Kudos, Mr President! Thanks For Leading By Example

I was profoundly excited when I read your article on page 16 of the May Day 2014 issue of the Daily Graphic.

It is refreshing to know that you have waded into the debate on the need for attitudinal change among Ghanaians. Over the last few years some of us have waged a lonely campaign to get Ghanaians to realize that the single biggest problem militating against our development as individuals and as a nation is our ATTITUDE.

Since the beginning of 2011, I have shared a total of 31 articles on this subject with Ghanaians in the Daily Graphic. I have also sent some of these articles to relevant government institutions for their information and action. I have even started speaking to youth groups and some professional bodies on the subject. That is how important I think it is.

But as an unknown concerned Ghanaian, I have an uphill task. I might die before anybody realizes the importance of the change I was advocating. Although a few other Ghanaians have recognized the problem and aired their call for attitudinal change, we appear to be in a woeful minority. Now, however, we think we have a powerful ally in you, the President.

While our efforts might be limited to coaxing and convincing, you could mobilize the nation to action that would cut the change time dramatically. Leading by example is a powerful starting point. Now that your household has converted to patronizing made-in-Ghana goods, you have the moral right to demand that government institutions source their needs from Ghana and only import when such needs cannot be met locally. A bureaucrat would now think twice before attempting to convince you to import rice for the school feeding program for instance.

These gestures are a good starting point but supporting an industrial revolution must go beyond that. Our industrial sector is all but decimated. The condition of the roads at the industrial Area in Tema shown in the attached pictures indicates the level of the sector neglect. Therefore, along with the call to patronize locally made goods should be a determined effort to support local entrepreneurs. Many of us are glad to know that you are working with the private sector to create an enabling environment. I believe you will get an earful from operators in this sector that is likely to include:

•Good quality infrastructure

•Reliable utility services

•Availability of credit at reasonable interest rates

•Tax breaks

•Protection from unfair competition.

•Marketing support

•Government policy that would make it cheaper to produce locally than to import

The Ghanaian obsession for foreign products and disdain for local alternatives is deep seated. For instance:

•Many Ghanaians, especially the youth, think it is a mark of sophistication to eat junk foods such as pizza, Hamburger, Kentucky Fried Chicken, fried rice etc. instead of healthier local alternatives.

•Our restaurants serve all manner of foreign foods instead of making efforts at popularizing our own delicious cuisine.

•As formal wear, we prefer the suit which is designed for the cold climate instead of more suitable local alternatives designed for our tropical weather. Some of us even declare others improperly dressed when they choose the local attire for official functions. Declaring Fridays as local wear days is an insult. Local wear should be the norm rather than the exception.

•Our musicians prefer to compete with Jay Z in the rap arena instead of popularizing our local rhythms.

These examples vividly illustrate the point I am trying to make. Even in my house where the campaign to buy local has been long and persistent I still have problems convincing my family to eat the local rice that I doggedly insist on buying. So Mr. President the battle is going to be long and hard but some of us are solidly behind you.

The campaign must target all sections of our society: schools, shops and offices, markets, etc. Once we realize that it is in our interest to patronize local products, half the battle is won because then there would be incentive to invest in local production. If we do not consume what we produce whom do we expect to patronize them so that we can stay in business and provide employment?

As you rightly said, the monetary savings and employment potential are enormous if only Ghanaians changed their attitude towards local products. We implore you to initiate a vigorous nationwide education campaign on this issue. Our future depends on it.