The immigration into Ghana is professional and straighforward. We witness as a man gets almost beaten, as he doesn’t stand still while the Ghanaian flag is pulled down at 6 pm. The sun goes down and and we hurry to arrive at Busua. At some dubious checkpoints people wildly wave their flashlights at us, we don’t take any risk and simply rush through . Busua is a cosy little village right at the beach. We stay at the „Alaska Beach Resort“, its name derives from the origin of the owner, who comes from the most northern one of the American states. During the following days we explore the surroundings and get to know Dan „The Pancake Man“ who runs a little restaurant, serving delicious banana pancakes. The prospect of thursty customers also brings Frank „The Juice Man“ on stage, who offers his services in the field of fruit juice processing to us. To complete the scenery, we later also meet Joseph „The Lobster Man“. Computer work, swimming, soccer with some local teenagers at the beach.
Heading further towards Accra we make short stop in Elmina, a little town with a harbour full of colorful pirogues and a former slave fortress. As we walk through the town we witness a funeral: A crowd of people passing by, cheerfully accompanied by loud music and carrying a poster or portrait of the decedent here and there. We continue to Cape Coast, the former capital of Ghana, where we camp at the Oasis Beach resort. It is run by a German-Turkish owner. Cape Coast as well is the location of a slave fortress, and during a guided tour we learn about the cruel history of this place in colonial times – similar to Gorée Island in Sénégal. In the former lighthouse of the city lives a family, who lets us climb up to the top and enjoy the view for few money. Eventually we have some Fufu – balls of sticky mashed maniok and plantain – in a small, authentic street restaurant in the market area.
The next day we reach Accra and head directly to the Benin Embassy. For 40 Cedi we get a visa which we can pick up already in the early afternoon. Then we visit the Embassy of Togo. They offer us a visa for 35.000 CFA – of course money change is available for a bad rate – and 10 Cedi „express fee“. Grudgingly we pay since we prefer not getting stuck in the evening traffic, knowing that the money will end up in the pockets of the arrogant official.
Finally we meet Beatrice, Philipp’s former host mother during his stay in Ghana for an internship two years ago. Every summer she hosts guest students who work in local companies by help of the international organization IAESTE. We receive a warm welcome and get a whole bedroom for ourselfes. Instantly we feel home. We hear that in the past years a lot happened here, because her son Kafui, an engineer, founded his own company and manages it from home. With „ECKA Engineering Contractors LTD“ he and his employees calibrate scales for the reservoirs of filling stations. Through good quality, reliance and customer support they already acquired a considerable part of the local market and meanwhile always work on better and more accurate machines.
Together with his friends – he himself is not at home – we go out to the bar „DJ Azonto’s Office“ in the evening. There we get an own rap performance about us and our tour and enjoy the spiced sausages on sticks one finds next to each and every bar or club in Ghana. The following days of the weekend we focus on regeneration and sightseeing. With TroTros – local group taxis – we drive into the city, visit the huge market place and the lighthouse in Jamestown. Also we have a look at the local stadium.
It is Monday, and at 09:00 am sharp we face the gates of the Angola Embassy. A visa for Angola is one of the most difficult to get in Africa, since due to the recent oil boom the country more and more regulates the immigration of foreigners. Heavy rainfall starts. Soaking wet we arrive at the reception and hope for a pity bonus. The officials initially seem quite arrogant and fussy: Our letter from the university is not in Portuguese, the local translation costs 40 Cedi – a little more than 10€. We crossed a word in the application form. Evil eyes. Exceptionally we can work with Tippex. The individual personal application letter has to be printed out again because of a small spontaneous correction. Last but not least the group application letter, translated by a Portuguese friend, apparently contains some grammar mistakes and therefore can’t be used. We take a breath.
Our opinion about the officials changes as we hear, that they have to send complete application to Angola in order to be examined fastidiously and they only try to avoid a rejection. For free they help us correcting our letter for half an hour with three people at a time. Then we have to go to the bank for a direct transfer of 160 USD – the local Cedi seems to fluctuate too much. We don’t have a lot of time, soon the embassy will close. The responsible at the bank ensures us that we can pay in Cedi with the current exchange rate and get a receipt in USD. After a tedious transaction at the teller we read Cedi on the receipt. Cancelling everything and changing money. The bank does not have US Dollars. Going to the next hotel with money exchange, returning to the bank with US Dollars. Again filling out forms, again making a transaction, returning to the Embassy one hour too late. We are lucky and it is still open. As a final act they scan our fingerprints, then we are free to go. On Friday we can pick up the visa. Half of a day for a visa application. TIA – This is Africa.
