Mari's Adventures

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Sad End to the World Cup Dream

The dream of the Black Stars bringing home the World Cup ended yesterday after an extremely unfair match against Brazil. However, Ghanaians should not feel disgraced, as their team played well, showing great sportsmanship. While calls that were made by referees and officials, or more like calls that were not made on the field were outrageous, they are out of the viewers control. Ghanaians should be extremely proud of the Black Stars for making it to the second round in their first appearance at the World Cup. The support for the team back home was immense as taxi and tro-tro drivers proudly displayed the Ghanaian flag and outbreaks of honking, cheering, music and dancing accompanied every goal. The Black Stars made Ghana, and all of Africa proud.

However, what makes me question about the World Cup and football or soccer in general is the way it is portrayed in the media as a unifying force. Watching commercials during half time of companies such as Coca-Cola and Ghanaian communication companies illustrate an image that everyone in the world can relate to football and thus unify the world as we all "speak soccer." But does it really? From my experience in Ghana certain matches brought out the dark history of Africa and centuries of hatred.

There were many tense matches, especially those between old colonial masters and the colonized, such as the game between Angola vs Portugal and Togo vs France. But the most intense match of all was the one between Argentina vs Cote d'Ivorie. Although Argentina is not the colonial master of Cote d'Ivoire, this game was indicative of how some Ghanaians, not all, feel and view their relationship between blacks and whites. During the match I heard comments such as "see, the whites have always cheated the Africans" when the referee did not call a faul or "the whites have taken everything from the Africans, so why can't they just give us the Cup?"

This game made me realize that centuries of horrific treatment of the Africans by westerners through the slave trade and colonization is still deeply rooted and ingrained in their minds. The people making these comments have obviously not experienced the slave trade and they were all too young to live through the decades of colonization, but they all have this negative attitude towards their history, which I don't blame them for having.

So then how can the African continent move forward and develop while they are being so consumed by their terrible past? They need to make a conscious effort to get out of this mind set that they are inferior to the whites. I am not denying the fact that the history of Africa was not horrible. It is an extremely terrible thing when their own people were selling each other to slave traders and being shipped off to the new world and be exploited for the development of a white society. They years of colonization also left a deep wound in the minds of Africans as they developed a inferiority and dependent complex on its colonizers. However, it is necessary for Ghanaians, and Africans to free themselves from this mental slavery in order to move forward.

But this is easier said then done. How does a person, nation or the whole continent erase the horrific events that occurred in the past? There is no delete or reset button that they can press to clear their minds. These attitudes and thoughts have been passed down from generation to generation and ingrained in their society. Nonetheless, using their past as an excuse for their lack of development is no longer acceptable. Although what happened in the past is terrible, they must move on for their own sake and for the sake of their children. The question that remains is how.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Mingling With Ghana's Powerful Leaders

One of the benefits of working for KITE is that I get to experience going to really fancy government functions. I had the chance to attend a workshop/conference organized by the Ministry of Energy on Tuesday about the role of the energy sector in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The conference was held at the prestigious Labadi Beach Hotel, which is a five star hotel and one of Ghana's finest. It is certainly one of the best hotels that I have ever been in, equipped with a magnificent pool and just couple of steps from the beach. The conference was attended by many of the most influential and powerful people in Ghana's energy industry such as CEOs and representatives from different energy companies, government officials as well as World Bank representatives.

The conference started an hour late, which is "so Ghanaian." It was one of the most disorganized workshops I have ever attended. The organizers were late, the speakers were late and none of their logistics were thought out because everything was a mess. Things were not in place, presenters did not bring their own laptops thinking that there would be one at the hotel and materials were not photocopied. Things were pretty chaotic. And these are government official organizing this event. These people are supposed to be running the country. How are they suppose to run the country if they can't even run a simple conference?

However, despite all the chaos, it created a great learning opportunity for me. I learned so much about Ghana's energy sector, its issues and how they should overcome them to move on. The conference also highlighted the importance of the energy sector in meeting the MDGs, such as rural electrification. Bringing light and electricity to a community has so many benefits. For example, with electricity, children can study during the night and thus bring down the illiteracy rate, which is one of the major MDGs. Also with electricity in the village, hospitals can operate electrical equipment and refridgerate their vaccines and other medication, which allows for better patient care, especially in reducing the maternal mortality rate, which is another MDG.

This conference also made me realize the difficulty of policy making. During the workshop, there was an opportunity for the group to split up into internal (government) and external (energy producers, consumers etc.) groups in which we were supposes to come up with policy recommendations to certain issues that came up during the conference. I sat and observed in the internal group with all of the government officials and they could not come to a consensus on any thing. They didn't even agree that the issues chosen to debate about were key issues. These are people running the country and making decisions for Ghana. There is so much bureaucracy, nothing gets done. No wonder the UN is so slow at making decision. I can't imagine the process the general assembly goes through in making decisions with 191 countries when a group of people from the same country can't make up their minds. This day made me realize that policy making and decision making takes time and that governments cannot make rapid changes. Change must occur gradually.