Posted by: Isaac Bruce | May 31, 2011

Koforidua Chronicles

 Finally, I had to move from Accra to Koforidua before the beginning of next month June to start my summer internship with Burro Company. I am very much excited about working with the Burro brand mainly because is a highly – progressive start up in Ghana in September 2008 (when I entered college). More so, it is focused on Agriculture and increasing its product category in this industry which is the main part of my work and a future venture I will like to go in.

Thus I left Accra to Koforidua on a state transport bus at about 1pm with few rain patches. The bus was overloaded with goods and traders from Koforidua and Accra since it was a market day in Koforidua. I had to remove my earphones a dozen times to answer questions from other people on board. It felt like a journey that was never going to end. There were great sceneries coupled with the chilly weather condition from the hills and mountains.

Before getting to Akwapim Manpong (town) a little boy from a distance stood close to the middle of the busy road trying to sell us a bush meat (akrantie, they call it). It was great to see but scary for me as well. This confirms my earlier view of the entrepreneurial spirit of Ghanaians in general and hence my quote ₺What we call as entrepreneurial spirit is not in some of us, but is actually in all of us₺. Not forgetting the female traders I sat on the bus with. This trend is duplicated throughout Africa, as women are the ones who till the land, harvest the goods to the market and perform all the economic activities that will give way to Africa’s growth in the future whilst not understating the support of men in these.

So I finally got to Koforidua at 30 minutes after 4. From the directions given, I walked by pass the Burro office, which as far I could see, is supposedly meant to be the only flashy green storey building in the town yet unnoticeable to me. I was greeted by football enthusiasts in Koforidua who have gone agog for the match between Man United and Barca FC. Had some waakye (rice and beans) and took a 2 hour nap. Just by the bed is a nice lamp so I got hold of this book titled ‘Markets and States in Tropical Africa’ written by Robert .H. Bates. I got this book from a close friend Alina, who is also passionate about Economics at UC Berkeley.

For the next two months I will be writing more on what Burro is doing and Agriculture in Ghana, as I delve deep into this subject, also as a result of my work in this field. I also promise my avid readers to give a personal analysis on the book later. So for now, is Koforidua/ Koftown and I love my room -_-

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Posted by: Isaac Bruce | May 31, 2011

People Versus Systems

Casting our minds back some few months ago, a female thief arrested by student mob at the University of Ghana was the news on the air waves, television and the internet. The video (captured by student’s phones and camera’s) of this incident were posted on social media sites and other platforms showing the brutal abuse meted unto the young woman by the angry student mob. The news of this incident spread fast to all other campuses, media houses and even outside the shores of Ghana. I remember the debate on campus was intense and passionate among students and faculty.

It has been more than two months or so now that this incident occurred, and that is the main reason I am writing on it now. It has also given me enough time to personally ponder over this issue and sample the views of others. Note that, this is not to prove the action of the young woman on the night of her arrest but to probe into the underlying reasoning of the angry mob. So all this time has passed, but as a society can this same incident or worse human injustice happen yet again? From my discussion with other people on this matter, many believe education has no bearing on how an individual will react to such a situation and even those who believed, think education does have a bearing with their intention and not the outcome. For one thing that education gives is that, it places you in a better place to make decisions that positively affect you and others.

My basis for this argument is that, it does not make sense to me why the mere accusation of personal theft will incite full mob action but the blatant public theft and corruption doesn’t do the same. Therefore, I decided to find out the underlying motivation for some of these unacceptable actions, so that as a society we will be aware of ourselves and way of thinking. It was interesting to find out that most people think along the same lines but there is a problem when it came to implementing it. This reminds me of a lecturer’s comment that one thing I find interesting here is that, even if we all agree that telling lies is bad, there will still be a problem when comes to implementing the punishment₺.

A further probe revealed that we tend to be mesmerized and feel we don’t have the power to protest non-violently against someone who commits any form of human injustice at the high level (e.g abusing rights of the poor, siphoning public funds, etc.). So there is a general fear of harassment and worst of all imprisonment under harsh conditions by top officials in such situations. Thus, there is a disbelief in the authorities to make the right decisions and we prefer to take them on our own. Though this example might be limited to Ghana, the underlying concept might be the same.

It is easier for me to act naïve as if my personal reaction will be exactly different from these guys. However, as an individual I trust myself that I will make the right decisions for myself and others. But the main point is that if we have the courage to incite mob action against personal theft and injustice, we should be able to do the same to top officials or anyone in high office. That way, we will be able to create a more civil and just society.

