Friday, 26 November 2010

Not Made in Ghana

07- 17 November 2010
If you go to a bigger grocery shop to find biscuits, one can find those made in Germany, Turkey, Czech Republic, China and India. There are only a few local Ghanaian brands. I like a local Ghanaian brand of biscuits called Milk and Malt because it is available everywhere and less costly. I prefer these biscuits because they are locally prepared so there is more guarantee of control over its quality. It is also to patronize the local product. Once I went to a grocery shop in Bongo where I frequently go to buy them in larger numbers so that I could keep them in store at the house and have them as and when needed. Then the lady in the shop without telling me anything gave me a pack of biscuits which was manufactured in India but imported in Ghana by a Singaporean company. The name and packaging was different but in small letters there was written Milk and Malt Biscuits.
This same shop, which is only of its kind in the small town of Bongo, stocks up rice from Thailand and Vietnam, palm oil produced in Indonesia, vermicelli made in Italy, ready to eat noodles manufactured in Nigeria, wines brewed in Spain, mosquito coils from China and match sticks made in India. I feel amazed many times by the number of countries from which the products are coming here. Visit to the only supermarket in Bolgatanga, which is frequented only by local rich and Solemiya (foreigners) like us, can give sightings of more international range of products not commonly used by general class of locals. There is Cheese from Morocco, beef from Brazil, Green Peas packed in Italy, luxury soaps from various European countries, perfumes from France, and Whiskey from India. For sure variety of products and possibility of getting them as and when needed is greater in India. But I have never seen common grocery shops in India to be full of products made in such exotic locations across the world.
Visit any supermarket in Ghana and you will come to know about how this process of globalisation affecting the local economies. Ghana is one of world's most important producer of Cocoa. I heard about one local brand of chocolate and asked the staff of the shop for it. He took me to the shelf where chocolates of various brands were kept. The brand which I was searching for was not there but there were other chocolates which were made in places like UAE and Germany. I don't know whether these chocolate makers procure their cocoa from Ghana. I purchased one pack of dried grated coconut from the shop so that I could use it in my cooking. The pack said that it was produced in UK from the high quality coconuts purchased in Cote d'Ivoire. The coconuts from this neighbouring country of Ghana were being shipped to UK and after getting processed they were coming back to this same part of the world. Pine apples are produced locally in Ghana but I still can not figure out why the only pine apple jam available in that shop was the one produced in the Netherlands. I sometimes feel like still I am in that age of colonization, where Indian cotton was getting processed into yarn in the mills of Manchester to be sold back in India as cloth and in the age where American states and Great Britain were fighting amongst themselves over the fate of Indian tea.
Chinese products are almost everywhere and in every sector. Nobody can give guarantee for the life of these products. People just look at the lower price of these products are available and purchase it. Tube lights, torches, toys, toffees, the list of words rhymes well but try to buy any of these products in the markets of Ghana and you will find them always Chinese. Nobody seems to know how long will it last and whether it can be used at least once after purchase. In the northern part of Ghana, where people as well as their public transportation system is very poor, motorbikes are becoming very popular and I found Chinese motorbikes being sold here at such a low cost that I could not have imagined in India. People buy them even if they complain about its unsuitability to the dirt roads and need for frequent repairs shortly after purchase. Once while travelling to Kumasi from Accra, our bus broke down and people started complaining about the bus being of Chinese make.
I feel that surely it is newer age of colonization. The players with some exception are the same but the rules of the game have changed. The countries are independent and there is no slavery or bonded labor existent these days but still deprivation of the people and their rights is being continued but this time with the consent of the people who are in power in those deprived countries. The African countries are trapped in the cycle of aid. There are distressed conditions due to anarchy, natural disasters or droughts. To recover from these conditions comes the aid from the developed countries which induces corruption and mentality of begging for more money. In return they give rights over trade and natural resources and lose their control over their own economy. Most of the local industries which have been based on use of local resources and traditional older concepts of living life, are losing with the advent of western influence on the culture. To large extent this is also true for India but we have been able to adapt ourselves very well to these new changes. I started thinking that trade has been in our traditions. This does not holds true for majority of the Sub Saharan African countries.
There are some countries like Ghana who are performing better in terms of good governance and stable democratic systems compared to other African countries. There are some countries which have improved in terms of economic conditions and reduction of poverty. Still unlike India, overall picture of the continent, including Ghana, does not really give a sense of prosperity coming to the local people through the local resources and the local industries.
In Ghanaian economy it seems that "Not Made in Ghana" rules.