One of the most challenging aspects of living in Ghana, and I imagine in any developing country, is the massive gap between the rich and the poor.
Where we live, we are surrounded by very large grassy fields, which is one of the reasons its such a pleasant place to live. However, this grass needs to be cut, particularly in this tropical climate. This work is done 5 teams of approximately 6 men. The teams rotate about the mine site, cutting the grass with cutlasses (machetes), each holding a tall stick for support as they repeatedly bend to cut the grass. The uniformity of the work is amazing, looking as though it was cut by machine. And indeed, why not cut by lawn mower? Why not buy one machine to do this work? And indeed this is the answer, one machine would replace the livelihoods of all of these men.
And the material value of their labour?
I am told between GHC150-200 ($US79-105), per month.
Elections are being held in Ghana in December this year, and the media is already full of lively discussion about it. The last election in 2008, was a very close victory to the NDC (50.23%) over the NPP, and this year seems certain to be close again, despite the landslide predicted for the NPP by all the drivers I speak to about these things. One of the major promises being made by the (current opposition) NPP is free education for all. And while I know nothing of other election promises, and make no preference to either party, this seems such a simple, sensible step towards development. Of course, quantity needs to be matched with quality education.
I don’t pretend to know the causes or the solutions to the multifarious problems faced by developing countries, but I have spent an interesting morning reading unicef and CIA statistics on Ghana. And despite what we see each day as we drive through villages on our way to school, things in Ghana, by statistics at least, appear to be improving. Here are some loosely clustered statistics for you:
Ghana GDP real growth rate 13.5% (2011 estimate) – 3rd in the world (after Qatar and Mongolia, and well ahead of China’s 7th position; who would have guessed any of that?). Up from 4% in 2010. But with an inflation rate of 8.8% (source CIA). Oil production in the Gulf of Guinea started in 2010.
Gross National income (per capita) $USD1240 (source unicef). I presume this means per head of population, and not per working person.
HIV/AIDS rate, a comparatively low 1.8% (source unicef)
Population aged 0-14, 36.5% (source CIA)
76% of males and 77% of female primary school aged children are enrolled at school, with attendance rate of 75% and 74% respectively (source unicef).
But, 28.5% live below the poverty line (source CIA).
Out of 100 people, 71 have a mobile phone, while only 9 use the internet (2010 statistics) (source unicef).
Sorry if I’ve lost anyone with that stream of numbers. But it’s interesting, no?