How Mahama broke Ghana’s Heart

As she prepares to celebrate her 58th birthday, rumor has it that Ghana, the dark skinned African beauty, is secretly planning to divorce her 8th husband – John Dramani Mahama. Before I get into the salacious details of this conscious uncoupling, lets slide into December 2012, when 2 very virile men, John Dramani Mahama and Nana Akufo Addo, were vying for the 55-year-old widow’s hand in marriage. To appreciate the enormity of her dilemma, you must first get to know Ghana.

Touted as the darling of Africa, Ghana shot into the limelight in 1960 when she married her first husband Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, a political activist renowned for his sharp intellect and penchant for thumbing his nose at the West. About 6 years later, their union caved under the pressure of his pan African ideals. After Nkrumah, she had dalliances with lawyers and soldiers alike. But after a tumultuous relationship with JJ Rawlings, Ghana swore off young men and developed a flavour for older men with even temperaments like J. A. Kufuor and J. E. Mills. By all accounts, her marriage to Kufuor was not perfect but, it was good – it ended amicably. Mills on the other hand, was an unassuming sort who sought to appease all and pleased none. In July 2012, he succumbed to cancer which is why his widow once again, had to find a new husband.

On his feet, Mahama is about 6 foot 2. Tall and dark, he approached Ghana with a disarming smile, a gentle voice and an unremarkable career in politics. He courted her with what he romantically called “The better Ghana agenda”. She was enthralled by his Lacoste T-Shirts, his Samsung galaxy phone and the fact that his friends were regular folks who spoke Pidgin English. When he whispered sweet nothings like “E dey be k3ke” into her ears, she all but melted. Nana Addo was the older of the two. Stockily built, he carried an aura of sagesse amassed from an established career in law and politics. Fluent in French and the art of subtle affection, he was always seen with his Ghandi-like spectacles and his sophisticated group of friends who spoke Ivy League English. He courted Ghana with the dry promises of free education and financial stability. She chose Mahama.

The honeymoon was blissful. Mahama was warm, charming, and seduced Ghana with honey-coated promises about a home flowing with sparkling water, high voltage electricity, top-notch security, reliable health insurance and a life that would make her the envy of all her friends. Unfortunately, barely 3 years into the marriage, Ghana has lawyered up. Her grievances are many:

1. Mahama does not spend enough time with Ghana.

2. Their bank account is always in overdraft.

3. Their debt level has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels and creditors are calling.

4. She does not have a steady job.

5. Their children are always hungry.

6. Water has been shutdown.

7. There is no electricity.

8. Morale in her house is so low that her staff is selling her gold pieces to Chinese tourists.

9. Last summer, as their financial condition deteriorated, Mahama had the audacity to airlift $3 million to Brazil to pacify his favourite football team.

10. Last but certainly not the least, there are endless allegations that Mahama and his pidgin-speaking cronies are embezzling money from his work. GYEEDAA, SADA, MASLOC… are just a few of the corrupt schemes that her husband is implicated in.
To stave off the disgrace of bankruptcy, Mahama has now decided to borrow from the International Monetary Fund. Unfortunately, it will take more than a loan to restore his relationship. Ghana’s glistening reputation is in tatters and she is the laughing stock of old friends like Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast. In 3 short years, her youthful glow has been replaced with deep frown lines.

There is an old African saying that no woman worth her salt pursues a man. But according to reliable sources, Ghana is panting after Nana Akufo-Addo. Suddenly, she is drawn to his sagesse, his educated friends and the stability that his Ghandi-like glasses promise. Happy birthday Ghana! You may no longer be the darling of Africa but you are a shining example of how marrying the wrong man can reverse one’s fortune.

 

 

 

 

When in Liberia…

I have always wanted to visit Liberia. As a child, I listened wide-eyed as my mother and her friends exchanged stories of their travels to Liberia’s capital Monrovia. From snippets of their animated accounts, I pictured a sophisticated and advanced city, where ambitious Africans traveled to sell fine cloths and household goods. With this image dancing in my head, you can imagine the frequency of my heart palpitations when three days after returning from Kumasi; my carefully crafted plans to visit Liberia appeared to collapse with the incremental delay of the Air Nigeria flight. It was a bright Thursday morning and I was at the airport, hoping to board an Air Nigeria flight from Accra to Monrovia. After two hours of waiting, I stopped monitoring the clock hanging in the departure lobby and allowed my mind to think of what Liberians must have gone through during the dark war years between 1989 and 2003.

