It has been a very long time since I have blogged and my return to sharing the Adventures of an Imported Ghanaian has been triggered by a number of pivotal “life events” that I like to refer to as “Babies, Boardrooms and Bogs!”.  The birth of my first child has made me of late contemplate frequently about; what legacy do I want to leave for the next generation of Ghanaians?  My experience as CEO of the #socialenterprise Clean Team Ghana introduced me to a paradigm where there is a strong appetite for business and society to collaborate to create shared value, however during this period I have also been exposed to a glaring misalignment between the objectives of “development professionals” and the aspirations of the targeted “developing communities”.   My incubated passion to drive a sustainable sanitation revolution across Africa, has been further fuelled by recent travels across Ghana’s three most Northern Regions, where the sanitation situation can only be described as in dire straits.  I was embarrassed but not surprised by the most recent publication which declared Ghana as the second worst culprits in Africa to practise open defecation.

As an advocate of Human Centred Design one can infer that pro sustainability behaviours will only be achieved at scale if it is a shared aspiration of the masses.  So the first point to inspiring sustainable consumption is asking the question, what do people want? and what value can be gained both immediately and in the long-run from consuming sustainably?

Sustainable Development Goal 6 – sets out the need for sanitation for all.  But from the perspective of a Ghanaian consumer do people actually want toilets?  What type of toilets do they want? And how much are people prepared to pay for such facilities?  From my experience the most aspirational of sanitation solutions and definition of development is having that of the flush toilet.  But how sustainable is flushing away millions of litres of water per year?

There are lots of past examples of where developmental aspirations have not aligned with sustainability. Less than 15years ago fast food was sold wrapped in biodegradable plantain leaves, on the tropical streets of Accra.  But today everybody wants their food in plastic takeaway and international scientists are now reverting back to innovating bio plastics that mimic the sustainability of the plantain leaves.

I pose this question to you… is it fair to ask developing countries to consume sustainably, when it was the industrialisation of Western nations which put environmental sustainability at risk.  Furthermore to increase the purchasing power of those living on “less than a dollar per day”, enabling them to consume more, is infact an aspiration of many development professionals working on empowering “Base of Pyramid” markets.  In conclusion activities regularly practised in rural communities and most recently labelled as a “sharing economy” I would argue are now actively being erased and replaced with individualistic aspirations of foreign developmental agendas.

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Shopping Experience in Ghana

 

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10 Under 35 Changemakers in Ghana You Need to Know..

I dedicate my life to Africa  and the enhancement of it’s glory.

I believe in my country Ghana,  and understand that in order for our nation flourish that freedom, justice and innovation must constitute the pivotal ethos of all our endeavours.

I declare that a life well lived should be judged not on the balance of ones bank account but the content of ones character.

I strive to utilise the talents that have been afforded to me to positively impact the lives of others.   And shall labour with an integrity of purpose to establish a legacy of greatness for Africa’s youth to  leverage upon and develop further.  

I propose that with freedom there is the birth of all opportunity.  I strive with an audacity of hope, to battle against economic stagnation birthed from corrupt and visionless governance. I dream of the day that every man, woman and child has access to basic human rights; such as decent sanitation and shelter.

I advocate that through justice one catalyses forgiveness.  I understand that only out of this forgiveness can a strength of unity be forged and a national agenda for progress be realised.  I acknowledge the importance of transparent and fair elections and encourage the ordinary African to drive further accountability from community leaders. I wish for an end to tribalism, promote gender parity, and inspire youth empowerment.

I deplore blind imitation and delight in innovation. I welcome ‘thought creativity’ in all fields of expertise and encourage a movement away from the capitalslist grip of Adam Smith. I instead propose the economic framework of  ‘The Invisible Hand of Kofi Brokeman; commerce governed by combining supply and demand with social benefit’. I dream of relevant Afro-centric goods and services, produced on the continent.

I believe that each of us has the power to dream, think, plan and do #MakingGhGreat. And thus I declare that just as I want the best Africa has to offer, I am ready to offer Africa my best!

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Imagine your life without a toilet….Stinks doesn’t it! 

I remember a few years back one of my best friends came out to visit me in Ghana.  I was so excited for her to get the opportunity; to see the beauty of the Volta River meandering along its banks at Akosombo, to get up close and personal with the elephants at Mole National park, to brave the canopy walk across the tree tops of the Kakum Rainforest and to canoe through the marshes of Nzorlezu village on stilts.  I wanted her to see the beauty of day to day life and feel the vibrancy of living in the tropics.  I wanted her to leave with a fresh perspective of Africa.  After all ‘TINA = This Is a New Africa!’  We had moved on from featuring in Oxfam adverts which depicted all Africans an impoverished people.  Ghana as a nation was even being herald by the world as the flagship of democracy, peace and security, freedom and justice.  Development was evident in our skyline, as high rise hotels and luxury apartment blocks now littered the landscape.  We had oil fields, gold mines and boasted one of the fastest growing economies on earth.  Even Obama had come to visit and enjoyed his stay.

