Ghana, like many of its counterparts on the continent, is contending with the fallout from the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants. Of particular concern is the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK. It is estimated to be up to 70% more infectious and 65% more lethal than the ancestral strain.
Scientists at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens have confirmed that B.1.1.7 is now the dominant variant in Ghana based on nationwide genomic surveillance. And that it is responsible for 88% of cases in the capital city.
The ongoing surge in new infections, hospital admissions and deaths has refocused public attention on a situation that the Ghana Medical Association describes as “dire”. Intensive care units are operating at the limits of their staff and space constraints. And more young people appear to be developing severe forms of the illness.
This means that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Ghana cannot come quickly enough. But what is the country’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy? And how well advanced are plans to execute it?
At least 60% of Ghana’s 31 million residents will need to be vaccinated for the population to attain herd immunity. The goal of the president, Nana Akufo Addo, is that every Ghanaian will be vaccinated. But a timeline for this remains elusive as no plan has been made public.
The president has promised to procure and administer 17.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the first half of 2021 as part of an initial push. But there is uncertainty even around this target.
Firstly, how the country will secure this number of doses is not yet clear.
Secondly, there are questions around how the doses will be stored and distributed, as well as the capacity of the country’s existing cold chain infrastructure.
And there will be a final major hurdle to clear – convincing many sceptical Ghanaians that the vaccines on offer are safe and effective.
A number of external factors are hampering Ghana’s efforts to secure the doses it needs to reach its mid-year target.
Unlike developed nations, countries like Ghana have limited bargaining power to negotiate directly with manufacturers. As a result, it is principally relying on two multilateral initiatives to procure COVID-19 vaccines – the COVAX facility and the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. Combined, they have secured 1.27 billion vaccine doses for African nations.
COVAX is a global initiative co-led by the World Health Organisation, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It aims to develop, manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to all nations on a fair and equitable basis. It operates as a funding mechanism that uses the collective purchasing power of participating nations to obtain competitive prices.
Nevertheless, participating low- and middle-income countries will only receive enough vaccines to cover up to 20% of their populations.
Ghana expects to take delivery of up to 968,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of March 2021 as part of an initial batch from COVAX. These first doses have been earmarked for the nation’s healthcare workforce of about 108,000.
COVAX aims to deliver the remainder of this initial tranche of 2.4 million doses by June 2021. This should be enough to protect about 1.2 million Ghanaians with the two-jab Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. But reaching the president’s target will require about four times that amount.
This means that Ghana will have to lean heavily on vaccine supplies from the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team – an initiative being driven by the African Union. It aims to bridge the gap between the 20% population coverage promised by COVAX to participating African countries and the 60% coverage they need to attain herd immunity.
The African Export-Import Bank and the World Bank are supporting the strategy with about $7 billion in cash advancements to vaccine manufacturers on behalf of AU member states. The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has so far secured 270 million doses of the Pfizer, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Deliveries are scheduled to begin later this month.
In early February the sirector of the Africa Centers for Disease Control announced that 16 African nations had applied to the task team for vaccine supplies totalling 114 million doses. While the final allocations are yet to be published, Zambia, Kenya and Nigeria are set to receive 42.7 million.
It is not yet known if Ghana is one of the remaining 13, nor how many doses it intends to order from the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
Ghana’s Presidential Advisor on Health, Anthony Nsiah-Asare, recently hinted that the country was also procuring vaccines through bilateral deals with some of its development partners. But these supplies are likely to be a negligible fraction of the 15.2 million additional doses required to meet the June target.
This means that Ghana’s supplies from the African Union initiative is likely to determine the nation’s ability to reach its mid-year goal of 17.6 million doses.
Ghana’s COVID-19 vaccination drive will face other challenges that ought to be addressed urgently.
One is a storage and distribution plan that prioritises speed and minimises waste. Public health authorities have assured Ghanaians that a comprehensive plan exists – it has not yet been made public – to make use of the country’s existing cold chain infrastructure for vaccine distribution.
This infrastructure supports Ghana’s enviable record in immunisation coverage that has helped reduce infant mortality and the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles. In 2019, immunisation coverage for essential vaccines was in excess of 90%. Ghana has not recorded a single death from measles since 2003. In addition, it was certified as having eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2011.
But there are gaps. Ghana’s current cold storage facilities lack the capacity to house vaccines like those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna because of the arctic temperatures required to store them. Both use a technology known as mRNA.
This limits the COVID-19 vaccine options available to Ghana. It also matters because these vaccines can be adapted to target new SARS-CoV-2 variants relatively quickly compared with other vaccine technologies. Having access to them could therefore determine how fast nations are able to respond to the emergence of new variants.
Ghana faces a potentially bigger stumbling block: public scepticism about COVID-19 vaccines.
Anxieties and uncertainties about their safety underlies considerable hesitancy in Ghana towards the COVID-19 vaccines. The proliferation of fake news and misinformation on social media and in certain quarters of the popular press are fanning those embers.