I was still a teenager when news of civil unrest in Monrovia captivated headlines in Ghanaian newspapers. On Christmas Eve in 1989, a band of rebels led by a man called Charles Taylor invaded Liberia from the Ivory Coast in an attempt to overthrow President Samuel Doe’s government.

As Charles Taylor’s forces,” the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), advanced toward Monrovia, they targeted people of the Krahn and Mandingo ethnic groups, both of which the NPFL considered supporters of President Doe’s government. In response to this insurgency, President Doe launched an unrelenting wave of violence against the inhabitants of Nimba County where the insurgency had a stronghold. Media reports and human rights organizations estimated that at least 200 people, primarily members of the Mano and Gio ethnic groups, were killed by troops of the Government of Liberia during the counterinsurgency campaign“. (www.globalsecurity.org)

As the prospects of a full-blown civil war escalated, several warring factions sprang up and increased the brutality. “Most major businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, and foreign investors and businessmen fled the country.” Samuel Doe himself was captured in 1990 and images of his brutal execution were distributed to several media outlets in Africa. Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) gained control of most of the country and in a matter of months, refugee camps had to be opened in Ghana and other West African countries to accommodate thousands of Liberians fleeing from a very bloody war. For fourteen years, the NPFL and rival warlords from other warring factions fought each other and looted Liberia’s rich diamond reserves. They killed tens of thousands of people and essentially shredded the social fabric of a country that used to be a vibrant economic hub in West Africa.

After several failed attempts, in 2003, a unilateral ceasefire was declared in Liberia and Charles Taylor was forced into exile. Three years later, he was formally charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since war ended in 2003, Liberians have been taking steps to rebuild their country. In 2005, they voted the Unity Party into power making its political leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the first female president of an African country. Encouraged by these advances, Liberians abroad have started returning to their homeland to contribute to the development of their country.

It has been 9 years since Liberia got back on track and I could not wait to jump on the plane to see all that the country had to offer. When I finally landed at Roberts International Airport, I was dumbfounded. Sprawled before my very eyes was the physical testimony of what fourteen years of civil war can do to a country. It is a very modest airport planted a few steps from the tarmac. About thirty of us disembarked and walked through a narrow doorway that led to a partitioned customs area. An immigration officer flipped through my passport. After stamping it, it she winked at me and muttered.  “My sister, make me smile.” I stared at her baffled. I did not know whether I had missed a joke or if she was waiting for me to tell her a joke. She could tell that I was confused. She elaborated.  “You know, Ghanaians are good at making people smile…” This time, she completed the sentence by rubbing her fingers together and winked twice.

“Oh I see,” I exclaimed. “You want money.”

Immediately, her index finger flew to her lips. “Shh, keep your voice down,” she pleaded, not wanting to draw attention to our booth. I empathized with the need in the eyes of the underpaid civil servant and gave her ten dollars. “This is for lunch.” I added.

“Oh thank you my Ghana sister, the exit is just on your left.

I walked onto the parking lot trying my best to blend in with the locals, but the taxi drivers had already deciphered that I was a foreigner. They approached me one after the other, offering to drive me into the city.  I clutched at my belongings tightly and politely told them I had arranged for a car. My eyes surveyed the grounds to familiarize myself with my new surroundings. Even though the airport was incredibly small, the breadth of land it is situated indicates that had civil war not intercepted its development; Roberts International Airport could have easily been one of Africa’s finest airports. Yet here it was a stark reflection of progress derailed.

“You wan taxi?” A voice boomed through my thoughts, bringing me back to reality. I looked up to see a well-dressed man dangling his Renault car keys in the direction of his taxi.  “No, ma men.” I answered in a pseudo Liberian accent; an exaggerated bravado added to mask the fact that I was a disoriented foreigner who could not locate the driver the hotel had sent. Goodness, where is the man who is supposed to pick me up? I was making my way to a kiosk to buy a new SIM card when I spotted a lean man with an exasperated expression on his face and a partially closed Manila folder in one hand. With one glance, I made out the reversed red inscription as ‘A-M-M-A’. “Hi, you are looking for me!” I chirped. He did not respond. “Krystal Ocean View Hotel?” I continued.

