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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Where Is The African Dream?

Poor Africans struggle to make ends meet in the midst of plenty
Poor Africans struggle to make ends meet in the midst of plenty
By Honourable Saka

Anyone who is familiar with American politics must have come across the expression: “the American Dream”. The term “American dream” has been used in many ways, but it essentially conveys the idea that anyone in America can succeed through hard work and has the potential to lead a happy and successful life. Indeed the American dream was one of the stepping-stones for American revolutionists in the likes of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. whom while fighting against racial injustice, proclaimed in his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Of course like the American people of yesterday, the African people have always had a dream. This dream however is not the so-called “democracy” which is usually proclaimed in the corporate media every now and then. But what exactly is the African dream and why is it taken so long to become a reality for her people?

What The African Dream Is Not
It is not an African dream to see our leaders running to Europe every week for expensive “routine medical check-ups” while the ordinary African is left at the mercy of the collapsed health infrastructure. It was never an African dream for our leaders to continue running to China and America, begging for loans to help fight malaria and HIV/AIDS. Never had it been the dream of our forefathers to see young children of school-going age hawking the streets, selling dog chains, sachet water, and doughnuts among others in search of school fees, while our leaders steal the people's wealth and deposit it in offshore accounts every year.

When the African child was born, it wasn’t her dream to survive on less than $2 a day while the politicians and their families swim in luxury, holidaying and shopping in Dubai every now and then. The African teachers did not dream for once that in the midst of plenty oil and gas, gold, bauxite, diamond, copper, Colton, uranium among others, their annual salaries would still not be enough to buy a simple laptop nor to talk of buying a car when the monthly allowances of their colleagues in politics are enough to buy luxurious four-wheel-drives and several mansions abroad. Where is the African dream?

It is never an African dream to have many educated Africans stranded in Europe, sweeping the streets, cleaning and obediently washing dishes abroad every year despite having degrees and qualifications that can tremendously transform the African continent. Who said it was an African dream for Africa to import toothpick, genetically modified foods, chemically induced chicken, second-hand clothing (including underwear), refined crude, shoes, clothing, etc. when Africa had what it takes to locally produce these things 50 years ago? Is it an African dream for the African people to continue borrowing from the World Bank and use the money to import American rice at the same time? Is it an African dream to be living in darkness when Africa has what it takes to provide electricity for herself and the rest of the world?

After 50 years of our flag independence, almost every single project that could potentially bring relief to the African people has either been abandoned or being held in the pipeline. Thanks to IMF-imposed policies. Our local oil refineries have been forced to shut down operations. Our leaders therefore ship the raw crude to European refineries after which the refined product is imported back to Africa. Many of the factories which were built in Africa to process the bauxite, the copper and other strategic resources have been forced by IMF-imposed policies to shut down and left to rot. For many years, Africa has remained the producer of raw material and the dumping ground of European, American and Chinese products. Is this the African dream?

For the past 40 years, Africans have been lamenting their frustrations over the failure of leadership especially in Ghana, the so-called "model of African democracy". Ever since Kwame Nkrumah's government was brutally overthrown by CIA mafias in 1966, Ghanaians have been living in total darkness (all major power generating projects initiated by Nkrumah has been abandoned). As I speak today, we’re still struggling with unreliable power supply; there is no reliable water supply, despite having plenty of gold, diamond, timber, bauxite, crude oil and being the world’s second largest producer of cocoa: the only resource which Nkrumah used to transform Ghana in less than 8 years.
Today, our leaders usually measure their level of success by the amount of Chinese loans or World Bank grants they are able to lobby for, though a high percentage of such moneys usually end up in offshore bank accounts of the very politicians who signed such deals.

We have many rivers and lakes, yet our leaders cannot generate reliable electricity for the people. We have too much sunlight that shines across the country 350 days a year, yet the government doesn't see the need to examine how we can generate solar energy to augment the power shortage which as become a major crisis for more than 25 years. Many companies are being forced to shut down operations and relocate to elsewhere due to unreliable power supply. When are we going to have visionary leaders in Africa?

