Just before one of my recent trips out of Ghana, I asked the driver who usually takes me to the Accra airport if he would like to go with me for the experience (he’s never been airborne). His response wasn’t what I expected. I admired him for his brutal honesty and was deeply saddened at the same time. He said, “Dr. P, I won’t lie to you. If I go with you, I’m not coming back.” And he is not alone.
As I’ve been interacting with young people in Accra mainly, but in Ghana generally, it seems the Ghanaian dream is: to get out! i.e. to get out of the country to seek greener pastures. The Ghanaian dream is to exit the nation and l find that so sad on many levels. At the same time that excites me. Let me explain.
THE BAD, SAD & MAD
l find it sad in the sense that whatever the push factors are, they are potent enough to drive a collectivist society that is really keen on kith and kin, in other words one in which friends and family mean so much, to want to leave spouse and children, or parents, to go and struggle in another land just to keep body and soul together. What would make many of our people expire in the wilderness, literally die in the deserts of the Sahara en route to Libya and such, or be buried alive in the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe in desperate attempts to get a better life?
Shame on the fathers and mothers who are making life impossible for our young people. I can totally understand why five hundred (500) years, or even two hundred (200) years ago, we would be forced to get into ships to sail to the Americas but today if anybody brought that same ship people will voluntarily fill it en mass and say, “Take me to the Americas, take me to the Caribbean, take me to Europe, take me to wherever. l want to work for whoever, for whatever; just to get out of here.”
I remember being in a conference last year at Cape Town, South Africa when someone did an incredible presentation on what Ghanaians and other Sub-Saharans go through in wanting to reach Europe by all means, literally. It was revealing how a revived craze is trying to go around the Senegambia coast to the Canary Islands, an Atlantic maritime route largely considered “the most dangerous sea passage for Africans trying to reach Europe.” Regarding the Sahara route, one of the funny but sad question was: “How many Africans can fit into the bucket of a Toyota Hilux pickup truck?” They say, “One more!” One more!! They keep filling and filling and filling these truck buckets with human beings and carry very little fuel and food supplies so they can travel light and transport more people. Whenever there is a breakdown or some delay, people die like flies. The dream becomes a nightmare. O WHY?
On the other hand, what good can there be in all of this, legitimate and illegitimate attempts at migration alike? Why is there some excitement in my heart? There is titillation because God is a global God and he calls people whenever He wants wherever He wants them to accomplish His eternal purposes. Yes!
One day Paul of Tarsus, the lawyer-turned-preacher, was in Athens, Greece and delivered a ‘TED Talk’ at the Areopagus. Luke the doctor-turned-investigative writer records in parenthesis how “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21). “Ideas worth spreading,” TED would say. But I digress.
One of the things Paul shared was that God who made us all from one original man, Adam, is the one who determines our boundaries, where we live, and in what period or era in history (Acts 17:26-27). People movements are actually God movements. You see that throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. A personal attestation to this scriptural reality is how I never wanted to leave the land of my birth, Ghana, to be domiciled in another land, especially outside of Africa. I had no such plans. And I married a woman with a similar mindset. We were doubly resolved. Ironically, my wife, Anyele, was born in Canada and moved to Ghana when she was barely two years old but had no desire to return to the land of her birth. In fact, she had never used that Canadian passport to get back to Canada. Two dozen years later.
One evening in August 2006, God spoke to me so clearly. This was barely three weeks after we were married. I was in a Lausanne Younger Leaders conference near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia when I heard this in my spirit: ‘It’s my world and l send you where I want you.” Huh! Then in January 2008, the LORD spoke very clearly to us both from Genesis 12. It was just our ‘usual’ morning devotion on an ‘ordinary day’ when these words literally jumped off the pages of scripture: “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household. And go to a land I will show you.” With no such prior plans of ever leaving Ghana to school or work, in a dramatic fashion our lives were turned upside down. By June I was serving with the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (peacekeeping soldier) as a military captain and medical doctor to the U.N. staff and troops mainly, and some local Ivorians. By July, Anyele had been ‘kicked out’ of Ghana too to Montreal, Canada, going to pursue her master’s in economics at McGill University. The first time she was back in two-and-a-half decades.
So that’s the exciting part, that God may be calling people to fulfill His grand purposes in the Arab States, Europe, in another Africa country, the Americas, Australasia… wherever. But l pray that we would be able to help those who are going to go well. And also let our contacts in their destinations receive them well. It behoves on the Church in Ghana, in particular (which accounts for over 70% of the population), to find a way to prepare people well, including blessing them with a healthy diaspora missiology, so they may go well and thrive. It cannot be overemphasized that merely getting to America, Europe or China, is no guarantee one will be successful. We give money to poor people in Canada. There are homeless beggars who have come to squat on our property in America. And the poor in the West are not of only one colour of skin.
