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 Iâ€™m joining my Liberian expat friends in making fun of Ghanaians, I know exactly why weâ€™re doing this. We are jealous. Weâ€™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.