In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty – Bob Marley.
I don’t pride myself as an all-knowing person. Not at all. However, one thing I know is that poverty is a disease. And in this part of our world, it is an endemic one for sure. It has been handed over from one generation to the other as if it were an ancestral heritage.
And just like any other disease, I have always advised that prevention is better than cure. However, about a fortnight ago, I saw poverty in the face. In fact, I caught poverty staring at me; there was not much I could have done about it.
It happened when I visited a typical coastal town in the Western Region, whose name I will not readily mention because their problem is not exclusive to them. This town is a big fishing community in the region.
As I hail from a coastal town, I wasn’t particularly shocked about what I saw; rather, reality dawned on me that it may take the second coming of Jesus for these folks to realise their present demeaning status. That coastal towns have always lived in poverty is now a cliché. The inhabitants have embraced it, rather sadly.
In other parts of the world, the rich and wealthy live along the coast, a stark contrast with what pertains here. Beaches have always been a great tourist attraction. Yeah, not in Ghana, I know. You see, the potential of our beaches has always been there; rather we choose to wallow in poverty.
Ghana is blessed with probably one of the finest coastlines in Africa. Most of our beaches are sandy and hold very immense potential, especially if their fronts are to be converted into real estate developments or other commercial purposes. I know one may be asking, “so what happens to the fisherfolk or indigenes?”
The thing about us as a people is that we are always conservative, not wanting to think outside the box. In my opinion, the notion that one becomes a fisherman because of one’s geographical location of birth is archaic and outmoded.
I don’t see how fishing can change the desperate situation which persists in our coastal communities. Most fishermen have not only handed down the trade from generation to generation but so did they do with poverty.
Like Bob Marley, it is only the fool who complains of thirst in the abundance of water. I have maintained that this country has always had the resources to develop itself without relying on any external assistance, yet our leaders as usual fail to see beyond their noses.
So what happens to the fishing profession? That’s exactly what I have also been thinking. You see, the number of people in fishing is outrageously high, because due to the outmoded technology and practices we employ, we always have to rely on a high number of fishermen to meet our fishing needs.
The first thing to do here is to modernise our methods of fishing. I know we do it to some extent, but it’s time to take it to a much bigger level. The level of education in such places is characteristically low. And having a second look at education there would mean that we create other opportunities for the indigenes.
With time, the number of people in fishing will dwindle, but due to our modern fishing technology, we will still maintain our regular fish supply. A rather win-win situation for us all.
Of course, some jobs will be lost if we are to undergo this transition. But remember, no pain, no gain. Simple as that. And in harnessing the potential of our beaches, whether by building multi-million dollar beach resorts or real estate apartments, more jobs, both for skilled and unskilled, will be created.
I have been to Kormantse, a coastal town in the Central Region. It has one of the finest beaches you can possibly find in the country. But characteristic of us, we prefer to sit on the pot of gold dust while we flip our hands in despair as our children die from hunger.
Elsewhere in Peru, the tourism industry has been growing at about 25% per year in the last five years with beach tourism playing a key factor. Indeed, the tourism industry there rakes in more revenue than mining and other industries.
For a country like that, such an achievement did come easy; it was a well-designed investment which bore fruits after years of tilling. The thing about tourism is that, you always get the tourists to spend their hard-cash in your economy—the money they spend is proportionally related to job creation.
In our case, we have resigned ourselves to fate. All our tourism master-plans remain on the drawing board, with no proper investment to develop the requisite infrastructure. We always think that drawing tourists to this country is about advertising on CNN and the like. Interesting.
We are not the only country seeking to be the preferred tourist destination in Africa. The competition is keen. But our lackadaisical attitude towards tourism will cost us. You just need to be at Butre, the neighbouring town of Busua in the Western Region, to experience what I am talking about. How many of us know that you can go whale watching there or even surfing?
So while our tourist sites should in fact be seen as goldmines, we have succeeded in reducing them to landmines through open defecation, for instance, on our beachfronts.
And of course, it all comes down to the education I spoke about, doesn’t it? I don’t think this country has problems; indeed, we are the problem.
The writer is the author of Rhythms of Thoughts, a column published in the Weekend edition of the Business and Financial Times (B&FT).