Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mr. Next President of Ghana Give Science & Tech a BIGGER Chance!

What became of the promise of 1.5 % GDP for Science?

In 2008, I can clearly recall, during the presidential debate where the then candidate Atta Mills promised to devote 1.5 % of Ghana’s gross domestic product to fund science. This would have been an excellent development in Ghana, but the insistence of the moderator of the presidential debate, Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah does not seem to have been a strong reminder enough. It has actually taken the present government three years to finally organize a national science congress, not to mention the zero funding provided for scientific research beyond the existing basal rate. Mr. Next President of Ghana, this country happens to be the only country we have, and making a determined and conscious effort at development is in our own interest.

All we are saying is give science and technology a real chance to change Ghana’s fortune and future. We have exported raw materials long enough; we have engaged in buying-and-selling for far too long and imported everything into the country all the days of our nation’s life. Moreover, we are still not making real progress. Therefore, we need the incoming president of Ghana to step back and take a long hard look at the developmental agenda of this country and realize that the big piece of the master plan that is still missing is science and technology. Most of us are not interested in which side of the political divide is in power, we care only about the supreme interest and life of the nation out of which we also have our lives.

The word “Science and Technology” is not even in the development policy statements:

It was exciting to learn that Nana Akufo Addo, the 2012 presidential candidate for the NPP was delivering a lecture titled “BUILDING A SOCIETY OF ASPIRATIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN GHANA – THE PATH TO PROSPERITY”. These grand policy statements are an indication of what the next president may have in store for this country when in office. However, a close up analysis of the 36-page document I downloaded from www.myjoyonline.comproduced a disappointing result. One that clearly indicates, our country’s real chance at development may be at best far in the future, or will be illusive for a longtime. The analysis of the occurrence of certain keywords is as follows:

Document is 36 pages and 10,671 words long.

*Science = 0

*Innovation = 0

*Technology = 2

*Research = 3

*Ideas = 4

*University = 2

Health = 6

Skills = 9

Economy = 50

Education = 42

Development = 34

The issue is that, there should not be any discussion of Ghana’s development agenda without the mention of science and technology. If the word count for “science and tech” is so low or even non-existent in the grand policy statements, I am certain it will not feature at all in the budget statements. The idea of infusing science and technology into the fiber of the Ghanaian culture must be proclaimed at every national meeting and then matched with real actions. The continuous emphasis on superficial economic policy plans to the neglect of specific action items on science and technology, which is needed to construct the framework that undergirds any developmental process, is detrimental to Ghana’s future. As Ghanaians, we need to make sure that our leaders understand development and progress in the true sense of the process. We need to do more of science research, innovation and development to define and build enterprises that will be the drivers of our development efforts.

Look at the six killer apps for the Western Industrialization (by Niall Ferguson):

ü Power of Science and Technology

ü Power of Modern Medicine

ü Strong Work Ethic

ü Competition

ü Property ownership

ü Consumption

Vital Scientific Discoveries and the Extension of Life Expectancy:

The discoveries of antibiotics used extensively to treat infectious disease revolutionized medicine and saved the lives of many people during the World War 2. The development of an effective vaccine for polio and many other childhood killer diseases has lead to dramatic reduction of infant mortality and increased life expectancy in many poor African countries. However, these excellent developments were wholly achieved by Western countries and institutions with little or no participation of the beneficial African countries. Interestingly, these essential vaccines come to us as heavily subsidized.

There are many other diseases in African countries that are referred to as “neglected tropical diseases”, e.g. Buruli ulcer. There are currently no effective diagnostics and treatment for these diseases because the sufferers are mostly poor people living in rural areas. This is where national science policy needs to make the difference in confronting such difficult situations that are retarding our development. The western countries cannot do it for us anymore, we must deal with it ourselves and yes we have the resources but for the lack of effective leadership.

The Need for a New Composite Ghanaian Culture:

It is time to introduce new materials into the cultural fabric of this country; the result of what we have now is high burden of disease, poverty and deprivation. It is time to introduce new ideas to create the new composite culture that is high in the understanding and skills of science and technology. We have educated the young in Ghana that, their culture is only about drumming and dancing, this is all we did during our time in the cultural studies class. Whenever there is an event in Ghana the musical interlude in christened “cultural display”, as if life is all about dancing and drumming. This does not pertain anywhere in the world, the Ghanaian culture needs to change into a composite one that is embedded with the concepts of science and technology and move beyond the mere rhetoric.

If culture is defined as “the way a group of people live”, then it stands to reason that ‘how we treat diseases is culture, extending life expectancy is culture, industrial and technological innovativeness is culture and scientific breakthroughs is culture too. So are strong work ethic, empathy (I am because you are – NOT each one for himself), powerful vision, dedication to accomplish the impossible, creativity and improved lifestyle. We as a people do not owe our lives to our traditions and past practices and norms; the human spirit craves light and happiness and cannot wait. Many Ghanaians have joined other cultures and released their creative powers, a clear demonstration that the potential is there but cultural framework is holding us captive. This is why we need a leader who gets it when it comes to the importance of science and technology for development.