To meet this challenge public health authorities will have to be laser-focused on identifying and addressing both legitimate apprehensions and conspiracy theories. They will also have to be proactive in monitoring digital platforms because of the dynamic and viral nature of vaccine misinformation.
It will also be important to measure progress towards public acceptance of the vaccines. One route would be to conduct a series of public surveys to assess the evolving landscape of knowledge and attitudes. This would enable the government to identify specific misinformation that allows for more focused communication about vaccine safety and efficacy.
Much of that will also depend on media coverage. It is therefore crucial to engage the media on its role in combating misinformation
Fast food – food sold in an outlet, drive-through, or restaurant either as preheated or precooked, and served or packaged as take-away – is ubiquitous in developed countries.
For instance, in the US, 45% of adults between the ages of 20 and 39 years and 37.7% of those between the ages of 40 and 59 consume fast food daily. Over 40% of higher-income earners eat fast food on a given day, 36.4% of middle-income, and 31.7% of lower-income earners.
Over the past two decades fast food brands have expanded to many developing countries. Across Africa fast food restaurants have spread at a rapid rate, driven by rising income levels, rapid urbanisation and changing eating habits and lifestyles.
In Ghana the restaurant sector represents the largest and fastest growing part of the domestic economy, increasing at an annual rate of 20%. Alongside foreign brands, there has also been expansion of informal fast food outlets that sell fried and jollof rice with fried chicken on the streets of many urban areas in Ghana.
In our research we set out to analyse the social and demographic characteristics of fast food consumers in Ghana. We also examined the cultural and health implications of emerging fast food culture. Our study was based substantially on a review of existing research on fast food in Ghana.
Our aim was to help create awareness about the implications of emerging fast food culture in Ghana.
Who are the consumers of fast food in Ghana?
We reviewed literature on the demographics of consumers of fast food in Ghana. The literature we reviewed showed that young adults – 15 to 45 years – were the biggest consumers of fast food in Ghana.
Our review also found that more men consumed fast food than women because men do not often cook or lack basic cooking skills. Although more men than women eat in fast food restaurants, women are increasingly patronising fast food restaurants as traditional gender perceptions are changing.
It is important to note that eating out is not new in Ghana. But the proliferation of fast food restaurants in recent years has reinforced the habit.
Finally, the literature we reviewed showed that it was mostly unmarried or single men and women that frequently visit fast food restaurants.
We found that consuming fast food is also a display of social status. Internationally branded fast foods are expensive in Ghana which means that they are consumed by middle and high-income classes. For some Ghanaians, consuming fast food means identifying with Western culture. It also means identifying with modern ways of life.
We found that fast food brands played on long-held beliefs in which Ghanaians largely associate fast food with Western culture to capture the affluent class who want to display their wealth by consuming fast food.
We also reviewed literature on the health implications of fast food in Ghana. The literature around the health implications is unequivocal. The consumption of energy-dense and fatty fast food, alongside sedentary lifestyles, poses severe health risks to consumers. Studies show that obesity, diabetes and hypertension as well as other diet-related diseases are on the rise in urban Ghana.
In a 2012 report Ghana’s Ministry of Health stated that about 48% of Ghanaian adults had hypertension and that it is prevalent among higher income groups. It is therefore not surprising that hypertension is the number-one killer disease in Ghana.
We concluded that the proliferation of fast food restaurants in Ghana is set to continue, and that the increasing consumption of fast food by local elites will undermine the local food culture. This, in turn, will pose severe health challenges to the public.
We also anticipate that poor people will increasingly turn to fast foods as prices go down because of competition. This means that the health risks will increasingly affect poor people too.
We argue that it’s imperative that public health policies should be directed towards giving health and nutrition information about fast food to the public. There is also an urgent need to increase public pressure to demand fast food restaurants in Ghana offer healthier options.
The health effects of COVID-19 have heightened the urgency to adopt healthier food and lifestyle practices to prevent noncommunicable diseases. This is because people with certain underlying medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure are at increased risk of severe illness and even death from COVID-19.
Reflecting the worrying trend, the president of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in the state of the nation address delivered on February 20, 2020 reiterated that obesity has become a serious public health concern due to the food Ghanaians eat as well as lack of physical exercise.
This article was co-authored with Rebecca Sarku and Jacob Obodai, PhD researchers, Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands and The Open University, UK, respectively.
Collapsed buildings are worryingly common in several large African cities. One study counted 54 building collapse deaths and 122 injuries in Kampala, Uganda between 2004 and 2008. Another identified 112 cases in Lagos, Nigeria from December 1978 to April 2008. Cities in Ghana and Kenya, too, have recorded similar fatal incidents.
This isn’t a uniquely African problem, though. It occurs in Asia’s rapidly urbanising areas, too. Buildings collapse either during construction or when they’re already occupied.
It’s often suggested that the problems in African cities stem from authorities’ non-enforcement of building safety regulations. Substandard materials and incompetent builders abound.
