I wonder how many people know that in Kumasi fake gold is alternately called Abbyssinia? My late grandpa, Nana Taw Nsiah used to be a popular goldsmith in Bechem. This was a man who could easily distinguish between fake gold and genuine gold without the use of any instrument.
He was thus loathed by fraudulent gold dealers for scuttling their attempts to scam ignorant counterparties. Conversely, he was loved by genuine customers, especially during the cocoa season when most farmers tended to be awash with cash liquidity and knew how to keep some reserves in gold. The latter were saved on several occasions from becoming victims of fraudulent gold transactions. That is how I could easily relate to the sub-heading above in my childhood.
Once upon a time, friends and relations who had been to Germany before gave glowing accounts of “red light districts “in parts of that country. Obviously from their rural backgrounds back home in Ghana, their enchantment with these areas in Germany where some daughters of Eve sold their womanhood for a living, was beyond description.
Mesmerized by the fake smiles and twerking bodies, many an immigrant got hooked to these women most of whom, we were told, are licensed in their chosen vocations. Eventually, hitherto lofty immigrant dreams were shattered from addiction to this new- found liberty and unusual stress relief.
The tale bearers never talked about the prevalent crimes, police harassment, the incidence of sex related diseases, the cost of patronage which wipes off hard earned savings and the controls involved in the brothel industry by the city authorities and medical and allied personnel.
Over the last few weeks, some notable figures in the country have been championing the cultivation and export of wee/cannabis as an easy way of generating billions of dollars. Some fanciful figures have been thrown into the discussion to embellish the attractions involved in wee cultivation and export.
The discussion naturally ignited in me some measured skepticism that one cultivates from risk management practice over time. Jumping unto any new product development scheme in the corporate world, without going through the rigours of risk management which involve identification of inherent risks, measurement, monitoring and control as part of the product development cycle risks capital depletion subsequently.
Attempts at wealth creation that ignore risk management reduce innovation to naked speculation. Firms’ board and management are appointed to engage in strategic investments as their primary responsibility in the value creation chain.
Politicians entrusted with national resources utilization for the public good must undergo similar exercises to ensure optimal benefits for the citizenry.
I am therefore tempted to be more analytical than emotional and would not allow myself to be mesmerized by the estimated $70 billion to be made in a few years from wee exports, according to our friend John Dumelo.
The basis for this flattering figure has not been provided, though. If, for nearly a century, gold mining, cocoa exports and oil proceeds since 2011, have not changed Ghana’s economic fortunes, nor stopped us from going to the IMF seventeen times already, I fail to see what cannabis cultivation can do to change the structure of Ghana’s economy.
This is against the backdrop that we are currently in negotiations with the IMF for a possible bail out in the region of a paltry $2- 3 billion, on an eighteenth begging spree.
From the mouth- watering figures being thrown into the discussion by the proponents, cocoa farmers like me would appear to be either naïve or plain cowards for not dedicating some of our lands for wee/cannabis cultivation, even before the government is cajoled to license wee cultivation on a large scale.
Having induced excitement about the potential windfalls to be generated, perhaps the proponents, which now include Gabby Otchere Darko, would do us the favour of explaining further, how they computed the expected returns associated with this fantastic endeavour.
I have been told that in the UK, the idea has been debated extensively and the reason why wee has still not been legalized is largely political than economic. It would be interesting to analyse the empirical data that has stalled what some consider to be a lucrative export business for the UK.
I believe Ghana is endowed with experts who can conduct the necessary due diligence involved for a massive shift of resources into this area, if it becomes necessary. Then perhaps, any residual risks can be easily contained.
Thereafter, we could boldly tell the IMF that the $ 2- 3 billion that we are frantically negotiating for, must be given to Sri- Lanka, while we embrace our new-found export crop to manage our rising unemployment and latent frustrations among the youth!
Until the proponents of the wee cultivation and exports come up with the basis for their highly optimistic figures to convince the executive and the legislature, my concern remains, why we should get involved in a scheme that we may not have developed reasonable capacity and political will to control.
I wake up daily with heightened trepidation seeing the mess we find ourselves in dealing with the menace of galamsey. Some law enforcers are known to be enriching themselves and turning a blind eye to what I consider to be a generational curse we have inflicted on ourselves.
Sadly, only a few seem to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. Rather gleefully, we discuss this on partisan political basis as if a dead river like Birim on the Anyinam stretch affects NPP and NDC loyalists separately!
The problems with water pollution, dead rivers rendered uninhabitable by any aquatic life, the cost of water treatment for human consumption, silted water bodies, arsenic poisoning of lands and crops, degraded lands claiming innocent lives and costs of land reclamation have become issues we seem to be tackling with an ostrich approach.
These gigantic problems are enough to deepen my skepticism about our ability to control a legalized wee eco system.
In Guyana, we are told that the government has dedicated tens of thousands of hectares towards wee cultivation. Canada is also touted as having raked in substantial revenues from legalizing wee cultivation and export for medicinal and recreational purposes.