Having said that, surely we can do more, much more, to help whoever longs to, or is called to, stay in the land of their birth and make it in Ghana, Nigeria or anywhere in Africa, to be able to make it well also, and very well for that matter.
WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU
Find out what God’s great purpose and plan, position and place (including geographical location) is for your life, for the One who made and redeemed you is a global God. It might not be what you thought. Bottomline: You are only going to prosper where God has purposed and planned you to be planted. Make sure you are planted by God in that place–whether it is in Africa or elsewhere–and in that particular period, where and when you will prosper. Think on these things.
Here’s a PEP Talk on ‘The Bad & Good about the Ghanaian dream.’
Thought Provoking. Thank you Sir
Thank you. Let’s keep thinking and talking. Then take effective action–for God and country.
Well said Doc. The part where you talk about what Africans go through to leave Africa for Europe substantiates a description I have had for sometime concerning our current situation in Ghana.
‘’The Ghanaian can sometimes be likened to Usain Bolt (in his hey days) on a 100 m dash start line but facing the opposite direction. He has the skill, experience, technique, etc required to win the race and is the most likely candidate to win the race based on potential and proven ability but he is in the wrong direction’’
He has all the skill but will not win the race because he will be running in the opposite direction. He might finish the 100 m dash in 8 secs (which will be a new world record by the way) but will reach the wrong finish line and thus not win.
Bringing this into our situation about the young people who leave Ghana, I see there is the acknowledgement that their current state of being is not where they want to be and the current state of Ghana is not what it should be. This is a good starting point. Truth is that improvement/growth/advancement begins when a person or entity decides that the current state is not the best and there can be more, gets to they point where they’ve had enough of this current state, decides to do something about it and actually starts doing something about it.
There are some admirable traits that these young people have.
1. Hope and Belief that things will be better for them in Europe – imagine if this hope and belief that things will be better for them in Europe is channeled into a hope and belief that Ghana can become a better place if we all work at it starting from the individual.
2. Determination to leave Ghana for good – imagine if this determination was directed at staying and making things work in Ghana instead.
3. Resilience to achieve the goal of leaving. Sometimes theses are arrested and deported but this doesn’t deter them from leaving again. They keep trying, sometimes changing their strategy. Some people try over 5 times or more until they eventually make it. Imagine if this resilience was directed at bouncing back every time an effort to bring change in Ghana does not seem to work.
4. Unwavering commitment and discipline to achieve the set target. These people go into the trucks, ships, swim, etc knowing they may die. In fact they watch their friends die in the process but this doesn’t deter them. They are willing to take the risk. They will rather die than stay where they are. Imagine if this commitment and readiness to die for the cause was directed to making Ghana better. Imagine if there are people in Ghana who would rather die than see Ghana stagnate or deteriorate
These are the few attributes/qualities I would like to highlight. I believe everyone reading this agrees that these attributes/qualities are ingredients one must have to achieve a set target/goal. So you see; we do not lack the qualities as a people to make Ghana a better place. The challenge is that, like the Usain Bolt example, we seem to be applying them in a wrong direction.
There is a lot more to say but I am convinced that Ghana’s problem is highly spiritual. I’ve tried explaining it by intellect and common sense but have failed many times. Is it greed? The developed countries also have greed, but this hasn’t stopped them from developing. Is it corruption? The developed nations also have corrupt people in decision/policy making positions but that has neither stopped them from developing.
I think our challenge has to be dealt with like the Israelites did in Exodus 17 : 8 – 13. Spiritually and physically with both teams working together as a unit for the common good.
You’ve made some really cogent arguments that need some deep thinking about. It would seem to me that the 1. hope and belief, 2. determination, 3. resilience, and 4. ‘unwavering commitment and discipline’ you speak of all matter only as long as we are moving in the direction of obedience to our Heavenly Drummer. It is only in exhibiting all four in line with God’s will to go or stay that we will experience shalom. I’ve encountered too many who are bent on leaving (even if it’s not God’s will) but also encountered a few who are stubbornly staying (and I used to be one) when God is thrusting them out for His global purposes. May we be obedient, and for the long haul–“a long obedience in the same direction,” as Eugene Peterson would put it.
Thanks again for caring enough to make the time to share these powerful points!