We visit Steelco, a factory for nails, steel rods and metal sheets for which Philipp worked as an intern two years ago. It is located in Tema, a city east of Accra where most of the industries are located. The employees welcome us cheerfully and are happy about Philipp visiting them. We get a tour through the production and explanations about all processes and machines.
On Tuesday we visit Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana and capital of the Ashanti region located in the center of the country. On the way we make a spontaneous stop at Blue Skies, a factory for fruit juice and cut fruits. Their funny logo already made us interested as we saw it in an Accra supermarket. We are welcomed friendly and an official gives us a tour through the manuel fruit processing hall. He explains to us that every product is produced fresh and without any additionals, the expiration time is five days. The fruits are delivered in the morning, processed during the day, transported to the airport in the evening and flown to Europe during the night. The next morning the product lies in the cooling shelfes of European supermarkets. With about 1800 local employees 30 tons of fruit can be processed daily and the company holds 1% of Ghana’s export. It is hot outside and before we get seated again in our glowing minibus, we enjoy some of the undeniable good juice at the local juice bar.
Another 230 kilomters and 5 hours later we arrive Kumasi. Again and again sand pists. We head to the university and after talking to a lot of people, we are allowed to camp on the property of a student dormitory. Fried rice followed by Championsleague with some students in their dorm room.
The next day we go to the biggest market place in western Africa, located in the center of Kumasi. Walking through a squeezed tumult. In a huge area merchants sell pieces of the old clothes collection. They offer shirts and pants of known brands for about 30 Cents, the articles lie around by the ton in numerous huge bags. Clearly a local production does not have a chance competing with this. But one has to consider that the alternative is cheap and usually poor quality clothes from China.
We locate the office of Bamboo Bikes and have a chat with Bernice, one of the founders. Together with a friend she started an organization called Bright Generation, which aims to give young locals a meaningful occupation. As one project they started the manufacturing of bicycle frames out of bamboo. These are exported as well as sold on the local market. Every third frame goes to a Ghanaian student, since they usually have to walk long distances on their way to school.
Then we pay their actual workshop a visit, it is located at the outskirts of Kumasi. We meet Eric, a young craftsman who is responsible for the production of the frames together with his 6 coworkers. The frames look like high quality products, their manufacturing process happens professionally: First, the bamboo is being treated, then the frames are laid together in aluminum rack and glued together. The joints are wrapped with a bast fibers, saturated with epoxy resin, cured, polished and finally painted. Only the metal bushings for the handlebar or the bottom bracket are being imported. Test drive with a completely assambled bamboo bike, goodbye photo, then a short goodbye in the office with an interview. Back towards Accra, a short refreshment at the Blue Skies juice bar, then Championsleague.
On Thursday we have a full schedule. At first we visit the founders of farmable.me, who call their business a CrowdFarming platform. They tackle the problem that farmers more and more move to the big cities in order to look for a better life. They don’t see their profession as a business but as a burden, which only is done by reason of tradition. On the website farmable.me individuals are able to acquire shares of a cow about 8 months before the slaughter. As a consequence the farmer is liquid already during the breeding and therefore able to invest in his business and later sell the cow for a good price – also farmable.me stands for a kind of quality seal. After selling the cow the „investors“ get back their money plus 10% rate of return, which is generated by the increased value of the cow during the 8 months of breeding until the slaughter. Also they are able to buy the meat of their „own“ cow in the supermarket. We are not the only guests at farmable.me: Also their American friend is present, he currently works as a teacher in Abu Dhabi and besides establishes a local poetry slam scene. The world is small.
We move on to the iSpace, a coworking space. Apparently we arrive just in time, a seminar for business women is about to begin. Today is only the first session of a series. The participants introduce theirselfes and start exchanging their business models, their personal goals and challenges. Highlight is a male speaker representing an African organization, who is promoting a paid membership with his presentation. He gets literally roasted by the critical participants. We don’t worry about the future of Ghanaian business women…
We are about to drive home, as we get an invitation for a drink on the street from a guy who introduces himself as an entrepreneur. During a cocktail which needs getting used to he tells us about the ups and downs of his career, the problems of being self-employed due to the highly fluctuating situation of individual economic branches, about falling gold prices as well as illegal mining in Ghana and finally all of his different – more or less successfull – businesses: From marketing over micro credits until trading cars and building machines. As we say goodbye he gives us the advise that knowledge about Africa is of great value and thus for our future we should not only look towards Europe.
On Friday morning we get up early for a proper farewell and also to pick up our Angola visa. As a present from Beatrice we get some traditional Ghanaian garment. At the gate of the embassy a note is awaiting us. We are told that today is a holiday in Angola and the embassy is closed. The note was put up yesterday. We take a breath and realize that there is worse than being stuck in a city like Accra for one more weekend…
- Searching for the lost package
- About border chaos, 3D printers and used water bags