It would be interesting to find out when the Guyanese and Canadian and some unnamed African governments started this scheme, how much has been accrued from this venture, how this has radically changed their economic structures, and what the associated risks have been.
Have we considered the potential increase in the incidence of substance abuse, if wee is legalized for cultivation and export? Have we comprehensively computed the social costs of dealing with youth hooked on this drug amidst the frustrations the psychiatrists and social workers lament about daily?
What, if we plunge into this new field only to find that the market has dried up and we are stuck with stocks with hardly any alternative uses for us, except reckless local consumption by our cherished youth.?
Until cogent answers are obtained, I remain resolute in my view that legalizing the cultivation and export of wee would be akin to raising lion cubs that we cannot tame eventually.
- PS. I am reliably informed that Ghana’s Supreme Court has by a majority decision on July 28 , 2022 annulled Section 43 of the Narcotics Control Commission Act, 2020 (Act 1019) and considered it as a violation of Article 106 of the 1992 constitution.
Accordingly, “ the Act which permitted the Narcotic Control Commission to grant a licence for the cultivation of cannabis popularly referred to as “wee” in Ghana, which is not more than 0.3 % THC content on a dry weight basis for industrial purposes for obtaining fibre or seed for medicinal purposes is thereby declared null and void and struck out as unconstitutional as it contravenes the letter and spirit of the Constitution, 1992, particularly Article 106 (2) (a) (b), (5) and (6) thereof,” the court held.
This case amply reinforces my stand that “if you cannot spell it, don’t write it”. We have far too many regulations that we cannot enforce. A friend opines that the biggest problem impeding Ghana’s development is law enforcement.! The case of illegal gold mining and its deleterious effects, unambiguously defines my abhorrence of cannabis cultivation and exports.
Let us not sacrifice the future of our youth by permitting some public servants to enrich themselves unduly from granting licences they will not/cannot effectively enforce.
Perhaps the Timber inspection and axle load inspectors would do us some good by explaining their core regulatory roles and their respective achievements so far to clear justified doubts about their respective operations amid perceived corruption.
Diversified income sources
Thinking about diversifying our revenue sources, one area that readily comes to my mind is health and medical tourism. The pleasant story about the University of Ghana Medical Centre gives me hope that we could leverage on this and other facilities to create medical centres of excellence in the West African subregion, if not the whole of Africa, to attract clients.
WACCI of the University of Ghana has demonstrated that Ghana can compete in the global space of scholarship and innovation as far as plant breeding is concerned. Yes, we can, and on our own soil!
We could exploit synergies from Noguchi Memorial Centre, Korle Bu, KATH and Tamale Teaching Hospitals, among other public bodies in the health sector to attract clientele, with our relatively peaceful and hospitable country profile as added attractions.
I believe we could attract top notch medical consultants of Ghanaian origin back into the country to help in this drive. Simultaneuosly, young Ghanaian doctors and other medical professionals will be motivated to do their specializations here and earn decent remuneration.
Perhaps our Article 71 beneficiaries who relish travelling outside the country for medical treatment will find that local doctors are as good as their counterparts elsewhere, if only we will provide the necessary facilities. We could save our hard- earned foreign exchange expended on the numerous medical trips of a few over pampered public servants, while the rest of us are stuck with poor medical facilities.
In discussions with a group of friends, some lamented the attitudinal problems that bedevil many state organizations in the country. To this, I say, I remain highly optimistic once we get the leadership factor in these facilities fixed.
A fish, it is said, rots from the head and I am a firm believer in one person making all the difference in an establishment, if the conduct and cultural practices are effectively anchored.
It is very possible to get the working culture issue fixed. The example of the Cardio Centre in Korle Bu, though not perfect, gives me hope that there are still working systems that are comparable to advanced countries at less cost, if we put our minds to the task and prioritize our usage of public funds.
Then we could attract patients from the sub region and beyond, just as the South African and India are reaping the benefits of medical tourism.
My optimism is further strengthened by my observation of how expatriates feel comfortable to access the services of Nyaho Hospital (another excellent example of generational business) and other private medical laboratory facilities, in spite of their relatively high charges.
It is the same Ghanaian staff who work in these facilities but the work culture gets boosted the moment practitioners enter the gates of these establishments. This positively reflects the leadership style of the executives in these places.
Targeted tax exemptions and other assistance for private health tourism facilities could accelerate this objective of modernizing health infrastructure to attract private investors.
A ray of hope beckons; let us grab it and move away from the business- as usual mentality and save our cedi while creating jobs for the teeming youth in the process. Success in the health and medical tourism space would also boost the Sustainable Development Goals and private health insurance schemes, if we keep a proper focus.
The writer is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, an adjunct Lecturer at the National Banking College, a farmer and the author of “Risk Management in Banking” textbook.
Email; [email protected] Tel. 0244 324181