Grafting in Ghana

Right now I am writing this post while sitting on a beach in Prampram, Accra, Ghana.  I have been in Ghana for just over four weeks now.  I came here to rest, think, plan and of course see my family.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much my body has appreciated the copious amounts of Vitamin D it has been receiving over the last few weeks, and the chance to just to absolutely nothing I don’t want to.

To my right there are a few children playing in the sand, or so I thought until my cousin just informed us that they are actually trying to do back-flips and acrobatics (not very well) in order to impress us, so that we then give them some money for their efforts.  This has got me thinking about the work ethic in Ghana (or shall I say “in Ghana here” as so many do, which I find really funny), especially of the poorer people.  They are actual grafters.  If they don’t make money, they won’t eat, it’s as simple as that. 

If you take a car journey to the middle of town, while sat in traffic you will be bombarded by street sellers flogging the most random items you could think of.  So far I have been offered chewing gum, sweets, flip-flops, water, crisps, lamps, plug extension leads, flags, jewellery, fruits, toys, mobile phone top-up vouchers – the list is actually endless!  And when you couple that with the fact that they are out non-stop in 90-degree heat, you really have to respect their hustle.  Could you do it?  Even if they aren’t weaving their way through the traffic, they will have tables set up on the side of the road, displaying items for sale that you may conveniently need. 

Another thing I have noticed is that little job opportunities are created where it wouldn’t really occur to those of us in the UK.  For example, when you visit a petrol station in the UK, the driver has to get out of their own car and fill their own tank, then take themselves to the shop to pay.  Over here the most you will do is stretch your arm.  There are already assistants who will fill your tank with your desired amount of fuel, and take the money from you. 

The public transport system as another example.  The local bus is known as a ‘Tro Tro’, which is basically a mini-van that transports up to 20 passengers through town.  Not only is there a driver, but also a driver’s mate who shouts and waves at the public, encouraging them to come on board.  Can you imagine this in London??

There are certain people in the UK who could really benefit from coming to a country like Ghana to see exactly what hard work is, and those people are the ones who sit on their arses all day, living off benefits through sheer laziness, all the while complaining that “they’re coming over here and taking our jobs.”  In fact, BBC3 should commission an adult version of ‘The World’s Strictest Parents’ where they get lazy bastards to go and work in other countries, and then try and come back and say they have it hard in the UK.   Those who are “taking all the jobs” are doing work that you wouldn’t even dream of, because they know the value of hard work, how important it is, and almost always have a plan, so it’s a means to an end.  I, myself, feel a little guilt when I think of how I complain about working in a boring office, doing boring admin jobs, when realistically I know I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to cope with half the tasks people here have to undertake.

I think the words of a young man I met trying to sell CDs in New York City’s Times Square in 2009 are perfect here:

“We grind till we shine, so we can ball till we fall”.


6 comments on “Grafting in Ghana

  1. I love this piece and I’m so glad you tackled the work ethic in Ghana. Everybody seems to think it is just us Nigerians that have this but it is indeed a very West African thing. In fact, pan African.

    I agree that we take so much for granted here in the UK and it would be great if BBC3 commissioned your idea or maybe a show to demonstrate the hard graft we Africans put in just to survive an honest life.

    Great pictures too, an excellent piece!

  2. The road hawkers used to annoy the hell out of me until I realised that they’re just trying to eat too. Like you said, the heat these people operate in is no joke and that’s what you call real ‘hustling’. The vast majority of Ghanaians are extremely industrious however, there is a minority that insists on living via handouts. Because they have family members living abroad, they feel it’s their God-given right to do sweet F.A, living on the money sent from abroad. (Maybe that’s just in my family)

    Great piece though!

  3. There’s so many things I love about Ghana but the Tro-tro IS not one of them. I value my life too much. You captured the work ethic perfectly. I was in Ghana for a Youth seminar over the summer – meeting kids who did a 20mile round trip, finished school and went to the roadside to sell goods in order to support themselves. We have so much and don’t realise it.

    Great post!

  4. Miss Wendi,
    Really lovely piece!!! I for one love the street hawkers, I mean, who doesnt like being sat in a car and realising, you’ve ran out of calling cards and hey presto one pops out by the car as you’re stuck in traffic.

    Last year, I had just such an experience, I bought the goods and then the traffic began flowing again and the poor boy was chasing the car, till the driver realised he wasn’t going to catch up with us. So he decided to throw the money to him along the Kaneshie pavement. I felt SO grateful that he got his money and I my goods.

    I personally LOVE THEM!!

    Not like this country, where everything you need, you must stop, get out of your car/bus or walk to the nearest shop, and go get it yourself and if you’re lucky your ticket may not run out before you get back. Otherwise you might not get a ticket or maybe if you’re even luckier, the residents might fend them off and notify you.

    LOVE IT LOVE IT Wendi!! Great job!!! Keep it coming!!

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