Friday, 26 May 2017

AU Day Within The Context Of The Challenges Facing The African Continent

Having existed for years as a continental body, the African Union has not been able to achieve the continental unity it wishes to attain. When its predecessor, the OAU, was formed in 1963, little did its leaders anticipate the myriad of problems it was likely to face as a body. What was uppermost on their minds was the total and quick emancipation of African States that were still under the yoke of colonialism. Today, the problems facing the continent include ethnic and cross border conflicts, refugee problems as well as pervasive hunger and starvation. Other problems are the scourge of AIDS and the incessant military incursion in governance.

Hence, it came as no surprise when in 2002 the OAU was replaced by the African Union with a more focused goal of propelling African states towards peace and prosperity as the basis for achieving the ultimate goal of political and economic integration of its member states. A major challenge confronting the AU and its leaders is how to respond to the creation of jobs as well as livelihood aspirations of Africa’s youth who account for three-quarters of the continent’s labour force. Another major challenge facing the African Union is funding. Programme costs for key institutions such as the Pan African Parliament, the Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Corruption Board are being paid for by donors. Again, the problem of corruption on the continent is real. What is more, the African continent has seen a rise in the threat of extremist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon and al-Shabaab in East Africa. These are challenges that must be overcome without delay. One other important challenge to address is dealing with corruption and the illicit flow of money from Africa.The continent possesses great wealth in its resources, but little of this wealth is used in the development of the continent. It has been estimated that Africa is losing close to $50bn annually with a large portion of this coming from the extractive industries such as oil and gas exploration.

Again, the AU would have to adopt an appropriate strategy to manage international co-operation in an era of globalisation and in a changing world order; it would need to come up with a relevant and practical conceptualisation of innovative and transformative partnership which its member states would certainly need to complement their national development efforts.

For many people on the continent, African Union Day is celebrated as a holiday but without much significance to them. This shows that the time has come for the African continent to sit up and sensitise its people to the essence of the aspirations of the continent. Africa appears to be better off when it comes to maintaining the status quo as a colonial legacy rather than taking positive radical steps to pursue the interest of its people.

Since the existence of the AU is crucial in world politics, much greater effort is needed to show its relevance and ensure that the continent has a stronger voice in the global arena rather than a mere whisper drowned out by other stronger players. The relevance of Africa must be felt in realistic terms by the world, so the earlier its leaders come together to solve its problems the better it will be for the continent.


International Day To End Obstetric Fistula

Obstetric fistula is a child birth injury resulting largely from prolonged obstructed labour in a setting where access to emergency obstetric care is limited. Consequently a hole develops between the birth canal and the bladder or between the birth canal and the rectum or both.The patient becomes incontinent of urine or faeces or both. Due to the constant odour of urine and faeces, they are treated at arm’s length and suffer immense social abandonment, stigmatization and ostracism. This situation is further worsened by cultural beliefs regarding the cause of obstructed labour and fistula.

The first hospital for treating obstetric fistula was set up in New York City in May 1855. Forty years later, the hospital was closed down when it was eradicated. In its place today stands the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. In 1974, the world’s second hospital dedicated to obstetric fistula was started in Ethiopia. Forty-three years down the line, fistula is far from being eradicated in Ethiopia and indeed in Sub-Sahara Africa and Asia. Despite repairing nearly 30 thousand women over the last 30 years, Nigeria still has the highest burden of obstetric fistula in the world.

What is Sub-Saharan Africa missing in the narrative to end obstetric fistula?

In Ghana, the programmatic battle against fistula coincided with the UNFPA global campaign to end obstetric fistula launched in 2005. Ten years after the launch, a report on the burden of obstetric fistula in Ghana was produced. In the burden report 1,300 new cases of obstetric fistula develop each year. Out of this figure, about 200 fistula repairs are carried out each year. The obvious question is, where are the remaining 1,100 fistula cases?

To give meaning to Ghana’s campaign to end obstetric fistula, it is incumbent on all to help identify women living with obstetric fistula especially in the rural areas. Once identified, every effort should be made to get these women and girls to the hospitals for cure.

The culture of blaming the patients for their predicament should be stopped. The regional houses of chiefs have a role to play in refining the cultural interpretations given to obstructed labour. Mass education on obstetric fistula is key. Leprosy, Tuberculosis and HIV were stigmatized in the past. With education, many came out to be treated. Leprosy has been eliminated. Tuberculosis and HIV are under control. De-stigmatizing obstetric fistula will encourage more women suffering from the disease to come out for treatment.

