Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I HAVE decided to go to town (apologies to the late Prof P.A.V. Ansah) and African governments are my targets.
As one of the 24 African journalists who covered the opening of the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, I was ashamed to learn that only four African countries were able to provide the funds to put up their own pavilions.
Apart from Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, no other Africa country was able to raise the capital to establish its own pavilion.
They had to live on the generosity of the Chinese government, which put up the huge Africa pavilion in which individual African countries, including Ghana, operated.
“Oh! Africa”, was how a colleague African journalist exclaimed as he shook his head in disbelief.
All this happened at a time when some African leaders lived ostentatious lives at the expense of a programme like the Shanghai Expo, which brings the world together to find solutions to problems with the view to changing the lives of their people for the better.
When at all will African leaders live up to their responsibilities and stop disgracing their countries before the eyes of the international community?
Let me pause here before I deviate from the significance of the Expo and the great efforts put up by the Chinese government to welcome the world for the grand event.
Clearly, the World Expo in Shanghai could not have chosen a better theme than ”Better City, Better Life”.
Why? Humanity is at a turning point as majority of the world’s population currently live in urban communities, a situation that has made sustainable urban development a top global priority.
Visitors to the Expo are being introduced to the latest green technologies for urban life, which the world has developed.
It is refreshing that Ghana is participating in the event and it is expected that the nation will come out of the half-year Expo better placed to change the state of its cities for the better.
The theme for the Expo reflects the common aspiration of mankind for improved lives in the cities through strategic policy initiatives, and the Chinese government must be congratulated for making the Expo a top priority, right from the first day of preparations making it the biggest World Expo ever in the 156 year old history of the global event.
As I watched Chinese President, Hu Jintao, open the curtains for the Expo on April 30, I could not but agree with the European Union(EU) President, Jose Manuel Barusso, that “the Expo is a symbol of the rise of the East.”
Mr Barusso, who was among the 19 world leaders who took part in the glittering opening ceremony of the mega-event was overwhelmed by the level of inputs into the organisation of the Expo, the first to be held by a developing nation and said it demonstrates the growing influence of China in world affairs.
Chinese government sources say about $6 billion was spent on the organisation of the event but a section of the media put the figure at a staggering $54 billion.
It is the first time that the EU, which is China’s biggest trade partner, is participating in the global event outside a European country and according to the EU ambassador to China, Mr Sege Abou,”The presence of Barusso at the event is a signal that the EU is optimistic and confident about Sino-EU relations as well as the development of China and Shanghai.”
China expects to exceed the estimated 70 million visitors at the Expo.
Long queues, way beyond the expectation of organisers, continue to form at the gates to the site as of May 5, and people had to wait for hours before securing tickets.
The EU and other world economies are learning useful lessons but it is uncertain whether Africa in general and Ghana in particular are in the same position.
Some 192 nations and 56 international organisations and people across the world are in Shanghai to discuss cultural development, address concepts in the area of housing, living and work environment, and showcase significant examples of sustainable and societal growth.
Officials at some of the pavilions are inviting visitors to interact with them on how cities will be like in the not too distant future.
Through movies and other educational materials, the Pavilion of Future,
for instance, is proposing possibilities of factors that drive human development in the cities.
The China pavilion, the most visited so far, takes visitors on a journey through the Chinese wisdom in the evolution of cities.
Beginning with the unprecedented urban development China has experienced in the past 30 years, their exhibitions throw light on the path they took to reach that height.
The visitor is then made to look into the future to predict what the future will be for the Chinese urbanisation programme.
Surely, these are clear demonstrations of the high value China puts on urbanisation. Today, China’s cities are one of the best managed in the world.
From Beijing to Shanghai, Nanjing, Chongging, Wenjiang and Zhenjiang among many others, China has built magnificent cities with highly effective municipal administrations.
Ghana is participating in the event under questionable preparations and the question remains whether the nation can come out any better as expected.
For instance, I did not see the importance of displaying the huge picture of President Mills at the event when none of the countries has the picture of their presidents at their various pavilions.
Against the background of the leadership qualities of the President, I think he will not like the idea of placing his picture at the main entrance to the pavilion.
Only the pictures of Michael Essien and Dominic Adiyiah are attracting some attention at the Ghanaian pavilion and I suggested to an official at the pavilion, Mr Ben Heh, to discuss with his bosses and do something about the situation.
Either President Mills or his vice will visit the Expo to celebrate Ghana Day on July 8, but what is very important is for our cities to reap maximum benefits from the Expo.
Why are the metropolises not represented at the Expo when the focus of the event is on cities?
Ghanaian cities, particularly Kumasi and Accra, are facing serious challenges with respect to their development initiatives.
Sanitation, traffic management, environment, haphazard development and noise making are but a few of the problems in the cities in Ghana today.
There are public toilets in Chinese cities and they are well managed to the extent that the first visitor can hardly notice any of the facilities without the signpost.
This is the direct opposite in our cities. Apart from the unhygienic environment at the public toilets, their management has been politicised, bringing along attendant problems.
As a nation, we have to learn something good from the Shanghai Expo so that the rot in our system can be eliminated to enable the people enjoy better lives in the cities.

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