Thursday, June 25, 2009

When the floods came...

By William Yaw Owusu

Wednesday June 24, 2009
Government is considering banning the use of plastic materials, Rojo Mettle Nunoo, Deputy Minister Roads and Highways has said after inspecting areas in Accra hit by Friday night’s floods.

Mr. Mettle-Nunoo who was over the weekend busily involved in the direction of traffic with police at the Kaneshie First Light said floods have been extensive because plastic waste has prevented volumes of water from flowing through drains.

He told The National Star (TNS) the decision to ban plastic waste and other non biodegradable materials “enforces government’s commitment to look at the plastic waste menace which cannot be allowed go on unchecked,” he said.

It is still unclear how many people died in the floods. While confirmed media reports put the death toll at seven, others say those who lost their lives are more than ten.

Last Friday’s heavy downpour did not come as a surprise but the extent of damage has overwhelmed everybody.

The floods destroyed property worth thousands of Ghana cedis. The extent of damage is likely to impact government’s coffers and also eat deep into the Accra Metropolitan Assembly’s (AMA) budget.

Residents in Bubiashie, Darkuman Junction, Mallam, Santa Maria, Gbawe, Kwashie-Bu, Sakaman and Sowutuom among others were affected but the extent of damage caused by the floods in Kaneshie was beyond comprehension.

The force of the current wiped off the asphalted surface of the Kaneshie-Odokor Highway between the Kaneshie Market and the Obetsebi Lamptey Circle, rendering it unmotorable. It has since brought extremely heavy traffic on that stretch of the road. Pavements, fitted with blocks were also not spared.

Flush floods rushed through shops and homes especially those facing the Kaneshie market and went as far as the Takoradi lorry station. Other areas experienced similar problems.
The rain produced heavy traffic as many roads leading to Mallam and its environs were cut off. Commuters who could not stand the traffic trekked on foot while other motorists abandoned their cars for fear of being swept away by the current.

Many cars and other structures were either washed away or destroyed by the rains.
A government delegation in conjunction with the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) was on hand to assess the extent of damage in almost all flood prone areas of the city.

Earlier on Saturday, the Metropolitan Chief Executive, Dr. Alfred Vanderpuije led a delegation to inspect the devastation where he reiterated the need to decongest the city.
Published in The National Star

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

High prices squeezing Ghanaians

By William Yaw Owusu

Wednesday June 10, 2009
Some may call it global recession, credit crunch or economic crisis; others who wish to wear political lenses may blame the current economic hardship on the ‘inefficiencies’ of government.

No matter how one looks at the situation, the current economic condition cannot be said to be favourable. In fact, it is taking a toll on everybody in the country. The poor and vulnerable are the most hit.

In some countries, the sky-rocketing prices for basic foods persistently trigger instability.

Last year around the same period, Ghana was said to be ‘doing well’ in the face of the worsening economic crises globally. It was said that a comparison of food prices within the sub- region showed Ghana as having lower retail prices compared to most of its neighbours.

As time went on, things started to get out of hand forcing the then New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to step in to introduce a mitigation package to relieve the people.

Some analysts said the then government had "performed exceptionally well” to withstand the massive hikes in food prices that had gripped the rest of the developing world.

The government led by the then President John Agyekum Kufuor in June 2008, rolled out the package to cushion Ghanaians against the impact of this global financial crisis and the rising economic hardship. The package included reduction in taxes on petroleum products and some food staples among others. But to the then opposition NDC, the move was a “mere political gimmick” because the prices of basic goods were still sky-rocketing.

Now the NDC is in office, and the situation persists, even to a higher extent.
A market survey conducted by the National Star can confirm that prices of basic items and essential commodities are going up by the day.

Prices for locally produced foodstuff have seen an astronomical rise between December last year and May 2009.

Prices for fruits generally increased within the period with some going as far as between 50 and 80 per cent. One sucker of pineapple which was sold for GH¢ 0.40 now goes between GH¢ 60 and 80. A kilogramme of oranges and bananas sold for GH¢ 0.43 and GH¢ 0.65 respectively now goes between GH¢ 0.50 and 0.54 and GH¢.0.70 and 0.72 respectively.

Vegetables also suffered a rise largely due to the fact that they are in their off-season. A 4.5 litre (gallon) size of garden eggs which sold for GH¢ 1 and GH¢ 1.5 now stands between GH¢3 and GH¢ 4 while a margarine cup of pepper selling for GH¢ 0.80 in December now goes for GH¢2. A kilogramme of onions which was sold for GH¢1 now goes for GH¢2.

However, the price for tomatoes which was sky-rocketing seems to be coming down because the off-season is winding up. A box of tomatoes which was sold for GH¢300 now sells between GH¢ 150 and GH¢200.

Staples such as yam which is also in the off-season now sells between GH¢1.5 and GH¢3 depending on the size compared to GH¢1 and GH¢2 sold in December. A sucker of plantain which was sold at GH¢5 now sells at GH¢9 with a stick sold at GH¢0.50. A sack of cassava, sold at GH¢40 now goes for GH¢70.

