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Thursday, 3 July 2014

PMS: Ghana's World Cup and That Time of the Month

I swear I didn't make any of this stuff up. Not even the ridiculously unbelievable parts. It’s all true, I promise.

After a somewhat impressive performance by Ghana’s Black Stars at the last two World Cups, big things were expected at our third outing. If only we knew what was coming…

We lost to our usual whipping boys the USA and that wasn't even the worst thing about our tournament. There we allegations of match fixing with a video of certain football Administrators agreeing to bribe referee influence matches. In their defense, they were set up but as Micky Bricks said, "You can't con an honest man". This also wasn't the worst thing to come out.

Stories of unpaid bonuses and player agitations began to filter into the country but officials kept on denying them. I understand that a man is due his wages and no one would be happy if they weren't paid. What I didn't understand was why on the biggest stage players were more concerned about money than about playing. Forget about patriotism, it died long ago. Why not play for personal glory? Think of all the money you could make if you put up a great performance. Kevin-Prince Boateng moved from lowly Portsmouth to AC off the back of his 2010 performance.

I’m not sure what happened but the next thing we knew, there were rumors that our president had made available a chartered flight from Ghana to Brazil carrying in excess of $3 million (US not Zimbabwean). My first reaction was, “this is too ridiculous to be true”.

Turns out it was true. The news spread like wild fire on social media and foreign news outlets. Every news channel made time to mock the ridiculousness of the story. In this age of technology? The president confirmed he had sanctioned this transfer and some members of his cabinet didn't seem to see the big deal.


By this act, they had managed to caricature the whole nation till not one drop of respect was left to save face. One TV station, Globo, in Brazil managed to broadcast live the landing of the money plane by planting secret cameras somewhere. Apparently, the Brazilian government also insisted on counting the money so it could be taxed properly so the counting was also shown live on TV.  The sharing of the money was also shown live on TV. One player was shown kissing his share of the booty as he came out of the money room. The next day Ghanaians were the butt of all jokes on social media. The money plane saga was so incredulous that a Hollywood director is think of making a movie out of it. We lost to Portugal in our last game completing our disgraceful outing. There was still time for a bonus act as there was some controversy even about them coming home. It’s not like we didn't see all this coming before the tournament.
Meanwhile, back in Ghana, everyone was going on strike (or threatening to) due to unpaid wages. Polytechnic Lecturers at the time this post is being written have been on strike for 7 weeks. Not a single f*$k has been given about their strike. I’m not even sure the Government knows they are on strike because no serious attempt has been made to address their concerns. We can fly $3 million in 2 days to Brazil to satisfy under-performing footballers but can’t pay whatever pittance lecturers are asking for?

Then it was announced that on the first of July, Electricity tariffs would be increased by 12%, water by 6% and fuel prices were also expected to go up. This prompted a movement of social media #OccupyFlagStaffHouse which led to a demonstration. Police armed to the teeth tried to prevent this peaceful demonstration but failed. While the demonstration was going on, members of the president’s cabinet (Hannah Tetteh and Joseph Yammin) found time to mock the protesters further proving how far removed politicians are from the suffering of regular folks.

But this isn't my most ridiculous story of the past two weeks. Government has managed to secure a loan of $156 million to help support the educational sector. Part of the loan would be used for scholarships, new building and… wait for it… providing sanitary pads for female high school students. I swear I didn't make that up! This news sparked some hilarious comment and memes on social media to cap off a ridiculous couple weeks in Ghana. Given the way so many other government interventions have gone, you don't need too much of a stretch of the imagination to picture how this program will end.


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Friday, 23 May 2014

Interview Me GBC #InterviewMeGBC

Social Media isn't a very forgiving place. We are just waiting for the next blunder to entertain ourselves with. After the Fauster Atta Mensah debacle by GTV, Gh twitter wasted no time mocking Ghana Broadcasting Corporation with the hashtag #InterviewMeGBC started by @dk_osei

Feast you eyes. 



