By Charles Kofi Fekpe
I normally don’t tend to write on this sort of topics, but following a recent article I wrote titled “The Dollarization of the Better Cedi Agenda” it dawned on me that it was about time we all, as citizens of Ghana do our part to move her forward. But of course we know this. So why haven’t we done it?
The purpose for my article is to consider creativity as a basic but yet still practical way we can all help the process of moving Ghana forward. You will find it interesting. You see, the unembellished truth is this – unlike other developed countries, in Ghana, the only reason it appears as though successive governments hold excessive power, is because, we the citizens do not have any power of our own other than voting rights – but that itself is not power. It is not power because even the man or woman we elect has the same right and uses it; secondly, it isn’t power because it gives you no leverage to change any unfavourable position into your favour. If it could, we could call it power. Voting power, that someone else determines when you exercise it and what choices to exercise it on, is no power – realistically, we are simply being guided to do the bidding of others. Here is what I mean, in America, Britain, other parts of Europe etc where world-impacting corporations (i) are responsible for bringing most of the wealth into their respective countries and (ii) control those wealth, governments have no choice but to listen to those corporations and individuals, because ignoring them could be politically suicidal – their decisions could build or cripple the entire plans of any government. In Ghana, the wealth of the rich in our society is so insignificant, that Governments do not see a reason to “need them” or consult them in economic or other social matters. So, you see, as citizen’s we have to matter, for government to start taking us serious – if we don’t, it wont matter whether it is the NDC or NPP, PNC, etc we will remain insignificantly irrelevant.
Let’s take an example – GHACEM for example (even though Ghana imports cement) is pretty much the monopoly in cement products in Ghana. Without them, one could easily say, no infrastructural construction will happen in Ghana, whether it is government constructing roads, or you and I building houses – the entire infrastructure of the nation depend on it, more or less. I think you will then agree that it makes absolute sense for GHACEM to be in a better position to be able to influence Government agenda. Sadly however, GHACEM is NOT owned by Ghanaians (93.1 % shares owned by Scancem of Norway), so even if it were to influence Government agenda, it has NO obligation to make such an influence in the interest of the Ghanaian people but Norwegians. That’s the big difference we ought to recognize – as a people, and as individuals of Ghanaian origin, we need to be in a position of some “impactful” power and also be cut out from the Ghanaian fabric, in order to be able to affect government, and affect them in the interest of Ghanaians.
But let’s expand the sphere of influence here – one doesn’t need to wield influence from a manufacturing point of view as in the example above. It could be any sphere. In fact it can be wielded in any sphere that has the potential of limiting or greatly supporting what governments want to do. So for example, if you were to have much influence in Media, any government will have it to its advantage, to be on your side, because they know, it should take you just one TV, internet or radio episode to undo or do them.
Here is the interesting thing – whatever it is you do, and for it to have any form of power however, it must be something that appeals to the citizenship. You must be a provider of human solutions. In the world we live in today, there is neither a differentiation between individuals and Governments, religious men or a university student – if you are providing SOLUTIONS, you will wield more influence than anyone else. It is this unending need for human solution that creates an opportunity for us as individual citizens to rise into power. That’s right, by solving problems, by providing services or making products that are solutions to the needs of people. And guess what – these solutions do not only have to be for the Ghanaian people alone, thanks to the world becoming a global market place. Your ability to explore markets beyond Ghana, makes you an even bigger influence. Why, because apart from bringing back foreign earnings into Ghana, your being a solution outside our borders, means your influence abroad can be brought to bear on your own government. Take the example of the young man, Mark Zuckerberg, even though based in the USA, it is theoretically in the interest of most countries to preserve him and his interests, because his absence may very likely mean, the absence of social media.
But first, we need to be solution providers. That’s our first hurdle. We need to become solution providers. And in order to do that, we all have a duty to ourselves, our country and God, to become CREATIVE. Yes, you heard me right! I did say CREATIVE. It needs to be taught in the schools because it will secure the long term future of Ghana; it needs to be preached on the pulpits because it is the very nature of God; it needs to be practices in the work places, because it is the only way we will stay competitively ahead of the game in our fast paced and fast changing world. As a nation, we will progress when we come to understand that, survival doesn’t mean having food to eat – it means consistently being at least 10 years ahead of the competition and aspiring to be NOT where everybody already is – but where everybody wants to come.
