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The Newly Proposed AMERI Deal Doesn’t Make Sense

The existing AMERI deal of US$510 million over a period of 5 years is expected to expire in the next two years (2020). And after the expiration of the agreement, the Government of Ghana will own the plants. The existing deal is a BOOT (build, own, operate and transfer) arrangement.

So the then NPP in opposition said they will review the deal when they come into power. According to them (and other civil society groups such as IMANI), the existing deal was overpriced by about US$150million being paid to AMERI for their role as ‘middlemen’. AMERI is technically a Developer (not a middleman) who engaged the services of an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction firm) to BUILD and OPERATE the 10 plants, but AMERI will OWN the plants, and TRANSFER them after the 5 years to the Government of Ghana.

When the NPP came to power, Ghanaians were expecting to see a renegotiated better deal. However, what the current government is proposing to be passed by the Parliament of Ghana, is a worse deal than the existing one.

Under the new proposed deal, the Government of Ghana is bringing in a new ‘middleman’ to replace AMERI. But remember that AMERI has just two years under the existing deal to transfer the ownership of the plants to the government. However, the new ‘middleman’, in this case Mytilineos (a company owned by the owners of METKA, the same EPC firm employed by AMERI) is going to operate the power plants on behalf of the government for the next 15 years.

METKA (the EPC firm employed by AMERI) is charging AMERI US$72million every year for five years under the existing deal. Now, the same METKA is now going to charge Mytilineos (remember Mytilineos is owned by the owners of METKA) US$75million (instead of US$72million under the existing deal) for the next 15 years.

The VRA, which is currently the off-taker (representing government) of the AMERI deal is also supplying the gas to AMERI for the power plants.

So here are my takes on why the newly proposed deal doesn’t make any sense.

1. In the next two years the government will own and operate the plants. The VRA can operate them. So why renegotiate a deal which will expire in the next two years, to another 15 years?

2. The NPP then in opposition accused the NDC of introducing a ‘middleman’ who did nothing but pocketed US$150million. So why is the NPP now in government also introducing a new ‘middleman’ in the form of Mytilineos? What special operation is Mytilineos going to do that the VRA can’t?

3. There is also an argument on the reduction in the cost of tariff under the new deal. This is a flawed argument. Under the existing deal, we are paying 14.6 cents/KWH, and we have just two years to be done with this payment. Under the proposed deal, the new tariff will be 11.7 cents/KWH for 15 years. If the government allow the VRA to assume ownership of the plants in the next two years, Ghanaians can even pay less tariff than the proposed 11.7 cents/KWH.

We need serious answers from the government. So far the deal doesn’t make any sense to me at all!

Mahmoud Jajah
#ThoughtsOfAZongoBoy

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Government of Ghana Should Not Subsidize the Hajj for Muslims

The Government of Ghana should NOT subsidize the Hajj fare for ANY Muslim in the country. The Hajj is a religious obligation between the individual and his Maker, which has nothing to do with public funds. The Hajj is not obligatory on anyone who does not have the capacity or the means to do so.
 
The Government of Ghana, and especially now that we have a Vice President who is a Muslim, should be bold enough to tell Muslims in the face that the Hajj is a private religious obligation for those who can afford. If you can’t afford, it is not ‘by force.’ The only role the government can play is to regulate and facilitate the travel and accommodation issues of pilgrims who have the capacity to embark upon such a trip.
 
It is extremely sad and very unfortunate that some Muslims in Ghana, for their own parochial political interest, have even allowed some non-Muslims to politicize the issue of Hajj. This is a very serious religious obligation which is the fifth pillar of Islam, and we must desist from playing politics with it.
 
The Government should rather use any available funds to develop our Zongo communities. We need hospitals, schools, public toilets, markets, lorry stations, jobs for our youth. That is where any available public funds should be channeled to.
#ThoughtsOfAZongoBoy

The Collective Responsibility to Transform Our Zongo Communities in Our Lifetime

The responsibility to transform our Zongo communities is a collective task. No one person, or organization can do it alone. We must unite our forces and work together to achieve the ultimate impact.

Our generation, this generation, can and must be the generation that lays the foundation for our economic and social transformation. We have absolutely everything we need as a people to change our situation. Our only task now is to come together, plan together, mobilize resources together, and execute together to achieve our targets.

According to the Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs), a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations, all of us must work towards transforming our world by the year 2030. These 17 goals and 169 targets cover a broad range of social and economic development issues. These include poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, decent work for everyone, environment and social justice. Please read more about the goals and how you can also help to realize them for the benefit of our people.

The Zongo communities are part of the larger global community, and all of us must come together to join ‘Project All Of Us’ to pursue the Zongo project agenda, the #ZongoVision2030Agenda which is the radical transformation of the Zongo communities in our lifetime.

For us at the Initiative for Youth Development (IYD), we are ready to work with any individual or group, who is ready to help transform the Zongo communities. We are talking to individuals, corporate bodies, civil society groups, international organizations, and of course the government to make this radical transformation agenda a possibility in our lifetime.

