Mari's Adventures

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.

2 Comments:

Blogger George said...

Hey Mari!

Let me first say that I've been reading your blog faithfully and enjoying your accounts of life and work out in the field.

Your comments have me thinking about group decision making processes all over again. I would like to assume that there is a formalized process for policy committee function and decision making in both the UN and the Canadian government. I should look into it and see if this is indeed the case.

I also wonder if a formallly documented meeting and decision process would help the operations at EWB SFU, or would it just be making things unnecessarily complicated?

Anyways, I look forward to your future posts.

george =)

10:53 AM  
Blogger Tommy C. said...

Unfortunately I'm not as faithful as George is, but I've decided to catch up today :)

Your thoughts and insights into things are extremely thoughtful, so thank-you for giving me such an interesting read!

And thanks for the e-mail updates too!

Other than the development side of things, I'm really interested in the food there in Ghana (well, I'm interested in food in general). So hint hint...

Cheers,
Tommy

P.S. It would be nice if your e-mail messages were also posted up here on your blog. Then, if we ever wanted to incorporate some of your stuff into communication with members, I can just go to your blog and find it here :)

P.P.S I have sent your blog to some of your university donors :) Hope you don't mind.

12:54 PM  

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