Kofi Boateng is a conscientious worker, and he took his job very seriously. As the Deputy PR-man for the Ghana Tourism Board, he believes, with religious fervor, that he had been called upon to make Ghana safe and attractive for Tourism.
I met him at his elegant, if not posh, office at the Board's headquarters in Tesano, Accra. Sweating profusely, he continually dabbed his face with a face towel "The bloody thing has just packed up again."
I took it that he meant by 'the thing', the air-conditioner. He was in a sharp 3-peice suit with a loud, if too colourful, tie and all the works.
"Taking the jacket off might help a little bit." I offered. He regarded me as though I was some ancient freak that just crawled out of hole.
"Here we have to dress properly." He scoffed; wiping his dark Ashanti face with the back of his hand. I pointed to the dripping towel, 'Thank you." He said and picked up the soiled kerchief. He squeezed it into his waste paper basket and wiped his face with it.
"Bloody fools." He said to no one in particular. He re-arranged his cluttered table, and displayed his cellular telephone conspicuously. He was letting me know that he truly belongs in the creme-de-creme of the Civil Service, as it is only the top echelon who could get a mobile phone and afford to keep it. His Compaq Laptop computer sat majestically on a low table displaying Spreadsheets statistics in figure tables and charts. The display was sharp and crisp. I let my eyes stayed on the monitor awhile. I wanted him to notice that I was admiring the appurtenances of his office.
"Bloody fools," Mr. Boateng fumed, again. "Do you know the number one problem we have in this country?" He asked, directing a penetrating gaze in my direction.
"Yes, Inflation." I answered, almost automatically. He gave me a cold stare, dried his face and stroked his Peter Tosh's goatee.
"There, you are wrong, my friend. Have another guess." He said, smiling.
"Our fast sinking cedis." I answered with a laugh.
"This is not time or place for wise-cracks, my friend." He warned me, with the appropriate countenance.
I was unrepentant, "Why don't you tell me, then?"
There and then, his secretary, a petite figure, beautiful as only African ladies could be, massively-hipped and with a heavy backyard, sauntered, actually danced into the room, breasts heaving. Her heavily mascaraed face roamed over me. Her lips parted just a little to voice 'hello,' to me. In front of her boss, she laid some dated manila files. I noticed immediately that she did not display the normal courtesy one expect in a relationship, any relationship that hasn't move into the romantic plane. He saw the damaged and gallantly attempted to change it.
"Didn't you see that I am busy, very busy? He stammered. "How many times have I told you to knock before entering this office?" He queried. She was not impressed. She merely roamed her large eyeballs above his large head, as though she was admiring the framed diplomas at the back up his chair.
"Sign them, please." She barely opened her lips.
His efforts at gallantry were a flop. He swallowed his pride, took the leaf of paper from the file and turned to me "Excuse me, Mr...."
"Don't worry about me. I can wait." I said, smiling. I did not know what else I could do to bolster his deflated ego.
It is a terrible price some executives pay to get under the skirts of their secretaries. He pretended to read while she hovered over him like a debt collector. He finished whatever he was reading and appended his signature and pushed the file back at her. She collected it with a murmur and promenaded out, just the way she came in. His humiliation was total, complete. He fidgeted first with his pen, then a pencil and then his cellular phone, and back to the pen.
"Where were we, again?" He finally asked me, his goatee aglow.
"You were going to tell me the number one problem in this country."
"Oh yeah, the number one problem with this country, take it from me is incompetence. Sheer incompetence. Nothing even comes a close second. He elucidated like a professor giving lectures to new students." I let him continue with his analysis.
"See," he cried, working himself up. "The bloody air-conditioner technician has been coming here for two weeks, trying to fix the bloody AC. All he's managed to do in those two weeks was to make a bad situation worse. Before he screwed up, pardon my choice of words; we had a working unit, though it was not cool enough. We called the bastard. And what did he do? I will tell you what the SOB did. He fooled around for two weeks and now the damn thing has stopped working completely. At the end of two weeks, the bastard discovered that he was not an expert on split unit. He is now trying to get his 'master'. You see what I mean? Sheer incompetence. Our people are so incompetent. You see plain imbeciles masquerading as specialists. They took some training, halfway through their apprenticeships; they are in a hurry to start making money. They ran away from their training to start hustling around, messing up people's properties. The only thing left for that bastard to blame was the wall. He blamed this, blamed that. Today, it is low power; tomorrow it is high voltage. He made us changed this, changed that until he practically ran out of ideas. The nerf even had the nerve to ask what I thought was wrong with the AC. Can you imagine that? I am not an AC technician. Sheer incompetence. Sorry to bog you down with our woes. Shall we get back to your own problem? What is it that we can do for you?"
"Thank you. Actually, I am working on a paper on Tourism in Ghana and wondered if you can give me some pointers." "Pointers," he looked bemused. "As you know the policy of the government is to make the Tourism sector increase its contribution to the National Economy. We are resolved to promote Tourism and make Ghana as attractive as possible. We are determined to keep Ghana as the Gateway to West Africa." Like a pro, he recited a well-rehearsed prose.
