There is an Estate in Ashale Botwe, it is called Lakeside View Estate. When I was looking for my house, it was the first house I went to see. It was valued at $35,000 but I took one look at it and said NO. The finishing was bad, the ceilings were low, the houses are built by a lake, prone to flooding yet has no running water. Now, this same house is valued at $76,000. The house is still bad quality, it is still prone to flooding but it the value is riding high, and in dollars no doubt. In the meantime the cedi which is the currency of the country, is depreciating.
My house was valued at $25,000 in 2006, a mere 5 years later and it was valued at triple the price. The house is small, I wouldn’t say it is fit for a family, but it is ok for me as I am a single person without a family. I bought it because I needed accommodation fast, I did not know when or if I would ever get married and thought that rather than spend copious amounts of money to rent a place (where the landlord takes 2-3 years in advance), I might as well use the money as a deposit on a house.
At the time of purchase, the cedi was 1.3 to the dollar, now it is 2.1 to the dollar. With the rate at which the cedi is falling, I need to either find a job which pays in dollars or go back to London and work off the rest of my debt or pray I get enough income to cover the cost.
In 2008, the government devalued the cedi, they put up advertisements and there was even a little jingle where a woman in a high pitched voice told the nation that the value is the same. Bullsh****. In just 5 years, we have gone from getting more dollars for the cedi, to the cedi not being worth the paper it is printed on. Why, because the people don’t value the currency so why should it have any value in global finance. We don’t value our currency, we don’t value our products, we would prefer to buy goods made in China or India than made in Ghana goods. So we are becoming a dollar country and our currency is worthless.
When you buy a house, it is no longer quoted in cedis, especially here in Accra. Everything is quoted in dollars or the dollar equivalent. When you go to a top restaurant, they are even happier if you tell them that you only have dollars in your pocket. The top hotels, are not only quoted in dollars but at a cost higher than you would find at the Dorchester or Marriot hotel in London (at least once in a while, Amazon will send a voucher for a discounted offer for a one night stay in a classy hotel).
In addition to this, everything is imported. Rhapsody’s brings their produce from South Africa, rice comes from Thailand and NIDO 1+ comes in from Dubai. Even while shopping for pots, the lady selling them told me that they were from England (as if I was supposed to get excited about that), so she quoted a price equivalent to that of the GBP, plus profit, plus chop money. Trust me, a person on a basic salary would have to save for a year (without eating, paying bills, travelling) before they could afford what she was selling. Yet, the aluminium used for the pots were more than likely taken from Africa to make these pots which Madam was selling on to the poor ignorant buyers.
Then there are the plastics. Every shop you go to which sells Tupperware, household goods and well basically plastic crap is made in China. The rubber, the Chinese come to Africa, we give them free range of our rubber plantation and they go back and make products you will easily find in the £1 or 99¢ store. In Ghana, it is sold at triple the price and the dollar is made to blame.
We don’t encourage agriculture, we don’t encourage home grown produce, we don’t encourage anything in house, the mentality is that West is Best, with the western price to boot.
But with all this, my salary is still in cedis, I cannot do an inter-account transfer from my cedi to USD account or vice-versa (although I can ship it all to my account outside of Ghana). The government says that inflation is great, so my employers still seem to think that working for equivalent of $500-1000 a month is ok for a working professional. With that I am supposed to buy my imported produce, pay my USD mortgage and if I have change at the end of the month, go out and eat at a restaurant with imported products.
Ghana imports at a huge cost and financial strain, yet at the local Tesco’s you can buy a can of tuna for less than a pound, but imprinted on that can you will see that the tuna was sourced in Ghana. Talk about an imbalance of financial power. We are buying at an exorbitant cost, yet selling ourselves like a cheap hooker.
Unfortunately in the battle of imported goods over home grown goods, imports are winning. I went into the local supermarket the other day. A can of Starkist Tuna was a mere 20pesewas less than a can of John West Tuna. If you go to deli France at Airport you buy a nice moist imported croissant at 3.50GHS whereas a hard tasteless croissant is valued at 3.00GHS just down the road at the local bakery. Here would be the perfect opportunity to make a good quality product at a cheaper price. However, the baker will use the wrong (cheaper) type of flour, and mark close to the imported product because they feel that price will make their goods more prestigious. Then blame the dollar. Basic Marketing 101, competitive pricing, good quality product, increases demand. The reality is, the baker converting that cost to the dollar and pricing accordingly.
I was told when I arrived that the cost of living is a lot cheaper. 5 years ago, it probably was. I could spend 1 cedi on a bag of onions, now 1 cedi will buy me just 2. If you complain, the market seller will tell you it is because of the dollar. How in Ghana, where I am being paid in local currency, is my livelihood contingent on the rate of the dollar?
Until Ghana starts making a valuable contribution by way of exports, we will forever be importing and passing on the debt to the people of Ghana who can barely afford it.
Ghana has gold, metals, fresh fish and sea food, land in which to promote agriculture. Yet we are of the suit and tie culture, sitting in an air conditioned office is seen as respectable, a fisherman is paid pittance, fish is sent abroad and then sold back to us at a margin. We take it because we are poor ignorant fools who think that as it has come back from abroad, it must be quality.
Alas, I can go on for days, but the bottom line is, until the country appreciates the local currency, the currency will never appreciate and Ghana will forever be held to ransom by the dollar.