The District Assemblies should join the campaign as was done for Guinea worm eradication, incentive packages can be considered for finding and reporting obstetric fistula cases. If developed countries have eliminated obstetric fistula, there is hope that this can be achieved if we identify the missing links in our elimination narrative. As we join the world to bring hope, healing and dignity to all women suffering from obstetric fistula, let us also put our shoulders to the wheel to find and bring those suffering from obstetric fistula for treatment. That should be the clarion anytime we join the global community to observe the international day to end obstetric fistula.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Understanding the Protracted Conflict Between Alavanyo and Nkonya

It is very heart-breaking that at a time when more resources are needed for socio-economic development in various parts of the country, some of these resources are being used to enforce and maintain peace in some conflict zones.

One of such conflict areas is Alavanyo-Nkonya which over the weekend witnessed the death of a middle age woman. 

History has it that the Alavanyos migrated from Saviefe through Akrofu to Sovie, near Kpando, to settle on land allocated to them by Nkonya in about 1840.

Initially, they were good neighbours, but later on became antagonistic towards each other because of differences over the ownership of land.

This conflict has lasted for close to one hundred years. On the causes of the conflict, one school of thought thinks that diversity of groups in society, in this case ethnic identities, are more prone to conflict.

This position is, however, unacceptable because other multiple entities have existed for centuries without threat of violence.

A fundamental cause of the conflict centres on people’s inability to get access to a basic need such as land for farming.

This is what has become a recipe for violence. Hence, the conflict is primarily caused by a dispute over land, a basic human need which finds its drive for violence in the differences of the two ethnic groups.

Indeed, the conflict remains latent until triggered by the activities of individuals such as unprovoked killings, unauthorised burning and cutting of timber and also farming on other people’s lands, among others, as well as the negative perceptions and opinions formed by each group of people about the other.

The consequences of the protracted conflict between Nkonya and Alavanyo include a situation of hopelessness and uncertainty of physical security, needless killings, destruction of properties, institutional deformity and destruction of communication channels that could have been used for dispute resolution.

For all these reasons, the residents of the Alavanyo-Nkonya area have been living in fear and mutual suspicion with each other for a very long time.

With regard to the persistence of the conflict, it must be acknowledged that although many efforts have been made at resolving it, the issue continues to persist because apart from non-execution of the various judgments of the courts on land ownership in the area there is lack of punitive measures against those who violate the law.

The Alavanyo-Nkonya conflict cannot be allowed to continue forever.

The Minister for the Interior, Ambrose Dery has announced government’s preparedness to resolve the conflict by initiating a dispute resolution mechanism for peace to prevail in the area.

According to him, his outfit is working closely with the Regional Security Council and National House of Chiefs to find an amicable solution to the almost a century old conflict that has led to many deaths.

It is good that the Ministry for the Interior has been pragmatic in terms of provision of security for the area.

What the country needs today is an acceptable, satisfactory, realistic and comprehensive solution to the age-long conflict.

In attempting to resolve the problem, all contributory factors, particularly the fundamental issues involved, must be taken into consideration to ensure the attainment of everlasting peace.

This is very necessary because any attempt at resolving the issue without addressing the fundamental factors relating to the conflict will at best only succeed temporarily even though a permanent solution is what is needed.


The role of technical and vocational education and training in Ghana’s development

The labour market in the 21st Century has become more specialised while economies demand higher levels of skill. This has compelled businesses and governments globally to increase their investments in technical and vocational training to secure its future. Some of the initiatives, notably from government perspective, include increased public funding in training organisations and subsidised apprenticeship or traineeship for businesses.

A report issued by the British Institute of Public Policy Research in recent years indicated that demand for medium-skilled jobs requiring technical and vocational qualifications would increase in the next 10 years. The underlying objective of vocational and technical education at the basic and secondary levels is to make vocational and technical training skills available to young men and women to facilitate their fulfillment of Ghana’s technical manpower needs, including self-employment in the fields of agriculture, business and industry.

Available statistics from the Ghana Education Service (GES) on pre-tertiary technical and vocational institutions in Ghana revealed the establishment of about 160 public technical and vocational institutions, including 22 technical institutes. Most technical and vocational education and training practitioners are in the informal sector of the Ghanaian economy. The Asian Tigers, including Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have developed sound policies in technical and vocational training. This has resulted in the supply of more highly-skilled labour force in those countries.