Therefore the principal thing we have to do is to create a trustworthy justice and tracking system, so Amina (criminal in question) and the Kwashee boys (thieves on motorbikes) will face the full rudiments of the law. Otherwise, with reference to Dr. Mohsin Ahmed,  If you don’t have a working justice system, you will just end up ignoring big crimes and be happy with punishing small people who steal cell phones, leading to a satisfied mob and a poor country.

Posted by: Isaac Bruce | May 31, 2011

Africa Union – Unending Possibilities

“For many, many years, we have been told that Africa has a bright future & that future is now. This is Africa’s time” –  Ms. Ezekwesili (Vice President, World Bank)

May 25, 2011 Africa offers endless possibilities to investors, the World Bank said Wednesday. Investors going into Africa today are taking advantage of the continents endless possibilities, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili told investors and African ambassadors accredited to the United States in a speech delivered as part of celebrations marking Africa Day. Observed each year on May 25, the day commemorates the founding in 1963 of the Organization of African Unity, the forerunner organization of the African Union.

Ms Ezekwesili noted that at a time of major global economic turmoil when even rich economies need bailouts, debt buy-backs and IMF funding to stay afloat, Africa is poised to rise as one of the world’s most important growth poles in a multi-polar world. Africa has rebounded from the global financial and economic crisis, posting GDP growth of 4.5 percent last year. The continents GDP is expected to reach 5.1 percent and 5.8 percent in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Capital flows to Sub-Saharan Africa has rose from US$35.8 billion in 2009 to an estimated US$41.1 billion in 2010 and are expected to reach US$48.5 billion this year. Definitely, this is not the time to entertain the stereotypes in media reports and films that continue to paint the continent as a region of misery, disease and war.

Foreign direct investments to the continent have risen nearly nine-fold from a mere US$10 billion in 2000 to US$88 billion in 2008 dwarfing flows to India (US$42 billion in 2008) and approaching flows to China (US$108 billion). The African Union estimates that foreign direct investments to continent could reach US$150 billion by 2015. Understanding that something new is, indeed, happening in Africa, the Wall Street Journal argued in a recent article that Catching Africas Investment Bug is Proving Contagious.

While Africa is, indeed, open for business, it is not open to just any business, Ms. Ezekwesili cautioned. She explained that the continent can only afford responsible investments. She described these as investments that are people-focused and pro-poor; promote Africas efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals; promote transparency, accountability and good governance; build innovative partnerships with and within the private sector, helping to create jobs, promote prosperity; foster local enterprises, grow opportunities for trade, create new or expand existing markets; bring about the emergence of an African middle class and build the skills Africans need to compete in today’s global and knowledge-based economy.

These factors are so important to us as African just as the capital flows and development we seek, since we can see real change if these standards are adhered to. As Ms Ezekwesili points out ₺Africa does not need the irresponsible investments that have for many decades unleashed corruption and degrading conditions upon those they claim to serve.

As we continue to celebrate the true oneness of our people, culture and aspirations, we should always remember to preserve Africa’s pride and legacy.

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/MADAGASCAREXTN/

Posted by: Isaac Bruce | March 23, 2011

A childhood experience that taught me life lessons

Last week, I accidentally came across my college application essay. From the many experiences I have had, I decided to write on this complicated subject using a simple, odd anecdote. The facial expression on my educational advisor’s face back then, made me much aware of the ‘danger’ path I was taking. Maybe I should have reconsidered the subject, other than talk about ants ’wanna be cute creatures’ all the way.

When I was young, I used to ask myself, why did God create ants? I wanted to know why God created these tiny, annoying, “wanna be cute creatures”. But most importantly why did he give them the ultimate power to bite? That was what made me detest ants’, their bites which I long suffered from, for playing in the dirtiest of places. It was after one of such bites, that I experienced an excruciating pain- a pain I had never felt before. I then decided to end it all and save the world by killing an ANT.

How I took my revenge? I could remember so vividly, I killed them with my bare hands, destroyed their newly built territories –from the queens to the labourers, red to black, to the harmless. I know it had to be away from home (I did not want my mother to know I had committed such a crime). I identified a place at our back terrace with a big, old, almond tree. My initial plan was to capture the ant amongst its friends {ha! this will teach it a lesson!}, so that when I bring its dead body back, the ants will feel a great loss.