In Ghana, in West Africa, Africa, indeed throughout the world, there are endless myriads of problems. These problems equate to endless myriads of solutions. And whoever provides these solutions will not only end up with good business prospects (if they can successfully commercialize their ideas), but also become influential and impactful. So how does one go about being creative? We’ll get to that, but first, I want to say this; many people complain, there is no money to implement their ideas – and I say, hey! Maybe that is a problem in itself to get creative about. Maybe someone has all the money and not the idea and you could both team up and share the gains (unless you are greedy enough to let your ideas die with you because you simply don’t want anybody to share in your profits). In fact there are certain components of your idea that you could start off with, without huge finances and build on it, bit by bit. To resign your ideas to the background simply because you can’t get financing, forgive me, is pure laziness.
Maybe the academia and industry can start thinking about ways they can creatively collaborate, to identify and research into ways that industry can become much more efficient – they won’t only be sparking an industrial efficiency revolution but also end up making taught curriculum more practical and relevant than theoretic; Maybe students should be taught creativity and maybe they should use the internet less for only Facebook and twitter and emails and rather explore ways it can help them start online businesses just like Microsoft and Facebook evolved. There is so much knowledge and knowhow freely available on the internet now that no one has an excuse to say they didn’t know. Maybe our professionals should begin to creatively explore the exponentially multiplied use of their talents than simply being reserved to Ghana – look, Ghana is surrounded with countries that have just come out of conflicts and lacking professional human resources. This abounds in all refinement in Ghana and yet we sit back and watch international consultants, fly in halfway across the world to snap those opportunities from only ten miles across our borders. I may just be speaking randomly here, but maybe we need to expand creatively, each of us.
If we start to think in this manner, then indeed, every problem around us, becomes an opportunity to rise one step higher and the more one rises, the more the wrongs of our government becomes irrelevant. In fact a point comes when by default, you will see opportunity in every wrong of the government. It is when the masses arrive at this point, that they can be considered as having what it takes to effectively influence government and its systems.
Incidentally, someone asked me recently “how can one get creative with ideas, etc?”
Well, there isn’t just one method, but a few – ones I feel sharing here MAY spark a creative genius in someone else too.
Creativity is simply a “Solution Oriented way of Thinking” and so, having a very structured way of “Thinking Creatively” helps to be able to apply your creative mindset in different circumstances. Firstly, bear in mind, that for creativity to be worthwhile, it has to either solve a current problem (yours or someone else’s) or a problem, that is likely to happen in the future (involves you looking around and figuring out what is likely to become a problem in the future, and solving it). Good! So How do we think Creatively!
(i) First ask yourself, what solution can I come up with assuming there was NO financial or TECHNICAL limitations. This is often a first step because, on most occasions, the worry about the availability of money to fund a solution even gets in the way of your creative thinking process before it even starts. This way of thinking takes away the restriction and allows you to be as wild as possible with ideas and then, later refine the practicalities.
(ii) Solutions, seeking problems. Most times, we automatically think every problem requires a brand new solution – Truth is, most times too, there are solutions that have been found in other areas, but equally usable for new problems. For example, the solution of using a thermostat in ironing, whereby the pressing iron automatically stops heating when it gets to a certain temperature has now been applied to temperature control in modern cars. In modern cars, you can state what temperature you like the car to be at all times and the system ensures to turn on/off the heating/air conditioning automatically at intervals in order for your set temperature to be maintained – that’s not really genius, but definitely creativity
(iii) Flipping. Sometimes re-arranging a problem or even a solution in the reverse order, by itself becomes a solution. That is exactly how the telephone call back service was invented. Under normal circumstances, you would pick up a phone, call a company and stay on the line for minutes before you are responded to – and you get to pay for it too. With the new call-back services, you call a company and if they are busy, you simply dial *67 (depending on your country or service provider) and hang up – when their line is less busy, their phone system calls you back automatically and they pay for the bill, not you. Its like having a personal secretary to keep trying someone number until they get through to them and then transfer the connected call to your office. Genius or Creativity. It is simply a reversal of the normal process.
(iv) Finally, another method of creative thinking is what I call the Adam+Eve creative thinking. In the bible, specifically in Genesis we are made to know that Adam and Eve are actually one. And that’s exactly one of the ways in which innovation can be sparked. Sometimes, all it takes is to bring together two different solutions or two different problems and then – boom!! You get a totally new solution. Take Facebook for example. None of the components of Facebook were new. Mr Mark Zuckerberg just brought them together. Before Facebook, there was the internet, there were platforms separately to upload photos, there was email and text, for sending and receiving messages and there was already a God-inherent need, for us to remain as social animals – he simply joined it all up together and today, we have Facebook.
We don’t need to be geniuses to be creative. Now these may not exhaustively be the only ways for anyone to start being a creative thinker, but at least it provides real tools that one can use to start a creativity revolution on a personal level. It is my hope that in our own small ways, we will begin to look past our failing governments and focus on our own successes.
Go out there and be more daring, more creative and more productive – in the end, you win, and so to does Ghana. God bless our homeland Ghana.