Cereals are also having its fair share of the prices on the market. A cup of ordinary rice sold for GH¢ 0.45 in December now stands at GH¢ 0.80 while a cup of perfume rice which was sold for GH¢ 0.80 is sold at GH¢ 1.2. A kilogramme of maize which sold for GH¢ 0.44 now goes for GH¢ 0.80 with a ball of kenkey selling between GH¢ 0.30 and GH¢ 0.50.

The prices of meat and fish also went up with a kilogramme of beef (chevon) GH¢ 3.2 in December is now selling between GH¢ 3.6 and GH¢ 4.4 while mutton which sold at GH¢ 3.6 in the same period now sells between GH¢ 4.5 and GH¢ 4.8. Salmon, a popular delicacy which was sold between GH¢ 0.70 and GH¢2 now ranges between GH¢ 1 and GH¢ 3 depending on the size while tuna which sold between GH¢ 1.20 and GH¢2.5 now stands between GH¢1.5 and GH¢ 3.

A live bird which was sold between GH¢ 5.5 and GH¢ 6.5 in December now goes for GH¢ 8.0 and GH¢ 8.50. A fresh egg which sold for GH¢ 0.15 now sells at GH¢ 0.20.
The price of edible oil is also going up. A gallon of palm oil (Zomi) sold for GH¢ 7.0 now sells at GH¢ 9.0 while regular palm oil sold at GH¢ 4.0 now sells at GH¢ 6.0. A 2.5 litre of cooking oil sold for GH¢0.70 in December now sells at GH¢ 1.0
A tin of milk which sold between GH¢ 0.4.50 and GH¢ 0.70 in December now sells between GH¢ 7.50 and GH¢ 1. 0. A cup of granulated sugar sold for GH¢ 0.40 and now sells at GH¢ 0.60

The enormous increase in prices according to financial analysts is due to fall of the cedi against the major foreign currencies, particularly the dollar. The prices of the imported products have shot up drastically because importers need to spend more to buy a few dollars for their businesses.

Strangely, those foodstuffs that are not imported have joined the bandwagon of price increases, blaming it on the relatively high prices in petroleum products.

Public reaction to the increase in prices of foodstuff is mixed. While some think it was about time government introduced mitigation packages to cushion the people against the economic hardship, others were of the view that the government needed more time to fix the economy.

Doris Ama Ahiable 36, a tomato seller at Abeka said “Things are getting harder by the day. The government should be able to come to our rescue”.

“Sales are going down. People do not have money to buy more,” Mercy Ayittey popularly called Naa Kaa, a 52 year old vegetable seller at Makola Market in Accra told this reporter.

Abdul Karim Nsor, 42, a yam seller at old Fadama now Agbogloshie said, “We are being priced out of the business. We send a lot of money to get yam from the north and always get less. Things are moving slowly and we are feeling the heat”.

Seth Opoku Manu, a 34 year old fast food joint operator at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle said, “People complain we are cheating them but the fault does not come from us, it comes from the market. You send more money and get fewer products.”

Among those who think the government needs enough time to put things right is Bright Anku, 40, a shopkeeper at Abeka Lapaz who said “We cannot expect President Mills and his government to use five months to fix a broken economy. The government certainly cannot do that if we put a lot of pressure on them.”

Mawuli Agbenator, also known as King 28, a dealer in electrical appliances has this to say. “The world is moving on and the global economic recession has shown that there are going to be hard times ahead so we should be prepared for it.”

PEACE FM...Bringing radio to the ordinary Ghanaian

By William Yaw Owusu

Wednesday June 10, 2009
Some sixteen years ago, Ghana returned to constitutional rule after 11 years of military dictatorship. At that time the media landscape was very restricted particularly for private operators; it was the culture of silence that prevailed for both the print and electronic media and private media operators in the country.

In the print media domain we had just the two main state owned newspapers, Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times in operation. And when it came to radio and television, only the state-owned Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) had the license to operate.

Then came constitutional rule which took off officially on January 7, 1993 and the air waves was liberalised. Many organisations, institutions and wealthy individuals took advantage of this liberalisation to set up radio or FM stations.

Radio Universe operated by University of Ghana was the first privately owned radio station to hit the air waves in 1994. Like prisoners released from detention, the proliferation radio of station was rapid. Joy FM, Radio Sunshine (now Choice), Radio Gold and Groove FM (now Adom) all appeared in quick succession.

Then appeared on the scene, Peace FM, which commenced business modestly with a 104.3 frequency. It is however evident that after 10 years of quality broadcasting, the Achimota based station has arguably become one of the best if not the best in the radio industry.