"Why would you want to do that? Why do you want to make Ghana attractive for Tourism? "I asked skeptically.
He arched his heavy brows up and gave me a laconic smile. "Why, why, you asked. Are the reasons not obvious enough?" He was getting exasperated.
"Not to me. That's why I am asking."
'The benefits of tourism are manifold! The PR man declared, his voice rising an octave. "One instance should suffice. We are talking about people bringing and spending their money in this country. Can't you see that?" He was really screaming.
"How does that translate into meaningful economic development in Ghana?" I was still skeptical. He regarded me as though I was the biggest moron this side of the ape's divide.
"Don't you think that when people bring and spend money in this country, Ghana is richer by the exact amount they bring in?"
"No." I replied. I wanted him to explain.
He toyed with a pencil, as he eyed me suspiciously. He looked at me the way one would look at a demented relative. "Since every elementary economics textbook deals with that subject, I need not go into it here. I guess you missed your economics 101 classes." He allowed himself a wide laugh.
"No, I didn't miss my economics classes." I retorted. "Perhaps you will agree that Ghana is richer by tourism only to the extent that the tourists spend money buying what Ghana produced. And perhaps you will agree that, at the moment, Ghana produces very little that tourists are dying to buy. In addition, perhaps you will also agree that most of the tourists that come in to Ghana still spend the largest chunk of their money on imported items. They travel on foreign airlines and they stay in foreign-owned hotels. You don't think that they are feeding themselves on our Banku, Kenkey or Ampesi? Of course, not. They are eating imported foods, consuming imported beverages. At the end of the day, they throw about five dollars to buy Ghanaian trinkets and beads. The drums are rolling out to sing their praises. Tourism is an over-blown myth." I cried. I was getting lyrical.
What is mythical about it?" The PR man wanted to know. "All the arguments you so lucidly posited could also be equally, and very easily, countered by more cogent expositions. However, this is neither the place nor time. I am a busy man, as you can see."
"Let me explain." I countered, shaking with righteous anger. "Myth No 1 is that tourism brings economic development. It does not. The empirical evidence simply does not exist to support the specious tourism leads to development hoopla. There is no country in the world that has been developed by tourism. It is equally fallacious to say that tourists are looking for developed places to visit. Most of them are dying to view pristine, unspoiled nature, the likes of which doesn't exist in their lands. And soon as you developed your land for tourism, the tourists simply move to other, unspoiled, undeveloped places. Just ask Turkey. Another myth is that tourists are people with money fighting in their pockets. This is not so. They are generally a bored and tired bunch, who had worked their asses off for a whole year. Sometimes they are unemployed youth slaving to save enough money to get out of the stressful and tedious lives they live in their countries. Mostly, they are pederasts and homosexuals looking for sexual misadventures. They have very little left after paying for their tickets. The real rich people, the ones with money fighting in their pockets, do not come to Ghana to play tourists. They simply buy whole Islands. I hope that I am making myself somewhat clear? Those countries that believe the fiction of tourism leads to development nonsense are living a dream. Thailand was a country that threw every caution to the winds in a desperate bid to attract tourists. It is today paying a very terrible price. Socially, it is a much-disrupted society. It is also paying a heavy price to cover the health bills for it citizens suffering from AIDS and other sex related diseases. Psychologically, many Thais children, victims of pedophile and pederasts, are maimed for life. Moreover, Thailand is lagging far behind the other Asian nations that concentrated their energies on manufacturing and producing goods for exports. All the Asian Tigers, plus the Asian miracles, decided on adding values to things, while Thailand turned itself into the world's whore. Thailand was lagging far behind the other 'Tigers' before the meltdown. What do you see nowadays in Ghana but sexual perverts from Euro-America scandalously messing up our women? Go to any beach in Ghana today, the sight that confronts you are truly sickening. You have sick grandees messing up, unashamedly, with our young girls. The only things that Tourists develop are the sexual diseases they carry around the world. Do you know what a Cuban minister said on tourism?
"No." The PR man admitted.
'Tourism is like chemotherapy. It may cure your cancer, but it could also kill you in the process. Do you know what we need in this country?"
"I am sure that you are the expert on such matters." The spin-doctor bristled with heavy sarcasm.
"What we need are strategies to add values to our well-endowed natural and agricultural resources. Take for instance, our Cocoa. For about a century now, our folks have been using their heavy muscles to cultivate this 'cash-crop' that does not give them enough cash to look after their families. The European middle-men, doing nothing more strenuous than pushing papers are making a lot more than our poor farmers toiling fourteen hours a day in tropical sun. Our rain forests have almost disappear. Many of the timbers are rotten away at Takoradi, because the 'world-market prices' have dipped, and we are too stupid to think of ways to add values to them. Do you know the number one problem of this Country?"
He regarded me disdainfully, "I am sure that you're going to tell me." He snapped, throwing every courtesy out of the window.
I met and held his gaze. "The number one problem of this Country," I declaimed, "Are those round pegs in square holes who cannot keep their nets dry. I am talking especially about those of them messing up the lives of their young secretaries." He gaped at me open-mouthedly.
I was already leaving his office, knowing fully well that my words registered the desired effects.