January 2020, marked the 5-year anniversary of my first trip to Ghana. After 5 years, 15 plus trips and many experiences, this list highlights what I believe are the top 5 improvements in Ghana since my first visit to the country in January 2015. This list highlights the improvements of the country that I believe will continue to elevate Ghana into a major player in the global economy, make Ghana even more welcoming to expats, while also improving the life for Ghanaians citizens in both the long-term and short-term development of the country. With no further ado, here are the “Top 5 Improvements in Ghana Over the Last 5 Years From the Eyes of a Black American”.
5. The 100GHC & 200GHC note and the 2GHC coin.
In November 2019, The Ghanaian government released the new 100GHC & 200GHC bank note, and the 2 Cedi coin. As someone who spends money in Ghana for various reasons, there is little more uncomfortable & frustrating than carrying, and handling large physical amounts of money in public. Upon arrival at Kotoka International Airport and doing my usual routine of heading straight to the currency exchange station even before I collect my luggage, it was a wonderful sight to receive the new currency notes.
After handing over what some may consider a large numerical amount of American dollars and expecting the usual large physical amounts of 50, 20 & 10 GHCs in return, I was giving a smaller physical amount of currency but equal numerical value of money in the new and beautiful 100GHC which are blue and 200 GHC notes which are red. To give an example lets say you have to pay 1,000GHC for an item or service. It is a clear difference in handling and paying with five 200GHC notes, or ten 100GHC notes, in comparison with handling and paying with twenty 50GHC notes or fifty 20GHC notes. Imagine the math when you start dealing with 5000GHC or 10,000GHC and more in cash transactions.
One bit of warning, please be mindful when handling the blue 100GHC & the also blue 5GHC note. The size of the bank notes are the most notable difference with the 100GHC being significantly larger. Obviously, as a foreign traveler who conducts many transactions, I am a fan of the new notes, however, many locals actually complain about the new notes. “With the 50 note, when you take a trotro and give it to the mate they normally complain they don’t have change how much more the 100GHC and 200GHC” said Mary from Upper East Region of Ghana. Mary is not the only person who has raised concerns with the New Ghana Banknote Eric Donkor from Accra explained, “Some people won’t even take the new 100GHC note”. I also see new notes as an unintended form of class separation. What is a Ghanaian citizen who may only make 600GHC to 1200GHC a month going to do with multiple 100GHC and 200GHC banknotes? Just for mentioning, I was equally surprised when at a shell gas station I received a 2GHC coin. In conclusion, as Ghana continues to become more competitive in the global market, the increased bank notes will be something that allows Ghanaian businesses to make easier transactions, make the transportation of currency safer, and give confidence to many that there is more money to gain and inspire to take the steps to attain it.
4. Terminal 3
The newly constructed Terminal 3 in Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport (KIA) is very impressive. To show the debts of my appreciation, the most extraordinary airport I have ever been to was in 2018 at the now closed Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST) in Istanbul, Turkey. I was in Istanbul for a 10-hour layover where I toured the country’s capital. The most memorable experience in Turkey was the mammoth and beautiful IST Airport. Istanbul New Airport also called (IST) opened April 2019, which is a significant upgrade to the previous airport that I visited. With that being said, I found out Ghana hired Turkish construction company “Mapa Construction MNG Holding” who is one of the three construction companies responsible for the architectural design and construction of the new IST airport. Being familiar with some of the previous work of the construction company hired by the Ghanaian government, I was able to get some insight into the solid planning that took place in the upgrading of KIA with the creation of terminal 3. A security guard at KAI airport who asked to remain unnamed share that many of their coworkers discussed that the new terminal is just a smaller version of the one in Turkey due to the Turkish Company doing the construction. Terminal 3 played a major role in Ghana being proactive in solving what would have been a major travel issues accommodating the increase of international travelers during the year of the return festivities.
Upon entering Ghana, no more ridiculously long waits on line at customs just to enter the country, after 9, 14 and in some cases over 24 hours of total flying time by travelers no one wants to wait up to an hour just getting through customs. Terminal 3 also assists in swift departures. No more extremely long walks from security and immigration to the departure gates, followed by a shuttle bus ride, before finally boarding the plane. The new distance from immigration to departure gates in some cases oddly short depending on your gate number, sometimes it is literally right after security check. With the addition of over a thousand jobs when you count both temporary and permanent job opportunities for Ghanian citizens, Terminal 3 is an upgrade I believe the entire country should benefit from. The only criticism I have with terminal 3 is the Sanbra priority lounge, which is pleasantly comfortable and beautiful in terminal 2, is extremely small and underwhelming in terminal 3.
3. Cholera Prevention
During my earlier trips to Ghana beginning in 2015, I recall being disturbed by the numerous individuals I witness defecating in public. I then began to take more note to the numerous warning signs throughout the country bringing awareness regarding the negative health effects of cholera, noticing warning signs with graphic images threatening to sack people for “pooping” or eliminating waste in public. Whether in my hotel room or at a friend’s residents watching television, television commercials advocating for cholera prevention and encouraging people to call out people they see defecating in public, and encouraging people to wash their hands had regular commercial space. For the country, I fell in love with, cholera and the issue of people consistently defecating in public was one of the issues that I listed as a major con. In 2016, I remember reading an article regarding the World Health Organization (WHO) focusing on Cholera prevention in Ghana. Fast forward to 2019/2020 I spent over 4 months of time in Ghana and do not recall seeing anyone defecating in public and I don’t recall any signs or television commercials speaking of Cholera. They are considerable more public bathrooms, and even more importantly clean and usable bathrooms through the country.
