Sunday, 25 January 2009

The cheap African life?

Al Jazeera features a report on Zimbabwe about the “Zimdollar” and how ever since shops were allowed to accept foreign currency, nobody is willing to receive the local currency. However, because they’re accepting foreign currency, at least the shops that were empty a few months ago are now busy again. Then the reporter, Haru Mutasa suddenly looks grim. “It’s not all good news though” she says. Even though people are shopping again, you now have to pay $10 for a kilo of meat, $6 for a crate of eggs and as much as $1 for a loaf of bread! In other words people are paying two to three times more what would be paid in the US.

Eeeeh? Suddenly I feel very stupid paying a good $6-7 dollars/kilo for meat at Koala, about $5 for a crate of eggs and $2 for a loaf of bread! Is it time we also start making noise about the cost of food in supermarkets in Ghana? I can’t help but wonder if we in Ghana are complacently accepting the prices imposed on us by the supermarkets, as they’re not far off the “result of the economical crisis” in Zimbabwe.

Or is this simply (more likely) just another example of people in the West not realising how expensive life in Africa can be (I purposely say “can be” as I’d probably get the eggs cheaper at Agbobloshie market, but the report featured a supermarket, not a market so I feel the comparison is just)? After all, many ex-pats, friends and family do come to Ghana with the notion that £10 will last ten times longer than in England. They soon get a shocking reality check when their tenner just about covers their entrance fee at Rhapsody’s or buys the basic goods at Shoprite! Either way I feel like letting Haru Mutasa come to Ghana and see for herself, so that she’ll understand if her report doesn’t get such a sensational reaction in Africa as it does elsewhere.

13 comments:

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Totally agree. Haru should know better. That said, she knew she was doing the news item for everybody but Africans. Jazeera joins the western media against Africa's cause, no?

Maya said...

You're right, Nana Yaw. I guess it's a case of 'know your audience'. ANd unfortunately it is still more 'interesting' to portray Africa as poor and suffering than to show our reality.

I guess I should be watching GTV if I want to see something that is sensational to me, lol!

novisi said...

Maya, thumbs up to you... very thought provoking...

hmmmmmmmm...
i see the case of zimbabwe as a classic reason why all africa must just unite- at least on the economic front. i therefore believe that zimbabwe's failure is not just because of mugabe but also because of all of africa...

we must just unite so we can stand the economic might of Obama's dream country and china and the eu and the rest!

of course i see the interesting irony here... and it just more than adds to my point... i remember going to Kumasi in 2003 and myself and a friend hired a taxi for our round and i was almost begging him to let the cabby go cos i thought we couldn't pay (i've lived in Accra for long)... i was wrong and surprised to find out how cheap it was...

as for the western media and the 'now' aljazeera... i can only continue to watch and listen to them...because if i don't i will miss all the hype...so i will tune in still...

i remember being in abuja during the 2007 nigerian elections and i wondered whether i was in the same country where bbc was reporting to be so violent you couldn't even walk...

reality check there...!

and i've been wondering too... has 'money' really done the world any good??? or are we just imagining figures as representations of goods and services??? what's it with all the world-wide financial crunch??? has Obama got a solution for that really??? i hope they don't just machinate to 'steal' more of our resources... well you may just wonder with me...

meanwhile i call for the removal of mugabe by himself and by his own people (not by the west or the east--haha!)... but i call for the unity of africa above all!!!

shorter live the reign of mugabe but long live africa!!!

Maya said...

So many interesting thoughts, Novisi!
I agree with you, it would be nice to see Africa solve it's economical crisis, AND the Zimbabwe situation.

I too at times wonder about the good of money. I believe a time like this is when we realise family times and friendships survive any global credit crunch, we might actually enjoy life more as the pressure of commercialism is removed.

And I too will continue watching Al Jazeera, it would be hard to keep up otherwise and at least it's not a Rupert Murdoch sponsored station, but I can't wait to see a major news channel come out of Africa!

posekyere said...

The price of food in Ghana is exorbitant from what I am reading.
How can similar food items be cheaper in Zimbabwe, seeing that country is a goner?
The problem is we have developed a taste for expensive first world items, but we have woefully failed to ace up our productive capacity to match the acquired taste. So we keep on importing almost everything at colossal amounts to the detriment of our balance of payment position. The inflation thus imported coupled with the lack of competition in the food industry then team up to keep us as a bloke nation.
The only way to create a regime of a stable inflation and consequently lower food prices in Ghana is to modernise agricultural production and processing.
Let us hope Mills will take such an initiative.

Denise said...

Hi Maya, read you post yesterday and was listening to the BBC news morning where they are worried that at the start of a new school term teachers may actually stay away from schools as they simply cannot afford to go. The salary for a teacher in Zim is actually the equivalent of USD2 a month! Put in that context one then wonders who an average worker - like a teacher - could pay for any of those amenities.
That aside I do agree with you though, the cost of food and basic services in Ghana has gone up significantly. Many things have become a luxury as opposed to a monthly expense. We should be making noise about it.

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Great post!
- I'm coming out to Ghana (my birthplace and home - as in "home is where the heart is"!!!) soon and I had been warned of these issues...
I agree with the comments above, Al Jazeera is probabaly biased against Africa and, like so much of the media here, Africa continues to be portrayed as dirt poor and suffering - it would be lovely to have more bright and cheerful news reports on African success stories...there are so many..:)

TheCois® said...

Not to defend Al Jazeera, but that news reporter actually had a point.
Last time I was in Zimbabwe (May 2006), the first shock I had was that prices were *much* lower than in Accra; I can't recall the exact details but it seemed to me things cost about the third of what I would have paid in Accra. So indeed, those prices she quoted must be linked to the crisis they are facing.

Maya said...

Yes Posekyere, it's time we start producing our own stuff. How can it be that we import strawberries and grapes when our neighbouring countries produce them. My friend was shocked when she came for a visit from Cape Town in November, she couldn't believe what we pay for 'obroni' products like cheese and ham, and after hearing what it costs over there, neither can I!

Let's see if any positive changes are made.

Maya said...

Wow Denise, that's shocking. Put in that context (where the average Ghanaian supposedly earns about $2 a day), I guess we are much better off here.

And yet, we have a lot to complain about. But considering the fact we don't even have a consumer protection act, I wonder where we'll even start to complain...

Maya said...

Cois, you really put it in perspective. With such a rapid increase in price they are really heading towards a complete economic downfall.

Maya said...

Here, There...
I'm sure you're excited about your trip and you should be! But it's true, beware of the cost of 'Western living' here, it sometimes costs more than abroad.

It's just so disappointing to see Al Jazeera join the band wagon of portraying 'poor, suffering Africa', but I guess as theCois and Denise have pointed out, they are certainly right to highlight the problem of Zimbabwe.

Enjoy your stay when you get here!

Adaeze said...

I didn't have the chance to read this post until now but I so Agree! Have been thinking about just this a lot lately, especially since coming back from Nigeria. I have the exact same experience, everyone expects things to be so cheap but the real case is, a lot actually costs almost the same.In Abuja, many things actually cost MORE than what they would ever do in Oslo, Norway (which you must know has been rated to be one of the most expensive cities in the world numerous times!)Getting a place to stay there is also ridicilously expensive its frustrating..I was just thinking about your blog today wondering how much it really costs to live in Ghana, curious if it's as crazy as Nigeria. I guess I have that somewhat confirmed. As for the cheese and ham - you're lucky you can even buy that, haha =)

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