Cry, the beloved continent

Posted by By at 1 July, at 10 : 00 AM Print

Cry, the beloved continent


I told you so, didn’t I?

What are you talking about, now? What did you tell me and why are you so agitated like an excited cobra?

I told you that you and your bunch of so-called dreaming Pan-Africanists are deluded jokers, delusional day-dreamer, stupid utopians…

Ok, ok, I get the drift. But what have we done wrong this time to warrant all these big grammar and insults. And what exactly is wrong is wrong with dreaming; didn’t they say that the future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams?

Where have you been hiding; didn’t you hear the Minister of Trade has given ECOWAS citizens the marching order.

Ah, The power of rumour and mis-information. She didn’t ask anyone to leave; she gave no marching order.

What did she do, then?

If I heard it correctly, she said that those foreigners engaged in petty trading should regularize their business permits or quit trading.

Same difference.

It is not the same as giving marching order.

Ah, you! Our elders say that when the host starts showing you the last bit of the yam, it is clear message that it is time for you to move on. When your host country starts to ask you for the impossible, it is a polite way to tell you to vamoose, get lost.

You and your proverbs! The minister just asked foreigners to comply the law of the land.

By asking them to pay Three hundred thousand US dollars?

That is what the law says.

Don’t make me laugh. Do you think any of those traders have seen three thousand dollars in their entire lives? Do you think that the entire stock of what they peddle can come up to three hundred dollars?

The law must be respected.

Am not saying that the law must not be respected, what I’m saying is that rather than hide behind that ridiculous, even extortionate demand, the government should have the gut to simply ban the foreigners from trading.

They will be breaching the ECOWAS treaty obligations.

Won’t they be breaching it if the foreigners leave en-masse?

That would be their business; their free choice. No one ask them to leave.

Do you honestly think that those guys will be in Ghana if they have three hundred thousand US dollars fighting in their pockets?

How am I to know?

Do you know what I really find funny about the whole thing?

You tell me.

Just few days ago, we roll out the big drums to celebrate what we call African Liberation Day. And our officials spent good money to go around and make beautiful speeches about the virtues of African unity and how Ghana is, once again, blazing the trail, in the march for continental unity. What exactly is wrong with us? Why are we such a bunch of mindless jokers?

What do you mean?

Why do officials say something and do exactly the opposite. Why do they mouth Pan-Africanism when their hearts are not in it? And tell me, do they really have their brains screw on in the right places?

What do you mean by that?

When they talk of foreigners, do these officials in Accra really know what they talk about? Is the Ewe trader in Togo who brings goods to sell at his Uncle’s house in Aflao or Keta a foreigner? Or is the Akan fellow in La Cote d’Ivoire who brings his goods to his family house at Enchi in the Western Region to sell a foreigner? Or is the guy in Burkina Faso who helps his uncle in Paga trade goods across the border a foreigner? I tell you that the families in both Aflao, Enchi and Paga do not consider their families across the insane borders the Europeans imposed on Africa as foreigners. They are their kiths and kins.

I don’t see what all these have got to do with asking foreigners to comply with our laws?

And I say that the laws should be clearer on whom we call foreigners.

The laws are pretty clear on who a Ghanaian is.

But it is not clear on whom I should regard as foreigner in my home. If I live in Ghana and have families in both Ghana and Togo, am I to think of the children of my sister, who lives across the border, my cousins, as foreigner in my house?

Everyone has to obey the law.

You sound like a broken record. Do you know what worries me?

I know a lot of things worry you; you are a born worrier. But go ahead and tell me.
I really don’t know whether our officials have the interests of Ghanaians at heart.
What do you mean by that?

Have you travel around West Africa?

I have been to about nine or ten countries in the sub-region, but to where are you taking this?

I just wondered if our officials are not being too provincial, too parochial for their own good. What we find all over West Africa are ordinary people engaging themselves in petty trading all over the place. Do our officials think that Ghanaians are not engaging in petty trading in other West African countries?

But they obey the laws of their host countries.

Says who? Do you, for example, know that Ghanaians dominate the fishing industry in Liberia?

I don’t know why you keep riding this horse; there is simply no law against them engaging in fishing in Liberia. The government of Ghana, in trying to regularize his trade policies, asked foreigners to post a certain amount as the law says.

And did our official consider what they will do if the other countries decide to retaliate?

I am not privy to the inner workings of government; but I’m sure they must have considered that possibility.

Do you know what I find funny in this whole saga?

What is that?

At the same time the minister was blowing hot and cold over petty traders, the media is saturated with reports of the Chinese running amok in the galamsey gold mining industry. They are everywhere, all over the country, illegally mining gold. And they are doing it openly and with the biggest machines you can imagine. Yet, our minister’s attention is rather tuned to issues of ECOWAS petty traders.

You forget that China is a big power and our government receives a lot of support from the Chinese government.

The Nigerians will also tell you that their government rendered support to Ghana.
What support? Please, please, you cannot compare apple with orange: Nigeria is no China.