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Thursday, 22 May 2014

Fraudster Atta Mensah (Social Media Reactions)

I first heard of Fauster Atta Mensah on twitter from Spoof site @YesiYesiGhana. At first I thought they had made up the story so I laughed. Then I watched the video embedded in the article and I was gobsmacked.  Here was a guy on GTV, the state owned nation, who claimed to be a Nobel Prize Laureate among other things being interviewed. The host of the show took about three minutes to finish reading his credentials. By then, it was obvious to me the guy was a fraud. Then they showed pictures of him working at NASA, another with a robot arm and one in a space suit. I had seen better photoshop done by 15 year olds in under 5 minutes. How on Earth did GTV not see through this? Then someone sent me a link to the Church of Pentecost’s site another to OMGGhana all with the same guy. What the Hell was going on? How could anyone be so gullible?

The video was upload onto the Ministry of Science and Education’s YouTube Page and later taken down but this is 2014. The internet never forgets. It had been downloaded many times.
A lot has been written about this so I will just post the pictures, tweets and facebook post and you can decide. I don’t know if it was down to lazy journalism or what, you decide.You will find a list of all the webpages he forged on here










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Monday, 19 May 2014

Ghana 2.0 Update, Now Downloading....

People keep asking me, “Dela why are you not on whatsapp”. Well aside the annoying chain messages, my mom is on whatsapp. I remember the first message I got from her, “Dela, I don’t like your profile picture”. My first reaction was shock, shock that my mom was on whatsapp in the first place. The fact that she was complaining about my profile picture wasn't a surprise. If you know my mom, you will understand.
I had always considered my mom a technophobe and with good reason. It used to be that any time she wanted to watch a movie, she would shout for me and I would come connect the VCR to the TV for her. I liked this arrangement because it gave me some sense of importance and power. Any time I was upset with her for punishing me, I would change the connection and go out to play just before she got back from work. No video for her was her punishment for punishing me. That was long ago before I grew a beard but I still took comfort in the idea. These days she only calls me to send a mail to so so and so address for her or to check her mail.
She had now gotten a smartphone and was sending her own mail and sending me whatsapp messages every other minute. She was now independent of me and I didn't like that. As for my Dad, the least said the better. The old man had become such a big fan of technology that his current phone is always nicer than mine. He had found a way to trade his old phones for new ones and was always current. Signs of the end times! Quite a few of my friends have complained about their now tech savvy parents.
People in Ghana are becoming more tech savvy every day. Not as fast as in Europe or America but they are getting there. Gone were the days mobile phones were luxuries. Now they are necessities. I remember when Vodafone, then OneTOUCH started selling SIM, they cost an arm and a leg. My dad had to write an application and pay a lot of money; he got his SIM card early because he knew someone who knew some. Now a SIM card is so cheap even kids can buy them.
Then came Hi5, then Facebook and all the many social media platform and everywhere young people were visiting cafes to ‘like’ people’s status and poke them. We’ve come a long way. Every serious business has a website. Everyone and their mother has a blog. Everyday someone is launching his mobile app. More people are reading Computer Engineering and Computer Science in the University. Ghana 2.0 update is on!
Still the biggest challenge to even further tech development in this country is cost. Recently Vodafone decided to put a limit on data bundles. Previously, if you bought data for a month, you had unlimited data till the month was over. Now, you have a certain amount of data to use which could get exhausted before the month is over. If you didn’t finish it before the months end, it would expire and you had to buy new data.
Lots of time, people have data but can’t browse or the internet is too slow. This cuts across major the network providers. People are constantly complaining about network outages. The ISPs do not compensate you for your lost time.
There’s nothing in the world more satisfying to today’s youth than free fast WiFi. A very rare thing in this country. You should see the unbridled joy on people's face when they get free and fast internet.

