There is no country in the world whose citizen go to bed every day on full stomachs. Not even almighty America, United Kingdom (UK) or China, from whom we beg for and receive loans and grants. They, too, have stories of how some of their citizens battle hunger on a daily basis.
To import significant percentages of farm produce from nations in West Africa’s Sahelian zone such as Burkina Faso and Niger, and tuna from China into a country which has surplus fertile lands, a whole ocean and other water bodies teeming with fish, however, is inexcusable. It is a sign of only one thing: leaderlessness.
To have a leader is the country which has zero waste and is compelled to import solid waste to feed its machines to produce energy. Sweden does. To be leaderless is a country whose citizens sleep in darkness and whose factories are starved of electricity even as this same country is daily being buried under mountains of waste. To be leaderless is the country that does not know what to do with its citizens who have turned its cities into the most toxic in the world through burning of electronic waste.
These thoughts occupied my mind for two days (last December 16 and 17) as I took position on the second floor of a building at Osu from where I had a commanding view of Oxford Street. From there I wept when I remembered Kwame Nkrumah and General (later Mr) Kutu Acheampong.
I could not help but contrast three eras in this very African country: one era – early 1960s - when we were producing glass and assembling radio and TV sets on a large scale; another era, the mid-1980s when Ghanaian schools were producing their own food and Ghana became self-sufficient in food production under a leader with no university degrees.
Contrast these two eras with Ghana in the 21st century that has agricultural colleges plus faculties and departments of agriculture in full-fledged universities; a country with a world-class fruit juice factory that is compelled to import more than one-half of its raw material - fruits.
Now, dear reader, come with me to Osu Oxford Street mid-December last year. The Ministry of Trade was organising a two-day Made-in-Ghana fair.
On display were products and ideas that have progressed beyond mere dreams. I saw agricultural and technology-inspired ‘factories’ currently crawling in their infancy and begging to be allowed (through sound national policies) to grow and take quantum leaps in technology.
I saw young ideas taking their first steps, refusing to fall when their steps falter and refusing to stay on the ground when they fall. Daily their cry is the same: give us attention.
I saw products which, with a minimum of incentives and direction, should be finding their way into the numerous shopping malls in Ghana which are usually filled, three-quarters of the time, with goods from South Africa and the industrialised North.
For the first time I could see the future. This future has begun with the RURAL ENTERPRISE PROGRAMME sponsoring a number of rural-based enterprises to display and sell their produce; the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and the Ghana Enterprise Promotion Centre paying for some companies to buy cubicles and stands, and the British Council supplying a much needed lifeline to a number of start-ups.
More than 80 per cent of the goods on display were agric-based; yes, but I thought that rather than belittle these efforts, their presence in such large numbers should be reminding us that we are an agricultural country and that that is where we can locate our salvation.
My heart danced when I saw the Ministry of Fisheries with its tilapia and cat-fish fingerlings on display and giving free counsel to prospective fish farmers. One of the beneficiary groups is the Development Action Association whose members are organised under the Post-harvest Unit of the ministry. On display were smoke-dried shrimps in thick plastic packs – quality products that should be helped to become major exports or, at least, for sale at our so-called sophisticated malls.