Emerging economies such as Ghana would have to emulate the sterling examples of the Asian Tigers in the area of technical and vocational training. Sound investment in technical and vocational education and training would yield the desired dividend. It would help train more people to meet the manpower needs of the country and possibly, have surplus to export.

Indeed, Ghana needs skilled labour force to maintain her houses, bridges, railroads or railways, and roads. To address to the growing technical skills requirement of the country, the Ghana Skills Development Initiative was founded. The initiative, a German Government assisted project being implemented in co-operation with the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training aims at building capacity in the informal sector of the Ghanaian economy, Ghana's informal sector is noted for employing about 90 per cent of the active labour force.

If Ghana is to derive maximum benefits from technical and vocational training, there should be a change in attitude towards it. For instance an erroneous impression that students who often enrol in technical and vocational programmes are academically weak should be discarded. The situation is exacerbated further by some parents who do not subscribe to their wards’ decision to pursue careers in technical and vocational training. Excessive reliance on theory rather than practice due to lack of practical equipment in many institutions is not good for the promotion of technical and vocational training in developing economies, including Ghana.

The situation where students enrolled in some vocational training programmes do not read and take national examinations in English and mathematic should be reviewed. This is because it affects their smooth transition from one level of the academic ladder to the other. The 21st century is characterised by advanced technological standards. Use of sophisticated technical and vocational tools is the order of the day.

To this end, training of individuals in TVET should be based on scientific approach in addition to modern equipment practical instruction. Indeed, the continuous development of the technical and vocational education and training sector is very paramount. This is because availability of jobs in the “non-technical” sector of the Ghanaian economy is either non-existent or very scarce while the reverse is true in the case of the TVET sector. This presents the Government with an opportunity to encourage more individuals into technical and vocational education and training to equitably distribute the nation’s human capital among the various sectors to ensure increased productivity.

The Government should actively engage industries and graduates to ensure the effective absorption of technical and vocational graduates into the job market.

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Ghana: Government’s strategy to address illegal mining once and for all

The problem of illegal mining or “galamsey” has caused so much havoc in Ghana that the government is now determined to deal with it once and for all. As has been stated over and over again, the government is not against mining activities as long as they are carried out in a legal and sustainable manner. If mining is carried out in a legal and sustainable manner, it not only creates substantial wealth to facilitate the socio-economic development of the country but also ensures that there is appropriate reclamation of land as well as preservation of the environment.

On the other hand, illegal mining or “galamsey” results in pollution and destruction of water bodies, creation of death traps in form of uncovered pits, degradation of the environment and destruction of farmlands. Other destructive effects are the devastating impact of cyanide and other harmful chemicals used by the illegal miners. These harmful chemicals seep deep into the soil and affect the plant we grow as food. When such food is eaten, they adversely affect the health consumers.

Another disastrous effect from illegal mining activities is the loss of revenue to the country. In 2016, for example, Ghana lost $2.3 billion through illegal mining activities. The losses represent royalties and taxes which the illegal miners did not pay to the state. The negative effects of illegal mining in the country calls for drastic measures aimed at addressing the menace.

To effectively deal with the issue and manage the menace, the government has instituted a five-year programme to address it once and for all. The programme known as Multi-lateral Mining Integrated Project is aimed at solving the “galamsey” menace.

Under this project, a number of measures are to be rolled-out to effectively address the problem. The measures are: first, creation of sustained awareness of the devastating effect of the activities of illegal miners. Second, ensuring strict enforcement of existing regulations in the mining sector and thirdly, offering alternative livelihoods for people currently engaged in illegal mining by organising them into co-operatives. The co-operatives will be engaged in legally controlled and properly regulated application of technology and enforcement of the law.

The government’s determination to clamp down on illegal mining is not xenophobic attack on foreign nationals. Rather it is a national commitment to protect the integrity of the environment and make life better for all. All illegal miners are, therefore, expected to take advantage of the project so as to work in groups in approved designated mining sites. The designated mining sites will have in place a central processing plant for the mined ore to be processed for a fee.

This will ensure proper monitoring and supervision of mining activities in the country. If this is done, the expected royalties and taxes will be paid to the state and land reclamation will also be carried out. In fact, land reclamation and greening of the environment can also be a source of income for those to be engaged in them while water bodies will be preserved for present and future generation.

The fight against “galamsey” is a tough one. It must be won at all costs in the interest of the nation no matter what.