I decided to kill it slowly. I decided to cut off one of its legs with a pin and enjoy my vengeance. But, I was surprised! After cutting one of its legs it started struggling to stand on its other remaining legs. From the way the ant was struggling, I could see that it was suffering from much pain (a pain which I thought then was excruciating than any bite). I was starting to feel guilty.

The ant was so determined to fight for its life. It performed a miracle there and then by standing up on its remaining legs and slowly limping away from me…the killer. It was then that I learnt my first lesson from the teacher ant that, “never give up even in the most uncompromising situations”. I was totally ashamed of myself for trying to kill such a hero. Oh my God!, it was dead. After watching the ant for few minutes, to my surprise it was being carried away by two other ants. That did it. Just watching that little ceremony of the two caring ants, carrying a fellow ant was enough to teach me a lifelong lesson, “Care for one another”.

That day, I walked back home very slowly, thinking about my experience with the ant. Later, I saw another strange thing happen again, that sent shivers down my spine. In daddy’s old chair, I figured an ant carrying a flower stalk as load. I can’t believe it myself, but I wasted nearly an hour watching the tiny ant carry the huge load across our back terrace. I was confused about where it was carrying the load to and for what purpose.

Several times it was confronted by obstacles and after a momentary pause, it would make the necessary move. Staggering with the load, it came to a crack in the concrete about 0.8 mm wide, at this point my inquisitive eyes were widely opened. Breathless anticipations, the ant stood contemplating for a while; suddenly it laid its load gently across the crack and walked over it, picked it up on the other side and continued strenuously. Can you imagine! I was so fascinated by the ingenuity of the ant and immediately shouted out for my siblings and dad. Daddy was the first to appear but returned on his old tired legs. Alex never showed up, but I gazed at the ant until it finally disappeared with the load. This experience yet gave me another great lesson that “we should explore, discover and overcome every obstacle or challenge “. Can you imagine God telling us to learn from the ant? So what can we learn?

So I say to anyone reading this, I entreat you all to show love and compassion towards one another. For with love, many battles can be conquered. We should also develop a determined attitude to achieve our goal and work as a team and above all never give up. For even the ant, which is more than a million times smaller than we are, has managed to prove its worth. Big blessings really come in small packages. I now understand why God created the ant. I am not so ignorant to think only my intellectual superiors can teach me. If such were the case, then the teacher would learn nothing from its students, the parents nothing from their children and I nothing from the ant.

 

Posted by: Isaac Bruce | February 16, 2011

Kindle Up your Life- Readworm

“Our time with our leader was like living in paradise”- (Student of Adeiso SHS- Julian Avariga)


I even forgot my body spray before leaving the house for Adeiso that morning- God help us! (-_-).The Ashesi bus made everything much simpler and hassle-free though. For us, it was our last chance to meet students of Adeiso Senior High School. Readworm working in partnership with WorldReader is a great experience and exposure. At the point that we share a common goal, though Readworm takes it a little bit extreme – to turn individuals into readworms! Readworm is a fine student initiative started on Ashesi campus with four students to encourage a reading culture in Africa. Since then it has participated in the Dell Social Innovation Competition and other cool stuff.

We hit the road at about 6:20am GMT and it was supposed to be a 2 and half hours’ drive. Traffic was expected to mount up heavily since it was a weekend and there are funerals and other occasions on our road. Well it did not even seem to be a 2 hours’ drive. Before I could start dozing to sleep, we were in Adeiso SHS in the Eastern Region of Ghana. True as they say, time flies when you are having fun! Students of Adeiso Presbyterian SHS needed to see us after all to make their judgement of us. However, I did not anticipate to see senior high students old as myself to be seated waiting for us. It was great to see how every student had something to do- either doing laundry or directing our bus into the school.

We passed through a bush to an uncompleted building in the school which was meant to house form four students. This new development was finalized by the current government to increase the stay of these students to 4 years.  How does a country expect to see its student jump to this ‘great idea’-   and not even a classroom building to show? Let us not digress much. Filled with about 40 students, we split into groups of six students.  ‘The Sultan’s Daughter’ by Peggy Oppong was the book to be analysed. It was rewarding to see how Patricia, Emmanuel and Eunice made meaningful connections with the book to their personal lives and even tried to advise me at some point.

