Reflections on Fieldwork on the West Coast forested Beach
The hollowed out state of Ghana and the co-creation of value.
It is not only in Economics that there is no free lunch. In Politics too there is no free lunch. Politics is the goal attainment domain of society. The big visions of the Akufo-Addo government needs the general infrastructure of politics to succeed. The sum of political resources is a function of structure as well as agency. The given fundamental of our politics is a weak state which provides few mechanisms for political control.
I have just returned from six days of intensive fieldwork in the forested beach of the higher civilization, from Asemkow to Dixcove, with operational headquarters at Busua. My big takeaway is that our national vision - whether Ghana Beyond Aid or digitally enhanced formalization - would not succeed without a strategy of working around our weak state through the co-creation of value. There is need for a sustained relationship between the centralized but weak modern state, proper local government and traditional authorities, as the President praises here.
The total supply of government in the Asemkow to Dixcove stretch is far too weak for needed intentional social transformation. All these towns fall within the Ahanta West Municipal Assembly which was previously headed by my teacher Madam Georgina Bus Kwofie and also later by my friend Mr Kwesi Biney. This appears to be a very difficult District. It has a difficult geographical spread with very bad roads.
I heard questions about the present MCE who is said to have very low visibility and has created a huge storm of disaffection concerning her decision to rent a residence rather than staying in her government provided bungalow. The MP, from the historically somewhat marginal northern town of Abra, I understand, is not perhaps sufficiently influential in the major southern towns of Dixcove and Busua.
The supply of government in Busua is especially worrying. The Chief is the Omanhene of Ahanta but has always been low key and theoretically has to concern himself with all the space between the Ankobra and the Pra. The Assemblyman for Busua, as well as that for Lower Dixcove, is essentially non resident.
The Unit Committees of course do not work. In Busua, which has a globally significant beach, and is, in spite of its difficulties, the hub of tourism in the Western Region, the low supply of government is threatening livelihood through the inadequate management of tourism and immense collapse of fishing.
Dixcove is blessed with very strong traditional state structures. I was there, in the palace of the Omanhene of Lower Dixcove, on Thursday when an arriving boat capsized in the harbour. The deployment o social power centred on the office of the Omanhene of Lower Dixcove was very truly remarkable. All fishermen on the capsized boat were rescued but the boat and its motor were quite completely destroyed.
The presence of the modern state in Dixcove is very, very weak. The most important government office, the office of the Department of Fisheries, has effectively collapsed. Until the arrival of the Minister in Dixcove about two weeks ago I understand the officer had not been seen in Dixcove for months. This is not new. In Moree, in the Central Region, perhaps the most important base for artisanal fishing in Ghana, also, there was really no effective representation of the Department of Fisheries.
The central government is effectively an occasional stranger in Asemkow, Butre, Busua and Dixcove. It can intensively affect social processes only through the adoption of new governance strategies. The President's point on connecting to traditional authorities could be interpreted in the light of Political Science ideas of arm's length governance and the co-creation of value.
The government should cooperate much more intensively with other centers of social power including the traditional authorities, NGOs and other less formal agencies of collective action at the local level especially. The necessary ban on fishing faces real anger amongst fishers especially the lower class Sankwas.
The Government should not take its own fibs too seriously. Ideally there should be an emergency program of labour intensive public works to offer short-term employment to deprived fishers. The government should involve agencies beyond the Ministry of Fisheries in designing this intervention.
I honestly do not know whether the Department of Community Development survives. That would historically have been the lead agency. The Municipal Authority must have broad supervisory authority. We should not believe our own governmentality that the Municipal Authority is the 'highest' political organ in the municipality.
Our chattering classes complain a lot about the large size of government. It. can in fact be argued that the government is not large enough. We should have a ministerial structure at the local government level. Fuller elections at the local level would not in itself increase the total infrastructural power of the state. All Assemblymen should be equipped with motor bikes. And so on.