For most Ghanaians, there was never any boom
by Yepoka Yeebo
The dialysis unit of the Korle Bu Hospital in Accra ran out of water just as Kwadwo Ohene Sarfoh’s elderly father was being hooked up to a machine. The nurses shrugged—there wasn’t much they could do. So Ohene Sarfoh had to hire a tanker truck to deliver water to hospital. This was earlier this year—boom time Ghana: steady economic growth, the façade of functioning institutions, the good-news story everyone wanted—but the biggest hospital in the country routinely ran out of water.
The boom is now officially over. Last week, Ghana announced plans to ask the International Monetary Fund for a bailout to prop up the country’s currency, which fell almost 40% against the dollar this year. News of the bailout was a surprise to most of the world: Ghana is Barack Obama’s “wonderful success story economically.” But the average Ghanaian could have told you something was wrong years ago.
People were worried in 2011: the Ghanaian economy grew by a record 15%, but few new jobs appeared. They were worried in 2012, when the blackout-prone Electricity Company of Ghana (also known as “Either Candle or Generator”) hiked rates by 70% as the government was forced to abandon pricey subsidies. Then in 2013, the government was paralyzed as the Supreme Court dealt with claims of election fraud—and earlier this year, middle-class Ghanaians started stuffing thousands of dollars under mattresses.