This argument has some merits – but it doesn’t adequately explain the problem. Why, in societies that attach a high social status and cultural prestige to home ownership, would builders constantly disregard safety considerations?
So, I set out to learn more. I focused on Ghana. The results go beyond the issues of materials, skills and regulatory enforcement. They reveal more about the institutional history that shaped the practices that create dangerous buildings.
This problem is not going away any time soon. Today around 40% of Africa’s population – about 500 million people – live in cities. This is projected to rise to more than 1.4 billion people in the next few decades. Currently more than half of Ghana’s 30 million residents live in cities.
My research provides a better understanding of the range of agencies, motivations and constraints that incentivise poor building construction. Hopefully it can contribute to helping build safe, resilient cities on the continent.
I interviewed architects, contractors, surveyors, structural and civil engineers and other construction experts with knowledge in Ghana. I also interviewed authorities from Accra and Kumasi, the country’s capital and second largest cities. Media reports and research show that most of Ghana’s building collapses happen in these cities.
My interviewees captured most of the known issues: builders use substandard materials, ignore safety requirements and offer construction jobs to unskilled people.
But it’s clear that other, external factors are also at play.
When Ghana’s economy tumbled in April 1983, the then military government approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank for help. The help came, under the condition of “structural adjustment” of the economy. Most developing countries that applied for support from the World Bank and IMF were made to sign onto similar programmes.
Structural Adjustment Reform involved a series of economic interventions. But – in Ghana and elsewhere – the underlying idea was to remove governments from the provision of public goods and, instead, install private actors.
For Ghana’s housing sector, this meant the removal of tariffs on imported building materials, the withdrawal of state grants to housing agencies, and the introduction of tax holidays for private real estate companies. These and other similar interventions were designed to attract private companies into the housing sector. The assumption was that private companies would provide more and cheaper houses and, therefore, serve the housing needs of the poor better than the state could.
Sadly, they instead added to existing problems and contributed to new ones.
At that time, Ghana’s post-colonial authorities hadn’t dismantled the planning systems and regulations the British had left behind. In fact they still adhere to these today. It’s a problem because the regulations encourage the use of expensive imported building materials. It is estimated that about 80% of Ghana’s building materials are imported.
Land prices have increased too, For instance, in the 1980s and 1990s, the price for building plots in prime cities in Ghana increased by more than 1000%. This, as private, often foreign, real estate companies moved in as a result of the structural adjustment deal.
The increasing prices of building materials and urban lands have made housing more and more costly. And private real estate companies get big tax holidays to provide “affordable housing”. But they aren’t delivering.
Their dollar-priced houses are affordable only to high income earners; staff of foreign embassies and transnational corporations and wealthy Ghanaians residing in the country and abroad. The majority of the population has been excluded from the market. Structural adjustment didn’t cause this: it hardened the housing scarcity and inequality created by Ghana’s colonial and early post-colonial governments.
Bad situation worsens
The failure of formal housing policies to accommodate the majority has sent most Ghanaians to the informal sector.
This sector lacks finance schemes, so low-income informal home builders are forced to cut corners. They also build as and when they can afford to. Buildings may take years to complete – long enough to develop structural problems even before work is completed, partly because materials and incomplete sections are exposed to the weather.
Not only are buildings poorly constructed, but some are done with great haste. Additions are made to old structures and some are converted to uses not intended in the original designs.
One architect I interviewed said:
The reason (collapses happen) in the urban areas is that there is high demand (for buildings) and there is pressure. So, the wrong thing is done hurriedly – at lightning speed.
Problems such as corruption and political interference further undermine the authorities’ already under-resourced capacity to bring things under control. The result is an atmosphere where inappropriate construction practices thrive in ways that undermine public safety.
Way out of the problem
It is often suggested that all would be solved if the authorities just enforced building regulations. But it seems that won’t go far enough.
Ghana’s building safety challenge is largely about the inefficient allocation of public resources (through housing policy and the organisation of the economy generally) for the private gain of a privileged few. The low-income majority are left to fend for themselves.
Unless policy is changed to meet the needs of the majority, the creation of unstable buildings in African cities cannot be prevented.
Protests against racism have erupted around the globe in recent weeks, sparked by the murder of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota, in the United States.
This act of racial violence serves as a timely reminder of the racial inequalities that persist for black people around the world, African diasporas being no exception.
In fact, Ghana, which has been a leader in connecting this diaspora to its African roots through tourism, commemorated the life of Floyd with a memorial service in Accra. The service was arranged by Ghana’s Year of Return committee, in partnership with the African Union of Diasporan Forum.
The Year of Return – 2019 – was a tourism campaign to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in America. It was an instance of “roots tourism”, which appeals to travellers to visit a destination on the basis of their ancestry.
Beyond the education and personal transformation that many travellers gain from this type of tourism, could it also be an opportunity for racial reconciliation?