We call on all of you to support in one way or the other to make the #ZongoVision2030Agenda a reality.

Refuse to be a Spectator. Join the Action!

#ThoughtsOfAZongoBoy

The 2018 as the Year of the Young Zongo Entrepreneur Campaign

The ‘2018 as the Year of the Young Zongo Entrepreneur’ is a year long campaign initiative by the Initiative for Youth Development, a non-profit youth organization committed to improving the state of young people in Zongo communities across Ghana. The aim of the campaign is to create massive awareness about the importance and the significance of entrepreneurship and job creation among young people in Zongo communities. Unemployment issues among the youth in the Zongo communities are a ticking time bomb, and if we don’t take the necessary actions to offer practical solutions in addressing the issue, things could get out of hands. Today, the Zongos are fast becoming the breeding grounds for a lot of negative issues, and we thought that as young leaders we cannot sit unconcerned about our present and future situations.

This campaign will become the first of its kind in Ghana. And it is our hope that by the end of the campaign in December 2018, we would have inspired and encouraged a lot of young people from the Zongo communities across the length and breadth of the country to start their own small businesses, and to see the great potential in entrepreneurship. We are also of the firm conviction that alternative livelihood projects such as youth entrepreneurship will help young people who otherwise would have travelled for non-existing greener pastures, to remain and work in the country.

Below are some of the activities and events planned for the year:

  1. The launching of the Zongo Coders Initiative to develop and nurture young technology entrepreneurs
  2. The Zongo Coders Challenge, an annual competition to select some of the best technology startups from the Zongo communities for incubation and acceleration.
  3. The Zongo Youth Economic Opportunities Forum to discuss economic opportunities available to the youth
  4. The publication of the Zongo Economic Opportunities Report to highlight the vast economic opportunities available to young people
  5. The establishment of the ZongoVation Hub, a technology innovation co-working environment for young Zongo entrepreneurs
  6. The establishment of Zongo Ventures, a social impact venture capital firm to support young entrepreneurs fund their business ventures
  7. The Zongo Startup Exhibition, to showcase startups and businesses started by young Zongo entrepreneurs
  8. The Young Zongo Entrepreneur various social media platforms to highlight the journeys, struggles, and achievements of young entrepreneurs
  9. Entrepreneurship training workshops for young entrepreneurs across the country

We hope to achieve the above targets with the support of our partners, both locally and internationally, and it is also our hope that you will become one of our key partners on this journey to develop the next generation of African entrepreneurs from our Zongo communities.

#ThoughtsOfAZongoBoy

Respect Gestation Periods

A baby takes nine month; a new computer chip, 18 months; an elephant, 22 months; and an automobile, 3 to 5 years.

Things do take time to mature. Don’t expect to get immediate results when you start something. Set goals. Plan. Commit. Persevere. Make some adjustment when the need arises. Don’t quit when you don’t see immediate results. It may take you one year, or two years, or five years, or even ten years to begin to see some results.

George Weah is the most famous person in his country. In fact the first time he contested for the presidency, he won the first round. And then lost the second round. It then took him some 12 years before he was finally elected the President of Liberia. He could have quit. But he didn’t. And now he is the President.

So when you start that small business or project, it may take you some number of years before you finally succeed. And remember that you will never succeed when you quit.

Start now. And work every single day towards achieving your dreams, even when you don’t see immediate results. Great things do take time to mature.

Good luck!

#ThoughtsOfAZongoBoy #YoungZongoEntrepreneur

Execute on Your Ideas

Execution is the name of the game. Almost all of us have brilliant ideas, but very few are ready to execute on those ideas. To become an ‘executioner’;

1. Set firm deadlines and do whatever it takes to beat those deadlines.

2. Don’t worry about perfection. Ten years ago when Steve Job launched the iPhone, it wasn’t the iPhone X. It was the iPhone 2G. It took Apple, the most valuable company in the world, ten solid years to ‘perfect’ the iPhone.

3. Create small milestones and goals. Set goals every step of the way. And take feedback from your results (or lack thereof).

So, go out and make things happen. Don’t just be a spectator. Become an active player in shaping the future of your community and country.

#ThoughtsOfAZongoBoy

Twelve Books to Read in 2018 (One Book A Month)

1. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

2. The Greatness Guide (1 & 2) by Robin Sharma

3. Don’t Be Sad by Dr ‘A’id al-Qarni

4. The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha

5. What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School by Mark H. McCormack

6. Muhammad (PBUH) for the Global Village by Dr Muhammad al-Haashimi al-Haamidi

7. The 17 Indisputable Laws of Team Work by John C. Maxwell

8. Like A Virgin by Sir Richard Branson

9. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

10. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, Or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

11. Making Globalization Work by Joseph Stiglitz

12. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines & Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

#ThoughtsOfAZongoBoy

We Should Be Extremely Careful When Discussing Religion

When defending Islam (or any other religion for that matter), please make sure you do so with some serious scholarship. Don’t just write or say something just because others too are talking about it.

