Random thoughts of a rural farmer–23: Obsession with science and technology applications


During an excursion to the Akosombo Dam and Kpong Water Works during my undergraduate days some 30 years ago, the first point of my admiration was not the massive equipment but the fact that these were operated 24/7 by teams of indigenous Ghanaian engineers and technicians.

In that terrain, at least, I had something to be proud about our independence, even more so thrilled by the unique sense of responsibility displayed by the workers. The work culture was so refreshingly uncharacteristic of the nonchalant attitude I had observed in the Ministries during my clerical days at the Ghana Education Service, headquarters in Accra.

I was so impressed to find that KNUST produced most, if not all, the experts manning the gigantic and sensitive installations.  How I wish this same sense of responsibility could be replicated in the same university where, on a subsequent visit to the Unity Hall, I saw students carrying buckets of water to the eighth floor!

I remember asking myself what it takes for a technology university to remedy malfunctioning water pumps to propel water to that height? Could that remediation not simply be a student project with the production, installation and maintenance in this technological age?

Fast forward in 2023, thanks to mobile telephony, I saw a clip of a pair of robots dancing with incredible dexterity that I watched in awe, momentarily disbelieving that the dancing couple were not real humans. It was so fascinating how the engineers could even synchronize the dance moves to the robots’ facial expressions.

I was so thrilled by where technology has taken our generation that the thought of Ghana’s place in this fourth revolution has since occupied my mind. I cannot help but wonder why in this age we cannot even maintain common traffic lights in our cities. In other places, these could be easily handled by technical students routinely as part of their lectures.

What is the point in having a horde of MTTD personnel stationed at traffic intersections where the traffic lights are so blurred that drivers can hardly see and respond appropriately?

After gleefully converting polytechnics into technical universities and making massive political capital out of the move, one would have expected to see tangible locally engineered solutions to the myriad of problems confronting us, especially with food insecurity and simple but durable tools in vehicle and road construction, among others.

Now that even individuals are installing escalators in their private residences, is it not a shame that modern high-rise buildings on especially our university campuses cannot boast of lifts? At the very least, the installation and maintenance of these equipment could become practical   training grounds for electrical, mechanical and electronic engineering students in these universities.

For industrialization to be beneficial, it must be anchored on internal linkages among various sectors, particularly on agriculture, roads and railways, research institutions providing solutions towards quality inputs and, processing and preservation of food products.

For how long are we going to lament the disconnect between academia and industry, a situation that has occupied the minds of many members of the Ghana Association of Industries?

The new Mpakadan to Akosombo rail line is a laudable project but my admiration is diminished by the thought that apart from the quarry products, almost all the vital components used on the project were imported, and  would require same imports to keep the line maintained.

Before anyone attempts to misjudge my motivation for some of these commentaries, let me hasten to clarify that these are not meant to denigrate real achievements, for which we have quite a few. The idea is to rise beyond mediocrity where even clearing garbage in our cities becomes a worthwhile news item.

Let us make ourselves a formidable force in the new global space with renewed determination to add on to our rich history- that history that evokes pride in the possession of a Ghanaian passport abroad. This is not crying for perfection but illuminating some of our avoidable dark spots for remediation.

Dangote incurs the wrath of Nigerians for employing Indian professionals?

Billionaire Alhaji Dangote is reported to have incurred the wrath of his kinsmen for employing thousands of Indian professionals in his newly opened petroleum refinery in Nigeria.

While I have not had a channel to verify the authenticity of this news item, even if it is half true, it raises the same question that many estate developers and industrialists in Ghana have been asking for some time.

Is employing half-baked professionals a demonstration of patriotism or employers should simply ignore efficiencies and profitability and ruin their capital employed?

Is it the sole responsibility of the individual businessman to train technical recruits with little knowledge of the work environment while the latter proudly emphasize their glossy certificates that ostensibly hype their excellent grades?

Many Ghanaian businessmen in the construction industry prefer employing artisans from our neighbouring countries for their relatively higher skills in various artisanal jobs.

We have converted polytechnics into technical universities for over a decade now. I wish some research- oriented university will take up the challenge of studying the impact of the change and the way forward in the science and technology eco-system.

We could charge some of the technical universities to establish income generating production outfits to maintain public buildings and vehicles. This could be an innovative approach to reducing the challenging budget deficits and ultimately the national debt. Research allowances could be supported with such internally generated funds while equipping students with elevated practical skills to compete in a global employment market.

Fears of potential cement dust pollution

I consider myself as a business student with an obsession for science and technology applications in daily life. At least, I have lived in my New Bortianor, Accra residence where the Ghana Water Company’s installations are yet to reach us. For nearly 20 years, though, I have never lacked water, applying my home- made appropriate technology solutions to harvest rain- water for use all-year round.

My fear and regret now are that with the completion of a Chinese cement factory close to my vicinity, this addition to the landscape has the potential to pollute the environment with cement dust.

The pro-active risk manager in me convinces me that I can no longer wait to consume contaminated rain- water. I have no option but to cause a borehole to be drilled at additional expense. That will make my current water installations redundant.

I cannot face the spectre of strange diseases after using contaminated water only to blame witches and wizards in later years.  Even more sadly, I cannot trust any regulatory body to rein in the production processes of this cement outfit to obviate the scourge of environmental pollution. The problems of galamsey and alleged corruption and ineptitude of regulatory bodies is still fresh on my mind.

Readiness to float municipal bonds

Under the current economic crunch which appears to have forced its way into our lives and will persist for not less than five years, perhaps we need to find other means of funding some of our public expenditure.

The idea of floating municipal bonds quickly come to mind, although I admit a lot of constitutional and other legislative hurdles will have to be cleared first.

We must begin discussions in this area to infuse more responsibility and accountability into our local governance machinery. This must include electing the heads of these bodies and giving them clear targets uninhibited by excessive ministerial control in the application of funds generated.

An area that quickly catches my attention is the possibility of securitizing revenues like property rates and proceeds of the District Assemblies Common Fund.

Regarding  accountability, I believe the Auditor General is already clothed with authority to delegate some of its powers to credible accounting  firms to ensure the efficient utilization of funds.

If we find ourselves constrained by the size of the box to think outside it, let us kick the box itself out of the way to see the entire horizon so that we can develop new ideas.

The writer is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, an adjunct Lecturer at the National Banking College and the Chartered Institute of Bankers, a farmer and the author of “Risk Management in Banking” textbook. Email; [email protected]  Tel. 0244 324181

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