Aside this weekly column, I have been a dormant participant of any activities of the Ghana Journalist Association. I sometimes recall with nostalgia, the days of activities of the GJA under the leadership of our senior brother, Kabral Blay Amihere. The playing grounds were the new offices of the GJA at the Korle Bu road in Accra. Many major Press Conferences of corporate bodies were held there. The weekends saw some old limbs doing some twisting and calypso dancing. Quiet a number of seminars and workshops for journalists were also organized there by the GJA. That is when the GJA effectively weaned itself from the Ministry of Information.
The Kabral-Gifty Affenyi Dadzie adminstrations later brought us closer to the center of town when a new GJA office was acquired in the Kwame Nkrumah Circle area for easy access, until President Kufuor's administration allocated the current block near the Ghana Institute of Journalism to the GJA. The tortuous journey of the GJA can be better told by very high seniors of the profession than people like me.
Last week Saturday, the Western Regional Chapter of the GJA organized its edition of the 70th Anniversary of the GJA at the prestigious Western Best Atlantic Hotel in Takoradi. I was privileged to have been invited to the programme by the executives of the Regional Chapter of the GJA, which saw hardworking journalists awarded for their contributions to the media landscape in the region and helping draw the attention of the public to very challenging issues confronting the people in the region.
I had read about other such events of regional chapters of the association in the media but very little knowledge of what went into the organizations of those functions to commemorate the 70th birthday of the GJA and the themes of the events. In Takoradi, I was most attracted by the theme of the Awards Night, 'Redefining Corporate Social Responsibility – Moving from Handouts to Legacy Projects, The Role of the Gatekeeper'.
The theme for the occasion could not have been any more appropriate considering the fact that the Western Region has been home to a huge chunk of the extractive sector of the nation's economy since the colonial era. The extraction of timber, gold, manganese and until recently, bauxite and in its place oil makes the region the most exploited region in Ghana. Globally, any region with high concentration of the extractive industry also attracts a huge influx of migrant workers which also engenders other associated economic activities in commerce and the service sector. And so it has happened that the region has over the years been bubbling with all manners of economic activities and in its wake, other negative social vices.
Sadly, the major towns and communities where extractive activities of both formal and informal nature take place have suffered massive deterioration in infrastructure and modernity. Towns like Prestea, Aboso, Tarkwa, Bogoso, Nsuta etc, all of whom are mining towns have nothing to show that they produce such wealth which are dug from the belly of the earth on a daily basis and exported to other nations to help in their developments.
There is one thing common to all exploited towns and communities in Ghana as a whole and the Western Region in particular. As I stated earlier, because the extractive industry attracts a lot of migrant workers of both skilled and unskilled labour, the corporate bodies of old provided accommodation for the workers. The structure of the housing and the facilities for their use are the same. One long structure of about five bedrooms and a verandah each for a household, a common public toilet for all the people within a large community, a common open kitchen for the five households and open public bathhouses for males and females separately.
Almost 100 years after the construction of the railways and the port in Takoradi, the central part of Takoradi houses thousands of people in such 'quarters' without household toilets and bathhouses. The old structures remained the same, thus allowing the occupants to redesign them their own way and further creating eyesore in the centre of the city. Just take a stroll to Nsuta and you will not believe this is the town which has produced manganese for God knows when.
Try and visit Aboso, and it is a modern slum, Prestea is a pale shadow of its former self while Tarkwa is a town of historical value, only important as long as its bowels can deliver gold to those who need them. It is a confused town to the stranger, poor and narrow roads, very old buildings, in the midst of gold. While governments of this nation have paid very little attention to the areas that produce these wealth, the multi-national corporations have not done enough to improve the communities in which they operate. What they offer the communities are, according to the Western Regional GJA, handouts.
Yes, the media has constantly covered the handing over of 'Six-Classroom blocks' built by corporate bodies in the extractive sector in the region, boreholes in their mechanized forms for some communities and social centres built by companies which make hundreds of millions of dollars yearly. This is why the regional GJA is asking that the companies in the extractive sector of our economy in the region must, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, embark upon 'Legacy Projects' that will commensurate the resources that have been funneled out of the region for over 100 years, with nothing to show how rich the region is.
Trunk roads linking Takoradi to Awaso keep on giving way faster than any such roads because of the huge load of bauxite and manganese that traverse the region before shipment out of the country. A conservative number of about 100 trucks use the road from Takoradi-Nsuta and Awaso on a daily basis, fully loaded with the heavy ores of manganese and bauxite. All we get in return are 'six classroom blocks' as handouts.
Our roads remain terrible and make travelling so difficult for the people travelling by public transport to and from their various abodes for various economic and social activities. It is important to make a very loud mention of Goldfields Ghana Limited which has re-built the Aboso-Junction-Huni Valley-Damang road, 33km with asphaltic overlay at a cost of US$27 million over a three-year period. This indeed is a legacy project. A project the people within the catchment area will forever be grateful for because it certainly will reduce travelling time and speed up economic activities for the people.
Meanwhile, even though the Takoradi-Tarkwa stretch generally is bad, the Wassa Agona-Tarkwa stretch of less than 20 km has become an albatross hanging around the neck of the government because of its terrible state. The very poor state is compounded by the scores of heavy duty truck loads of bauxite and manganese which further worsen the road and deepens the plight of travelers and residents of those vicinities.
I am sure in the coming months they will build a 'six classroom block' for communities around and tell the world they are meeting their Corporate Social Responsibility commitments. Handouts must surely give way to Legacy Projects for which the multinationals would be forever remembered. Yes, they pay their taxes to the state alright but they also know that back in their home countries, they could not make their monies in such deprived environments and be comfortable with it. Follow the examples of Goldfields Ghana Limited and leave Legacy Projects behind.