My study of one recent group of African American roots travellers to Ghana suggests this may be a possibility. The study explored how the trip affected these travellers’ sense of identity and their commitment towards social justice initiatives.
Exploring roots in Ghana
In August 2018, I joined a group of 10 African American travellers on a 10-day trip to Ghana where we visited historical sights, as well as cities, villages and nature preserves. I interviewed the travellers before and after the trip, in addition to conducting observations and a focus group during the trip. I asked them about their expectations of the journey and how the experience had affected their identity. I also asked if it made them more likely to participate in social justice activities such as protesting, getting involved with social justice organisations in their communities and speaking up about social injustices in their professions.
Travellers revealed to me that the trip helped them to conceptualise slavery differently, and this led them to a deeper understanding of race relations in the United States. For example, one traveller said that prior to visiting Ghana, they felt a “certain anger towards white people”. But visiting Ghana and specifically the Cape Coast dungeon exposed them to learning more about all of the actors in slavery – (white) Europeans and (black) Africans.
Travellers also shared how the trip helped them to understand more deeply their identity as both African and American. For example, one participant said:
I have these identifiable characteristics about me that link me to this place. I hope to go home and be able to exude that like a light off me, without being afraid or ashamed; we shouldn’t be fearful of who we really are.
This quote exemplifies how identity formation through roots travel can lead to a form of reconciliation within travellers themselves.
Another traveller said they realised after the trip that roots tourism, if curated well, could be an avenue for cross-racial communication and understanding. They said they had noticed a clear difference between white and black tour groups at the Cape Coast dungeon. One was more romanticised, and one highlighted more of the horrific details of slavery.
This traveller said the romanticised experience was common at many former slave plantation heritage tourism sites in the US. These types of narratives only perpetuate experiences reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. But if transformed, these experiences both in Ghana and the US could act as a platform for racial reconciliation.
One traveller described their own internal racial reconciliation by saying:
We are all human. I wish that we lived in a world that could really and truly embrace that, but we don’t. So, for now, I continue trying to spread the love and be unashamed about who I am, which is a mixture of so many things, some of which do originate in Africa, and I am proud of that now.
These types of experiences through roots tourism represent an opportunity for the creation of peace and reconciliation. Travellers can learn together about the collective emotional trauma resultant from slavery, the misinformation that is often passed down about slavery and how these issues can be discussed openly.
Travel and tourism are not often linked to social justice. But the research shows that tourism does in fact provide a platform for this. Travellers in my study said their trip to Ghana empowered them to make changes towards social equity in their professional and personal lives. They described actionable change along with expanded mindsets. For example, one traveller mentioned getting involved with empowering black musicians in their community. Another started contributing financially to empower female business owners in Ghana.
Roots travel experiences also shine a light on the continued everyday racism that people face as a trickle-down effect of slavery. Participants described how societal racism in the US had made an impact on their lives, and how travelling to Ghana had emboldened them to search for clarity of identity and self, as well as social equality.
The research already shows that tourism can promote peace, transformation and cross-cultural understanding. But it’s a good time to ask how the travel and tourism industry has contributed to racism and how that can change.
The incumbent Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo has held on to power following the release of official results. Tensions are rising in the normally peaceful country as his opponent calls foul play.
The Ghanaian electoral commission on Wednesday declared incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo the winner of the country's presidential election.
The 76-year-old Akufo-Addo from the center-right New Patriotic Party (NPP) beat his opponent and predecessor John Dramani Mahama of the center-left National Democratic Congress (NDC) with 51.59% of the vote. It is expected that this will be his second and final term in accordance with the Ghanaian constitution.
More than 13 million ballots were cast out of a total electorate of 17 million and across 38,000 polling stations throughout the country. Voters also chose 275 lawmakers for the national parliament.
Five people were killed in election violence. Otherwise, Ghana's poll on Monday was carried out largely peacefully — a regular achievement for the West African country unlike for some of its neighbors that have seen violence following recent elections — although the process was mired by accusations of fraud before the official results were released.
Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Jean Adukwei Mensa praised election workers for operating the polls smoothly, and openly, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The NDC rejected the results of the election and said they planned to appeal the electoral commission's decision, Haruna Iddrisu an MP for the party told AFP.
The results of one constituency remained disputed, however Mensa said that even if all remaining votes went for Mahama, it still would not change the overall outcome.
Long-awaited results, but carefully counted
The electoral commission took several days to tally up the votes and had urged for patience while they were "working around the clock."
Around 12,000 observers were present for polling day and reported only a handful of incidences of intimidation. "While there were some challenges, these challenges were isolated and did not undermine the process's overall credibility," a coalition of observers said on Tuesday.
Ghana has successfully carried out democratic transfers of power for almost two decades and stands in contrast to neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone where violence disrupted recent electoral processes.
The two leading candidates signed a symbolic agreement on Friday to resolve any disputes in the courts and to avoid possible violence amid the tensions of the close contest and the country's first economic contraction in decades.