We walked around the school at some point. But the real beauty, the startling part is their focus and zeal to learn. Ms. Mensah, from Worldreader commented “I have never seen a group of students with an exceptional drive and focus throughout the countries I taught including the UK”. Some colleagues even felt their experience was ‘a dream come true’.  Seriously, I want to thank Readworm/WorldReader and for that matter students like George Neequaye, Michael Quansah, Jennifer Senoo, Habeeb Aremu, Nii Sowah Kakai, Diana Dayaka  for their courage and being great models for Adeiso SHS students.

You have my word to keep updating you on the chronicles of my new found love (Adeiso)

 

Posted by: Isaac Bruce | January 7, 2011

The lion kings?- A more hopeful continent

Hello avid readers of this blog, Please follow this link on Economist to read the full article on Africa’s Markets ”the lion kings?”. Far too long, we have always looked at Africa with a different lens in a presumably old fashioned traditional way.

A new era of opportunities in the world market is offering Africa a great chance to match and even outshine some of the ‘so called improving markets’. The data is right there to show.

As a continent, I still believe this new dream of economic independence can only get better, if we get politics right. Again, we cannot do away with how much politics affects each individual from the time we receive our birth certificates to the time we file for a death certificate. Enjoy this great article and let me know what you think.

http://www.economist.com/node/17853324.

Posted by: Isaac Bruce | December 15, 2010

THE GOLD COAST FIRST ‘BLACK GOLD’ TODAY

“May all who work on her be blessed to bring prosperity to Ghana”

At a glance, you will easily find Ghana as a country endowed with numerous natural resources. However, the oil find in Ghana on August 2007 has positioned Ghana in an incredible position for the next decade or so. For now, we are hopeful the measures put in place by institutions like the Ghana National Petroleum Commission (GNPC) will create sustainable development in Ghana and for that matter Africa. For the past two years or so, the news of oil find in Ghana has generated a lot of debate and discussions among key policy makers and the ordinary Ghanaian. Today, December 15, 2010 saw the delivery of first oil from the Jubilee field in a televised ceremony from the Cape Three Points in the Western Region of Ghana.

The ceremony was graced by His Excellency John Evans Atta Mills. He couldn’t hide his joy by reiterating today as a special time in the history of Ghana. He also encouraged all and sundry to work hard and said “we must ensure the oil is a blessing”. Fortunate as we are, previous government administrations have done a lot to influence this discovery.

Statistics as it stands now shows that 700 local contracts have been awarded. Also, out of 100 workers on the Jubilee Field, 40 are Ghanaians. I wish Ghana all the best and this is definitely a step in the right direction to bring happiness to every Ghanaian and even non- Ghanaians. Next time you stop at the Western Region, do not forget to take a view of the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah – saying to us all, “May all who work on her be blessed to bring prosperity to Ghana”.

GHANA TSOOBOI! GHANA AYEKOO!

Posted by: Isaac Bruce | December 6, 2010

‘Lose 2 Win’ – Emmanuel Jal

“Music is powerful. It is the only thing that can speak into your mind, your heart and your soul without your permission”

After speaking with Emmanuel for the first time, I started re-framing my thoughts and ideas on what it means to ‘have a silver spoon in your mouth’. No one needed to assure me this man is a testimony of positive thinking. I first saw him on TED global (an international conference that shares great ideas of people around the world). He was present at this conference to share his experiences to thousands of people gathered on his experiences has a child soldier. I could easily relate to him because I think we have both not had the best of childhood experiences, yet I could say his experience is much more excruciating than mine. I was further inspired by his achievements as a ‘war child’. Therefore, I searched and got his contact. Since then I have been in constant communication with him.

Emmanuel was born in the village of Tonj in Southern Sudan, he was a little boy when the civil war broke out. His father joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and when he was about seven years old his mother was killed by soldiers loyal to the government. Emmanuel met Emma McCune, a British aid worker on his ‘escape voyage’. Emmanuel was only 11 years old then and McCune insisted he should not be a child soldier. She adopted him and both went to Kenya.

Since then, Emmanuel has been in the music industry and using music to heal his wounds and that of other displaced children from their homeland due to wars. Apart from singing he also became very active in the community, raising money for local street children and refugees. Through his music, there is now the unity of the citizens to overcome ethnic and religious division and motivate the youth in Sudan and other parts of war thorn countries.

