Recently, whilst detained in a medical facility, I was busy waxing lyrical trying to explain that God the Creator is not unique to Ghana. Indeed, my argument was that He is akin to a constant in a mathematical expression. We therefore need to keep Him outside the brackets as BODMAS dictates.
I was promptly shut up by Madam who sarcastically nick named me ‘Professor BODMAS’. However, I refused to be gagged so I bring my submission, anchored on three pillars, to your all-knowing court of public opinion for swift judgment. As always, I was discussing my pet subject ‘Causes of Ghana’s Underdevelopment’. This time I was looking at some internal factors before I was reminded that “my immediate business and concern was to concentrate on getting well instead of propounding theories”.
According to my internet search, up until 1026 AD various mathematicians including renowned Achilles Reselfelt, worked cumulatively to invent the ‘BODMAS rule’ which over the years has been accepted by convention “as the order in which we solve complicated mathematical expressions with multiple operators”.
So, we avoid the embarrassing situation of having more than one correct answer to each expression depending on how one proceeds with his calculation. Every Junior Secondary School (JSS) student should know the acronym BODMAS. The acronym BODMAS stands for ‘Brackets, Order, Division, Multiplication, Addition and Subtraction respectively.
Of particular interest, in respect of the topic under consideration, is the treatment of the concept of the Highest Common Factor (HCF) within BODMAS. In order not to bore my readers I will not try to explain HCF. Except to say that acknowledging the HCF in a mathematical expression ie locating this factor outside brackets simplifies the expression and makes the solution of the part of the expression within the brackets easier.
Ghana is a very religious country considering the activities of Christians, Moslems and practitioners of African Traditional Religions. In fact, unofficial estimates indicate that there are more religious establishments per square kilometer than there are industrial organizations in Ghana on the average. How much time and effort we dedicate to the worship of our Creator is difficult to compute however, anecdotally, this is considered very substantial and spans the whole working week in some cases.
We are the first to acknowledge the role of God,’ The Creative Force’, in all our successful endeavors at the personal, local community and national levels. It is my ardent hope that the reader finds my definition of God inclusive. Because my argument is that God, the Creator of the Universe, is not unique to Ghana. Our Pan-universe God is available in equal measure to all the 8 billion people on planet earth and to all nations.
As far as Ghanaians are concerned, He is involved in all and every human activity on this earth i.e., from activities concerning our very survival through to our outstanding innovations, scientific enquiries and related achievements as a global village. God is the very definition of multi-dimensional. Therefore, in the spirit of BODMAS we should keep God the Creator outside our brackets as the Highest Common Factor in all our endeavors. That way we simplify the mathematical expression of our economic model even as we isolate relevant socio-economic variables and try to find a solution to Ghana’s rather serious underdevelopment conundrum.
Some variables within our brackets may include our work culture, levels of civic responsibility, corruption, conflict of interest, savings rate, levels of innovation, extent of long term planning, degree of successful execution of plans, level of enforcement of laws, degree of economic independence, level of accountability, how pervasive is the use of technology in management, the quantity and variety of God-given natural resources, quality of human resource, leadership, size of tax base, levels of illiteracy and poverty levels etc.
So my first pillar suggests that, as crucial as God is to our existence, He does not give us comparative advantage because all nations and peoples are similarly blessed and have unfettered access to Him as well. Their source of success and competitive advantage lies within the bracket. This could be the fact that they have less corruption, a more inclusive and transparent society made up of highly disciplined, dedicated and diligent citizens who always put nation before self, very high levels of accountability and well-organized systems of political and economic management at all levels.
Additionally, they may be highly innovative and deploy resources consistently to reflect this winning mind set. Perhaps they are also highly knowledgeable regarding the development and efficient execution of strategy and plans at national and organizational levels as well as at the level of the variable. Above all, maybe they adequately reward hard work and severely punish deviant behavior and make it totally unattractive.
As a nation we certainly cannot pray ourselves out of the chronic cycle of poverty and over all low productivity. We will have to do the necessary sustained hard and smart work as well as sacrifice comfort today in order to unravel this generational underdevelopment conundrum. We should let no one fool us. Not the World Bank, IMF or their appendages, and neither our so-called development partners nor our political leaders and certainly not our religious leaders. There are no short cuts.
Do we have our very own Macro-Economic Model for the Ghana economy? Or we are blindly using the traditional ‘one model fits all’ mathematical expressions developed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for all third world and underdeveloped countries? Different contexts notwithstanding. This article advocates a new and more aggressive re- orientation regarding our approach to economic development in Ghana. Macroeconomic models help us estimate Ghana’s economic reality by determining what we acknowledge as strong factors that influence specific broad outcomes we would like to measure, predict and explain like our concepts of economic growth, development, levels of integration etc.
To build our very own economic models at the national, regional or sector levels we will have to determine (ourselves) the various variables which directly impact our levels of development, and the extent to which they influence this outcome. We will have to also fully understand the mechanisms and processes by which these factors or variables affect our desired outcome. Indeed, even how they interact with each other to either spur on or sabotage desired outcomes. Of course, there is no need to reinvent the concept or practice of macro- economic modeling and that is certainly not my suggestion. That would not only be naïve but also would be a total waste of time.