Over 60,000 security personnel had been stationed at polling stations to maintain order.
Accusations of fraud
Tensions rose on Tuesday evening as the contesting Mahama warned his opponent not to "steal" the election, accusing the sitting president of using the military to intimidate voters.
"You cannot use the military to try and overturn some of the results in constituencies that we have won. We will resist any attempts to subvert the sovereign will of the Ghanaian people," Mahama said at a press conference in the capital Accra.
Akufo-Addo's information minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, was quick to condemn the accusations as false and "irresponsible."
The candidate's comments mirrored those of US President Donald Trump who lost the presidential election in November but accused his rival of stealing the election.
Failure to accept the electoral commission's results could cast a shadow over the country's democratic credentials.
Both sides claim success
Before the electoral commission came out with its tallied results, the NDC communications director, Sammy Gyamfi, told DW that the commission wasn't doing its job correctly, "but they would fail because they cannot change the will of the people. We don't want to push anyone into any early celebration. We are on course, we have 140 parliamentary seats, safe and secured."
John Boadu, general secretary of the NPP told DW of the implications of accusations coming from the NDC: "Creating insinuations creates a lack of credibility on our whole election process … We are happy to announce that for the next parliament it is obvious from the results declared across the constituencies that the NPP will still maintain a majority in parliament."
(Reuters, AFP, DW)
Ghanaians go to the polls Monday with incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo and former president John Mahama as front-runners.
Akufo-Addo’s party has campaigned mainly on his education initiatives, while Mahama’s has focused on job creation and attacking his opponent's record on corruption. But the familiar faces have also made voter apathy an issue.
Ghana's government this week announced Monday, Dec 7, would be a public holiday - to help get voters to the polls to choose the next president.
Despite more than 17 million registered voters and 12 presidential candidates, authorities are battling voter apathy with familiar front-runners from the last two elections.
Incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is facing off against his predecessor, John Mahama of the opposition National Democratic Congress’ (NDC).
Mahama won in the 2012 election and then lost to Akufo-Addo in the 2016 election.
Kojo Asante, with the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, says there is fatigue, mainly among the middle classes.
"The first few hours is always a good indicator of whether people will eventually go out," said Asante. "If they see the crowds are behaving and then they get feedback that it is very easy to go and vote and so, then they might eventually still go out, even if they had decided not to."
Despite the challenge, Asante says their pre-election survey shows Ghanaians are concerned about issues such as improving infrastructure and employment.
The survey pointed to positive responses on the ruling NPP’s handling of COVID-19, power supplies, and education.
But the public was less impressed with Akufo-Addo’s record on inflation, inequality, and corruption. Attacking Akufo-Addo on corruption was a focus of Mahama’s campaign, along with job creation. But risk consulting group Songhai Advisory’s Kobi Annan says both men have underperformed in office.
"It's a difficult choice for a lot of people. Neither of them have performed fantastically during their terms of office, and I think it will come down to primarily sentiments around things like education, corruption, job creation. I think job creation and education in particular - those affect more people day-to-day than corruption does," said Annan.
Under Mahama’s presidency, there was an energy crisis, corruption scandals and a currency devaluation.
In 2016, the NPP won by about one million votes and with high expectations for Akufo-Addo to stamp out corruption.
But in the weeks leading up to this year’s election, the opposition NDC made corruption allegations against Akufo-Addo. Ghana’s anti-corruption special prosecutor resigned just three weeks before the election, alleging political interference.
While Akufo-Addo denies any corruption in his administration, analysts say it’s hard to know if the claims will impact the vote.
Regardless of the result, or voter turnout, analysts are expecting Ghana’s election to be fair and peaceful – as with the last two elections.
Maame Gyekye-Jandoh is head of the University of Ghana’s Political Science Department.
"Emotions may run high, but based on these past precedents, these past good precedents, I believe that the election will be peaceful, and the results will be considered credible and legitimate," said Gyekye-Jandoh.
The University of Ghana published a voter survey that gave the NPP an estimated 11% lead over the NDC with five percent of voters undecided.
Universal Music UK has announced the launch of 0207 Def Jam, a new frontline label and the UK home of the iconic Def Jam Recordings label, with a stellar cast of execs including the appointment of highly respected industry executives and Ghanaian London-born twin brothers, Alec and Alex Boateng as co-Presidents.
0207 Def Jam, which takes the first part of its name and inspiration from a telephone code in London as a nod to the music, culture and art the UK is famed for, is partnering with the legendary Def Jam label which has shaped and propelled cutting-edge hip hop culture around the world for over 35 years.
Alongside his brother, Alex takes the helm after 10 years at Universal Music UK, most recently as president of Island Records’ first Urban Division which has played an instrumental role in shaping the current and sustained trajectory of UK Black music.
After taking the role in 2018 he oversaw UK campaigns for Drake, Tiwa Savage, Buju Banton, Nav, Giggs, Unknown T, Ray BLK, M Huncho, Tekno and Miraa May whilst also spearheading the campaigns for George The Poet’s debut book release, British film, The Intent 2 and UK based clothing brand/label Lizzy.
