Monday, January 23, 2012

Arrival in Africa

Life is good, Mark.
We made it!  After 17+ hours of travel, our group of Ghana coaches arrived safely in Accra.  The coaches for Uganda and Malawi scattered during our stop over at Heathrow in the UK– and had many more hours of travel - but our team have settled in Ghana as a group for now.

Africa.  Deep, dark, exotic.  Yes!  But also a land of diversity and many contrasts.  We are stationed in Accra, the capital city of Ghana to get ourselves acclimatized and sorted out.  We are a group of 14: six pairs of two coaches, me, as communications liaison, and Anna Brown who is the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) Program Officer for Africa.  I personally am staying in Accra for a few more days while the Ghana coaches are moving about the country. 

Ghana is a wealthy country by African standards, and Accra is a wealthy city by those same standards.  Envision some of the side streets in downtown Winnipeg, MB, or London, ON and you have the general idea.  There are many cars – traffic is horrendous – and you would recognize many of the brand names – BMW, Mercedes, Hyundai, Toyota, Ford, Kia.  People sell things on the street, on the side of the road and congregate at stop lights and intersections.  These are legitimate businesses, generally selling good quality food and merchandise – don’t think of squeegee-kids or homeless people hawking garage sale cast-offs.  These are Micro-businesses – and it is often credit unions in their role as micro-finance providers that help fund and support them.

Of course there are the ‘sketchy’ areas, and areas of abject poverty in this city, and I don’t pretend to assume that the whole country is like its capital city.  Still, in my very limited experiences and hearing from the coaches stationed throughout Ghana, the picture that we have (often shaped by those ‘world-vision’-type TV commercials) is an incomplete view of this part of Africa.  As I move about the country, I’ll let you know how my vision is changing. But for now, in this vibrant city of Accra, life ain’t too bad.

Ghana coaches are placed in these parts of the country and are each visiting three credit unions – Western (Erin and Elaine); Upper East (Scott and Brian); Northern (Mike and Mary); Eastern (Karen and Craig); Tema (Dennis and Barb); and Brong Ahafo (Anthony and Fintan).  Over the next days, I’ll try to share some of their stories with you and link you to their blogs.

I’ll talk with you soon,

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