The importance of 2017 National Policy Summit

Development Policy interventions have been part of nation building since time immemorial. Governments have over the years committed significant resources to support development interventions designed to improve the welfare of the people. When such interventions are well planned with the appropriate of policies, they are expected to yield desired social and economic development outcomes. One essential ingredient towards fruitful development intervention is dialogue. Promoting dialogue towards achieving consensus is considered an essential pre-requisite for success in any development effort.

It is in the light of these that the ongoing National Policy Summit initiated by the Ministry of Information to provide a platform for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to engage stakeholders in their operations is, considered laudable. According to the organisers, the purpose of the National Policy Summit is to regularly inform the public on detailed government strategies for revamping the economy for sustained growth. Such summit offers the platform for dialogue and is worthwhile towards effective public service delivery. It will in the long run ensure that policies formulated are achieved in relation to growth and development targets. The two-day Summit is expected to help government elicit feedback to shape its policies and programmes.

The event provides targeted information to meet the needs of specific stakeholders and will help interrogate policies and programmes whiles fostering partnership between government and the private sector in the areas of finance, agriculture, trade and industry, energy, infrastructure and poverty eradication among others. It is important to note that countries like China, Singapore, Sri Lanka among others that have chalked tremendous success in national development in recent times have from time to time critically offered platforms for such policies to be openly discussed and critiqued. The responsibility lies on all well-meaning Ghanaians to support such development efforts that cut across political party lines to ensure long term solutions to Ghana’s economic challenges. The intention of the Ministry of Information to ensure that this initiative becomes a regular programme is heartwarming and should be embraced by all.

Addressing participants at the opening of the Policy Summit in Accra Vice President Dr Mahamadu Bawumia indicated that government will host a port efficiency conference to learn best practices from countries in Africa and beyond to ease the stress of doing business in Ghana. According to the organizers of the summit, the programme will also engage Independent Power Producers interested in government’s alternative energy programmes as well as the Bulk Distributing Companies wanting to understand some of the new policies.

These are indications that the summit will tap ideas from both local and international sources as a recipe for sustainable development. The Ministry of Information deserves commendation for this initiative tailored at consensus building which is important in today's interconnected society. This is because many problems exist that affect diverse groups of people with different interests. As problems mount, organizations that deal with society's problems come to rely on each other for help. Consensus-building allow a variety of people to make input into decision-making rather than leaving controversial decisions up to government representatives or experts.

Opening up governance through summits like this is therefore laudable and should not be a nine days' wonder.


Placing value on Technical and Vocational Education

President Akuffo-Addo in a speech and prize-giving day at Mafe-Kumase in the Volta Region stated that technical education is crucial for socio-economic development. This is one fact that cannot be glossed over or swept under the carpet. It is through the development of sound technical and vocational educational skills that the country’s abundant resources can be fully harnessed and utilised for the country's advancement. Education is meant to broaden the horizon of people and sharpen their skills for socio-economic and political development. However, it is clear from observation that the general thinking is skewed towards the generality of grammar education bequeathed to us by the colonial masters several years ago.

It is unfortunate that we are unable to fix problems relating to technical requirements in our industries, a problem that comes about as a result of inadequate facilities for practical work in technical and vocational institutions. There is, therefore, the need to support practical work to wholly develop the employable skills of every school child in the country.

In the words of President Akuffo-Addo, “We need skilled people to modernise our country, and every child has a talent they must bring out for that purpose.” This statement is very important because our natural talents are not only found in the grammar type of education but also in the technical and vocational areas of life which offer more employment opportunities.

A related issue here is the view of many experts that our educational system tends to place less emphasis on the development of technical and vocational skills. Such neglect is what principally accounts for the high rate of unemployment in various sectors of the economy. Technical skills should be developed in every field so as to be able to encourage self-employment and entrepreneurship initiatives.

Without the development of technical and vocational skills, we may end up promoting the import business in the country, a situation that is not healthy for self-dependence and economic development. In the light of this, the country needs to encourage practical work in technical and vocational education. This explains why President Akufo-Addo pledged to provide a workshop complex for the Mafe-Kumase Senior High Technical School to transform the institution.

Technical and vocational training must be given the needed proportion of emphasis alongside general education training. This will ensure that the blend of all skills are utilised to the maximum for rapid economic development in line with the national aspirations. Indeed, employers in Ghana admit that looking for people with technical skills for industry is very difficult because certain specific technical skills are non-existent.

Let us give technical and vocational skills of various dimensions the needed support for a more, productive glorious future for the country.

By Kofi Amponsah-Bediako, Head of Public Relations, Ghana Standards Authority.