Guest post: Dwayne Smith

Dwayne Smith is a PhD student in political science.  You can learn more about his research on his blog:  http://dwaynesmith4120.weebly.com/.

 

It’s not easy being ignorant.  What makes me say something like that?  As I write this post for the blog I am reminded of an incident that happened on the campus of one of the local universities about twenty years ago.  A close friend had recently returned from Senegal and as he showed me pictures of his visit to the capital city a student passing by stopped, looked at the pictures and exclaimed in disbelief; “I didn’t know they had cars in Africa,” boy did we get a laugh out of that.  But how many people even today still think of Africa as some dark weird undeveloped place where civilization has not yet set foot.  And although I would not be honest if I did not admit that I knew they had cars, but was totally in the dark about some of the other trappings of modernity to be found there.  But now, after my recent trip to Ghana with the African Democracy Project, I can let you know they have cars, stores, malls, hotels, toilets, garbage and garbage trucks, lights, running water, supermarkets, restaurants, television, cable, and a host of other things that are necessary to survive today, including cell phones.

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And fyi they are not trading beads for goods anymore they also have their own currency, which you will have to use if you intend to do business there. But all kidding aside I was amazed at the level of sophistication to be found in every arena, from the courts to the sewer system which unlike ours is “open” but I am sure that history will show the need and sensibility for even that.

And speaking of history Ghana will give you a strange feeling inside because in spite of all of the modern conveniences there is an ancient feel about the place.  It is difficult to put a date on anything, and I am not sure if it is the heat or what but everything seems well preserved, even the oldest relics.

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Walking down a quaint block like this you feel as if these buildings could easily be hundreds of years old, which many of them probably are.  And that is what you will find in Ghana if you ever decide to go.  A striking contrast between the old and the new, a place where new ideas are clamoring against the walls of tradition, people who are friendly and industrious, and a climate that will literally warm you inside and out.  In fact the longer you stay the more it will grow on you.  You will begin to like the sights, and the sounds.  The smells and the heat.  The food and the vibe, in fact you will begin to feel right at home when some Ghanaian looks at you and smiles with that big grin, you will smile right back, no questions asked.

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So my advice to anybody who wants to know more about Africa, GO.  Don’t sit around in ignorance imagining things that have no basis in reality.  If you can, go see for yourself.  And don’t worry they have airplanes too, which is good since you will probably need one to get you there and back.

Dwayne

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