I trust the holidays have been enjoyable for you. Well, my family hosted a fufu party on Christmas day which went really well; I used rabbit meat for the first time and it was just bae! Anyway, since I couldn’t invite all of you to my house, I thought the least I could do is to share with you some inspirational stories that I heard during this party. Usually, on such occasions, we invite my husband’s old friends of over twenty years and their families. And you know what old friends like to do right? Reminisce!
To the glory of God, they are all successful young Ghanaian professionals and entrepreneurs contributing their quota to the economy of Ghana. When you see them now, it is difficult to imagine the hustling they have had to go through in life especially to get a good education, much less the ghettos they grew up in. I will share some few using pseudo names:
Oko desperately wanted to travel abroad while at the university. Like all of them and most young men at the time in his neighbourhood in Suame, Kumasi, the surest way to make it out of poverty was to travel abroad – this was what they strongly believed. We couldn’t stop laughing as he told us about one particular attempt to travel to the UK, where he submitted his documents to the UK High Commission on a Friday and was told to come and collect his visa the next Monday. He called his friends back home that he had gotten the visa, and was so ecstatic that in his usual Oko-fashion borrowed some money to throw a mini-party in Accra to celebrate. Little did he know that his life would change on Monday. He got to the High Commission only to be informed that they had noticed his date of birth as stated on the visa forms did not match their records and hence he was being refused the visa (apparently, someone on campus had advised him to change his date of birth for whatever reason). He was totally crushed! How was he going to tell his friends at Suame that things hadn’t turned out as planned? Besides, he had borrowed the money for the party with the assurance that he was going to work in the UK and pay when he returned, oh boy! While he was waiting for his documents including his passport to be returned to him, he recalled a friend had mentioned that there was a unit instituted to arrest those involved in visa fraud!
Panic gripped him immediately as he thought to himself ‘look at where I come from in Suame, who will come and bail me if I get arrested?’ Without waiting for his passport, he ran out of the High Commission for his dear life! He said to us, that bus ride back home was one of his saddest experiences. To add pepper to his injury, among his friends who went on that day he was the only one who was refused a visa! Ouch
What about Tawiah? In his own words, he had not been really serious as a young youth because he didn’t really know what he wanted in life. In those days, what to do after the university was a real worry to many students especially if you didn’t have rich parents to give you a head start. Hence the quest to travel abroad was a very desperate one for him; it was the only way to make it in life – he thought. So when he got the necessary documents to apply for a UK visa it was a life or death affair for him. Well, thankfully he didn’t die when the Consular Office upon checking his documents said ‘you claim your invitation letter was mailed from the UK along with these other documents, yet all the others have been folded except the invitation letter. How do you explain this?’ His mind went blank at that moment. Long story short, this was a very sad day for him too.
As for Nana, he went to this same High Commission with a lot of confidence. In fact, he even met a lady friend there and coached her on how to answer the interview questions. You see, this was not his first attempt. He was an experienced visa ‘refusee’ but was certain that this was his time. His confidence was boosted further when the lady he had coached was given the visa. Oh, this will be as easy as ABC, he thought. Unfortunately, his fake documents were detected immediately and when he was questioned, he didn’t even bother to argue; he just picked up his documents and walked out quietly. He walked and walked until he got to Kwame Nkrumah Circle. To say he was sad will be an understatement! He went to some small bar and got himself some alcohol after which he got unto the bus and closed his eyes. The next thing he knew, he was being woken up to get off as the bus had reached Asafo in Kumasi. Hmmmm
Kofi tried countless times to get a visa abroad. While on campus, he didn’t even care about exams and all that. He was usually going about looking for documents to travel. In fact, on one occasion he and another friend after many refusals devised a plan to get visas to Yugoslavia, fly KLM and run while on transit in Europe! Imagine the roar of laughter when the men in the room remembered this particular time. One of them joked, ‘Kofi was so desperate to leave Ghana that even a visa to Togo would have made him happy!’ Haha. He recalled one particular visa refusal which was so painful to him that he found himself on a Ford bus to Kumasi (instead of the usual OA bus he preferred). And which song was playing as he entered the bus? Adani Best’s ‘Se wo brenaw’anya a fa no saa’ (translated ‘if you struggle and don’t get it, don’t lose heart’)
Akusah was the ‘lucky’ one amongst them. From his first year in university, he started travelling to the UK to do what we called on Legon Campus ‘international anywork’ during vacations. This ‘Boga Lando’ would return to campus semester after semester with the latest Nokia phone, fresh clothes, etc because he worked very hard doing menial jobs. He said after some time, he thought UK was not favourable enough so he went to the US instead. After university, he returned to the US for a couple of years still doing menial jobs. He was not progressing so he left for UK again thinking things would be better. Boy was he in for a ride! After another couple of years, still having no legal documents and no progress in life he decided to return home to see if life would be better here. This of course was unheard of, who left UK to seek greener pastures in Ghana?