Alex is a member of Universal Music’s Task Force for Meaningful Change, which was created as a driving force for inclusion and social justice. He joined Universal Music in 2010 in a digital role at Island Records before going on to hold positions in marketing and A&R, a period which included campaign launches for Tinchy Stryder, Drake, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj as well as A&R for artists including JP Cooper, Sean Paul, Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal, Donae'o and Big Shaq. He started his music career balancing a marketing degree with DJing, multiple shifts at radio and running his own marketing and promotions company with his then BBC 1Xtra colleague G Money, moving on to consulting roles with Atlantic Records, Polydor and AATW.
Alec joins 0207 Def Jam after seven years at Warner Music, most recently as co-head of A&R at Atlantic, where he collected a clutch of industry awards and played a pivotal role in the commercial and cultural success of acts who have defined their era, including the emergence through to her chart-topping dominance of Jess Glynne, the revolutionary rise of Stormzy, Burna Boy’s rapid ascent to global superstar as well as the likes of WSTRN, Rita Ora, Kojo Funds, Stalk Ashley, Preditah and many more. A seasoned broadcaster, he also spent over a decade at BBC 1Xtra where he hosted the breakfast show for several years and a series of other specialist shows with a focus on breaking new British music. Alec remembers a passionate deep-rooted love of music as a child, evolving into DJing and leading the award-winning UK mixtape team Split Mics before halting university after he was headhunted to cut his teeth in A&R. First, he worked with Ministry of Sound and then began operating his own co-owned music company alongside the late industry lawyer Richard Antwi. Together, they oversaw a plethora of success with Wretch 32 and worked with artists such as Popcaan and Gyptian amongst many others.
Alex’s former Island colleague Amy Tettey will be joining the team as managing director after 11 years, the past four as finance director, at the Universal Music label where she worked across the entire roster of Island artists including everyone from Amy Winehouse to Drake and Dizzee Rascal to Giggs. Alongside Amy, Jacqueline Eyewe and Char Grant join as marketing director and A&R director respectively. Jacqueline - previously senior marketing manager at Atlantic where she spearheaded the marketing of Black music - has been deeply rooted in contemporary Black music and culture for the last decade. She joined Atlantic in 2015 where she has worked with artists including Stormzy, Burna Boy, Lizzo, WSTRN, Kehlani and Cardi B. Char, whose 10-year career has been immersed in artist development and management as well as songwriting, joins from BMG Music Publishing where she has published the likes of Giggs, Ghetts and producers P2J, TSB and AOD.
Alec and Alex report to Universal Music UK Chairman & CEO David Joseph. He says, “Bringing the Boateng brothers together at 0207 Def Jam is an important moment in British culture. Alec and Alex have always done things their own way with success always quick to follow. They have already assembled an exceptionally talented top team with a clear vision for this exciting new chapter in the history of one of the world’s most famous labels”.
Jeff Harleston, interim Chairman & CEO, Def Jam Recordings said, “It is a perfect fit having Alex and Alec at the helm of 0207 Def Jam. Their creativity, artist relationships, and connection with culture are all key elements that have made Def Jam such an important label for over 35 years. I have no doubt that Alex, Alec and their team will only make the label and the brand even stronger.”
Alec Boateng, co-President of 0207 Def Jam says, “Music, art and artists really, really matter. I’m super excited to play a leadership role in this brilliant new space we’re creating for amazing music and talent to live and evolve. A space which will support both our teams and our artists to be the best version of themselves.”
Alex Boateng, co-President of 0207 Def Jam says, “Especially in these times, this is a real privilege. I'm proud our collective journey now includes partnering a legendary label with a style that only London and the UK can provide. Looking forward to watching and guiding where the music and art takes the journey next.”
When Ghana turned to democracy in 1992 after many years of military rule, there were expectations that the people would choose their leaders. Ghanaians also expected to see a closer relationship between citizens and the state, making members of the legislature more sensitive to their needs.
But the country has yet to entrench some key aspects of democratic governance. One example is the disconnect between the people and their representatives in parliament. Public opinion surveys conducted by Afrobarometer show a wide gap between the two. For instance, between 2002 and 2013, an average of 85.8% of Ghanaians had no contact with their representatives in parliament.
Ghanaian voters indicate that their legislators spend little time in the constituency. Even when they do, they tend not to listen to the concerns of voters. This gap is a problem because modern democracy relies on representative institutions. The very foundations of democracy could be shaken if citizens do not feel adequately represented.
I found that a major contributing factor to the gap between legislators and their constituents in Ghana is the strong presence of patronage networks in primaries within the parties. The way the two main political parties, the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress, select parliamentary candidates for general elections makes it possible for patronage networks to hijack electoral processes.
