The Hidden Consequences of Globalization - Part 1

George Mwinnyaa

 Institutional Advancement Manager - 9/25/2016


Author: George Mwinnyaa.

Globalization has been a blessing to many people in developing countries: creating jobs, improving health and education, and promoting the general wellbeing of many people, but Akuba’s story is different. Akuba dreamt of becoming a physician; little did she know that at age seventeen she would not only contract HIV but would also be an outcast in her community and painfully rejected by her family and friends.

Esiama is a small coastal village in the Western Region of Ghana. People in Esiama are coconut farmers, fishermen, and fishmongers. Akuba’s parents were able to provide for their children, including their educational needs, and life was generally good. Akuba’s father was a fisherman and also owned a large coconut plantation, which yielded enough money to support the family and take care of Akuba in school. As Akuba was completing her junior high school studies, many industries in Esiama were changing and growing. The coming of international mining companies, the exploration of oil, the establishment of a gas pipeline, and the arrival of refugees from the Ivory Coast in the Ellembelle District created hope for the local residents that their village was going to see major economic growth.

Akuba received her admission letter from Bonzo Kaku Senior High School (BOKASS), one of the best high schools in the Ellembelle District. Families and friends celebrated her hard work and success. Akuba’s admission into this school was a sure promise of a bright future ahead. In Ghana, attending school is not free. Parents have to pay for tuition, books, school uniforms, feeding fees, and other provisions. BOKASS, like many high schools in Ghana, is a boarding school and the tuition and fees are expensive, but Akuba’s family was able to support her education through their farming and fishing income. 

During Akuba’s first year at BOKASS, her parents were constrained to sell their coconut farm to Adamus Resources Limited, an Australian mining company. The mining company got a license from the Ghanaian government and had the full support of all government authorities: farmers were to either accept the compensation or lose their farms without any compensation. Akuba’s parents received what they thought was a small fortune, and Akuba continued her schooling without any financial stress.

A year after the arrival of the mining company, Tullow Oil, a British firm which owns about 90% of shares in Ghana oil, started offshore oil drilling in a nearby town. When drilling started, a gas pipeline was built in the Ellembelle District to capture by-products from the oil drill, which was rich in natural gas. With the coming of these international companies, many other local and regional investors capitalized on the financial opportunities as well, converting coconut farms into extravagant international restaurants, guest houses, hotels, shopping malls, and banks. Within months, electricity and pipe-borne water were extended to all parts of Esiama and street lights were installed. Local residents were happy that their small village was becoming a well-known town. Week by week and month by month, the growth continued. Residents began to notice that the prices of food and other household items began to increase. Public transportation and gas prices rose. Community members began to feel the financial strain and burden of the economic development. The offshore drilling affected the local fishing industry significantly so that commercial fishermen became subsistence fishermen and others quit fishing altogether. Countless coconut farms had been destroyed to make way for the hotels and restaurants. Akuba’s parents no longer had any source of income and were surviving solely off the money they had gotten from selling their coconut farm.

 In the heat of this rapid development, Akuba finished her first year at BOKASS. She earned excellent grades in all her classes and her dream of becoming a physician was stronger than ever. The impact of the changes in Esiama was dramatic, especially on Akuba’s family. Akuba’s parents now had water and electric bills to pay, and the food they purchased for the family was much more expensive. The money they once considered a small fortune from the sale of their farm, depleted more quickly than they could ever have anticipated.

It was time for Akuba to return for her second year of school, and the family could only afford half of the fees for the year. They promised Akuba that they would do their best to get her the rest of the fees before the end of the school year. As time went by, she never heard from her parents. The school authorities began to pressure Akuba about the owed fees; Akuba was desperate, and she sent messages to her parents but continued to get no response. The school finally introduced a rule that students who owed fees would not be allowed to go to the school dining hall, or take any exams. Akuba was getting frustrated and scared. In the midst of not knowing what to do she invited her best friend Ama to her dorm to discuss what was happening and see if she had any advice to offer.

 

Michael Arthur