Friday, September 19, 2014

The Dark Continent Gets Darker

The power outages are getting more frequent and longer now. The water level in the Akosombo Dam is exceptionally low this year. The recent decision by Nigerian authorities to cut off supplies of gas to Ghana has seriously exacerbated the problem. I had no power all night Tuesday, all night Wednesday, and this morning in my flat. The local news predicts that things will continue to get worse now that the Nigerian gas supplies to Ghana have been stopped. The discovery of oil and gas in Ghana like in Nigeria decades earlier has not prevented Ghana from having consistent and prolonged black outs.

Things Fall Apart

Yesterday the strap on my hand bag broke. The day before that the straps on my right sandal broke. Both the bag and the sandals were purchased in Kyrgyzstan and made in China. For some reason Chinese goods exported to Central Asia are really shoddy. They only last a couple of months before falling apart. I am hoping that the new shoes and bag I purchased here in Ghana will last a bit longer, but I am not optimistic.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It Really is the Dark Continent

Not only is the street I live on very poorly lit, we have street lights, but they don't work, but my flat frequently has no electricity. Tuesday night evidently is one of the days that Adenta has scheduled black outs. I have not had electricity there ever on a Tuesday night. Since it gets pitch dark here near the equator every single night of the year by about 6:30 pm that means much or maybe even most of my time is spent in darkness. I probably should invest in some alternative forms of light besides the tiny torch on my mobile. This weekend I will see about buying some more battery powered lighting. Today, I had to buy an emergency pair of shoes after the ones I was wearing broke. That is not a good thing when you have to walk in the dark along unpaved roads divided by multiple drainage ditches.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Harold Alexander-Tite Rope

Africa can be dangerous

Saturday night walking home from the tro tro station I stepped in a small ditch and scraped up my shin. I have since liberally applied rubbing alcohol and a topical anti-biotic ointment to the wound to prevent it from becoming infected. I don't expect that I will ever again be living somewhere with good street lighting so I should learn to walk more carefully after it gets pitch dark here at about 6:30pm or so every day.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ghana should be a net food exporter not an importer

Ghana and other African countries are perfectly capable of producing enough food to feed themselves and having a surplus left over to export. Unfortunately in Ghana most everything including food is now imported from outside of the African continent. If you go to a shop to buy biscuits they are from Sri Lanka. If you want fruit juice it is from South Africa. If you want mayonnaise it is imported from the United Arab Emirates. Ketchup is from Brunei. Even rice which used to be grown in abundance in Ghana is now mostly imported from Thailand. Just about the only two processed foods produced in Ghana that I see on a regular basis are shito sauce and bissap. If I ever do see imported shito sauce though I am pretty sure that is a sign that the Ghanaian economy has no hope what so ever. Agriculture and food processing seem like a logical place to start for an import substitution program to reduce the flow of foreign exchange out of the country. I noticed this summer when I was in Bishkek that locally produced condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and hot sauce could be found in just about every grocery store at prices much lower than imported versions. Except for shito sauce that is not the case here. You can't find Ghanaian ketchup and mayonnaise for the most part at any price yet alone ones that seriously undercut imports from Brunei and the UAE. A buy Ghanaian campaign is only going to work if there are Ghanaian manufactured goods available in the stores to buy at competitive prices. So far policies to effect such a situation have eluded the Ghanaian government.

First Classes of the Semester

Today I finally taught my first classes of the semester. Only two students showed up to the first one and they were over 40 minutes late. The second class had better attendance, but still seemed to be missing the majority of students. For some reason a lot of students here don't think that they have to attend the first class of the semester. I am not sure where this idea came from. But, all my attempts to disabuse students of the notion that the first class of the semester doesn't count have come to nought.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Дос-Мукасан - Бетпак Дала (1976)

Kazakh psych rock from 1976.

African Geography and Race

This map shows both the Arabian and Iberian peninsulas as separate from Africa. But, there were times in the past when both were politically joined to parts of Africa. Like all other continents Africa is an ideological construct and the version in color to the right has problems. For instance why are the Arab dominated states of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and Mauritania considered African, but Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and others just to the east are not? Now granted the north African states of Morocco, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt are often grouped with the rest of the Arab world as part of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). But, why does this designation frequently exclude Arab dominated Mauritania and Sudan? The fact is that many people in Libya including its former leader in the years before his death think of themselves as linked with the rest of Africa rather than with the Arab states east of the Red Sea. Likewise in Sudan many people including the current leadership consider Sudan an Arab, not an African state. So why do western scholars more often than not group Libya with the Middle East and North Africa and Sudan with sub-Saharan Africa rather than the other way around? Is it just because of skin color? Does the fact many of the people claiming to be Arabs in Sudan and Mauritania have darker skin than the Berbers in Libya mean that the former will always be "Black" Africans and the latter "Middle Eastern Arabs" in the eyes of western scholars? How does this jibe at all with the fact that these same people claim race is constructed when they essentialize and reify pigmentation in this way? There is obviously a "White" vs. "Black" divide across northern Africa. But, to impose a scheme of constructing racial differences between different groups of Arabic speaking Africans based solely upon pigment and to ignore the local social, cultural, and historical contexts existing in the region just seems so typical of American "progressives."

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

More on why I hate tro tros

The wait for a tro tro first going to my destination and then one in which a crowd of people do not rush in front of me to grab every available seat seems to be getting longer and longer. Last night it took me over an hour and a half to get a seat on a tro tro going from Legon to Andenta. This is a major reason why I have always preferred to live within walking distance of work. Unfortunately, it is not possible here because the area around the university is specifically zoned for commercial and not residential use for a radius of over 15 km. I was fortunate for a while in getting to live on campus for free, but if you look at the older terms of service of the university at one time everybody was guaranteed free housing on the university for as long as they worked for it. Then the university built almost no new faculty housing after 1966 and as a result the vast majority of faculty have to live off campus at least 20km or more away now. So it takes me about an hour and a half to get to work in the morning now and two and a half hours to get home every day.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Ghanaian Radio

This weekend I spent some time listening to Ghanaian radio. A lot of stations of course play high life music. Others play hip life which is a fusion of hip hop and high life. Still others play straight up hip hop. Then there is jazz, rhythm and blues, and other genres. But, the most interesting station I found and it only lasted a couple of hours before I lost it was a country western station and not just any country western station. But, a country western station that played a lot of clearly narrated and very depressing old school type country western songs about divorce, alcoholism, and other typically depressing tropes of country western music. None of the songs were ones that I had ever heard before, but I am pretty sure that they were American and not Ghanaian. Unfortunately, after a couple of hours it seemed to disappear to be replaced with a station playing upbeat, but rather mundane African-American popular music from the late 1970s and early 1980s that I have heard over and over again since the songs first came out. That is okay as back ground music, but the country station made me really pay attention to the lyrics and the stories they were telling.