Modern macro-economic (econometric) modelling and its corollary activities like model specification, statistical inference and model construction can be traced as far back as the mid-1940s. Indeed, my cursory internet search suggest that the United States of America, for instance, has since the World War II developed various economic models which progressively better captured its economic realities leading to their adoption of increasingly superior and effective economic policies. Ghana with its fair share of macro-economists and astute mathematicians located in various international institutions as well as locally within the Bank of Ghana, various financial institutions and tertiary institutions of higher learning must do same.
We should identify and develop our very own definition of macro-economic agents which “empirically capture and validate” the true structure of Ghana’s economy. Only then can we intelligently apply time-tested insights from socio-economic and mathematical theory to the solution of our “chain linked” underdevelopment problems. I have no doubt that we have the men and women with the requisite knowledge and skills to carry out this absolutely crucial task necessary for economic policy development and its effective implementation.
So ultimately, how do we win this war on underdevelopment and poverty by outfoxing and out-performing our competitors? Insights gleaned from extensive research work by cognitive scientist Professor Donald Hoffman, regarding winning the evolutionary game i.e, the survival or extinction of various biological species in the universe suggests that “organisms that see only user interfaces to objective reality work smarter and faster to out-survive their competitors.” Specifically, Professor Hoffman using evolutionary game theory shows that organisms that see the complex truth underlying objective reality and are increasingly conscious of all of its total make up will lose out to those that master user interfaces to reality only.
He postulates that user friendly interfaces, like icons in the case of computers, allow people who do not have any knowledge or any idea of the core technologies like operating software systems, diodes, circuit boards and cables etc which make computers functional to master computer games, and other computer-controlled gadgets. Interfaces simplify hard reality and make the use of technology more inclusive which is good. For example, an expert computer scientist typing a letter using the core operating system DOS language only will never out perform a secretary typing the same letter using icons on her lap top.
She has no need of knowledge of the underlying truth or activity behind the screen of her computer to be a high-performance employee. The interface icons make her work so much easier, faster and efficient. Similarly, organisms or animals do not need to know how to grow their food or understand how they breed. They only have to master interface signals which indicate availability, location, size, how dangerous etc. Those that are destined to be on the diner plate only concern themselves with camouflage, conflict avoidance, security networks and flight interface icons so to speak.
Regarding reproduction, most organisms are not interested in mechanisms or processes at play at the level of its target’s internal reality. The correct interpretation of the smell of interface pheromones secreted outside the body of its targeted partner are enough to elicit appropriate behavior. Indeed, Prof Hoffman shows that you can trick certain organisms into extinction by putting pheromones on empty bottles. They will bite the bait and mate with the bottles. Of course, there will be no off-springs and in time the species will go extinct.
Ghanaians have shown clearly that we are only interested in socio-economic and technological interfaces. What the objective truth is orchestrating in the background is of no interest to us. Unfortunately, in the socio-economic game the war on poverty and underdevelopment is never won by mastering interfaces. Professor Hoffman’s findings do not hold in this context or business competition environment. To win in the red sea of business, surviving organizations and nations should not only know about core technology and the underlying science which makes it possible, but we must own as much of it as possible.
For instance, Ghanaians will continue to drive the best cars, watch smart televisions, use the best smart phones, import designer apparel, use only foreign developed software in their digitalization drive and develop a housing industry seriously dependent on foreign inputs. In the power generation, water and telecoms sectors we are at the mercy of manufacturers who own the relevant technologies and scientific patents. Once the products are in-country we master operating interfaces but have no desire to develop our own innovative solutions from scratch. Our mining sector, which is over one hundred years still has no patents licensed to an indigenous Ghanaian for core material processing solutions or process equipment although we have many skilled professionals in these industries.
Yes, we do not have to reinvent the wheel but we can make a big difference when it comes to composite materials used in their manufacture for instance. Can anyone point to machine tools developed and made in Ghana? Where is the industry-academia connection? It took disappointed Chinese investors in Ghana to partially mechanize the breaking of pods and drying of cocoa beans after 150 years of production in Ghana. Indeed, China is reported to have commenced the export of cocoa to Belgium, Europe. Their first experiment. Today gari, which has been our staple for centuries is processed and exported by Chinese companies. Even more threatening is the fact that they own the technology or have adapted existing technology to facilitate gari production on a large scale.
They are now selling the technology to us. Good rains still mean a bumper harvest and corollary low prices for our hard-working farmers because we still store gain in seed form and have not developed sustainable solutions to post harvest loses. We can find similar situations in all sectors including the road, health, education, IT, maritime, financial and insurance services, communications and transport sectors. We are only experts at using interfaces. Our consumption benefits external manufacturers and suppliers only including their small in-country production units. Our personal consumption and investment expenditure at both individual and government levels do not reflect a clear appreciation of the role core scientific knowledge and technology ownership play in our development struggle. Hence, our inability to break this cycle of poverty.
No wonder successful organizations and countries (especially Japan and China) always seek forward and backward integration opportunities within the supply chain. Bill Gates is rich because he dominates the core operating software industry. He is even richer because he owns portions of interface technologies too. Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos of Amazon are using the same formula too as they expand via acquisition and integration to corner the global market so they own core science, technologies and interfaces they cannot quickly and cheaply develop.
Until we, in Ghana, correctly identify our underlying socio-economic realities, develop adequately representative macro-economic and mathematical expressions and proffer appropriate home-grown solutions we will continue to be interface user experts only who win the local interface battle but perpetually lose the war on poverty and under-development.