In the build up towards the Tamale Economic Summit, a Circumspecte powered Google+ Hangout was held to discuss the role of the native in development, as well as migration and investment trends in relation to northern Ghana. Circumspecte founder Jemila Abdulai and Cranchon Media Manager Prince Baah-Doudu hosted the online event.
A panel of enterprising, young Ghanaians with ties to Ghana’s three northern regions – through either heritage and/or economic interest – shared their insights, namely: Abdul Ghaffar Adam (@GhaffarAdam), Yaganoma Baatuolkuu (@wanjofoodsgh), John Stephen Agbenyo (@agbedela), Ruka Yaro De-Liman (@RukaYaro), Aliu Mikashini (@mikashini), Nuong Faalong (@Nuongg), Yakubu Habib Yakubu (@kubu2011), and Tungtaeya Abdel Majeed (@unashamedafro).
The panel extensively discussed a plethora of issues, beginning with their various contributions to the development of the three northern regions in Ghana. They also shared how they are adding to youth employment, creating a steady demand for almost extinct agricultural products, and introducing new products using local crops.
“Most people don’t think of tamarind as a juice. We are making syrups and sauces. They love it! The potential is huge.” – Yaganoma Baatuolkuu
On the question of who should spearhead development, the majority opinion was that the government should create an enabling environment for natives to pioneer socio-economic development. The people, being the source of legitimacy of the government should not rely solely on the institution but rather innovate and create. Emphasis was also made on the importance of proactivity in addressing socio-economic challenges.
“An entrepreneur isn’t someone who has plenty money, but someone who identifies a challenge and addresses it” – Ruka Yaro De-Liman
The issue of foreign perception towards northern Ghana and its natives generated passionate responses from the panel. They identified the influence of language used in association with Northern Ghana and how it affects perceptions. All the panelists agreed on the need for a change in terminology; for instance using, “challenges” instead of “problems”.
The question of why natives choose not to identify with their heritage or their “northerness”, so to speak, also came up. It was agreed that the perception of the North needs to be revised. The responsibility to rebrand what it means to be a “northerner” lies squarely on the shoulders of the new generation of Northern Ghanaians.
“If we are able to manage our own affairs to a certain level, everyone will be happy to be affiliated with the North” – Aliu Mikashini
“Until we make being a Northern Ghanaian a positive thing, nobody will want to be linked to it” – Tungtaeya Abdel Majeed
As with the first Tamale Summit G+ Hangout, the need for a structured network of natives was made clear. Through this network, mentorship programs could be established to inspire and help emerging entrepreneurs. A lively debate ensued on whether remittances from family members who migrate to Ghana’s principal economic cities actually help or harm efforts at sustainable development, with a spotlight on porter girls and women (kayayo).
“We should come out to create Northern networks for mentorship, idea sharing” – Yakubu H. Yakubu
The role of information technology in advancing socio-economic development in the North was exhausted thoroughly. A number of thriving enterprises were highlighted, including the Ghana Communiy Emergency Response Team founded by Yakubu H. Yakubu and comprised of 50 volunteers; 30 of whom are registered health personnel. Stephen Agbenyo of Savannah Signatures shed light on their mobile-based maternal health registry and platform geared at creating awareness on maternal and reproductive health.
“People want to see what is available in practical terms and what they can do with technology” – Stephen Agbenyo
In the final round of questions, panelists shared thoughts on where they hoped Northern Ghana would be within the next five years; the general response was holistic socio-economic development, extensive exploitation of agriculture and local industries, and improvement in infrastructure (mainly information technology).
“We shouldn’t just be on the receiving side. We should be active partners in development – what are the key goals?” – Abdul Ghaffar Adam
“Represent the North, represent it right so we can be proud of it. It’s up to us.” – Nuong Faalong
The Hangout birthed novel ideas to improve development in the three Northern regions and offered a preview into the discussions, issues and opportunities which will be center stage during the inaugural Tamale Economic Summit, slated for 2015.
Written by Hakeem Adam
Edited by Jemila Abdulai