Science and Technology Centered Development Agenda for Ghana:

There is the need to change the focus of all science and technology programs in Ghana’s universities and polytechnics from merely academic programs and departments into direct enterprise generating units. Each faculty should be hired to be a part of a specific team with a clear mandate to develop a specific project, higher education should be through such systems and the problem of graduate employment will reduce. Where is the Starch Factory under the president’s special initiative? Moreover, why are most MASS-Transit buses broken down? We need to back these national projects with strong institutions with mandate to supply technical and scientific advancement.

Staff of research institutes should be mostly made of graduate students who contribute to projects as part of their training, research suffers when most of the members of staff are permanent. Permanent staffing inhibits initiative and innovation since people quickly settle into tasks they are comfortable with, besides their salaries would be paid at the end of the month. Ghana is endowed with many intelligent young people, what is lacking is leadership that will assemble them into indomitable and productive teams to attack projects with a strong sense of purpose and urgency.
Combined Team of Nigerian and UK Engineers building the NigeriaSat - X

The first pictures of the NigeriaSat - X, satellite for disaster relief and prevention, Urban planning and development.

STEMS is good for Development and STEMS is good for Ghana:

South Korea along with many of the Asian countries has steadily invested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and statistics (STEMS) and the result is clear. We need leadership to tap into the huge Ghanaian Diaspora of STEMS professionals to help Ghana and Africa leapfrog the early transitional difficulties. These people will provide a strategic mechanism for re-engineering the Ghanaian culture that is so impervious to the acquisition of the understanding and skills of science and technology.
Nigeria recently sent another satellite (NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X) into orbit, the wonderful thing is a joint team of UK and Nigerian engineers constructed the satellite. This is the great way of building local capacity and inspiring the young generation to aspire and place their talents in new and emerging fields. Ghana missed a great opportunity with the FPSO construction in Singapore; it would have been great if a number of Ghanaian engineers had been attached to the project.

Patrick Kobina Arthur (PhD),

Kindly edited by Gloria Baaba Arkaifie


  1. This article comes to me as an insightful piece from a truely concerned citizen.
    It is a sensitive issue which has unfortunately been given very little attention by political leaders in Ghana and the African continent at large.
    After independence, Ghana was a nation with so much prospects and had a fast growing economy with a higher GDP than Malaysia (gained independence about six months after Ghana). Today, 54 years down the line, the economy of Ghana is no where close to that of her Asian counterpart. The difference lies in the extent of advancement in science and technology of the two.
    Its about time our policy makers channelled the nations resources into science and technology. The vision behind the establishment of KNUST seems to have been defeated. Arts and other related areas have taken over science and technology in the university.
    I believe that with scientific and technological advancement, Ghana would be a better country.
    COTThis article comes to me as an insightful piece from a truely concerned citizen.
    It is a sensitive issue which has unfortunately been given very little attention by political leaders in Ghana and the African continent at large.
    After independence, Ghana was a nation with so much prospects and had a fast growing economy with a higher GDP than Malaysia (gained independence about six months after Ghana). Today, 54 years down the line, the economy of Ghana is no where close to that of her Asian counterpart. The difference lies in the extent of advancement in science and technology of the two.
    Its about time our policy makers channelled the nations resources into science and technology. The vision behind the establishment of KNUST seems to have been defeated. Arts and other related areas have taken over science and technology in the university.
    I believe that with scientific and technological advancement, Ghana would be a better country.

  2. I personally think that after Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, a science minded president, whose visions were far beyond the 1950s could make GhanaHave a promising future and a better place to live than today the so- called science and technology Arena. It seems to be that our presidents are beating about the bush simply because they are refusing to think scientific. For me, I have not realize any addition to our infrastructure after the days when Tema port, Akosombo Dam, Tema Motor Way, Korle Bu, KNUST, the already broken down Kumasi jute factory just to mention a few.The question is, when Ghana isgoing to start thinking ahead of our dispensation. For me, we do not need a prophet to prophesize that Ghanas must go science and technology Way. I do not fellow people who tackle problem by “try and error.” How can science and technologybe given Zero chance, innovation and research rare chance. The outcome of this is actually enslaving us the more even the presence of so many Profs., Drs and uncountable first class graduates. Dr. Arthur, please I also think science and technology should not be limited to only Mr. President but any stakeholder. Finally, even though it seems to be no hope, but the good news is that coming back on track does not need all but few strong men and institutions.