The gas we use come from Nigeria, for example. We will be hard-pressed if the Nigerians turn off the West African Gas Pipeline. They also gave our police some cars. Do you know what I find silliest about the whole thing?

Please, we pay for the gas; it is not a charity. I don’t know about the police car issue. But go ahead and tell me what you find silly.

What I find silly is the fact that even in the most racist of European countries, foreigners, including Africans, are allowed to have their own markets where they engaged in petty trading of produce from their home countries. In rabidly racist Holland, Africans have markets in the Bijlmer area of Amsterdam.

And the point is?

The point is that what our government has embarked on is quite pointless and counter-productive. It is quite natural for human beings to gravitate towards where they find their kind; people they can relate to. That explains why foreigners always concentrate in the same area. As soon as you have foreigners sojourning amongst you, it goes without saying that they will be engage in petty trading of the stuffs they are sued to at home. For example, Ghanaians eat Kenkey and Banku which is not well known in Nigeria. What happened is that many Ghanaians simply set up shops at the Agege area of Lagos to sell their home food to their compatriots. The lingua franca there is unadulterated Akan. Any visitor to Nigeria will tell you that it is Ghanaians that dominate the puff-puff, what you Ghanaians call Bofrot, business in Lagos. Another example, many Nigerians consider bitter leaf a delicacy, whereas Ghanaians think of it as just another leaf. So if Nigerians in Ghana start selling bitter leaves to their compatriots, does the minister really expect them to fork out three hundred thousand dollars?

You are forgetting that the minister is just upholding the laws of Ghana.

And you are forgetting that it is not only Ghana that is capable of making laws?

Ghanaians will respect the laws of their host countries.

That is all well and jolly. I am just afraid that in these hard economic times, how the government will cope if other countries decide to retaliate and try to make lives of Ghanaians in their countries hard, it has been known to happen. Do you know what worries me?

I thought you broached on that already?

No, I’m just worried about the reactions of the Anagos.

You meant the Nigerians; they don’t like to be called Anagos since only the Yoruba part of them are actually Anagos?

Yes, thanks for your information. But those guys could be pretty emotional and irrational, you know.


Last week the lower chamber of their parliament, the one they call the House of Representathieves, call for a break of diplomatic relations with Ghana.

Ah, now, you kid me!

No, I kid you not.

A break in diplomatic relation over the matter of petty trading; they cannot be serious?

Looks like they are dead serious; that is what I meant when I said they could be both emotional and irrational. According to them, they have invested too much energies and resources in pan-African pipe dreams, and it has gotten them nowhere. They lamented their heavy investments in the liberation struggles across Africa, plus their interventions in both Sierra Leone and Liberia. And they complained that their citizens continue to be treated with impunity; looks like they are baying for blood, any blood. They are fast changing tact. Their president announced that the interests of Nigeria and the welfare of Nigerians are now at the centerpiece of both his internal and external policies. I think they emphatically proved that with South Africa few weeks ago.

Oh, what did they do?

I forgot how it all started, but the gist is that some excited South African immigration officials deported en-masse a plane load of Nigerians. Nigeria retaliated by expelling hundreds of South Africans and threatened to send all South African firms packing. It took mighty diplomatic efforts before the Anagos, sorry Nigerians, backed down. If they can do that to South Africa, you can imagine what they can do to country like Ghana.

I’m sure our officials must have configured that into their equation. Anyhow, it is not the same thing; no one is deporting any Nigerians or any foreigners. They just have to obey the law; that is all. As ECOWAS citizens, they are free to stay in Ghana.

Free to stay and do what? If they are free to stay and cannot work, do we expect them to eat shit?

It is their business to fend for themselves within the ambits of the laws of Ghana.
Do you know another thing that worries, or shall I say amuses me?

Tell me.

The gods, in their infinite mercies, blessed our continent with huge mineral resources. What do we do with it? Naught; absolutely nothing. We do nothing with our plentiful minerals except to accept tokens from the Arabs, Asians or Europeans, who then bring their machineries to extract these precious minerals, cart them away to manufacture goods which we become accustomed to loving. So, what do we do? Like the mindless children that we are, rather than borrow money to build the factories to process these minerals into finished products, we would rather be using the pittance we receive from the so-called investors to import the finished products. What do we then do, and this is where our collective insanity become glaring and unfathomable: we start to bicker over who is allowed to sell these imported items on our streets. Countries are not developed by petty traders; they are developed by building the industrial and manufacturing bases to use local materials to propel our economic development agenda. That is why it baffles the mind greatly that our ministers will have the mind and time to be chasing petty traders, rather than focusing on the big pictures of building processing plants for our raw materials and minerals. It is like our officials prefer to tackle the boil whilst leaving the leprosy intact. And that, to me, is our biggest tragedy in Africa!


About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and Correspondent for the New African magazine. Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specialises in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are now available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

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Femi Akomolafe



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