“Yes, yes” he gushed. “I been waiting for you for hours. My name is Tamba. I gon drive you to the hotel.” With that, the exasperated face gave way to an enthusiastic smile and he hauled my luggage into the trunk of a white station wagon.

Roberts International Airport is about one and a half hours drive away from Monrovia. Each side of the paved road that leads to the city is bordered by a vast stretch of rich green vegetation. If you take a moment to enjoy the view, you will catch your breath at the sight of tall palm trees gracefully caressing the clouds, back, forth, side to side… in unison with the gentle breeze. “What a beautiful country” I gasped. Tamba smiled in agreement.

Encouraged by the tenderness in his eyes, I asked him how he had fared during the war. Tamba explained that he stayed in Liberia for the entire duration of the war. When things got really bad, he and his family hid in the bushes and ate cassava and greens to survive. By the time conflict was over in 2003, he had lost three children to the war. “But it is all in the past” he sighed. “Liberia is coming back. We are moving forward. You wait Amma, you will see more signs of this when we hit Monrovia,” He beamed. I was excited.

****

I shouldn’t have come alone,” I whispered to myself, eyes darting anxiously around the techni-coloured foyer. “I really shouldn’t be in a hotel by myself.” I sighed, my usually calm disposition giving way to panic. Although my life was not in any imminent danger, from the moment Tamba the driver unloaded my luggage inside Krystal Oceanview Hotel, I felt an uncomfortable ball of anxiety building from the pit of my stomach, crawling through my midriff and settling deep within my chest. Was it the dim lit foyer? This was supposed to be one of Monrovia’s premier hotels so why was it devoid of people? My palms began to sweat.

“It is not usually this empty,” greeted the concierge behind the counter. Before I could respond, it came to me. It was the silence; I was unnerved by the silence in the hotel! Krystal Ocean View Hotel is perched on the coastal enclave of Mamba Point. Aside from the intermittent splash when the waves hit the shores, it can be an incredibly quiet place. On the day I arrived, the area had no power due to load shedding. The hotel’s somber ambiance was a sharp contrast to noisy Accra, where busy waiters palm trays above their heads to avoid bumping into gregarious guests. I expected Monrovia to be like Accra, but in fairness, it was 4 pm on a Thursday evening and most people were at work.

I walked up to my room on the second floor. In the confines of the yellow walls, the silence was haunting. A tap in the bathroom was dripping. Occasionally I would hear the soft thud of footsteps around my doorway, just as quickly it would vanish. Fearful that my composure was about to snap, I grabbed my cell phone and phoned a woman called Auntie Miatta. She is a friend of my childhood friend Mansa and Mansa had assured me that Auntie Miatta would make me feel at home. The phone rung twice before she picked up. ‘”Hi baby, welcome to Liberia,” she chimed after my introduction. Her voice, which was the perfect blend of Nina Simone’s raspiness and Maya Angelou’s depth, ignited my spirits. “Amma get some sleep” she coaxed. “You sound tired. Tomorrow I will send a driver to bring you to the house so you can meet the whole family.” Oh can I come tonight? I wanted to say. I am really lonely in my hotel and I would appreciate some noise and a hug. Instead, I offered some diplomatic pleasantries and thanked her for taking my call. I slowly put the phone back in my handbag and curled onto the bed. I felt sad again. I was not mentally prepared for the realities of being alone in a country that was recovering from war. Much as I did want to be like one of those tourists who ignore their own crime-ridden cities to question the security of Africa, the bareness of the hotel sparked my imagination in different directions. Are the people violent? What if someone breaks into my room? What if… my eyes skimmed across the yellow walls for an emergency exit plan. I found none. All that was around me was an antique dresser near the door and yards of yellow curtains to match a reddish carpet.  I squeezed my eyes shut and willed sleep to consume my body. When that failed, I reached for TV’s remote. That night, the voice of a CNN anchor kept vigil with me. I was alone and afraid.

