I have spent a lifetime lamenting about the lack of addresses in Ghana. It is probably the subject I have written the most on. I have narrated endless stories about the turning before the blue kiosk and the turning after the woman selling roasted plantain.
Indeed, one of the three reasons I gave for going into government was the hope I would ensure there would be addresses in Ghana. I have been following the current street naming project with the gnawing fear it will end up as another very expensive failed project.
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Suddenly I discover this age-old problem is on the verge of being solved with the help of technology and a young man called Sesinam Dagadu. I am ashamed to admit that I first read about Sesinam Dagadu from a BBC website and not from the Ghanaian media.
If, dear reader, you are also only now making an acquaintance with Sesinam Dagadu, then prepare to be pleasantly surprised. This young man has invented an app called SnooCode, which can provide all of us, everywhere in this country with an address whether we have street names or house numbers or not.
Of course, I was sceptical, and a touch apprehensive as I feared the technology might defeat me or might be out of the reach of the majority of people. But I am happy to report that I have tried it, and it has worked and it is painless.
How the SnooCode works
I apologise to those without smartphones, but this is how it works with a smartphone: you go to the Google App store and download the SnooCode, (it is free), and stand in front of your house and press the “generate code” button and the SnooCode app generates a unique code for every property in Ghana, pinpointing each specific location with GPS technology.
I have a code which is specific to my address. It works like a post code or zip code does in other parts of the world, except this is more specific and you do not even need a house number. It works not only in well-laid out places such as East Legon or North Labone; it works in slums and villages and to quote the young man Sesinam Dagadu, you would get a code if you stood on top of Mount Afajato; in other words they have every inch of the surface land of Ghana covered.
To get to my house, I would give you my code, you would enter it into your GPS, courtesy of your smartphone and it will direct you to my gate; and if you were coming by taxi, the same system would work, with the added advantage that the fare can be calculated before you set off.
There were lots of possibilities I could think of to enhance our lifestyles with this app, but the only thing I could get Sesinam Dagadu to talk about was how the app is helping to transform the Ambulance service in the country. The service has signed up and installed the system in the vehicles; so far in Greater Accra and Ashanti regions. They are hoping to cover the Ambulance service in the whole country soon.
If I should need an ambulance, therefore, I only need to give them my six-digit code, and they should get to my gate without my having to go through the third turn on the right after the kenkey seller.
It gets better, Sesinam tells me about his grandmother who doesn’t have a smartphone, but he stood in front of her house with his phone, got her specific code, which is now written out and pasted on her fridge door. She can get the ambulance to her door by calling and reading out the code to them from her fridge or call the restaurant to order food to be delivered to her house simply by giving them her code.
It is not often I am this excited about an invention, but I am about this one. I hope I don’t require an ambulance soon but it is reassuring to know I can get them to my gate by simply reading out my six-digit code.
I know I should be excited about the prospect of our ambulances working and saving lives, but in truth, I am simply happy that we do finally have addresses now. I have a good reason to invite a few people to my house with the code for an address to try out some recipes in a new book that was launched in Accra last week.
Cooking by book
This is not exactly a book review but I am writing about a book. I am also writing about two very interesting women who wrote the book. I am declaring an interest at the very ontset that I have connections with both women.
The use of cookbooks and recipes is not very popular with us here in Ghana. We don’t measure ingredients, we don’t count them. Some people actually think it is a sign of not being a good cook if you have to look in a book. The result has been if you did not get it from your mother, you end up with a handicap for the rest of your life.
The unpopularity of cookbooks also means that we are losing many of the dishes as fewer and fewer people remember how to make them. I state this by way of an introduction to what I consider to be one of the most exciting additions to the culinary landscape of our country with the publication of a seminal book entitled The Ghana Cookbook.
The two women who wrote the book, Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta, are great cooks by themselves with interesting life stories and together they make a formidable pair.
Barbara Baëta, the proprietor of Flair Catering Services in Accra is well known and something of a beloved institution in the food world in Ghana. She has catered to every Ghanaian Head of State and counts many other visiting heads of state to Ghana (Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Emperor Haile Selassie to count a few) among those she has cooked for; but none of that interests me so much as the fact that she turned “Garri Foto” into a gourmet item.
Those of us of a certain age would remember that garri foto was not exactly a dish that was regarded as something to be served at high end parties, thanks to Barbara Baëta, garri foto is today a popular and highly regarded food item around Ghana and beyond.
Fran Osseo-Asare is a white American woman who is married to an Adukrom man who is a Professor of Engineering. She took her marriage so seriously she decided to learn how to cook Ghanaian foods and in almost 40 years has become quite an authority on the subject, having written cookbooks and her BETUMI website is popular with all those who want to cook Ghanaian foods outside Ghana.
These two women have pulled their expertise together and produced a cookbook that answers questions for the beginner and is a comforting companion for the well-practised.
They go beyond recipes; they capture the taste and texture of Ghana and they are adventurous with old favourites and new dishes. I am afraid cooking is not one of my passions, but I am able to say the Ghana Cookbook is an infinitely interesting book. They do not only tell you how to make ↄtↄ, they tell you about its significance in our culture.