For many years, electricity in Africa especially in Ghana operates like disco lights. Even within the capital city, people are forced to stay in darkness for at least 15hours a day, usually 4days a week. Is this the African dream which our grandfathers were brutally murdered for?

Yet, politicians make all sorts of noise parading Ghana as “a model of good governance and democracy”. They boast of plenty democracy, though there is no electricity to show for it as people continue to grope in darkness 4 day a week. I find it so hard to imagine that there are many public officials and engineers at the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Volta River Authority (VRA) whose main duty is to ensure that several parts of the country are shut down without electricity on a daily basis for the past 15 years. And they get paid for doing this job. What a country!

While Asian and Latin American leaders are busy building gigantic roads and bridges, our leaders here in Africa are only interested in building gigantic statues which serve the ordinary person no useful purpose.

African leaders of today are always keen to mount statues in honour of Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara among others whiles they ignore the social intervention programmes launched by such revolutionary leaders that were to bring about relief to the African people until their assassination/overthrow.

The Shuttered Dream of the African Child
child labour in South Africa
child labour rapidly grows in South Africa
The last time l checked, every African child is dreaming of the day when s/he can have equal access to quality education, quality healthcare, portable water supply, reliable electric supply, security among others. Most of all, the African child, like his American and European counterpart, is yearning for a 3-quare-meal a day without necessarily being the son of the president, a politician or some wealthy African king. The African child also deserves to dwell in a clean environment and a comfortable home. This is therefore a call to our stakeholders to sit up because the current standards forced upon the throat of the African child are simply unacceptable.

The African youth and unemployment

Youth unemployment in South Africa
The youth need jobs; not mere political speeches. Governments must concentrate on policies that will create more jobs for the youth. There should be good-governance structures that will enable every youth the opportunity to harness their God-given talents. The current level of youth unemployment in Africa which stands at 50% is simply unacceptable. No wonder armed robbery, internet fraud, prostitution and other social vices are becoming the order of the day. Therefore any government which does not clearly lay out a plan that demonstrates how youth unemployment will be tackled within a given time frame cannot be considered to be a serious government. There are many young ones out there with brilliant ideas, and excellent innovations, yet the states do not have systems in place to support such people. How can Africa developed if her youth are constantly abandoned when many of them launched initiatives which have the potential to transform more African lives?

If you were to ask majority of African voters what they expected of their governments, many would tell you they need jobs, potable water, reliable electric supply, quality healthcare just to mention a few. Democracy, mounting of gigantic billboards and gigantic statues are definitely not any meaningful thing the African would want as a priority. Yet look at how much billions of dollars our governments have been wasting on elections and political rallies very year. Are these moneys not enough to build hospitals, school and good quality roads?

In 2012 for instance, the World Bank gave about $100m in aid to Ghana “to help fight malaria and other communicable diseases”. Shockingly, the sector minister suggested that the amount was still not enough for the said purpose. Yet within the same year (2012), Ghana spent more than $600m on democracy.  

This however does not include the amount which the various political parties wasted on political rallies, TV commercials, gigantic billboards and so on. At the same time, it was reported that many students could not write their final exams due to lack of funds. Are we serious as a people? Is Ghana truly the model of good governance and Africa’s democracy?

The African dream is found in our rich cultural heritage, the rich minerals of Africa and in the minds of the young, talented African youth whose burning desire has been ignored by our leaders. Our old men in government have hijacked this beautiful dream and handed it to their foreign donors to whom they owe their loyalty and allegiance.

The Way Forward
Indeed, the African dream has remained a pipe dream for far too long. It will only take a serious revolution to remove all these batch of incompetent old men from the corridors of power to pave way for youthful, dynamic and vibrant leadership to take Africa to the dream land. Our people seriously deserve better than the usual lip service. The time to live the African dream is now; not in some 500 years to come. Governments must concentrate on building more gigantic roads instead of mounting gigantic statues. We must concentrate on investing in solar and other forms of renewable electric energy to solve these power crises once and for all. Our local industries cannot flourish with the current level of unreliable power supply.