  3. Personally, I think the ruling government has failed to deliver on the GDP promised due to inefficiency on their part and the fact they try very hard justify every like they make. This piece above is a touching article of a truly determined citizen of the country that is determined to do more if the chance is given. These problems as above have been relegated to the back ground because of lack of sense of direction by our leaders. I am forced to believe that the problem is because we have not yet had any leader who is truly a believer of science. Almost all leaders who have dared to lead this national apart from Dr. Mahama and Professor Frimpong Boateng have usually of the social divide of life, thus little appreciation of what science can do in the developmental process of a nation. From the look of your six killer apps for western development, I can confidently say that the average Ghanaian will have a two out of the six which is seriously not good for a nation like Ghana. To add a little on your thought of the cultural make-up of the country, I think it is not too good to do away with our cultural values. In as much as we have to reduce this dance and drumming that occur in our schools, we should also try not to lose our culture. Losing our culture to me is synonymous to losing our direction, since we tend to forget where we are from, and where are going. A clear example is what western life is doing to the youth of today. I think is would rather be useful if we reduce the drumming and dancing part and integrate it with the true meaning of culture as you rightly put it. Another one important thing is the curricula in our schools, very bad, if I may put it. The way forward is to try to create the awareness of the use of science in solving our problems because this is the only solution. All is not lost but it is close to messing up and something needs to be done soon because science is the way.

  4. The idea is not to change our culture but to infuse new elements into it. This has happened in other areas such as medicine, music and fashion.

    Now is the turn of science and technology. The point is that the time has come for Ghanaian to move from importer and users of everything science and technology. And assume the position of discovering, innovating and creating science and technology items for our use.

    Raw material exports alone will make us poorer.


  5. I agree that most leaders who don’t have a science background do not understand that there will be little development without science. Also, I think that the already built industries which are being collapsed; the matches’ factory, the starch factory and the tomato puree factory, just to mention a few should be revived to start with. The problem of our ineffective educational system cannot be over-emphasized. I have also realized that most of the diseases that do not have vaccines or cure to them are tropical diseases, hence the need for science. Indeed the idea about what research staff should be made of is incredible.

  6. The background of most of the leaders produced by this country are not scientific oriented and it's sad how most of them pay little or no attention to the scientific sector. As promised by the ruling president, we have seen none of his scientific based appeals in his manifesto well executed. Sometimes it's very pathetic to find a scientist in Ghana writing grants to people outside the country to fund a project for our own good, it shouldn't be so. I think it's high time the scientific association in Ghana sent a plea to the government. Mr. president should take a cue from our neighbours,Nigeria, with a splendid work done. This marvelous work, I'm sure, was not solely the idea of the British, the Nigerian's also contributed their quota. The initiative must be there before we execute any task. We can start at least by devoting at least 1% of our GDP, towards scientific development in our dear nation, if not the 1.5 % as promised. Also, the 4-year Senior High School system introduced by the previous government has yield a positive response as this has been the best results ever produced since the WASSCE system was introduced.

  7. Some people argue that politics is far important than science. As a young scientist, I say its mere ignorance, but as a realist, I quite agree with them. Facing facts, it is these politicians who dictate to the scientific community. Unless the scientific world becomes an independent body from the government, then these politicians would forever dictate to the science world. Politicians do a lot of things to get into power, including lying and this does not surprise me if they have failed to deliver the promise of the 1.5 GDP for science. The surprising irony is the fact that, as at now, leaders of the scientific community in Ghana, knowing the current situation, haven’t boldly stepped up to the government. The complaining days should be over by now and the working or action day should commence.

  8. It is high time we realise what the true value of science and technology is. It is what is propelling the nations of the world into development but we are too blind to see. Many politicians in their quest for power promise to provide milk and honey, but, do they have plans of actually providing this milk and honey they talk of? They promise to make Ghana better by improving on the economy. The question we should put to them is how they plan on improving the economy. Is it by importing finished products whilst exporting the raw material? This is clearly not working. Do we need a scientist as the next president of Ghana to realise that science and technology is what we need to develop? I do not think so. I think we need a leader who knows and understands what it takes to develop not necessarily a science oriented one. The world is fast changing and it is those who can create and invent who will ultimately survive. We talk of what rich cultural practices we have but it is these same practices that have made our thinking primitive and prevented us from moving forward. Culture is dynamic not static. It changes with the changing need of the people. Why then should we preserve a culture which does not really satisfy our growing need? Drumming and dancing is nice but it sure does not eliminate poverty neither does it cure diseases nor bring development to a nation otherwise Ghana would have developed many many years ago at the rate at which we drum and dance.

  9. Nana Addo's lecture is illusion. The NPP government of which he was a member absolutely disappointed Ghanaians. If had these thing in mind not do it then. If Ghanaians are interest in proper discussion of science and technology, then they should patiently wait for the 2044 biochemist. Yet to be disclose