Monday, December 13, 2010

Ghana Chief calls for end to poverty - buys $4.7m holiday mansion

As we made our way to work this morning, through the streets of Accra, traffic lights out, dodging potholes and veering past the maimed and legless beggars, the BBC radio featured a story about Ghana’s Ashanti King, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

Specifically, that the regional king, once a council worker in the UK, now on his throne in Kumasi, has just bought a GBP3million (USD $4.723m) holiday home on 22 acres in England.

By this stage I should just laugh. I have been in Africa long enough to see that the old adage “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is alive and well. I have witnessed unfathomable poverty and watched while African leaders fill Swiss bank accounts with billions and buy fleets of private jets.

The funny thing is that this time, like all the others, I am not numb enough. I still think it is pathetic and disgusting. I haven’t learned.

In October, VSO (a UK voluntary agency that works in Ghana) touted a story about the Asantehene and how he was dedicated to reducing poverty.

About how he was determined to tackle the endemic problem in his region and across the country as a whole.

As the BBC reporter described the stables and lavish swimming pool as well as the full cinema room in his new abode, I couldn’t help but wonder how many lifetimes of earnings of hundreds of thousands of poor Ghanaians would equal such a purchase.

So here are a couple calculations:

The nominal GDP per capita in Ghana is $698 (or GBP443)

This means that it would take the average Ghanaian about 6,770 years to amass such an amount.

Or to look at it a bit differently, the Asantehene could forfeit his splurge on the holiday home, and cover 6,770 of his citizens annual wages...

The Asantehene has talked a lot about targeting education, with a focus on making it more accessible and of a higher quality.

I wonder if he considered this (source):

$10 will pay for a healthcare insurance policy for a child and his or her caregiver for 1 year

$25 will pay for school fees for 1 child for 1 year

$200 will purchase 150 textbooks for 30 children for 1 academic year

$500 will pay for antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 1 child for 10 months

As his majesty walks the cold marble corridors of his new mansion, someone should let him know:

189,000 Ghanaian children could have attended school for a year with that amount; children who otherwise have no means to go.

23,615 textbooks could have been donated to needy Ghana schools

Ghanaian children could have had a better quality of life, with antiretroviral therapy for a year.

As he sips tea with global royalty, I hope he hesitates before begging for donations to aid his impoverished country, lest he burn his tongue and bite his lip at the perversion of it all.
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Mzungu said...

steal his shoes I say.

Expat mum said...

This makes me weep. I was complaining the other day about comsumerism in the USA (fancy shoes, flash cars etc.) but this takes the biscuit.
What about sending a link to this post to some of the newspapers in the UK? I'm sure the Daily Mail would go bonkers with the story?

The pale observer said...

Hey Expat Mum - the BBC featured the story on the radio this morning.

I linked to it. Sadly no one seems to care really.

With all the pleas for aid this country sends out, a few months ago the president bought himself a brand new presidential jet to fly around the world in...

No one blinked.

Mac and Kelly said...

So sad. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Seems not too expensive to help out a kid or two be better off. Since you are so close to the scene and from your entries, live pretty well, I assume you've helped a few too, right?

Solvang Sherrie said...

Wow. I don't know that the leaders of any country have made it there without some form of corruption (yes, I'm cynical when it comes to politics and governments!) but that just seems grossly, perversely, WRONG. Ugh.

The pale observer said...

Hey Anon - I've definitely helped. With school fees, and saving a young girl from an abusive home where she was virtually a slave. We sponsor and orphanage and an IT school. There are things one does on a daily basis here. But I am not a leader with influence and making promises to my own countrymen about ending poverty. And I certainly cannot afford a $5m holiday home...

Anonymous said...

In all fairness to the Asantehene, England, for example, was hit pretty badly by the recession. Recently the government announced massive layoffs. But the Queen and her family have not given up Buckingham Palace and still live their lavish lifestyles. This is only an issue because the Asantehene is Ghanaian/African, and there's an assumption that all Africans are/must be poor and starving, and those who are not must have come about their wealth via corrupt means. Now while this may be very true of some unscrupulous politicians, the Asantehene's money is from the stool (read inherited money, not stolen money). The Asantehene also does a lot of charity work, aside from his lavish tastes, just as the Queen and her clan do charity work, but still live lavish lifestyles.

Mireille said...

Unfortunately there always will be poor and rich people in the world, and each person does what he/she can do. But indeed that doesn't mean that you need to give up your lifestyle... nobody does that! But it is IRONIC and makes you scratch your head!

The pale observer said...

Hey Anon - the difference is that in Ghana, like many countries in Africa, the basics are not provided to the masses. In England the Queen can afford to live her priviledged lifestyle because the society over time has built up a systme that provides clean drinking water for EVERYONE, electricity for EVERYONE, basic education for EVERYONE, basic healthcare for EVERYONE etc. There is not one country between South Africa and the Sahara desert that can say the same. THAT is biggest difference when it comes to African corrupt and greedy leaders.

Anonymous said...

Well said Holli. I rest my case! Now to my friend who thinks Nana Osei Tutu II can use the stool funds and resources as he please should think again. The monies are for the Asanteman or the people of Ashanti. This is day light robbery; taking money from the poor people of Bekwai, Nsuta, Brenaasi and many Ashanti villages that lack the bare minimum and essentials for subsistance is disgusting. Ashantis must rise and destool this guy. The late Opoku Ware will turn in his grave to hear about such a crock. Why do you want to compare this guy to the Queen of England? Its about time we stop defending such characters like the Asantehene when they stick it to the poor and vulnerable people of Ghana. Asante Kotoko must rise against the criminal of a King! This is the same guy who has been meddling with drug Dons in Ghana.


Celeste said...

Ah dear sweet, impossible Africa, how I miss it with all its impossible contradictions. So many countries on that continent have stories that are the same and yet, still it goes on and still we love it.

Anonymous said...

Personally, when people were losing their jobs and jumping off bridges no one asked the Queen to roll in a Vauxhall/Opel Corsa.. she still gets her Bentley. The Asantehene is much more than just a chief and his standard of living reflects onto the pride that the Asantefuor have of their kingdom. He hasn't reneged on any of his promises, nor has he siphoned money to obtain the house. Let him be I say.

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