A Fine Selection of Porridge

I am mid way through a two week assignment in Ghana. Before I tell you about it, we must first locate Ghana. Find the equator, move towards the West African coast. Keep looking up, the equator passes just beneath Ghana on the southern bulge of West Africa. But, do not confuse Ghana with nearby Guinea, nor with Guinea Bissau or even with Equatorial Guinea – – both are in the neighborhood. Or for that matter with Guyana and Guyane – – for those two countries you would be on the wrong continent – – they lie in South America. It seems there is a whole family of homophonic G-countries. But I digress.

I am working with Antika Company, a small farming inputs supplier. My client provides fertilizer, pesticides, and grain seed to farmers in Ghana’s Upper West Region (A region is equivalent to a U.S. state.) Antika helps farmers in its region improve crop yields. And the company hopes to reach more farmers. Consequently my assignment is to help Antika develop a growth plan with special emphasis on marketing.

They have no marketing and sales personnel. The company accountant doubles in these crucial functions. A by-the-books accountant’s brain is not the natural home of a creative marketing mind. Nor is a typically introverted accountant a prime choice to fit an extroverted salesman profile. But the company is doing well, so something is working…nevertheless there is ample room for improvement and that will be my goal.

Antika is located in Wa, a town of about 50,000 people in the far northwest corner of the country. The local language is Wali, a relatively minor language in Ghana’s pool of 70 languages and dialects. (36% of Ghanaians speak English.)

Ghana is one of Africa’s rising stars: a stable democracy with a growing economy. Nevertheless, it is not yet a wealthy place. GDP/capita ranks 142nd out of 193 countries in the UN. Its GDP/capita is $3,100 vs. $48,000 in the U.S. Ghana is slightly smaller than Oregon with a population about the same as Texas, 25 million. The various religions here get along with one another very well, there are no evident signs of strife. (69% Christian, 16% Muslim, 15% all other including traditional African religions.)

I saw a current Gallup poll that ranked Ghana as the most religious country in the world. I already had deduced this by observing business and shop signs around the country. Here are a few examples:

• God’s Way Metal Works
• Finger of God Communications
• God Is Love Car Air Conditioning
• Hallelujah Ventures
• Mother Mary Full Of Grace Palm Oil
• God Is in Control Cold Storage, and they compete with…
• …God Is Able Cold Storage
• God Has It Made Convenience Store
• Remember Your Creator Weaving Thread
• and a bar, improbably named, In God We Trust New Jersey Spot

And not to short shrift the local Muslim community:

• Allah Alone Is The Healer Herbal Center
• Peace Allah Trucking

Eight years ago my kids and I visited Ghana. Local people used a variety of friendly terms to address me: Mr. White, Big guy, Papa, Mon Pere, Dad, and Granddad (I think it is a term of respect and not a physical description…especially not eight years ago.) They also called me Obroni ,white man, in Twi, Ghana’s primary indigenous language. This time only Obroni has been repeated and Nasara has been added. Nasara is the Wali term for white man. Some things never change.

And finally a word about the diverse food choices here in Wa. Ghanaians select from one of four traditional starch dishes. First there is TZ, a thick corn porridge eaten with one’s fingers. Or we could choose Banku, a thick fermented corn porridge eaten with the fingers. And if these two are inadequately diverse, we can try Kenkey a thick fermented corn porridge steamed in corn husks, then eaten with the fingers. Too much corn? OK, try Fufu a thick cassava porridge eaten with the fingers. You may have already concluded the good news: we have no shortage of thick porridge here in Wa.

4 thoughts on “A Fine Selection of Porridge”

  1. Please tell me you had the presence of mind to drink (and buy rounds in honor of Chris Christie) at the In God We Trust New Jersey Joint.

  2. I was laughing out loud when I read this! Love the store names and hopefully there are more choices when it comes to dinner…

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