So you can imagine the horror and shame that I felt when mid journey between Kumasi to Tamale my friend turned to me and made the request that we stop at the next rest stop as she needed to ‘spend a penny’.  I had been in Ghana for nearly three years at this point and had only frequented a public toilet once.  The sight of the facility alone had been enough to rob me of my urgent need to relieve myself.  There are no words to describe the dreadfulness of public toilets in Ghana.  It is incredible to think that 2.5billion people globally do not have access to a toilet at all and 1.1 million people practise open defecation on a daily basis.  In densely populated urban areas many people utilise ‘flying toilets’ i.e. relieving themselves in plastic bags and throwing these bags into the open gutters, which are later washed through the streets spreading disease the rains come. 

At this point I stopped and asked myself; can we really boast of development as a nation when many people don’t even have access to something as basic as a toilet?

In 2010 the United Nations recognised access to sanitation and water as a Human Right. Subsequently the 19th of November was declared as World Toilet Day, urging changes in behaviour and policy on global issues ranging from enhancing water management to ending open air defecation.  They say you never think about how much your toilet means to you until you don’t have one.  And I never could have predicted that championing such a basic cause could develop to becoming my life challenge.

I would like to advocate that the future of Africa would legitimately be brightened through the realisation of the following; firstly the democratisation of toilets and secondly the commercialisation of waste.  Having access to a toilet should no longer be a privilege.

The Bill Gates Foundation set a global challenge, for innovators and philanthropists to come forward and ‘Reinvent the Toilet’.  Traditional toilets need the provision of large expensive sewage systems and copious amounts of water, two things which are evidently lacking in many places across the world.  Our response to this challenge has been the creation of www.cleanteamtoilets.com .    

At Clean Team we are providing an innovative, affordable, hygienic, in-house sanitation solutions direct to low income communities in developing countries thus democratising the toilet.  We believe that if we make having a toilet affordable and easy to install that millions of people worldwide are able and prepared to pay for it. If such people are empowered, they will in turn value their toilet more and thus maintain it better than if they had been provided through charity.  Finding the right commercial model has therefore been identified as the key factor to driving a global sanitation solution which is both sustainable and scalable to the poorest of communities.   In addition to this Clean Team is also carrying out further work pivotal around pioneering avenues commercialising the end product; thus turning “waste” into “energy” such as biogas and biodiesel.  Our solution is currently operational in Kumasi and is “Keeping Ghana Clean” by taking waste out of our streets and gutters, improving the health and the living standards of countless people and in the long run will provide cheap environmentally friendly renewable energy to the masses.  Now that’s what I call ‘real development’!

Follow Us on @CleanTeamGhana @valerielabi

#IGIVEASHIT #WECANTWAIT #TOILETSMATTER #SANITATION4ALL #MAKEADIFFERENCE

Josh Blakk is one of Ghana’s best newcomers to bless the scene. All rights reserved. copyright 2013 Blakwud Productions. For bookings please call: +233 2020 63355

Video  —  Posted: October 7, 2013 in Ghana Life
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Azonto Mania

Posted: January 24, 2012 in africa, development, economy, ghana, Ghana Life
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Accra Floods - Apeteshi Spot

For a country so obsessed with building gutters that end nowhere, I am even amazed that we Ghanaians had not anticipated that a little bit of rain would result in the submergence of half of Accra in filthy gutter water. Uncle Atta, our forthright president said in his address to the nation yesterday that he believed our flooding problem would be solved if only he could get his residents in Accra to pay property tax. Although I am never one to bash a government who wants to squeeze every last penny out of its people so that it can pamper the budget and wisely spend on more 4×4 cars; I want to suggest that AMA’s lack of funds may not be the root cause of our problems. Instead of looking to find more money, I think the focus should be on using the cash that we have wisely and aptly planning to meet the infrastructural pressures created by the chaotic urban sprawl that is occurring in Accra at present.

We are always giving out contracts to build gutters meanwhile we do not have any city plan of where the water that these gutters are supposed to be channeling should flow to! We leave huge piles of refuse in the streets and clog our gutters with pure water sachets so that they cannot hold any capacity come the smallest levels of rainfall. We are cement obsessed, covering every inch of the capital with cement blocks instead of grass and foliage that will help absorb any overland flow and lower the fatality rate when we do have periods of heavy rainfall. All in all we need our town planners to think and implement a strategy for Accra to be a robust city, plan our roads so that traffic flows and build our gutter so that water flows. We as a civil society need to stop blaming our woes on the perceived fact that we don’t have money and instead hold accountable those who have our money and are just lacking common sense!