I arrived in Accra, Ghana on March 12th with my study abroad group. This is the first study abroad trip of the UW Bothell MBA program. Professor Pete Nye led 27 of us to experience Africa. On our way to the hotel, in a very nice coach, I watched attentively as we traveled “Africa” streets. Other than seeing people carrying many things on their heads, everything looked like a “developing” country and reminded me my hometown, Shinchu, Taiwan. Some of the areas looked poorer than others, and there are some nice homes. There are clothes hanging outside and dancing in the wind to be dried. There are street “entrepreneurs” selling food, drinks, flags, CDs, T-shirts and all kinds of things while in between the cars that are waiting for the traffic lights. There are a lot of good cars and packed buses on the nicely paved road. People obeyed the traffic laws during jammed heavy traffic hours. There are a few motorcyclists and bike riders.
Alisa is a very westernized hotel with a nice restaurant, a big bar area, conference rooms and a large pool. I met a few Chinese employees of Huawei, a Chinese Telecom Solution Provider, a South Africa engineer who supports oil drilling and a diplomat family from Germany. Using the electronic keys, we got into the rooms. In the room, we have a 32” flat panel TV, small refrigerator, a nice bed and Wi-Fi access.
Cedi is the currency here. One dollar is exchanged for 1.49 cedi. We can buy a SIM card with a few Cedi and 5 – 10 minute phone card for a few Cedi to charge the minutes for any unlocked GSM cell phone. Cell phones are popular here. There are a lot of 2G phones since they are less expensive. Kids use text messaging and the ones from richer families have 3G phones with touch screens.
Street selling is an intensive bargaining place. They call me “sister” and want to sell me all kinds of things. We are told to cut the price to 50% in order to start the price negotiation. Beautiful design arts and pictures are displayed in the market.
In the last two days, we visited the W.E.B Du Bois Centre for Pan Africanism, it is a Pan African Center for culture and it also has a research library and gallery full of manuscripts. We visited the National Museum of History and Ethnography. This museum houses a varied collection of Ghanaian artifacts. We also visited Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Park, which is the final resting place of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. We also visited the American Embassy. The Ambassador spent two hours with us and he answered our questions with four of his staff. I learned that one third of the Ghana Cabinet had received USA educations. The state has been seeking talented youth and will send them to the states for two week visits. If they are interested in studying in the states, they will receive scholarships to do so.
So far Accra is not like the Africa I had in mind.