Peace FM has over the years broke the myth that radio broadcasting in the country should only be conducted in the English language which had hitherto been the tradition. When the station started doing virtually all their programmes including the news reading, advertising, interviews and airplay for indigenous Ghanaian and African music, it was completely unheard of; Many were taken aback by these strange newcomers on the radio scene, others particularly their English speaking counterparts in the business laughed at the sheer preposterousness of the idea. Many said it would not last.

But 10 years down the line and it looks like Peace FM has made it! The station made it trendy to broadcast in local languages What people said would not last a year now stands strong as a pace-setter in local language broadcasting, that completely transformed radio.

It has and continues to take radio to a different level and many other stations like Adom, Pink and Aseda FM among others have jumped on the bandwagon. So now thanks to Peace FM news and information is not only the preserve of a few or something for just the elite in society but for all.

No doubt Peace FM has endeared itself to the ordinary Ghanaian by bringing information to them in their mother tongue, a language they can relate to and understand.

In an interview with The National Star, Kwasi Brenya, General Manager of Despite Company limited (DCL) owners and operators of Peace FM said “we wanted to use radio to promote our local languages as well as position the local music industry on a sound footing. When the airwaves were liberalised we felt it was time to act”.

“I remember in those days the air waves which was restricted had loads of foreign music particularly English and as music producers and distributors we were finding it difficult to promote our musicians”, he recalled.

“Looking at the expenses for advertisement of our music, we decided to put things together and subsequently applied for the frequency and were given 104.3”.
Peace FM was given the license to operate commercial broadcasting in February 1998 and started test transmission on May 25, 1999.

“We wanted to do something different; some of the stations were running programmes in the local languages but they were not extensive enough. We then decided to concentrate on the local languages and fortunately for us the public has come to fully appreciate what we are doing”.

Asked why Peace FM did not broadcast in English, Mr. Brenya said, “we conducted extensive feasibility studies to identify preferences of the listening public. We realized that because illiteracy was high, the presentation of news in English did not resonate with them. They were craving for something new and I am pleased that Peace FM has been able to do it for them”.

They have variety of scintillating programmes and interesting presenters. They include Maame Afia’s “Wo Haw Ne Sen” literary meaning, What is your problem, Fiifi Banson’s “Ekwanso Bre Bre” (Safe journey), Peace Power Sports, Kofi Kum Bilson’s Mid-Morning show as well as Darling Boy Kwasi Aboagye’s entertainment programme. The flagship morning talk shop ‘Kokrokoo’ hosted by Kwame Sefa Kayi is a national delicacy.

“Peace FM is a 90% Akan speaking broadcasting station. Initially we were broadcasting in Akan, Ewe and Ga but we realized later that most Ga’s and Ewe’s could understand and speak Akan, so we decided to deepen our effort to reach out to the public in Akan”, the General Manager says.

“Radio strikes listenership. The strategy we adopted has paid off. We now have a large listening public and we have no regrets adopting the local languages to complement the efforts of using radio as a tool for development”.

On the keen competition in the radio industry currently, Mr. Brenya remarked, “It has become interesting and challenging. We are always working hard to develop programmes that will help us to remain as leaders in the competition.”

He said, “most of the radio stations are now copying our style of broadcasting; some have even picked our concepts and go on air sometimes a day before we produce the same programme.”

The General Manager said, “we try to blend the voices and recruit professionally inclined staff. We want the listeners to always hear something new.”

He said some of the challenges Peace FM faces in the broadcasting industry have been to remain neutral in the changing political dispensations as well as how to ward off rival stations that are bent on poaching our staff.”

“Our biggest challenge has been to court listeners from the entire political divide. We have made it a policy to continue to remain in the middle and I am happy that we are moving in that direction.”

“At Peace FM everybody is part of the success we are chalking. In the few years that we have been in the business, we have been able to mobilize our departments to get the best for our listeners”.

“In our short stay in the industry, we have won several awards. We also continue to enjoy the goodwill of the public and we will work hard to maintain this relationship.”

Marketing, advertising firms and the print media have continually positioned Peace FM as the most listened to radio station in the nation’s capital. After just a year in broadcasting, the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Ghana (CIMG) awarded it “Radio Programme of the Year”. They received the “Marketing Oriented Company of the Year” in 2000 a second “Radio Programme of the year” in 2001.

Geographical media’s world news ( ranked Peace FM as the 4th most talked about radio station in the world recently. This ranking puts Peace FM among the 50 most talked about radio stations in the world with 0.02 per cent of all top news stories.

Peace FM is truly bringing radio to the doorstep of the ordinary Ghanaian. No wonder on the station’s 10th anniversary celebrations a lot of important personalities including President J.E.A Mills and other prestigious institutions continue to send congratulatory messages to encourage them to soar higher.


After seven months of inactivity, this blogger has come back with a bang. This time around, the stories that appear on this blog will also be appearing on one of the latest private newspapers , The National Star, on the Ghanaian market.
The weekly paper provides real news, top features and exclusives. I hope to be helping them to make it big in the Ghanaian media landscape.