Most importantly, we need to reform our colonial educational system to place more emphasis on practical science and technical education. The current book-oriented educational system which lacks practical demonstrations has failed Africa. It is time for real practical solutions to be taught in the classrooms. Various legislation must be introduced across Africa that bans all politicians and public servants from depositing moneys abroad. Any politician who is found to be owning fat offshore accounts must have his/her assets frozen. This in a way will help ensure that, all those Africa’s looted funds shall remain here in Africa and be used for the benefit of the African people.

Let us begin to live the African dream now.

Honourable Saka
The writer is a Pan-African analyst and the founder of the Project Pan-Africa (PPA), an organization that was established to unlock the minds of the African youth to take Africa’s destiny into their hands. The PPA seeks to provide the biggest platform that will give international exposure to all hidden but exceptional talents in Africa. Please visit us at: and support the project. PPA is grateful to ITech Plus, ZBC News GhanaWeb, ModernGhana and all our partners that support our vision for Africa. Email me at:

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Friday, 15 February 2013

Too Many Accidents On Our Roads: The Way Forward

Dozens perish in Zambia as bus crushes into truck, 7th February 2013

By Honourable Saka

“Germs don’t kill Africans; only cars do” -Anonymous. If road crashes kill more people in Ghana than communicable diseases, isn't that a serious problem?

Quite often, when one bursts upon an accident scene anywhere in Africa, many are quick to push the blame on all manner of possible causes: some passengers often blame the poor drivers for over speeding and doing wrong overtaking, the drivers often cite the poor road networks as the major factor while government official tend to put the blame on the poor pedestrians for not being careful on the streets. In fact there are many occasions where the blame is even shifted on some evil spirits elsewhere especially during the Christmas and Easter periods. Therefore most accidents which normally occur at Christ are often considered to be “the works of the devil”. The bottom line is that our people have always found somebody somewhere upon who the blame should be shifted at the end of the day.

Technically speaking, human errors, vehicle breakdowns, non-road worthy vehicles, poor road conditions and environmental factors like poor weather can be said to be the major causes of accidents everywhere in the world. The good news however is that, ALL THESE ERRORS CAN BE PREVENTED IF the authority in charge are serious on the need to combat road accidents.

Unfortunately the blame game has not helped us in any way since no effort is made to address the problem itself at the end of the day. Because of this, effort has been made to identify some of the major reasons why there are currently too many accidents on our roads. In fact, some of my findings are quite disturbing and I hope the appropriate authority will act as soon as possible to help save lives. It is becoming increasingly clear that many of these drivers often use hand-held mobile phones while driving. Thus, their concentration often goes onto the text massages they receive or send instead of paying attention on the road.

Some Shocking Statistics on Road Accidents:
Ghana: the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) announced that there were 19 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles in 2010. The statistics showed that 43% of the fatalities involved pedestrians and 53% involved occupants of vehicles. Shockingly 23% of all pedestrian fatalities involved children below the age of 16 years. In 2011, there were 2,330 road accidents bringing it to an average of 7 accidents per day across the country. In 2012, by November ending, 13,535 crashes have been recorded resulting over 2,069 deaths in Ghana. In December 2012 alone, 246 people died and 1,260 were injured in car accidents. According to the Commission, the major cause of road accidents in Ghana is due to over speeding. This accounts for 60% of car crashes in the country. When we the road users take our indiscipline to the roads, what do we expect in return?

An average of 1.7% of Ghana’s GDP (US$230 million) is lost every year to road accidents. But how many people have to die every year before the road authority addresses this problem once and for all?
Zambia: The Road Transport and Safety Agency suggests that, in economic terms the cost of road accidents to the Zambian economy is estimated at about 3% of the GDP (K2.4 trillion), an amount which translates into several hundred millions of dollars. In 2005, some 44 students were killed on a bus going on holiday from the northern Luapula province to Lusaka.  According to official statistics, at least 1,200 people are killed in traffic accidents every year in Zambia with several tens of thousands wounded within the same period. In the last half of 2011 alone, some 968 people were killed in road traffic accidents in Zambia, with 2,826 people seriously injured while some 3,033 were slightly injured during the same period. More alarming figures can be recorded from Nigeria, Kenya, and many countries across the African continent.