Two months ago, Emmanuel Jal led by example by fasting for 662 days to raise the money necessary to build a school for children in Sudan and has finally reached the amount needed. The announcement of him breaking his fast was announced all over Facebook, twitter and YouTube. The name of the campaign is Lose to Win started by Emmanuel and some friends in New York (Albert Melisa and Roachie, his producer). I see this initiative as a great one and it also communicated to my soul. He also wants to do this every year. Next year, starting in April, Emmanuel Jal wishes to complete Emma academy

During one of the days I spoke to him and he told me is not easy to do this for more than a year and overall to meet such a goal. I am very happy to have known him and urge all my friends to check out his website for his other projects (www.emmanueljal.com)

Posted by: Isaac Bruce | December 6, 2010

Different Cultures Meet

“Black and white people should never stop talking about racism when they meet”- Kofi Annan

About a month ago, I finally met with Rob Whiting after series of calls and text messages. I was really hard to get hold off, you know. I knew Rob from Jessica (we both worked on a Best Buddies program) who gave my details to Rob to contact me when he is in Ghana.  It was very easy for me to agree to meet with him. Finally when we met; it was as if we knew ourselves long ago perhaps because of our education, mindset, personality etc. After all these similarities that I thought of, there were some differences between us that is much complex and beyond our control.

I did not only meet with Rob, but also with Jana. She wore a big smile, shook me and said “I have heard a lot about you!”. Well I did not really know what that statement actually meant. Finally, when we came out of their apartment, I could feel the stares from people around us, it was so strong. Ignoring that, we decided to get ourselves drinks whilst we talk on issues especially on Ghana and the United States. We talked about random issues facing our current generation. I will describe it as elitist. We randomly talked about Facebook, Mugabe political moves, their job here in Ghana and about my busy life revolving mostly around college.

I can’t remember when we started talking about racism, black emancipation and the like. It was an emotional moment for me, since most of the time I was at the receiving end (answering most questions). We talked mostly about how racism in itself has revolved to present day ideology and principles. I am aware this topic is more often not talked about.

This required a very creative thought process to give any meaningful response. Arguably, as Africans we should rather seek to economically develop ourselves to be independent of any society and any form of ‘neo-colonialism’. Of course, this was argued out with a lot of examples and details to convince Rob of the presence of neo-colonialism in present day Africa.

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Kofi Annan (former U.N Secretary-General) that young people should never stop talking about racism whenever they meet as white and black people.

Posted by: Isaac Bruce | September 21, 2010

Happy Birthday- Dr. Kwame Nkrumah


     “For We must Unite or Perish, because there is no African Country that is large or strong enough to stand on its own”

Today  (21st September) has been declared a holiday – Founder’s Day. Today signifies the Birthday of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He became the

first prime and later president of Ghana. He was born on September 21, 1909 (101 years from today), at Nkroful in the then Gold Coast, the son of a goldsmith. Trained as a teacher, he went to the United States in 1935 for advanced studies and continued his schooling in England, where he helped organize the Pan-African Congress in 1945. He returned to Ghana in 1947 and became general secretary of the newly founded United Gold Coast Convention but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People’s party (CPP). Dr. Nkrumah lead Ghana to gain freedom from the British on 6th March, 1957. – Africa Within

This is the first time in Ghana but I am optimistic this will continue. Apart from the African Union Day also celebrated May 25 every year, the Founder’s Day is another day Ghanaians are remembering in terms of Black Emancipation. Its clear Ghanaians are now thinking more on issues relating to Africa – as they see themselves as leaders in African independence. We cannot continue to hide the truth or pretend as if everything is ok with us. We need a millennium emancipation which seeks to reduce poverty and hunger; this will be our celebrated freedom to the world.

In the same spirit of celebration of the Founder’s Day, I have mixed feelings because my mum and a number of Ghanaian’s are not aware of this holiday and what meaning we should derive out of it. However, I hope channels like these will point out to our law makers of what should be done next time. As if that is not enough, there is no national program at least I am aware of to mark this day significantly.

So, what has alleviating poverty and hunger as the millennium emancipation got to do with African Unity? For this particular purpose, I think they are much more related than they oppose each other. We need to be united in our minds for us to have that freedom that we need as Africans Freedom from Poverty and Hunger. I hope this day will enable our Leaders to think through these issues especially on this day to come up with practical solutions.

I wish you all a happy Founder’s Day Celebrations. Long Live Nkrumah! Long Live the Spirit of Pan-Africanism!



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