June 14, 2011: Kumasi, Ghana
I have spent over 3 weeks now in Ghana. I have been able to travel; meet few people; and have begun to look through their eyes at the dreams and vision they have for Ghana’s future. I got the opportunity to meet individuals from the banking sector, educational institutions, entrepreneurs, small businessmen, street vendors, house wives, children, students and last but not least a former bureaucrat. Most of them shared a common viewpoint: they are all eager to contribute to transform Ghana from a developing economy to an emerging economy. This ideology was very apparent from their thought process and inquisitiveness about developments happening around other emerging economies. As i tried to share my opinion about other emerging economies, i could see them emulating these examples in their head as they thought about a future Ghana. As I was interacting with people from diverse economies of scale, I tried to get their perspectives about the cooking habits and also get their opinion on using alternate sources of cooking fuel.
The road trip from Accra to Kumasi offered me various insights about the prevailing conditions in the rural part of the country. First and foremost, the highway that connected the top 2 cities of the country was well paved and I could see quite a few outer ring roads being developed to avoid passing through some important towns and villages. This reminded me of the Chinese proverb “If you want to become rich then build roads.” Driving etiquettes were followed by all kinds of vehicles even at a busy intersection during rush hour. Guess what!! I saw an array of automobiles and taxis ranging from Toyota, Honda, Kia, Tata, BMW, Mercedes, Ford in Accra and Kumasi. Buildings and other structures along the highway were painted to display various consumer products. This way of advertisement created some kind of revenue stream for that establishment and also created a platform for marketing products. I thought it was a novel idea that stirs up the economy at a grass root level and also enlightened me with another marketing channel.
Our taxi driver Mr. Isaac shared many interesting facts about the towns and villages that we were passing through and also mentioned that mobile phones have taken the country by storm. He noted that the average common man can now afford to have his own. Telecom providers such as MTN, Vodafone, Airtel, and Tigo have flooded the market with various data plans that will meet the demands of diversified consumer base. This kind of overwhelming response in the market is a bright sign for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) to enter the Ghanaian market and foster the economy. I could see that people are more willing to embrace newer ideas and innovation that will improve their quality of life and also create more jobs in the country. This belief of mine was supported by a KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi) Professor of Economics, Mr.Kwame Opoku when we discussed the monetary and fiscal policy deployed by the Ghanaian government. He mentioned that inflation has been under control for a while and the policies are framed to support the common man; however, there are other challenges that need to be addressed before actual goals are realized. Some of his thoughts will serve as inputs in our research that will help us determine the feasibility of gel ethanol as a cooking fuel in Ghana.
During my visit to Mt. Olivet School in Kumasi, i interacted with children, teachers, and the principal. I learned that over the last few years the education system has been one of the country’s primary focuses. The establishment of private and public schools has encouraged many parents to send their children to a nearby school. Also, as an incentive the government has mandated that two meals a day be provided for all school going children. Through this government initiative our clients are able to use Mt. Olivet as a testing ground for testing and promoting gel ethanol for large scale cooking. I think the nation is strategically planting seeds in the education system that will sow great benefits in the coming years. The children with whom I interacted had big dreams and this street vendor with whom I struck up a conversation mentioned that he is working twice as hard to save money to send his 10 year old girl to medical school. He was very confident that in the next 5-8 years Ghana will be a much different country than it used to be.
The mushrooming of IT training centers across Accra and Kumasi to build the technology infrastructure, and the rise of professional artisans in Suame magazine (largest village accommodating small scale engineering industries) aimed at national industrialization are key proponents in the GDP growth and are sure to increase potential immigrants to Ghana.
From my observations and by talking to people, I strongly believe that there is a growing trend which is slowly increasing the middle class community in the urban areas and towns of Ghana. This trend is due to multiple factors and people are very cognizant of what is happening outside the sovereignty of Ghana either in underdeveloped/developing/emerging/developed nations. It is to my understanding that Ghana is certainly on a growth path and in the coming years it will certainly transform from a developing economy to an emerging market.