Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ghana Money, Perspectives on Ghana, Cell Phones, Misc.

The cedi is the main currency of Ghana. I've been mainly using the one, five, and ten cedi notes. One dollar is equivalent to about 1.35 cedis. Only about a year ago, I believe, the cedi and the dollar were fairly equivalent. In the past few months, there has been inflation which has many people concerned.

The pesewas are the coins used. The ones in the picture from top to bottom are 5, 10, 20, and 50 pesewas. There are signs around Kumasi encouraging people to use coins. The coins were not too long ago meaningless until the new cedi notes were introduced.

The notes used to be in the thousands before the new system was introduced. One cedi was equivalent to 10,000 cedis before the change. 10 pesewas was 1,000 cedis. People often prefer will use the older system when asked about prices.

Perspectives on Ghana and Africa in General:

People often have certain ideas of Africa that are often overly simplistic from what the west is given in the media. I've talked to Ghanaians who tell me that the west only reports about the negative aspects of Africa and lump the whole continent together as if it was one country. When people asked me why I was going to Ghana, one of the reasons I gave was because my own ignorance was intolerable. I didn't want to just believe what I read in the papers. I wanted my own experience.

Ghanaians who travel overseas hear all sorts of crazy stories from Europeans and Americans who believe that they still live in trees or are all in little thatched roofed houses. They can't believe that Ghanaians would even want to return to their own country. This is what I've heard several times from Ghanaians.

Although there are certainly major problems in Ghana, it is considered one of the model countries on the continent for its stability, democracy, and economic growth. I have read that Uganda and Botswana are the other two model countries. Many people here in Ghana are thriving in business, building big houses, driving BMWs, Mercedes, Toyota SUVs, and all sorts of models associated in the west with wealth and financial status. Some Ghanaians I have talked to wish the west were more aware of these aspects as well.

Unfortunately, I am not that interested in taking photos and writing about nice cars, successful businesses, big houses, and other affluences and modern developments. I'm staying in a little village where they don't have as much financially. They are mainly a tight knit farming community who have some modern conveniences but also live traditionally.

I'm interested in witnessing how traditions combine, coexist, or get deferred to what is considered modern. I'll be mainly writing about these things and the people that I live with and meet.

That being said, I'll probably devote a couple blogs to modern developments and the increased affluence that is happening here in Ghana. Cell phones are everywhere now. Many people have maybe two cell phones, each from a different company. Those that don't have a phone, can go to a little kiosk, often a wooden box with an umbrella and pay to use the attendants phone. Kiosks and phone shops are everywhere The main phone companies are: MTN, Zain, Tigo, Kasapa, and Vodaphone.

Vodaphone, the recent merger of Ghana One Touch and Ghana Telecom, has done a big media blitz. Their color is red. Many buildings around Kumasi have been recently painted in a gloss red with the white Vodaphone symbol. Zain has T.V. commercials showing young people dancing and singing. One of their pitches is: Zain, your world of freedom...

My favorite T.V. commercial if from the cell phone company, Kasapa. It shows an older couple in their living room. It's late at night. The man is wearing a muscle shirt sitting on the couch watching T.V. The woman is in her night gown and wearing curlers. She is heavy set.

Her cell phone rings, she answers and begins a lively conversation. While talking, she walks back and forth blocking the T.V. Her husband gets irriated that she's blocking his view. Finally, she sits down and says goodbye to the caller. Her husband, exasperated, says something like, "Who was that? You were talking for two hours." She says, "Ahhhh, it was the wrong number."

Kasapa was advertizing reduced rates in the evening and night time. I bought one of the cheapest phones I could get for 30 cedis. The company I'm using is Tigo. I buy little cards of time that I punch into my phone.

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