This had to be the strangest Thanksgiving for me in many years. Both Mary Kay and I worked, since it is not a Ghanaian holiday. Ken and Mary Kay joined friends at the home of other friends for a turkey dinner (including the requisite dressing and sauerkraut). By the time I arrived after the daily bumpy ride down off the mountain at 7:15pm, the only food left was pizza (well, I did get some pumpkin pie and dressing, too).
Lest I throw myself a pity party, Lloyd Amoah, one of my co-workers at Ashesi, sent along a link to the following report by the African Development Bank. The report, while many months old, shocked me with the idea that "middle class" for Africa includes those who make more than USD 2 per day, and making over USD 10 per day puts you in the "upper class." When I consider that I spend more than the lower amount on lunch each day, it puts my complaints in perspective!
Yet, the claim by AfDB is that incomes rising into that range have a large number of positive impacts on governance and lifestyle. People with something to lose tend to me more concerned about the government protecting them from abuse or theft. They also begin to save, and consider investing in their children's education. Birth rates go down. Health improves. And Africa has been moving in that direction.
There is still far to go. Last week, Lloyd also forwarded the text of an address that Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, the entering CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecoms made at their recent inaugural meeting. As he fussed Telecoms is no Tobacco Industry before the National Communications Authority, which had just fined all the mobile operators big bucks for "poor service quality," he stuck a nerve for all of us up at Ashesi. He commented:
Chairman, there are external factors peculiar to our third world environment, and over which mobile operators have little or no control, but which impact the quality of service; factors that you will not find in the First World.
Power outages and diesel thefts also prevent base stations from functioning without undue interruption. It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll run into a man on the M1 in the UK or along the autobahn near Berlin trying to peddle diesel by the gallon to passing motorists.
This lack of infrastructure and the costs to private operations for services that are taken for granted in the US have concentrated our minds out in Berekuso. At the recent "Town Hall Meeting," Patrick expressed his frustration at the huge expenses that Ashesi is now incurring because of roads, electricity, and water. Most of the staff refuse to drive to the campus for fear of ruining their vehicles, and the entire campus has been afflicted with over-voltage and blackout-induced failures, including the destruction of the pump that provides us with drinking water from our private borehole. This last week, the University elected to run the Administration block off diesel backup after measuring voltages from 100 to 400 volts on a nominally 220 volt system. And he announced that the school has had to pay 4500 GHS (about USD 3000) to have water trucked up the hill for sanitation over a two week period. This is a huge burden when you are trying to run a "first world" operation in a "third world" context. And to juxtapose these charges with the idea that a "middle income" begins at $2/day, which would represent working "four years" to pay for two our last two week's worth of water...
I'm just pleased to be working with folks that are trying to do their best in this environment.
But even more so, that God sent his Son to be born in barn and laid in a feeding trough!
Have a Merry Christmas
Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.