 

Failure

3 years ago, I wrote a book. 200-pages of my scintillating travels around Africa. Needless to say, it was an exercise in humility. However, prior to the flooring encounter with humility, I soared on a grandiose illusion of success.

I was so convinced my unpublished book was going to be a million-dollar hit that I began introducing myself as Bestselling author, Amma Bonsu. I had barely finished the first draft when I crafted a letter of resignation to my employer and started collecting pledges from people eager to support my work. After 3 gruelling months of wordsmithing, I hired a professional editor and we worked on the manuscript until I could smell the drool of publishers as they clamoured for the rights of my bestseller.

To my utter dismay, most publishers did not even acknowledge receipt of the manuscript. The kind ones sent a letter of rejection. 6 months later, my editor found an interested publisher but the advance they offered was so little I walked away. I gradually stopped referring to myself as a bestselling author, yet I kept a wistful eye on the phone…

Although my failed attempt to dazzle the literary world shattered my ego, it came with 3 important lessons.

1. Let it go. When you have to recount your life’s experience in a book you will come to a point where you have to edit. It is a arduous task which forces you to trim details you deem important. Editing made me recognize that I had wasted so much energy crying over people and events who did not deserve a footnote in my autobiography. Naturally, I wrestled with eliminating these individuals and events from the book but, I realized that without them, my story still had meaning.

2. There is a season for everything. I struggle with this sagesse but I have learnt to trust it. Had the book been published, I would be praying for a magic wand to undo how I presented myself to the world.

3. Finally, as hard as it is to admit, I understand why publishers treated my manuscript like over-cooked pasta. It was a self-indulgent pack of literary valium. I used to think of the unpublished book as wasted effort, now, I see it as an unbirthed opportunity. I have decided to revisit excerpts of the manuscript and publish it on my blog. I will tighten loose screws, smoothen rough edges and polish it until it throbs with drama. Chapter 1 will be ready in 1 week.

Sitya Loss

You have probably seen the Youtube video of 4 small boys and a girl breaking it hard to an infectious tune. The song is ‘Sitya Loss and it is by Uganda’s break out musician, Eddy Kenzo. Usually, East African music does not stretch past the boundaries of Kenya, but Sitya Loss is such a hit that it has crossed over quarters in West Africa and the talented kids dancers are social media darlings.

One to watch Som Aidoo

In the studio he goes by PhaRo Tha Gr8. On sets, he is affectionately called Som Cheadle by some of his cast & crew associates. I know him as Som Aidoo, co-alum of Ghana International School (GIS), a private school in Ghana known for challenging students in a rigorous academic environment. When Aidoo left Ghana to start college at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, he seemed well-groomed for academic success and life in the straight-laced corporate world, then he stumbled into music and acting. In a no holds-barred conversation, Aidoo explains his detour into the limelight.

AB: I got to know you when we were both students at GIS, It never struck me that you would become an artiste. Was this always the plan

SA: I always liked music but growing up in Ghana our parents programmed us to be doctors, bankers, lawyers etc. So when I started Lawrence University, I decided I was going to major in Economics but I was an RA in a dorm where almost all my mentees were musicians and I often found myself giving them ideas on how they could enhance their craft. Being around these creative people sparked something in me and I started taking classes in music. Of course the fact that I had crushes on a few girls at the conservatory of music was a great motivator…(He chuckles mischievously before continuing) Later on, when I got a gig at the college’s radio station, I really got into music and the funny thing is people started to assume that I was a hip-hop artist although I wasn’t.

So when did the transition to music happen

One summer, a guy came up to me to and said he had heard I was an artist and he wanted to do music with me. So we did a demo and started distributing it around campus. After that I knew I wanted to pursue music. In fact, I wanted to drop out of college and do music full time, but I couldn’t because I was in the US on an F1 student visa – dropping out would have jeopardized my immigration status. But at the same I had been living in Wisconsin for 2 years and I wanted to move to Atlanta because all my favourite artists, Outkast, Goodie Mob, JD, Babyface, Toni Braxton, Usher, were all from Atlanta. I was convinced there was something in the water so I came up with a plan that would help me complete my education and pursue music simultaneously. I transferred to Oglethorpe University, in Atlanta, took as many credits as I could and graduated in 3 years instead of 4. To make ends meet, I accepted a job in the financial sector but I hated it. As soon as I got to work, I would start counting down the hours. But on the flip side, when I was in the studio producing beats, writing songs or doing shows, I did not even look at the clock.

What genre is your music

My foundation is hip-hop but I am genre blind. I love everything from hip-life to pop, reggae, rock and even country. Lately, I have started experimenting with relaxation music because I am just fascinated with sound.

Is there a particular time during the day that you are most inspired

When I am sleeping I usually pop up with an idea and I wake up to it in the middle of the night to write. Sometimes, I am not even aware until I see the scribbling on a piece of paper the next morning.

You came to Atlanta to pursue music, but you are also an actor. In fact, when I googled you, I found and IMDB profile which credits you with a respectable amount of work. Which art has your heart, music or acting

Both. One side of my heart is the artist/ songwriter and the other half is the screenwriter/actor. To be honest, I must update my IMDB site because apart from Kill the Messenger, Last of Robin Hood …there are projects that are not even listed like Hunger Games, Vampire Diaries, Fast and Furious VIII as well as some independent SAG films that are not yet listed.

Atlanta has now become a quasi mecca for actors but Hollywood still holds the appeal. Do you have plans to move to LA

Ideally I would like to be bicoastal because there’s work leaving LA for Atlanta. My acting coach, GregAlan Williams, who used to be based in LA now finds a ton of work outside Hollywood. Vampire Diaries, the first TV show I appeared on as a featured extra, was shot in my neighbourhood. I worked on Fast and Furious VII for 3 months without moving to LA. I think the ‘filmscape’ has shifted such that you no longer have to move to LA to make it.

How do you deal with the emotional and financial roller coaster that comes with pursuing a dream

Acting is like the stock market. If you want to be successful, you have to be in it for the long haul. There are people who come into the industry for the glitz and quickly call it quits because they realize that it is hard work. If you don’t have the passion for it, you will run out of steam. I save a lot. Every dime I get, I save it for when I hit a dry spot. Thankfully, because of the work I put in over the last few years and the relationships I have built, work has been kinda consistent. But I always plan ahead.

Are you built for this industry

Yes! I have had the opportunity to meet and speak to legends like Avery Brooks, Samuel Jackson, Michael K Williams and they all say the same thing – stick to it cause that’s what separates the winners from the losers – the least I can do is listen. I am hardly ever late to a set and I am usually one of the last to leave. That being said, I can’t wait to get to a point where I can emulate the people I admire, not just for their lifestyle, but so I can also give back.

Who do you look up to

Avery Brooks – I met him at 8 and he was the first celebrity I had ever seen in my life. My acting coach, GregAlan Williams, because he’s been a working actor for over 30 years and his passion for what he does motivates me to be the best I can be. Of course, Don Cheadle. Samuel Jackson. Need I say more? He did not get his big break until he was 43 yet he has at least 90 credits to his name and his movies have grossed the most out of all the actors. The first time I got to hang out with him, I just loved listening to him talk shit, yet in between talking shit, he was dropping jewels of wisdom like “it is not about when you get your big break, it’s what you do with your big break that matters”.

Have you ever been star struck

I’ve met a good amount of big name celebrities and I was not over the moon about them but for some strange reason meeting Michael K Williams was different. He is best known as Omar in the HBO series the Wire and Chalky White in the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire. We met when I played his body double for Kill the Messenger. On the outside I was acting cool, but inside I was screaming like a cheerleader!

What do your parents think of your career move

At first, they thought I was crazy. In fact, when I told my dad that I wanted to go into music and acting he said “ You mean, we paid 60K in tuition for you to become an artist?” Like most African parents, initially, they were very worried, but this last Thanksgiving they came to visit and we went to watch The Hunger Games. You should have heard my mum screaming on top of her lungs when my scene came up. My dad was equally excited, taking screenshots on his iPad.

You are in an upcoming movie Selma, which is about the Civil Rights movement, how was that experience.

I was cast in a riot scene where there was a stand-off between Martin Luther King Jr and the racist police chief, Officer Clark. It was a non-speaking part, but as we were getting ready for the scene, I found myself standing next to this lady whose presence was causing a stir. I turned when she said “hello young man” and found myself face to face with Oprah. It was a great experience. The director Ava Duvernay was phenomenal.

Speed round

Dream girl: Charlize Theron

Favourite food: Red red ( a local Ghanaian dish made with fried plantain and black-eyed peas)

Favourite car: Audi A4, Cabriolet 2006

Favourite saying: You know it

Favourite Vacation: Trinidad and Cyprus

Dream Vacation: Cayman Islands with Charlize Theron

Biggest disappointment: hmmm, I have had run-ins with producers and videographers who have held on to my material even after they have been compensated. It is sad when you work with your own people and some of them screw you over

Relationship Status Single or complicated: It’s not complicated, I am single, but I am interviewing prospects.

Any children: None that I know of

Do you think you have made it: Not yet

When would you say you have made it: When mama got the beach house in Malibu.

Who are your best friends: Mark Korbieh and Marvin Larbi Yeaboh. Mark and I were roommates when I first moved to Atlanta and I developed my confidence being on stage by watching him do improv. Marvin and I have been tight since high school and although we don’t talk as much lately, we have always had a good relationship.

Last time you cried: 11, my mum was whopping my ass.

Not even a teardrop since 11: No it’s one of the few areas I have not been able to conquer. I have cried on the inside like twice, but no tears down my face. Even when I acting I cannot cry. I have been told people win Oscars by crying. I have played a rapist, priests, and other emotional roles, but I just could not shed a tear. Once I can lock down crying I am done.

When was the last time you had a good hearty laugh: Pretty much all the time. A few days ago, Michael and I were going over a script I wrote in the middle of the night and we laughed so hard…

What’s the next thing you are working on: I just wrote a jazz record for an upcoming independent period film called ‘Dawn of a New Day’ which is set in 1901. I’m also supervising the soundtrack for an upcoming Marvel fan film ‘Deadpool, Black Panther, back in Red & Black’ both of which come out in September. Of course my long awaited SphinxTape: I AM THE AFRICAN DREAM will see the light of day before the year is out. It will be my re-entry into music after a challenging hiatus. Be on the lookout for my single #summerjam

 

Using her VOICE

It takes an unquantifiable amount of energy to be a mother, wife, and social activist. But Ahmeda Mansaray Richardson, founder and executive director of VOICES (Voices Of Inspired Children Engaging Society) seems to take it in stride. In a phone conversation, Ahmeda explained how she is using this not-for-profit organization  to break some of Africa’s cultural norms.

AB: What is VOICES?

AMR: VOICES Ghana is a community-based organization that works in low income urban communities by providing resources and opportunities to allow youth to actively participate in their community development. Our entry point into our partner communities are schools that perform in the bottom 15% of Ghana’s Basic Education Certification Exam (Ghana’s national junior high school exam). In each school, we have a community action team which is dedicated to helping underperforming students hone their academic skills and become entities of social change.

We are able to achieve this goal by providing a 3-year program based on the VOICES Empowerment model. This model introduces children to critical thinking and fosters an environment where children utilize their God-given talents to transform their communities. In cycle one, the students meet with facilitators who engage them in discussions to get them to think critically about their talents, their rights and their responsibilities. In cycle two, the children select a community problem and use their newly realized skills to solve the issue.

In the final cycle, they apply the lessons gained from tackling the community project – time management, critical thinking, problem solving – and apply it to their academics. The results are empowered students who take initiative in the classroom and in their community.

AB: Why did you start Voices?

AMR: I started VOICES to disrupt the cultural norm that ‘children should be seen and not heard’. Not only does this notion make children vulnerable to abuse, but it also hampers the way they approach education. When we suppress a child’s voice or limit their right to participate, we inadvertently place a cap on their potential. I am completely consumed with the idea that if you allow a child to realize their inherent power, they will amaze you.

AB: In the Ghanaian culture, vocal children are often considered as disrespectful? Do you face any resistance from the community when you teach children to be more expressive?

