What prevents prosperity? Why are the people here, with all their resources and talents, not more prosperous...?
Being a cycling traveller who arranges everything on the way, I get to encounter the local culture intensively. At 5:00 am everybody is awake and working. I don't even need an alarm. I hear and watch ladies cooking and cleaning, notice people praying at the mosque, see men on their way to work. Late in the evening people are still busy.
When you are poor, like the people we had homestays with, all your energy and space goes to the daily work. I can see that people here in Ghana work hard in general. However, from my point of view and standards, not smart.
I remember two teenage girls sitting on the road side selling millet:
'How many bags do you sell?' I asked them. One to five, was their answer. Although, when I checked it seemed more like one. Sitting on the side of the road all day to sell 1 bag... They were one of the 8 stalls sitting at that specific part of the road, all selling the same. Lots of lost time from my perspective (I can learn about patience here!).
When I ask business men and farmers how they can expand their business, they start talking about getting more help. Is that why I see companies with names like ‘Only Jesus can save cold store’ or 'Jehova gas’?
When I ask lower ranks of Ecom West Africa how they can improve their situation, it seems that I am stretching their brains beyond their usual limits. I literally get the answer ‘hadn’t thought about it’.
During this cycling quest we notice the same happening to us
We were busy arranging food and lodging, worrying about our safety and we needed the entire day to reach our destination. At the end of the day, our thoughts and talks did not go beyond 'we are managing'. Fortunately, we could afford to take a rest day and that is when the insights could sink in, the talks deepened and sparkled new ideas.
I realize that my situation is like that normally: I can afford to take time and save energy for what I call my creator's work. Stretch my brains on how the future could look like.
So the big question is: How can we create brain space for people here?
Most surprising to me, in a culture where people are very friendly, is that when I order drinks at the small mom and pop shops I often get a NO. ‘We don’t have coke’. Next thing, she opens the refrigerator and 2 tins of coke are shining at me. This could be a language issue of course (and my English pronunciation I am afraid). Although, the same thing happens when we arrive at hotels. ‘We are fully booked’. Truth be told, when I've cycled 80km or so and my brains are burning from the hot sun, I really don’t want to hear a NO. So I persist. Within two minutes, we get a room. And more than once this was not the last room available. Why?
So there is more space. This is true for both the rooms and for the country.
We all need space in our minds and hearts to be able to think about better futures
It is not only about building trust (see my previous blog) but also about creating this head space. If you're struggling to feed your children and pay their school fees, this is very difficult. So how to do this is the big question. It is a task for entrepreneurs or Betterpreneurs to take the lead, to create new opportunities for work. They can prove that Ghana with all its talents is certainly not fully booked!
My bicycle is packed and I'm on my way to Kigali where 3 other co-riders will join the quest!
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