Another challenge is the mistrust of all things new. The banks recently tried to introduce an electronic payment system call Ezwich. This didn't catch on very much because people just prefer to handle the real cash even though the card is safer. I had an Ezwich card but could never seem to find a shop that had the card reader to accept it.
If you live in Ghana, you know that getting directions to anywhere is a chore. Poor street naming means to get anywhere you need a popular reference point. So you say something like, I'm going to Sytris bookshop, it's near Papaye at Osu. Recently, I had to go to a Blogging Ghana meeting at 37 Mensah Wood Road. I didn't know the place so I entered the address into Google Maps, hailed a taxi and showed the map to the driver. I know, silly me. All the driver kept asking me was, “Please, where is it near?” I'm not a great map reader but Google Maps' direction helped me direct the driver. On arrival the driver said, I should have told him, “After Shiashi take the right turn from Galaxy International”.
Our current President is quite tech savvy. He prefers to read his speeches from a tablet, has a twitter and facebook account and there are quite a few selfies of him around the web. The website of the presidency is updated often (though I'd like the see more information there) and the other ministry seem to also update their sites regularly. I remember under the previous president, I went to one ministry's site and it hadn't been update in over two years.
The most active politician on social media is the Honorable Hanna Tetteh. She's very active on twitter and replies as many of her followers as possible. If only more of our politicians were like her... sigh!
Ghana 2.0 update is on! Let's hope that we don't get the dreaded, “Download failed at 99%”

MY FAVORITE GHANAIAN APPS:
Kasahorow Keyboard: 
Ghanaian languages have characters that do not appear in the English alphabets so typing a sentence in Twi or Ewe on your phone can be a problem. The Kasahorow keyboard which is available in the Android Play Store (sorry iOS and Windows users) has all these characters so you can type freely without having to replace ɛ with 3, ŋ  with n, ɔ with )or C, ƒ with f etc. It's free so you don't really have an excuse not to have it if you are an Android user. Kasahorow is a twi word that means, “Many Languages”. 

Easy Taxi:
EasyTaxi is a mobile app that as the name implies, make getting a taxi easy. Rather than stand at the road side flapping your hands at taxis as we do in Ghana, just get easy taxi. This app is available on iOS and Android (No idea about on Windows Phone). Just log into the app where ever you are and turn on your GPS and enter your destination. The nearest easy taxi to your location will call you back and will be with you shortly. I must admit when I first used the app I didn't think the driver would arrive early. The driver arrived five minutes after the request and I was a bit embarrassed because I wasn't yet ready. The driver, Isaac, reminded me to wear my seat belt and we left Kaneshie to Lashibi. Comfortable ride. When I was done with whatever I went to do, I used the app again to get another ride back home. Very convenient. Both taxis were very comfortable. It's was a good experience and I recommend everyone to try it. For now Easy Taxi operates only in Accra but I'm sure they will spread to other parts of Ghana soon.  

the Easy Taxi I took from Kaneshie to Lashibi


Animation on how to use Easy Taxi
There's an interview with the MD of Easy Taxi Gh here that you can read. 

If there's an app or a Ghanaian technology you would like me to check out, you can write about in the comment box and I will check it out. Let me know what you find frustrating or pleasing about technology in Ghana. 

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Thursday, 15 May 2014

It's an Itch (Writing Process Blog Tour 2014)

Apparently there’s a blog tour going on and I didn’t even know. I seem to be lost in my own world these days. Tsatsu (@_tsatsu) is the one who passed the baton to me and I had to go tracing the genesis of this tour. I should have known Ozionn (@Ozionn) had something to do with it. 

What Am I Working On?
I've got two blogs. A poetry one and this one, a satirical one. I’ve not written a poem in a while but I’ve got a few satirical post cooking. So much crazy stuff going on these days that I’m spoilt for choices on the satirical front. So many options that I can’t seem to choose. For me poetry is much harder to write than Satire. I need a heightened emotion to write poetry.

What Makes My Work Unique?
I’m not sure if my work is unique. There nothing new under the sun. What makes my work relatable to however is that I don’t force it. If I’ve got nothing to write then I don’t. If I don’t like what I’ve written I send it to the bin. I don’t bother trying to patch it up or revamp it. I either like it or I don’t. It’s either good enough or it isn’t. I don’t bother doing midway. No grays, just black or white.