Antoinette from Aburi in the Eastern Region says, “Conditions are better but there is still more room for improvement. The district assembly’s environmental health units have been tasked to facilitate toilets for each household and this project has been ongoing as it is affordable since the government has subsidized the cost of construction”
I believe from a new visitor’s point of view they would have never known that just 5 years prior, cholera was an active health crisis in Ghana. Both national and international parties viewed cholera as a threat to public health. In my opinion, the country of Ghana greatly improved the conditions of the country through the cholera prevention campaign that originally started in the mid to late 2000s.
2. Year of the Return/ Beyond the Return
In short, “The Year of Return” was a landmark yearlong event that commemorated 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. “The Year of Return festivities celebrated the cumulative resilience of all the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade who were scattered and displaced throughout the world in North America, South America, the Caribbean’s, Europe and Asia” said Isshak Abdullai of Accra. One of the main goals of the Year of Return campaign was to position Ghana as a key travel destination for Black Americans and the African Diaspora. Black Americans have been visiting Ghana for decades. Many prominent Americans have been encouraging others to visit Ghana including Marcus Garvey, W.E.B Dubois, many expats and potential expats. I get questions all the time asking about right of adobe passage and dual citizenship. I also share the disappointing news that yes, Ghana has right of adobe and allows for dual citizenship but the United States is the country that denies dual citizenship making an individual choose one or the other. What the year of the return did was use the new age technology of the internet, to give people from the diaspora the confidence to make their dream of coming “home” to mother Africa true. Ghana on a countrywide masses scale let the world know members of the African diaspora were welcomed here from the top of the government down to the smallest of communities. As a leading Black American influencer of international travel to Africa and a pioneer in the social media age’s back to Africa movement, literally dozens of my brothers and sisters contacted me saying things such as “You’ve been doing this for some time and now everyone is finally catching on”. Walking through AfroChella, Accra Mall, Labadi Beach, and various parties and tourism areas throughout Ghana, Americans would stop me saying they know me from social media. The visuals and commentary from my Instagram page www.instagram.com/Rashad_McCrorey gave them a clearer view of what to expect and the courage to take the voyage “home”. In my opinion, the “Year of Return” was a phenomenal success and we hope that “Beyond the Return” the 2020 campaign continues the tradition. Events like Afrochella, AfroNation, and Deity Rave continue to move Ghana into the spotlight as a major travel destination for Black Americans and others of African descent from around the world.
1. Dumsor / Load shedding
I remember in 2015 several times a day Ghanaians first letting out a long and disappointing sigh of frustration, and then screaming in unison dumsor pronounced “dum so”. Dumsor is an Akan Twi term loosely translated as “lights off (dum) lights on (so)”. When I first arrived in Ghana, power outages were a regular occurrence, I am talking about in some cases up to several times a day ranging from only a few minutes, up to hours on end, and usually if the lights went off late in the evening they were off all night. You would never really know when the lights would go out nor when they would come back on. Gilbert Hayford of Bukom Accra shared his opinion stating that; “People blamed the sitting government during the time of dumsor, but when I was asked to give a reason for the crisis, I defended the president by saying, electricity has been extended to the deep villages and hinterlands of Ghana, therefore load shedding shouldn’t be blamed on the government”.
I remember walking during the days of daily dumsor outages on the streets; hearing the sounds of various generators that powered machines for businesses. Despite the unfortunate situation, I admired as a fellow entrepreneur how others were cashing in by selling generators. I remember phone charging ports also became an additional source of income for some people, especially at lorry stations and market centers. My first experience with dumsor was in the Akuapem Mountains. I remember getting upset with a mate as they began shinning their cell phone flashlight only trying to accommodate me for the lights going off, but me being from New York City I wanted to see the moonlight and stars in total darkness. I had no idea that that moment would not be my last time being in total darkness back then.
Fast forward to my stays in 2019 and 2020, every time the lights went out in Ghana, it actually served as a reminder for me how far the country has come. I never heard the dumsor chant not one time. With my stays in Ghana usually ranging between 7 days minimum to about 6 weeks at an average of about 3 to 4 times a year. I went from experiencing power outages several times a day in 2015, to only experiencing power outages three maybe four times an entire visit. On my most recent trip in January of 2020, the lights went out while some American guest and I were eating dinner at a restaurant. I quickly pulled out my phone, turned on the phone’s flashlight, sat the phone down flash up on the dinner table, and finally put an empty, green Alvaro bottle over the phone. The table turned into a green candlelight dinner. What my associates did not know was that this was an old trick from my dumsor days. Many believes that load shedding is still mandatory and the days dumsor will return, and much of the outskirts of the country still lack sufficient energy. Ghana with its rapidly developing economy deserves a more consistent energy source in order to compete in the global economy, however from this American point of view. The country has greatly improved and has taken considerable leaps in energy sustainability over the last 5 years.
So there you have it, my top 5 improvements in Ghana over the last 5 years. I love Ghana, its definitely my first love. I am excited about what the next 5 years will bring.
About Rashad McCrorey
Rashad McCrorey is an entrepreneur, and nation builder. He specializes in entrepreneurship, human rights, self-care, and self-empowerment. To learn more about Rashad and planning a trip to Africa, visit http://www.ghcrossculture.com or http://www.egyptcrossculture.com . Follow McCrorey and his adventures on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/rashad_mccrorey .