Internal party competition
Parliamentarians in Ghana, as everywhere else, do not emerge out of the blue. Political parties have established procedures for selecting candidates. Internal party primaries have been the main avenue for selecting parliamentary aspirants since the early 2000s.
But the very nature of these internal competitions creates a cohort of legislators who can easily circumvent voters’ “punishment” if they don’t perform.
To become an MP in Ghana on the main parties’ tickets, aspirants must apply to designated constituency committees and be vetted by the regional and national party. Where more than one aspirant passes this stage, they are presented to the party’s delegates at a conference for a deciding vote. The small number of delegates who vote in these internal contests is a recipe for patronage. It’s easy for aspiring candidates to buy the support and loyalty of these delegates.
In recent cases, some aspirants have gone as far as buying cars to woo the delegates. Internal party primaries in Ghana are usually devoid of programmatic appeals. A candidate who campaigns solely on programmes and doesn’t issue any material benefits will most likely lose. A candidate whose campaign relies solely on handing out material goods is likely to win even if his or her campaign contains zero programmes.
Therefore, the ability to award personal favours like pocket money, school fees, funeral donations, television sets and so on to party delegates becomes the exclusive focus of these party competitions. The road to parliament in Ghana gets smoother for the highest bidder than for the candidate with the most elaborate policies.
This places the power to determine the future of an MP in the hands of party delegates, not the electorate. After all, winning the primaries means a free ticket to parliament in many constituencies.
This is more so because more than 60% of the 275 seats in parliament are safe for either the New Patriotic Party or the National Democratic Congress. The huge number of constituencies that are dominated by either of these two parties give MPs the incentive to concentrate more on local party delegates than the entire constituency voters. The voice of constituency voters, therefore, gets trumped by that of the party delegates.
What is the way forward?
To make constituency votes matter, the focus should be on reviewing internal party contests which determine who stands as an MP.
In emerging democracies, there are hardly any national laws regulating how parties select their candidates. In Ghana, the constitution says political parties must ensure that their internal processes conform to democratic standards. But there’s no legislation spelling out how they should choose their candidates.
Ghana could follow the examples of Germany, the United States, New Zealand and Finland in regulating internal party competitions. The focus should be on the inclusivity of mechanisms to select candidates within parties. For example, all party members or even the entire constituency of voters can participate in the selection of candidate MPs.
An open candidate selection process would provide less incentive to reward a few party delegates and neglect the constituency. With more participants, candidate MPs wouldn’t have enough money to buy everybody. This would force candidate MPs to campaign on the basis of policies that benefit the entire constituency. Also, to be reelected, MPs would have to build a good relationship with their constituencies, not with internal party oligarchies.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Thursday announced a 28 per cent hike in Cocoa Producer Prices for the 2020/2021 crop year.
Thus, effective October 1, 2020, the producer price for cocoa moves from the previous crop year’s GH¢8,240 ($1.41) to GH¢10,560 9 ($1,817.92) per metric ton. A bag of cocoa for the coming season would sell for GH¢660 from 2019/2020 producer price of GH¢514.
The President made announcement when he launched the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western-North Region during his three-day working visit.
He told the gathering that “by this new producer price, we have kept faith with our commitment, under the international arrangement with Côte d’Ivoire and global stakeholders, by awarding to our farmers the full $400 per metric tonne Living Income Differential.”
Ghana and Ivory Coast, who together produce over 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa, in the quest to overhaul global cocoa pricing, introduced a $400 a tonne Living Income Differential (LID) in July last year on cocoa sales for the 2020/21 season.
“By this substantial increase in the producer price, we are also delivering on our 2016 manifesto promise to reward handsomely the hard work of our cocoa farmers and their unequalled contribution to the economy of Ghana over the years,” President Akufo-Addo emphasized.
The President noted that the unstable nature of cocoa prices on the world cocoa market remained one of the biggest challenges to ensuring payment of decent farm-gate prices to cocoa farmers.
He was not happy that Ghanaian and Ivoirian cocoa farmers earned a meagre $6 billion from a global chocolate industry of over $100 billion.
“Government believes that value-addition to our cocoa, and the search for new markets, will make us more money than all the aid given to us by all the donor countries.
“We shall gain some dignity, and spare the donors the fatigue we have all heard about,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo was gratified that the Strategic Partnership between Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, which is manifesting itself in a joint cocoa production and marketing policy, was already paying dividends.
“Today, I am happy to announce that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are receiving a Living Income Differential of $400 per ton of cocoa, which is an additional earning from the world market price for our farmers.
“The Living Income Differential is going to guarantee some stability to the producer price of cocoa and sustainability of the industry in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire,” the President said.
In its early days, Ghana’s COVID-19 response was heralded as a success story. Its perspective was captured in a statement by Ghana’s president when he announced Africa’s first lockdown on 28 March:
We know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life.
It was a viral sensation.
But the ovation is fading and the West African nation’s case count is surging.
