to the world. Kofi Annan [the Ghanaian UN secretary-general] is an example."

And is Ms Bossman proud of her name?

"Those are names from parents. I don't have a choice."

What about her straightened hair? Isn't she proud of the natural curly locks with which she was born?

"The fact that I'm proud to be an African doesn't mean that I don't like anything Western.

"It's OK so long as it won't contaminate my morals. Some of the white people also come here to lie on the beaches to get a tan. They want to be like me. Each admires what the other has. We're all God's creation."

Home comforts

Leroy Ankrah, also a student who has spent a few years in Britain, says there is no place like home.

"I've travelled around a bit, and Ghana is the only place that I feel totally free."

He puts a high premium on the extended family system and the sense of communalism it creates.

"We're more social. In Britain they don't have a strong extended family tradition. But in Ghana, even if you don't have any money on you, there's always some uncle somewhere who can make your day."


Although a lot of people admit that there is widespread poverty in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa, they do not concede that the continent has failed.

"There's failure everywhere in the world," argues Mr Ankrah.

"Maybe it's a little more pronounced in Africa because our nations are much younger. America, for example, is more than 200 years old."

Mawuli Washington Nuwokpor, a 37-year-old public relations officer at the Internal Revenue Service, shares that view.

"Whatever the West can do we can also do. They have also passed through challenges. So we have our challenges. But if we put our minds to it we can also surmount those challenges and even do better than them."


Dela Tettey, a fashion designer, believes Africans have every reason to be proud because of the harsh natural and artificial conditions they have survived for centuries.

"Which people on earth could survive slavery for 300 years and colonisation for another 150 years after that? And the world is wondering why Africa lags behind?"

Dele Momodu, a publisher of the West African glamour magazine, Ovation, says that if the white man had gone through what Africans had gone through he would be extinct.

"If Europeans had to operate within this environment without using us as slaves, they would die, simple."

Professor Mohammed Ben Abdallah, a pan-Africanist and professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Ghana, applauds the pride of Africans in their continent.

But he says they should extend it beyond the things that are ethnic and traditional.

"Africans have contributed to build Europe and America and modern technology.

"And so when people say, well, if you're pan-Africanist then you must reject the automobile and spaceships and mobile phones and so on. I say: 'Nonsense'. We must use them. They are ours too. We must be proud of them too."

As Professor Abdallah spoke, a piano could be heard tinkling, as a student practised a Chopin classical piece. But the rhythm was soon broken by African-dance students banging away on "atumpan" drums.

"Those are sounds from the global village," said Professor Abdallah.

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