US President Barack Obama arrives in Ghana today and expectations among Ghanaians are high. Ghana’s government is running a series of radio ads in anticipation of President Obama’s visit.
“First black president of the United States of America, you have become a shining star, and despite the height of your achievement you are still proud to be called a black man. Barack Obama is coming home. He is coming to Ghana, Gold Coast, the centre of the world,” one ad declares.
Information minister Zita Okaikoi says the visit is a boon to Ghana.
“Once Obama comes here, we should expect good things. Investors would want to come in, to see what Ghana has to offer,” he said.
The government is also using this visit to promote Ghana’s image as a stable democracy, and an attractive tourist destination.
“It sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that you are a country worth visiting. People should take advantage to go there to see why he went there. We think we have got what it takes to make this visit so prominent. And place us where we actually need to be,” said Deputy Minister of Tourism Kobi Achampong.
In Ada, 150kms from the capital Accra, retiree Philomena Dadzie hopes the visit will change the everyday lives of many Ghanaians.
“This is not the first time the US president is coming to Ghana, and Obama’s coming here too will have an impact and this will bring jobs for the youth who are not employed,” said Dadzie.
Fisherman Filemon Atitsogbe hopes Ghanaian democracy can learn from America’s example.
“Democracy started in America, and when Obama comes he will share his experiences with Ghana,” he said.
Back in Accra, preparations were underway for the visit. Some people have renamed their shops, and thousands of posters line the major streets.
The government put up some of them, but a group called Friends for Obama, Ghana, is responsible for the largest billboards. Head organiser Nancy Sam said they are working so hard because Obama is the first black US president.
“Since he is from Africa, he is half-African, this is the time we should show we are brothers and we should give the support to him. In fact, that is the main reason, that we felt that this is one of us,” she said.
Sam says the group started supporting Obama even before he got the Democratic Party nomination.
“Because Ghanaians could not physically give the money, US$5 each, we realised we have relatives in America: we have sisters, we have brothers in America who are American citizens. So we were able to convince them that they have to pay that money. They have to do everything they can to make this dream of Obama come to pass,” said Sam.
Friends for Obama, Ghana, organised a series of rallies before the visit. Hundreds of people showed up, including Adwoa Frimpomaa, who travelled for five hours to attend the rally.
“He is my mentor, he is my father in spirit, he is my everything . And I love him and I love him so much and I will continue to love him,” Frimpomaa said.
When President Obama arrives today, thousands of cheering Ghanaians like her will be at the airport to meet him.
The United Nations says organised crime is “plundering” West Africa, as illicit goods flood through the region.
A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says the smuggling of oil, arms, toxic waste, diamonds and cigarettes continues to flourish in West Africa.
Corruption is also rife among senior officials, undermining democracy and economic development, the UN says.
But the report did notice one positive trend: a reduction in the flow of cocaine through West Africa to Europe.
In recent years West African countries have been used as a transit point by Colombian drug lords. But increased international attention has smothered some trafficking activity in the past year.
The report identified oil theft and smuggling as the greatest threat to West Africa, as it is directly linked to insurgency and violence in the region.
In Nigeria, some 55 million barrels of oil – nearly one-tenth of the country’s annual production – are lost every year through theft and smuggling. The illicit trade often leads to pollution.
West Africa has also become a major destination for electronic waste from Europe, such as old phones, computers and batteries, which is another threat to the environment.
“Organised crime is plundering West Africa, destroying governments, the environment, human rights and health,” said UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa.
The agency warned that democracy and development would continue to falter in West Africa while crime and corruption flourish. – VOA/ BBCOnline.