Posts Tagged ‘developing countries’

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Learning from Ghana

June 8, 2010

After my first week here in Accra, I feel that my perspective on the world is changing rapidly. The first thing to really note is that Africa, to Americans, is not the real Africa, at least not here in Accra. Yes, it is an impoverished country. Yes, people live in what, by American standards, we would call shacks or lean-tos. Yes, you have to barter and bargain with every salesperson you see on the street and yes, they will chase you through town trying to sell you some small trinket. But that is Africa through American eyes. What is happening it that I am starting to see Africa for what is is, perhaps not through the eyes of an African, but certainly not through the eyes of an American tourist. This change seems critical now.

I had a long conversation with a very educated man outside a bar here in Accra about how Ghana relates to the rest of the world, and it opened my eyes to what is really going on. The man told me that Ghana, and other developing countries like it, are caught in a trap set by the industrialized, developed world. He said that nations like France and the U.S. hold all of the power in the world, and that they use the smaller less powerful nations like Ghana for natural resources. As long as this is happening, those nations can’t develop on their own and can’t form their own industry because they are essentially treated as farms for the nations that hold the power. He also told me that the solution, for Ghana, lies in the global climate change issue – that Ghanaians had to start ruining the world in order to get the attention of nations like the U.S. and France, and that the media in these countries won’t point their eyes and cameras to Ghana until it becomes a global problem. This is why, according to this man, deforestation, pollution, and over-population are allowed to continue in Ghana. Once the country is in crisis, once things fall apart, and once the resources the rest of the world like to take are no longer there, the world will turn its eyes on Ghana, stop taking from the nation, and begin trying to rebuild it into a modern society.

All of this, of course, has to be taken as the opinion of one man, but there is something to his ideas. Americans don’t think too much about Africa. We stop learning about its history in school when the American slave trade stops, and I think in our minds we still see it as the Africa of colonization, not the independent Africa of today. This mindset allows us to continue justifying the first world’s use of resources from these third world countries. The media doesn’t cover Africa until there is a crisis, and even then the attention given to the issue is small and skewed to incorporate the American perspective on Africa.

It’s saddening to me though, that Africans think they have to ruin their land before they can advance in the world. From what I’ve seen, the people of Ghana are some of the most hard-working people in the world, and the happiest to be working too. The nation is at a point where, if it began to develop, it could easily take its place among the powerful nations of the world, and also be an example to the rest of the developing world on how to gain power and join the industrialized world in a way that incorporates new, greener technology and avoids the mistakes made by other nations in the past. The people here know what is going on, they just need the rest of the world to give them their chance.