So I asked myself: What are the Road Safety Commissions actually doing here in Africa? Every year, our varios authorities come out with more alarming figures, yet nothing is done about it. It is always business as usual. Oh Africa!

What Causes All These Accidents?
BAD ROADS. NON VISIBLE ROAD markings. No road safety signs. No speed limits. Bad motorists who are never fined for breaching road safety measures on regular basis. Of course this happens because they have the police in their pockets. On our highways, motorists park their cars anywhere and idle about, especially in the cities. Policemen and women are increasingly accepting BRIBES and deliberately allowing traffic offenders to have a field day. Many of the drivers actually get drunk and find themselves driving at the same time! Some even have the notion that they cannot drive without taking alcohol. What a society!

Zambia's worst accident scene
Recently, the world woke up to a shock when a very tragic accident occurred in Zambia. In that accident alone, 73 people died at once.

Zindaba Soko, executive director of the Road Transport Safety Agency of Zambia (RTSA) had expressed the follow shock: “The accident that happened this morning, it is indeed a very sad day to lose so many lives. It is saddening that this was basically caused by human error because of unnecessary speeding and overtaking. I think that is very unacceptable,” Soko said.

While some in government would want to blame the cause of accident on the drivers, I believe much of the problem has to do with the laxity of implementing road regulations. Of course corruption is also another key contributor to this problem.

When one goes to the DVLA in Ghana and Nigeria for instance, there are too many “middlemen” you will have to “see” before you can acquire a driver’s license.  You can even BUY a Ghanaian/Nigerian driving license without going to any driving school at all. Many of the drivers actually learn driving while serving as drivers’ mates, without taking a single lesson from government-approved driving schools. What a country!

The police on the other hand have been receiving BRIBES and perverting justice on our roads. Usually there is NO prosecution on Ghana roads if particular drivers are at fault. This is because some of the drivers have got our police commanders in their pockets and will never be prosecuted. All because of BRIBE, bribe and many more bribe. So are we not ashamed of publishing these road accident figures every year without a clear cut commitment to address the problem?

Motor cyclists in Ghana never wear helmet
In Ghana there are many motor cyclists who ply the roads everyday without crack helmets. Yet, the road authority doesn't care. Then we have motorists who do not register their vehicles at all, yet they even manage to use them or commercial purposes. We have motorists who don’t have their cars regularly checked to ensure their safety.  About 70% of our commercial vehicles are in shambles, completely dilapidated and not road-worthy, yet they ply our roads 7 days a week and 15hrs a day.

Sometimes I wonder whether many of these drivers who ply our roads have been taken through the rudiments of basic safety driving. MANY MOTORISTS DONT EVEN HAVE CAR INSURANCE yet nobody cares. Our leaders are also VERY LAZY. They refuse to put in place the necessary measures that will check the traffic offenders. This is why such accidents continue to occur on a daily basis and in such large numbers. In the night, many of our roads including the so-called motorways have no street lights. Some of the pot-holes on these ‘motorways’ are so big, they could pass for manholes.

I have never seen any speed limit on any of our highways in Accra, the capital of Ghana!  In fact, the N1 in Ghana, a recently commissioned ultramodern highway also known as the George Walker Bush Motorway has NO SINGLE SPEED LIMIT! I am yet to see any road sign which reads like: ‘slow down’ ‘reduce speed now’ or warning message such as ‘temporal speed limit at 70km/hr’ on any of the dangerous bends all along the motorway.

What does this tell us? Does it mean unscrupulous drivers are at liberty to drive at any dangerous speed they choose. What happens to those drivers who might not be familiar with the road? As for the zebra crossings, the drivers have no regards for their use at all.

