I pray this letter finds you in good health and good spirits.
The ‘Year of Return, Ghana, 2019’ initiative marks a significant and impactful time in contemporary Ghanaian history. As a young Ghanaian woman, I am incredibly happy to see Ghana be promoted to the world as a site of reconciliation and homecoming for our brothers and sisters in the diaspora. Ghana has rightfully earned this status with our many historical sites, rich cultural heritage, and peaceful environment. This is a moment I could not be prouder of.
The immense success of the Year of Return campaign is evident. Across my personal networks, a large number of friends, associates, and colleagues have confirmed that they will be travelling to Ghana at some point during the year, with many stating December as their preferred arrival date. While it is exciting to hear that so many will be visiting Ghana, one question returns to my mind over and over again:
Is Ghana ready for the Year of the Return?
My intention with this question, Mr. President, is not to denigrate the excellent efforts you’ve made in promoting our beautiful country but rather draw attention to the work that we still need to do to ensure that Ghana is experienced in the best possible light. To put it another way; we are inviting guests to our home, but have we taken the time to ensure that it is clean, comfortable and safe for them?
Mr. President, unfortunately, the answer at the moment seems to be that we are not as ready as we should be. I regularly facilitate conversations using my social media platforms and have found that this same sentiment is reflected in discussions amongst my peers of Ghanaian youth. In writing this letter, my aim is to highlight a few of the issues that emerged during these discussions and propose solutions where I can.
We must make Ghana clean
Mr. President, I remind you of your pledge to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa by the year 2020. The establishment of Ghana’s first ever Ministry of Sanitation & Water Resources emphasizes your commitment to that pledge and while significant improvements have been made, we still have a long way to go. A cursory glance at the streets of Accra finds that we are still dealing with the eyesores of litter, plastic waste, and open sewage. This problem was compounded by the recent bouts of heaving flooding which created incredibly unsanitary conditions whilst revealing the poor drainage systems that are currently in place.
For a city with Accra’s rank in the world, this is unacceptable.
To deal with this issue I suggest we take a cue from the actions of the city of Cape Town at the height of the 2017 drought and water crisis. Through the use of intensive media campaigning, the city was flooded (no pun intended) with messages that its citizens must do all they can to save water. The act of saving water was communicated daily as a national priority and the personal responsibility of all Capetonians until Cape Town was able to avoid the impending doom of ‘Day Zero’.
In the same vein, we must urgently and constantly communicate the message that a clean Ghana is a national priority and that every citizen must play their part to make the country clean. This statement is not to downplay the efforts of your Clean Ghana Campaign initiative, but rather stress the importance of continually keeping those efforts in view of public attention. We must daily make use of every platform and medium of communication until Accra is the cleanest city in Africa. I also suggest making use of the many highly influential Ghanaian celebrities and influencers as the faces and ambassadors of the Clean Ghana campaign. Their impact and influence on the youth is far-reaching and would be incredibly helpful in these efforts.
Mr. President, you highlighted the transformational symbol of Sesa Wo Suban as integral to the Clean Ghana Campaign and with this in mind I do truly believe that we will see a clean Ghana with these continued efforts.
We must make Ghana comfortable
Two relatively simple issues were mentioned repeatedly in relation to the comfort of citizens currently living in Ghana. In order to not further complicate these issues, they must be addressed adequately before the large influx of visitors enters Ghana. My limited scope in dealing with issues such as these means that I currently do not know what viable solutions would be. However, by raising awareness to them, I hope you focus your attention on solving them.
I’m sure you know Mr. President, that traffic is a major issue in Accra. One can spend hours traveling a route that is only supposed to take minutes, especially during the Christmas season. The underlying issue here seems to be that there are no effective methods in place to deal with congestion. This will be magnified tenfold given the numbers of visitors coming and Accra will literally be at a standstill for hours at a time if we do not find effective methods to ease the flow of traffic. As someone who personally knows the discomfort of Accra’s heavy traffic jams, I sincerely hope that you can provide solutions and support staff to help manage the traffic and safe movement of people.
- A constant flow of electricity
The numerous power outages Ghanaians are currently experiencing are a far cry from the times that Ghana could boast with the ability of supplying our neighbours with electricity. Reminiscent of the days of Dumsor, many are reeling from the country’s sudden intermittent power supply which has occasionally left us in darkness for days. From our previous history, it is clear that Ghana is capable of providing a constant flow of electricity and thus must do better in providing a constant flow of electricity for all citizens and those who will come to this beautiful country. Mr. President, I’m sure you understand that as the Black Stars of Africa being without light is surely detrimental to our image. I plead with you to find a way to keep Ghana’s light on.
We must make Ghana safe
Fortunately, violence and crime are not characteristic to our country. It is wonderful to hear that Ghana was found to be the most peaceful nation in West Africa according to the 2019 Global Peace Index. We are truly blessed in this regard and because of this are able to offer physical safety to our guests. As a young woman, I appreciate our peaceful environment as it allows me to move around without much restriction or fear in my country.
However, when I refer to safety, I mean the alarming lack of widely recognised and established emergency medical services that one can access. With a large variety of festivals, concerts, and venues, Accra offers a vibrant and fun nightlife experience to its guests, which unfortunately can be breeding grounds for accidents, mishaps, and unintentional injuries. This is an urgent matter because lives are potentially at stake. For situations like that, we must prepare for the worst whilst hoping for the best. It needs to be made clear exactly how and where people can access medical services, so we are not caught unawares in case of emergency.
To conclude, the Year of the Return offers an opportunity to showcase Ghana as a world-class destination and will paint the way our country is seen for years to come. I was driven to write this letter because I truly love Ghana and wish to show my amazing country off, however, I believe that we must first get our house in order and be fully prepared for the heavy influx of visitors that is surely coming. With the eyes of the world on Ghana, it is of the utmost importance that we maintain and deliver the standards of excellence that we are known worldwide for. Finally, Mr. President, you have stated that you are mindful of the next generation and not the next cycle of elections. With this is mind, I ask that you commit to providing opportunities and means for young people like me to work and benefit from this period of return.
I trust that you will seriously consider the points raised in this letter.
God bless you and God bless Ghana.
A proud but concerned citizen of Ghana,
MSc (LSE) & MA (UCT) in Global Media and Communications