In this age of social media, it’s easy for people to just write anything without conducting any serious research. Worse than that is when you see students and graduates joining the bandwagon.

Social media is not only a social platform. It is also a platform for education. Matters of religion are very crucial. What we say or write can guide or misguide hundreds of unsuspecting members of the public. It is, therefore, very crucial that we research deeply into topics of especially religion, before we put them on platforms.

Please, we have to be very careful with our comments and views. When it comes to politics or sports or other topics, perhaps some amount of mischief or even ignorance can be allowed. However, religion is in a different class altogether. We should be extremely careful.

“Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim”

We must learn, and teach the Deen to one another. In this 21st Century, no Muslim has an excuse of not knowing (at least the fundamentals) of the Deen. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every muslim” [Sunan Ibn Majah]. So it is never a matter of choice.

We should start with ourselves first. And to our families, friends, and then to the world. We should encourage our spouses to live the Deen. And we should prioritize Islamic Education far above any other form of education.

And when we know something about the Deen, please let us share it for the benefit of those who might not know it. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “Convey from me even if it is one verse” (Bukhari). That is more beneficial to the Ummah than the number of ‘beautiful’ pictures we post every day.

So guys, please let us use the power of social media to educate one another. The Ummah must rise again!

Beyond The Zongo Development Fund: What To Do About The Zongos

For the first time in the history of Ghana, the government has appointed a Minister of State responsible for the development of the various Zongo communities in Ghana. The New Patriotic Party (NPP) under the leadership of H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, from all indications, is really serious about the development of Zongo communities. In their 2016 Election Manifesto, the NPP stated that when given the mandate (which they have now) to govern, they will establish what they call a Zongo Development Fund (ZDF). This fund, according to them, “is designed to develop Zongos.”

To quote directly from their manifesto, “the NPP Zongo policy is aimed at developing these communities in order to unleash their potentials to become centres of opportunity. In this direction, we (the NPP) will establish the Zongo Development Fund (ZDF) to invest in:

  1. education and training within the Zongos
  2. improved infrastructure in the Zongos targeting health and sanitation
  3. supporting local businesses and centres of culture and arts, and
  4. community policing and security.”

To be frank, I am impressed by the good intention to develop and to transform the Zongos by a political party that has not, over the years, received any substantial political support from the people of the Zongos. The people of the Zongos have been voting massively for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) since the advent of the Fourth Republic. And there are many reasons why this is the case. I am not ready to discuss the reasons here due to time and space. My focus in this piece is to go beyond the ZDF and to make some suggestions and recommendations for consideration by the government.

So, how do we develop the Zongos beyond the ZDF? Well, that is the $64,000 question.

First of all, it is important for the government to note that in improving and developing communities such as the Zongos, summary evictions and resettlements create more problems than they solve. When people are pushed out of their homes, sooner or later, they will return to the same place because they will still need the kind of incentive that drew them to the community in the first place. So evictions and resettlements should not be considered at all. And in fact because of the unpleasant history of the NPP in the Zongos, evictions and resettlements of the Zongos should not have any place on the Change Agenda.

Secondly, I would like to suggest that the ZDF should be turned into a Zongo Development Authority (ZDA) with a full legal backing. The ZDA should be moulded in the form and shape of the proposed Middle Belt Development Authority (MBA), Coastal Development Authority (CDA), and the Northern Development Authority (NDA). An Authority in the form of ZDA should serve as the pivot around which all developmental activities in the Zongos should rotate. This body should be a permanent body with an annual budgetary allocation for the effective and smooth implementation of its programs and projects.

Thirdly, and for me the most important point in developing the Zongos, is the idea of property rights in our Zongo communities. As I stated earlier, improving the Zongos rather than relocating or resettling the residents is a much better approach. However, resources to build new housing units within the current spaces may not be readily available. So a more realistic approach is for the government to partner with private investors to offer support in the form of home improvements and investments in infrastructures. But the main challenge with most Zongo dwellers is the fact that most do not have the formal rights to remain on the land they occupy. This means that they will have no incentive to develop the land for future use. So what should we do about this?

Under the Zongo Development Authority, the government should as a matter of urgency, begin a nationwide program to assist Zongo dwellers to have formal title deeds to their properties. Possessing the formal title to their properties will go a long way to benefit the people of the Zongos. This will mean that title owners will have the means to raise finance to improve their dwellings as well as to raise finance to start a business. When people have legal proof that they own the land beneath their homes, it can help them attract investors for the development of their dwellings.

So, in conclusion, beyond the Zongo Development Fund, we need a Zongo Development Authority that will develop a long term plan for the development of the Zongos. Politicians are short term thinkers. They always think about the next election. We need an institution that will think beyond the next election. We need a Zongo Development Authority!