Ghana isn’t the only African country that initially appeared to have COVID-19 under control. Others, like South Africa, were also praised for taking early, decisive action. But the recent surge in coronavirus cases in Ghana, and the inability of the country’s health system to cope with it, were seeded by the outlook, oversights and omissions in the easing of its lockdown.
The partial lockdown of Accra and Kumasi, Ghana’s principal cities, bought the government time to prepare for the onslaught of the virus. The nation needed to be ready for testing and contact tracing, providing personal protective equipment for health workers and dealing with patients in need of acute care for COVID-19. And it had to make provisions to sustain all these as the epidemic evolved.
But the extra time would only be afforded if the lockdown actually slowed the spread of the virus. So in deciding when to ease the restrictions, knowing the degree of this impact was of the essence, as was progress on those public health and health system reinforcements.
Ghana’s timing was bad.
The government announced an end to the lockdown on 19 April. Yet data published by the Ghana Health Service did not offer conclusive evidence that the objectives of the restrictions had been met.
It was unclear whether the spread of COVID-19 had actually slowed – and by how much.
Some references were made to the health system and public health improvements in announcing the end of the lockdown. But details were opaque. Within 10 days of President Akufo-Addo’s national address, the Ghana Medical Association was attributing rising health worker infections to poor distribution of protective supplies.
Existing facilities for intensive care were still being expanded when the restrictions on movement were lifted, and authorities were still scouting locations for new isolation centres.
Ghana’s limited testing capacity also needed to be expanded, as the entire public health response depended on early case detection. Plans for new and expanded laboratories were still being drawn up when the lockdown was ended.
The authorities touted pooled testing as an answer. Multiple samples were grouped together and tested. The samples in each pool were individually retested only if a pool returned a positive result for COVID-19. If the pool was negative then it was assumed that all the samples in it were negative.
Pool testing is useful where there is low viral prevalence, and much less so in a large outbreak. If capacity for individual testing wasn’t significantly increased before pooled testing reached its limits, Ghana’s ability to detect and manage cases would be severely compromised.
Early in the epidemic, authorities adopted a testing target as the benchmark for ending the restrictions on movement. The objective was to locate some 34,000 travellers who arrived in Ghana between early March and the closure of the border on 22 March; to identify and trace people they had come into contact with; and to test these travellers and their associates for COVID-19.
The “enhanced contact tracing” exercise, as the president explained on 5 April, would inform future action. By 19 April, 1.27% of some 51,721 people – just over half of those targeted – were found to be positive for COVID-19.
This result was used as the primary evidence that Ghana’s disease burden was small, and that the epidemic had been substantively contained.
But that testing wasn’t representative. It ignored community spread, which had been documented as early as 20 March. It seemingly underestimated the risk of a large outbreak from undetected cases; how quickly that might happen; and the impact on the still limited laboratories, the still inadequate public health infrastructure, and the still underprepared healthcare system.
The reduction of the volunteer contact tracer workforce after the lockdown exemplified the authorities’ rhetoric that the worst of COVID-19 was over.
Eighteen weeks into the outbreak, Ghana’s COVID-19 response is buckling under the weight of reality.
Counting the costs
Data released on 6 July, the 117th day of Ghana’s COVID-19 epidemic, laid bare the state of affairs. The cases confirmed over the week leading up to that date made up nearly a quarter of Ghana’s total count at the time. The 992 reported on 3 July remains the West African record.
The 642 new cases confirmed on 6 July raised the nation’s tally to 23,464, from 1,042 at the end of the lockdown. Included in those new cases were samples collected as far back as 9 June, a 27-day delay that shows the slow pace of testing.
This was not an anomaly. About one in seven new infections reported so far in July involve a testing delay of at least two weeks. The consequences are obvious: the growing pool of unidentified contacts may spawn even more cases and add to a bleak outlook.
The 22.6% positivity rate for 6 July suggested that Ghana’s testing regime is not casting a wide enough net to give a true picture of community spread. That statistic was as high as 30.1% on 3 July, and the average for the week ending on 6 July was 23.8%.
The medical community’s fears have also materialised. The rate of infections among healthcare workers is staggering. A total of 779 had been infected in the line of duty as of 1 July, and that number has been revised to upwards of 2,000 over the course of the month. Insufficient and inadequate PPE, slow testing, and limited institutional capacity are driving this disturbing trend.
The present state of Ghana’s epidemic is at least partly attributable to the premature lifting of the shelter-in-place order. But its future hinges on whether the nation’s strategy will remain unresponsive to the evolving realities of community spread, the limitations and urgent needs of its fragile public health system, and the daunting risks health workers continue to face.
So far the evidence is not promising.
Authorities in Ghana continue to ease restrictions. Schools have been reopened for final year students, despite public concern. Scores of students and staff have been infected. The health minister rejected calls to reconsider this decision on the grounds that it would be cowardly to reverse course. He only recently recovered from the virus himself.
A mass voter registration exercise is also under way nationwide, despite an open appeal against it by over 200 physicians who cited the obvious risk of further spread of COVID-19.