Next Saturday at the National Theatre, a scheme that awards promises to grow into the mother of all awards in Ghana— namely the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah African Genius Awards— will be held. One journalist who witnessed the maiden edition three years ago described it as “second in weight only after the National Honours given out by the Head of State”.
I was there, and I heard the citations of the likes of US-based Ghanaian Ave Kludze, first African to command a spacecraft in orbit, Professor Frimpong Boateng, first African to perform open heart surgery and Dr Konotey Ahulu, the London-based Ghanaian who has earned global reputation for the treatment of sickle cell disease.
Come Saturday, December 16, the board of governors of the awards scheme will call up for honour, men and women of accomplishment, some of them global icons such as Dr Thomas Owusu Mensah, a Ghanaian with 14 patents who has been inducted into the US Inventors Hall of Fame, and Prof. Oheneba Boachie Adjei, the orthopaedic and complex spinal surgeon of world repute. The evening will be crowned with a special tribute to and celebration of Professor Francis Kofi Ampenyi Allotey, whose doctoral thesis has given to the world a Physics theory called Allotey Formalism (in the same class as Archimedes Principle, Boyle’s Law, Newton’s Law of Gravity etc.).
Significantly, one of the awardees for next week is Elijah Djan, a South African university undergraduate who has discovered a way of turning paper into bricks for construction.
Impressive brains. Can we, however, sincerely say that we are using the brains to solve our problems?
On Citi FM the other day, the Breakfast Show team was trying to list the number of awards in this country alone. That is when it dawned on me that currently every profession, vocation, association or guild has one award scheme or another. The citations of these men and women will humble you.
So why are we so pathetically unable to solve simple problems that confront the nation (and Africa as a whole)? Why did we have to endure dumsor for so many years in our recent past when, as far back as 1960s, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, in inaugurating the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, was talking about solar power? Not only that: we have in Ghana, an engineer who has not only written about alternative energy sources, but has put his theories on the Internet, complete with geometrical calculations and drawings. Not only that: we have a university of Science and technology and many polytechnics (today we call them technical universities) with departments and faculties of Energy and Engineering.
Dr Kwame Nkrumah created an enclave for scientists, a sort of Science Village with land that stretches far and wide because he was a leader of vision who could see tomorrow. What are we doing with the land? Our politicians are not only starving science and technology of research funds; they are carving out portions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) lands to themselves, their relatives, cronies and business associates (especially foreigners) in return for black envelopes fattened by bundles of pounds, euros, dollars and remimbi.
Next week, I shall, by God’s grace, celebrate other brains and point out why our scientists and researchers are not making a difference in our existence as people of African ancestry.
For now, I have a few suggestions for Prof. Frimpong Boateng.
President Akufo-Addo has announced an increase in budgetary allocation to Science Technology and Innovation (STIs). I suggest that part of that money should be set aside to publicise inventions and inventors. We saw, on the telly recently, the wonderful inventions coming out of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). We should be seeing more of that. We should be celebrating these young inventors on radio and TV.
Part of that money should be used to buy air time, even if it is only 10 minutes a week, to announce inventions and discuss new ideas – not with high falutin incomprehensible jargons and imponderable mathematical calculations. Please, buy the air-time; don’t go begging for it: the stations are commercial outfits that will starve to death without money.
How do our music and film stars become instant celebrities? They are creatures of the media. The media that shoots them to fame include social media, and Prof.Frimpong Boateng should not miss this channel of reaching out to the youth. Fortunately for the world, and for Ghana, scientists are not after fame and fortune. They don’t dream of big cars and mansions with jaccuzis. Their weekends are not spent jet-skiing at resorts.
All they ask for is equipment and tools for research. In Ghana, sad to say, funds for actual research come from “development partners”.
I have said it, and I am not ashamed to repeat it: Africa-based researchers and scientists stand toe-to-toe with their counterparts in laboratories in the US, Russia, Denmark and England. The only difference is that those in foreign lands have the tools and are creatures of a system that pumps out their creative juices.
It is good to celebrate national days, but what sense does it make to celebrate Ghana @ 20, Ghana @ 50 and Ghana @60 or Ghana @ 70 when we cannot manufacture anything here; when we are importing carrot, tomatoes etc from Sahelian countries.
Do we have leaders ?