This was then, let me tell you about these five now. Oko now works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ghana and has been posted twice to different countries as a Consular Officer. Through his work, he has had many different travelling opportunities including UK, US and some European countries. Interestingly, once he visited his friends in the UK (those who had been given visas on the day he had been refused). His friends looked at him in amazement doing so well and able to travel to wherever when they had to watch their backs even while stepping out of their homes because they were illegal in the UK! Life is some way indeed!
Tawiah also works for an international NGO, and has been travelling abroad a lot these days. At least once a year, he attends conferences in the US and other countries.
Nana is a businessman, the very epitome of resilience! After the many refusals, he decided to focus on making it in Ghana. He worked so hard as a Direct Sales staff at a bank which helped him excel as a Relationship Manager at another bank afterwards. Later, he quit to start his own business which opened doors for him to travel to the UK, Dubai and other countries. Money was not an issue for him at all. Yet as I write this, business has not been so good but has he given up to go and hustle abroad? No! Knowing him the way I do, I have every confidence that he will bounce back because that is exactly how resilient people behave!
Kofi deserves a standing ovation. He is easily the richest among them with businesses all over and travels to wherever he wants, whenever he wants.
As for Akusah, he returned with a determination to succeed but fear gripped him initially when he couldn’t find a job so he attempted to return to the UK. Thankfully, he was refused a visa and hence he had no choice but to focus on making a living here. After hustling in Accra for 6 months, he found a job. He worked as hard as he had while abroad, had a very positive attitude and learned all he could within the short time he was there. He then found another job in a new multinational organisation. As I write this, he is an executive there and has recently started his own fashion consultancy.
The beauty about these five is that, they started making it right here in Ghana and for some even before they finally got to see the so-called ‘greener pastures’. So if the grass is really greener across the ocean, why do they return home to continue their businesses here? Surely, after such desperation to travel abroad they should have come to carry their whole family abroad as others do. You know why they haven’t? They have discovered the secret that eludes most of us: Africa is a goldmine! Ask yourself this, we are all in this economy which is ‘hard’ and ‘unbearable’. Businesses are not doing well, there is corruption, our people are not supportive and blablabla, all the excuses we can think of. Yet, in our midst are rich people who keep getting richer as we moan. We like to think that the rich get their money through illegal means but really, is this always the case? Young Ghanaian man or woman trying desperately to travel across the ocean for greener pastures; open your eyes! If a Ghanaian can make it in Ghana, so can you. If a Ghanaian can own businesses in Ghana, so can you.
I once heard of a man who said he doesn’t even mind going abroad and going mad there! Really? The news hardly tells us stories of the poor people on the streets of countries across the ocean. I have seen with my own eyes, diseased homeless people with flies hovering all over them, begging for money. If you think hustling in this our hot weather is tough, try sleeping outside a train station in -15°C weather! Trust me, you don’t want to!
Please, if you are an Oko, Tawiah, Nana, Kofi or Akusahtrying desperately to travel abroad by any means necessary think again. Actually, I have a similar story too, only not as dramatic. Today, I get invited to different countries for various reasons on full sponsorship. This is what happens when it is your time. Stop selling your properties to pay a ‘Connection Man’ to send you abroad. Some of the prices I hear of even break my heart! If you are innovative enough to come up with such an amount, use that innovativeness to thrive in this economy. Trust me, a time will come when you will say no to trips abroad in order to attend to more pressing needs in Ghana.
Just so you know, I am not implying that it is not possible to find prosperity abroad. Far from it. In fact, I have several friends who made it while seeking greener pastures in other countries. My point here is, others have made it right here in Ghana and so can anyone who puts their mind to it. Another year is here, don’t waste another pesewa on some ‘connection’; find something to do with your hands even if no one is willing to employ you. Find a problem around you to solve which will generate income, you will be surprised at how you can make money right here if you stop looking over there and focus your attention here. Determine to stay here in Ghana; God will bless your hustle!
And by the way, one of these five men is my husband. Can you guess which one? Have a prosperous new year!