Poor school girl knocked down by a reckless driver in Accra
A visit to any zebra crossing in Accra reveals the frustration of passengers struggling to cross the roads since drivers are always driving at top speed (usually over 180km per hour), making it completely impossible for pedestrians, most of them school children yearning to cross (noticed why 23% of all pedestrian fatalities in Ghana involved children below the age of 16 years?). Our drivers have grown with the perception that, where the road is good, they are at liberty to speed as dangerous as they deem necessary. Is it a wonder that over speeding is killing our people on the roads? Almost all the topspeed motorways have been laid through the residential areas where many school children have no choice but to walk across. Yet, there are not subways not footbridges.

Poor old man struggles to cross the George Bush Highway
Then the few foot bridges, the intervals between them are too long that pedestrians are not encouraged to patronize them. How many passengers would like to walk a distance of over 500m just to use an over-pass to cross the road and walk another 500m back at the other side of the road? Yet, this is how our motorways have been designed.

The Way Forward:
Road traffic accidents could be drastically reduced if a more effective awareness campaigns were mounted countrywide. This is where the media especially the TV stations could play a vital role. Some of other measures that could be taken included are as follows:

Adequate warning signs and speed limits must be provided on all roads to warn drivers. This will help prevent all accidents often caused by overspending.
·         The road authority must introduce a safety and maintenance manual which will require drivers to regularly check their vehicles. Such checks must require the drivers to produce the maintenance certificates issued by approved authority in charge of the inspection.
·       Anybody found using a mobile phone whiles driving must be given a severe prison sentence.
The highways must be properly designed to factor in the needs of all road users such as children, the elderly and people with disability. It is time to include safe passage such as subways bicycle lanes and enough footbridges provided at reasonable intervals for pedestrian to safely cross the highways.
·         Drivers must be educated on the significance of the various zebra crossings such that they do not abuse the right of pedestrians to a safe passage.
·         The police must be adequately resourced and well-motivated to deal with traffic offenders. This will help bring the bribery and corruption cases which promote drivers’ indiscipline on the roads.
·         The road authority must random sample a couple of drivers plying the roads to find out their level of knowledge to the Highway Code and the road safety regulations. This can help determine whether such drivers truly acquired their license through the proper channels.
·         All motor cyclists spotted on the roads without crack helmet must have their motorbikes impounded and be made to pay a heavy fines. Failure to do so must attract serious prison sentences. Cyclists must also be forced to wear high visibility jackets and helmets before riding on the roads.
·         The Road authority must institute a maintenance policy where all major roads will be checked weekly to ensure that all damages are quickly identified and repaired; all missing/obscured road signs must be replaced to ensure the safety of road users, especially the drivers. All vehicles that are not found to be road-worthy must not be allowed to ply the roads.
·         Discipline on the road must form a key aspect of driving lessons and tests. Drivers must adequately be taken through the rudiments of safe driving paying attention on the need to avoid accident irrespective of which user was at fault. Quite often, many of the drivers use the horn unnecessarily and this in a way scares off some road users such as cyclist, motor riders and even pedestrians. Some cyclist may lose concentration and feel intimidated resulting in unexpected crush.
·         All vehicles must have safety triangles, fire extinguisher and appropriate safety tools that could be used to warn other road users where a vehicle breaks down along the roads.
·         Government must find a way to deal with the level of corruption at the DVLA which often makes it possible for some people to acquire driver’s license even without going through the proper channel. This means, the act of selling driver’s license to merely those who can afford to pay must end at the various DVLA centers across the African continent.
·         Any driver found to be drunk-driving must be given severe prison sentence.

It is hoped that these and many other measures shall be taken in order to help bring the accidents on our roads to the barest minimum.
Long live Africa.
     Honourable Saka 
     The writer is a Pan-African analyst and the founder of the Project Pan-Africa (PPA), an organization that was established to unlock the minds of the African youth to take Africa’s destiny into their hands. The PPA seeks to provide the biggest platform that will give international exposure to all hidden but exceptional talents in Africa. Please visit us at: and support the project. PPA is grateful to ITech Plus, ZBC News GhanaWeb, ModernGhana and all our partners that support our vision for Africa. Email me at: