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The Ghanaian Success Story


I’ve been reading the feed for the del.icio.us “ghana” tag for the past few months – it’s a great way to keep up with Ghana throughout the blogosphere. There’s been an interesting surge of tagged articles on the theme of Ghana as a success story.

Of course, everyone takes a swipe, characterizing “success story” with the condemnatory clause “by African standards”. As a New York Times editorial puts it, “Ghana is a good kid in a really bad neighborhood… Ghana does not have insurgents running around its hinterlands dressed in wedding gowns and wigs (like Liberia and Sierra Leone) or 8-year-old rebel soldiers toting machine guns (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast).” In other words, it’s a success in comparison – but we’re comparing Ghana to nations that are basket cases.

This is the theme of a slightly more positive editorial in the Times (reblogged by the brilliant Howard French) a few weeks later, by Helene Cooper, a Liberian visiting Accra. Explaining why Ghana brings out the Liberian nationalist in her, she explains, “Even as I’m joining my Liberian expat friends in making fun of Ghanaians, I know exactly why we’re doing this. We are jealous. We’ll never say it out loud, but Ghana is what we Liberians aspire to.” In very basic terms, she talks about things Accra has that Monrovia doesn’t – electricity, running water, garbage collection… and a functional government that’s actually making some progress in fighting corruption.

The most positive of the articles that’s turned up in “delicious:ghana” lately is a piece in the Hong Kong Weekend Standard, which celebrates Databank, an exemplary Ghanaian financial services company, in the beginning of an article by Carol Pineau, calling attention to success stories – financial and otherwise – across the continent.

One of the consequences of Ghana’s success – comparative or otherwise – is that it’s become a frequent destination for refugees. For years, Ghana has hosted refugees from wars in West Africa – it’s hardly a surprise that refugees from Togo have been travelling across the border into Ghana. But it is astounding that refugees have travelled from Darfur – 3,000km, across five borders – to settle in Ghana. Ghana’s response – food, shelter, medical assistance and plans to set up a refugee camp.

If you want to judge the character of a person, judge him by how he treats people in need. It’s probably worth judging the character of a nation in a similar way. And again, Ghana’s a success story here. By anyone’s standards.

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