As the World Considers Brexit, Ghanaians Worry about Football

Every day, in every part of the world, something happens. Mostly, it’s a matter of birthdays or stressful traffic or a local outbreak of the flu. Sometimes, there are regionally significant issues to deal with – like the Zika virus. And occasionally, those become a matter of global concern, as we saw with Ebola.

And then there’s the moment when a comparatively small island country decides to move away from established allegiances and the world has no choice but to pay attention. That’s exactly what happened with Brexit; the UK is leaving the EU, and everything is terribly confusing at the moment. Even in Ghana.

You see, there are plenty of people, especially in Africa, that rely on trade agreements with the European Union. And, the United Kingdom has been a big part of that. What does it mean when new agreements must be negotiated? How does that affect duty-free exports to the UK… and the EU? Which Ghanaian products will suffer as a result of the split?

Ghana isn’t unique; this discussion is happening in every corner. They’re debating the issues in South Africa, Canada, and Peru. Every country’s international economic departments are scrambling.

But, while the business people, economists, and ambassadors work out their strategy, ordinary Ghanaians worry about whether Egypt will come back to bite the Black Stars after the Pharaohs’ defeat in 2014. It’s a fair question; and for most Ghanaians, it feels a great deal more relevant to day-to-day life. That’s what most people have, you know – ordinary lives, filled with birthdays and traffic jams.

Perhaps that’s why no one seems to have noticed that the Ghanaian economy doesn’t look as bad as everyone thought. (Or perhaps the presidential campaigners are doing a marvelous job of pointing out the faults.

With help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ghana was able to hold its head above water financially for the past few years (even if Accra has seen enough flooding to drown the city). And the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, has announced that government debt will begin to slow in the face of expansion.

Then again, this business about a national airline may just muck things up for the government – whoever runs the country next year. The plan is to develop an airport that operates as a regional hub, similar to what Emirates Airlines has done for Dubai and Etihad has done for Abu Dhabi. Sadly, a Ghanaian government-run airline and airport is unlikely to achieve what the Middle Eastern carriers have done. The reason? The investment of princes and high-ranking figures in the UAE ensured that the airports and airlines were everything that people really wanted. In Africa, it’s difficult to imagine government officials giving money rather than taking it – and that’s with the relatively low level of corruption in Ghana.

Yes, that’s exactly why Ghanaians prefer to focus on the October 23 match against Uganda’s Cranes and whether Egypt will dash Ghana’s hopes for the Russian World Cup in 2018. Not only is it safer, it’s probably easier to bet on than positive trade agreements after an EU split or whether a national airline can transform Accra into a hub. And it’s important to have something when everything else is birthdays and traffic jams.

Skip to toolbar