Why I Write?
It’s an itch that must be scratched. Have you had an itch somewhere on your back that you can’t reach? The frustration! That’s how I feel when I get in the mood to write and for some reason I don’t have the opportunity or time to write what’s in my mind. It just keeps bugging me till I finally write it down then I can heave a sigh of relief.
Writing is a means of relieving pent up emotions. When I write an angry poem I find that my anger dissipates.
I’d like to say something noble like, “I write to cause social change”, but that would be a lie. I write mainly for myself. I’m a bit of an egotists. Nothing inflates my ego more that getting positive reviews for what I write. If I vent my emotions about something that bothers me and it causes some positive change in society that’s a byproduct that goes to feed my ego. I’m only looking to change myself, to be the best version of me and if that somehow brings the best in others then that’s ok.  I not naïve enough to think I can change the world. I can only change myself and hope others do the same.

How My Writing Process Works?
I just keep writing till I want to stop. I try not to be bounded by any strict method. Oh, I'm very lazy at proof reading my own work. Typical hypocrite. I see mistakes in other people's work but never seem to see them in mine. If you see any errors, just leave a note in the comment section.

One Person I’ll Pass This on to?
Terry!! He blogs at economistaTerry Delves and for some reason tends to change his twitter handle often. His current one is . SMH. Over to you Terry
 
 I'd like to pass it on to Eyram (@Sweyram). She's my favorite lazy blogger but her next blog post will probably come out when i'm 50.

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Saturday, 10 May 2014

Foxes Have Holes but the Son of a Ghana Man...

Matthew 8: 20
Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."


I remember talking to a friend in Europe some years back, she had just turned 19 and she told me she was moving out of her parents’ house. According to her she was too old to live with her parents. I was 20 going to 21 and the thought of moving out from my parents’ home permanently hadn’t even occurred to me. When I graduated from University, it was straight to my parents’ place without a thought. When I got a job in Accra, far from my parent, I moved in with some relatives and would have lived there indefinitely if I could. Eventually, I had to move out and find my own place. 

I knew rent in Accra wasn’t cheap but I didn’t think it would be that expensive. How naïve of me. Everywhere I went, landlords were demanding 2 years rent advance and agents were demanding 10% extra of whatever I was to pay the landlord. Each time I did the maths I just wanted to go back and live with my parents. I finally found a place where the taps run more than 4 days a week, a luxury in Accra by any standard. After almost emptying my accounts paying 24 months’ rent advance, I finally moved into ‘my own’ place. That night I couldn’t sleep. I had spent 90% of all my savings in the last two years in one day!! I couldn’t afford a bed; I bought a mattress put it on the floor and didn’t even bother with any other form of furniture.  

According to the rent law of Ghana as at 2012, no landlord is supposed to charge more than 6 months’ rent advance, but this is Ghana. Apart from the male/female sign on public toilets, no other rule works. In fact, when parliamentarians are getting their exorbitant undeserved rent allowances, they are given enough to cover 2 years advance. The law makers are breaking the law, no surprise there. 

Towards the end of last year, President Mahama announced an affordable housing project. Nobody took him serious. Successive governments have made the same promise from as far back as I can remember. Generally what happens is, an obscene amount of money is pumped into the project and less than half way through, the project is abandoned of some new affordable housing project. If the project is completed, which is almost never, the buildings are immediately bought by people with government connections who definitely can afford them and rented out to those who need them who can’t afford them. People who need these building will never afford them and those who don’t need them will keep buying them. In the end, it is “as you were” for everyone.


According to a report by the Housing Data Centre, Over 70% of workers not likely to “ever” own a home. In my opinion, that percentage should be even bigger. According to the report, people who earn below Gh₵4000 per month aren’t likely to qualify for a mortgage. Very few people earn that and given that houses in Ghana are sold in dollars (US not Zim), even people who earn Gh₵4000 per month won’t be able to afford buying. This is getting depressing; let me move to something else.

How about building you own house? Just last week I heard a bag of cement was being sold at Gh₵25! In 1997 a bag of cement was the equivalent of 50p. Ok, maybe that is too far back. In March of this year, a bag of cement was Gh₵20.50. It’s no wonder there are so many uncompleted buildings wasting away. People budget and start building then suddenly prices go crazy and they are priced out of completing them.



Writing this getting me very depressed so I’m going to stop. The president says Ghana is not the worstcountry in the world. According to him, it is pessimism that is holding us back. Let me go and be optimistic so that things get better in Ghana. 

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of 'Ghana' Man has nowhere to lay his head."

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