The tag line of Inventive Africa has been that ‘Change is happening now’ in Africa. For more than a year now I have been writing this blog, with the help of the occasional guest blogger, and talking about the tremendous change going on across the continent. The problem has been is that I had not been in the continent for 4 years, so I had not seen any of this change first hand.
So, I have come back to where I used to live, Ghana, to check out exactly what is happening on the ground. It has now been a week living between Sogakope and Accra and I have certainly seen big changes. The first major change that is evident is the amount of construction that has taken place in the past few years. Parts of Accra are simply not recognisable, with huge apartment complexes, hotels and office buildings standing where once chop bars and kiosks where selling their wares. Even Oxford Street, Osu, one of the main areas for partying, has changed substantially. There still a few of the old shops and restaurants around, but now a huge shopping mall towers over the surrounding bars.
Now, seeing development like this is a good thing, but I can’t help but ask myself who is it that can afford to live in such apartment complexes in the middle of the city, and are their any affordable housing projects for the ‘ordinary’ (for want of a better word) Ghanaians.
Another concerning trend is the amount of Casinos that are now dotted around the city. As you would imagine, these buildings are massive and adorned with flashing lights, enticing people in. I ventured into one (for research purposes of course) and found people from all over the world mesmerised by the gaming machines and throwing their money around the roulette tables, whilst taking advantage of the free food and drinks. It is not just these huge buildings that are encouraging people to gamble.
In most football showing bars that I have seen, around Accra and out of the city, there are systems set up to enable punters to bet on the games in play. And, it is not just that. Even in Sogakope, about 2 hours outside of Accra towards the Togo border, a little betting shop has opened up where punters watch 4 screens with 4 different gambling opportunities. They can bet on roulette (electronically controlled) or horse and dog racing. Now, you may think there can’t be must horse and dog racing in Ghana, and you would be right. These races take place only in the confines of a computer! They are betting on cartoon dogs!
Anyway, enough of the negative, there are certainly some positives here! Yesterday, for Easter, I was in a little village Agorhome, for their harvest celebrations. I have been going to this village for 15 years and it is always a joy. This time around, what surprised me the most was that I had 4g connection. In previous trips I have hardly been able to make phone calls, but this time I was able to live stream the celebrations directly to Facebook. Check out the Facebook page to see the saved video!
There is a buzz here in the tech world. There is a lot of enthusiasm and optimism that change is happening. SO many events are taking place, promoting technology, innovation, STEM education, women empowerment, etc etc etc! Just last week I was at the SFAN event, which I will write about in the next blog. There is a huge effort and collaboration trying to push Ghana forward. It is very exciting.
Keep an eye out for the next blogs, which will look at some of the organisations pushing Ghanaian and African innovation. I will also be setting up a coding club in partner ship with Airtel Ghana and CoderDojo, starting from Saturday 22nd.
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