I think a job as a government bureaucrat in Ghana must be the easiest job around. My friend describes his boss’s morning – Gets into the office very early to sleep. Wakes up around 10am to eat. Perhaps a drive around the neighbourhood – well one has to look busy doesn’t one! They haven’t had electricity in their building for over a month and nothing has been done about it. I read somewhere that poverty breeds laziness but can these people really claim to be poverty stricken?

The levels of monitoring, target setting and evaluation in the UK have become a big joke, if they weren’t so tragic, but Ghana is the other extreme. It is not unusual to walk into a business at 10am and find all the staff with their heads on the tables sleeping. One of them will probably be the manager. Maybe there just isn’t enough work to do? And most Ghanaians don’t have the initiative to think further than the task they have been given.There are reasons for this.

As a child you are taught to do exactly as you are told. You never challenge or question your parents, even when they are wrong. Children are supposed to be seen and not heard. Children are taught to sit and do nothing (a formula for becoming brain dead). A foreign student brought a book to school to read during one of their regular ‘30 minute sit and stare and the wall in silence’ sessions. The other students were horrified telling the person they are supposed to sit and do nothing. In school, if you ask questions the teacher thinks you are rude and disrespectful.

Much may not be expected from a local business but I have higher expectations from the government. Many of them have been educated in the UK or the USA. The idea was for them to learn another way of doing things. Yet all they bring back is greed and a desire for personal wealth.

The problems in Ghana are very complex and intertwined. There are no simple solutions and, if there are, they have to come from within the culture, not imposed by the IMF, the EU and other foreign institutions. Yes, colonialism and neo-colonialism is partly responsible for the problems but equally responsible is the role of religion and Ghanaian culture itself.

But the bottom line is, as Ghanaians like to say, ‘Ghana is cool’. When you ask people how they are they use a word which means both ‘taking is easy’ and ‘slow’. People get by, no one is really starving, people manage, life is slow. Who would have it any other way?

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