This can be a true story; solely names have been modified or omitted to keep away from embarrassment. It’s a story that illustrates the dire financial state of affairs of the early Eighties led to by the revolution that adopted Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings’s second approaching 31 December 1981. It isn’t a narrative about abject poverty, however a couple of member of a comparatively prosperous group: the school of the Kwame Nkrumah College of Science and Expertise (KNUST), Kumasi. It’s a story about what needs to be a cheerful occasion: a younger man’s acquisition of his first automobile, however in these darkish days glad occasions have been scarce and ephemeral.
The elemental financial drawback in Ghana within the early Eighties was the identical as throughout the Acheampong years of the earlier decade. The unit of forex, the cedi, was fastened at 2.75 to the US greenback however its buying energy had fallen far beneath its nominal worth on the official trade fee. For individuals who might acquire an import licence, importing a car was considered comparatively low cost in cedi phrases. Nonetheless, import licences have been very exhausting to acquire and imported items have been resold at black market costs that mirrored the true buying energy of the forex.
The Expertise Consultancy Centre (TCC) of UST had adopted the coverage of using graduates of the college for his or her 12 months of Nationwide Service and holding on the perfect younger individuals as assistant analysis fellows. Through the years since its basis in 1972, the TCC had constructed up an efficient workforce of those younger professionals, however retaining them was turning into troublesome as a result of native salaries have been quickly dropping worth and alternatives beckoned from extra superior international locations abroad. The administration was all the time looking out for tactics of rewarding benefit inside the limits imposed by college laws and apparent financial constraints.
Kwesi was a younger man of outstanding expertise and work output, who served for quite a lot of years with none trace of wanting to hunt greener pastures, however he had a eager curiosity in shopping for a motor automobile. He insisted that he might afford the associated fee if solely he might pay on the official trade fee. So the expatriate director was persuaded to purchase a automobile within the UK and resell it to Kwesi on the desired phrases. The cedis have been repaid in common instalments and for a number of weeks Kwesi loved the envy of his friends as he drove across the campus in his shiny new Japanese saloon. Then a lot to the horror of the TCC administration, Kwesi arrived on the workplace automobile park one morning with the wings of his automobile painted yellow!
Guests to Ghana see instantly that half of the vehicles on the roads have yellow-painted wings – the official designation of a taxi. Kwesi advised the director that he had discovered that he couldn’t run his automobile on his college wage and wanted to function the car as a taxi to fulfill the common repayments. He stated that he didn’t intend to change into a taxi driver himself, however he would make use of a junior brother to ply for rent on the streets of Kumasi.
From that point, Kwesi’s automobile was not often seen on the campus and it was about six months later that the director once more noticed it parked on the workplace. The shiny new automobile had aged twenty years and the previously slim junior brother was now of portly mature stature. Kwesi was requested if he was glad with the returns from his taxi enterprise. He stated that the enterprise was not flourishing due to the gasoline scarcity. The taxi spent most days ready in a queue on the filling station. Kwesi was then requested if he thought that his brother was dishonest him. He expressed shock at being requested this query and stated that he was certain that he might belief his brother. He wished to know why the director had requested this query. The reply was one other query, ‘Have you ever seen how fats your brother has change into?’ A shadow of doubt crossed the younger man’s face. ‘I’ll look into it,’ he stated.
When he got here later to report, Kwesi admitted that his brother had held again a lot of the earnings he had earned from the taxi enterprise. On many days the brother had succeeded in getting gasoline and working usually however he had reported to Kwesi that he had remained idle all day within the queue on the filling station. Kwesi sacked his brother however he was left with an acute dilemma: if he could not belief his brother, who might he belief to drive the taxi? If the taxi remained idle, he could not afford to run it as a personal automobile, particularly as its worn and battered situation demanded frequent repairs to maintain it on the street. His solely choice was to promote the car, and the quantity he acquired solely simply coated the excellent steadiness owed to the director.
Solely the rich might afford to run a personal automobile in Rawlings’s revolutionary Ghana. The aspiration was far out of attain of younger salaried skilled, and on the college campus, even professors who didn’t have a thriving consultancy follow discovered that their trustworthy previous jalopies needed to be laid up. The important drawback remained till April 1983 when the trade fee of the cedi fell from 2.75 to 24.69 cedis to the US greenback, with frequent additional devaluations over the following three years. As for Kwesi, his private drawback was solved a number of years later when he was invited to review for his doctorate at an Ivy League college within the USA.