AMR: Since we are a community-based initiative, we are completely immersed in activities in and outside the schools. We recruit facilitators from the community, we buy snacks from community vendors and we interact with the teachers and care givers so they understand that this is truly a complete community building initiative. We want the well-being of the community. When the adults in the community see the school children demonstrating their new sense of responsibility to their communities like participating in public health programs and child rights initiatives, the children win their admiration and support.

AB: What challenges do you face?

AMR: The biggest challenge is funding. Organizations are eager to fund malaria, HIV etc. but it is difficult to get them to support programs that seek to elevate the well- being of children through a self-empowerment process. Not many donors – be it individuals or organizations – understand that an empowered child is a critical link to eradicating diseases and alleviating poverty. If we had more funding, we would be in more urban cities and we would be able to tackle the issue of child-headed households and other issues that directly impact under-privileged communities.

AB: What are you most proud of ?

AMR: Our Voices Fellowship Program has generated a lot of success. We recruit high school students who did not pass the WASSCE ( national high school graduating exam) from our partner communities and train them to become facilitators in our community action teams. Although they are volunteers, we give them a stipend and provide them with professional development workshops. The training they receive during the 12-month fellowship has a remarkable influence on their personal development because it repairs their broken sense of confidence whilst boosting their actual marketable skills set. In addition, we pay for them to get the extra tutoring they need to prepare them to rewrite their exams and cover the cost of the exam registration itself. When they graduate from the Fellowships, they are skilled at problem-solving both at the personal level and at the community level and they are eager to continue making meaningful contributions to their communities. Those who have great social enterprise ideas receive angel investments from the organization, Our most improved fellows who enter university get full scholarships. They also keep the laptops and cellphones they used during the program.

To date, the alums of the VOICES Training Institute have used the knowledge their acquired to start their own business. Others have successfully completed degree programs from universities. I stay in touch with them not only to track their success but to provide continued support as their transition to different stages in their profession.

AB: What is Ahmeda’s big dream for VOICES:

AMR: My goal is to have a centre where people interested in the VOICES Empowerment model can modify and utilize it to transform their communities. So far, we have implemented the model in Paris and we are currently reworking it for low-income immigrant communities in downtown Toronto. I also want to expand it to regions in Canada and other parts of the world.

Delta insults African clients

It’s no secret, I hate Delta airlines. They are notorious for flight delays and if they possess an iota of customer service, they don’t extend it to their Ghanaian clients.  I have tried to understand why a company that makes substantial profits off the Ghanaian market treats this loyal base so poorly. The answer came in the form of a tweet after the Ghana vs USA soccer match.

See they believe we are animals – giraffes to be precise.

Once you overlook the fact that giraffes are not found in Ghana, you may be pressed to understand why a multinational company would resort to a gob-smacking stereotype to describe an African country. The answer. once again, lies in the notorious tweet:  When the media gurus at Delta think of the USA, they automatically link it to the awe-inspiring statue of Liberty.  However, when they think of Ghana – the West African country which treats them with unparalleled hospitality; whose unwavering patronage during the recession generated outstanding revenues to the fledging company – it  conjures an image of an animal in the wild.

After several years of feeling the brunt of Delta’s erratic service, I boycotted the airlines 2 years ago. Others who still succumb to the lure of direct flights from the US to Accra are not short of complaints. On May 24th for instance,  a Delta flight that was supposed to  depart New York to Accra, was delayed for over 12 hours. The passengers were told that the delay was due to a kerfuffle with their pilots,  no, it was due to fuel shortage… the story kept changing.  Instead of providing all the passengers with hotel vouchers or meal tickets,  a select few were given taxi chits. Most of the passengers slept on the airport floor or had to find creative means to fend for themselves.

Since 2009, Delta has consistently demonstrated that they do not respect the Ghanaian passenger. So although the giraffe tweet was offensive, it pales in comparison to how Delta treats its Ghanaian customers.

Patience Danaby

For 20 years Patience Dabany was the First Lady of Gabon, then in 1986 she divorced her husband, moved to the US and launched a music career. After hobnobbing with the likes of Quincy Jones and James Brown, she returned to Gabon and took their music industry by storm. When she is not commanding the stage she spends time with her son, Ali Ben who is the President of Gabon.