Thursday, February 26, 2009

3 Reasons Why Ecobank Ghana Sucks

convenient, reliable, accessible

Ecobank is a bank with a strong presence in Ghana, and many other African countries. I save with them because a friend whose opinion I value and who is a past Ecobank employee recommended them on the basis of their accessibility. He cautioned that the banking experience might not be great, but declared them the best bank in Ghana. Also, I had been passively following the bank’s activities for a while and gotten the sense that financially, the bank was doing well. I’d heard talk of a 2.5 billion dollar equity offer, which according to the bank’s website, is the first and largest public offer to be made in the region. All signs were positive. So based on my friend’s recommendation and on what information I found on their website, I took my chances. After nearly five months of doing business with them, and having thoroughly regretted my decision to save with them, to describe my experience as one that has been far from positive would be putting it mildly. I witnessed another client encountering problems with the bank so it would appear that I’m not the sole disgruntled customer. A bank which advertises itself to be “convenient, reliable, and accessible” should not consistently fail in delivering on this promise.
I’ve decided to share my experiences because I’d like to demonstrate how Ecobank is failing us in hopes that it will get them to do something about it. I could move to another bank, but I’d like to try to get Ecobank to fix itself. But if nothing changes, I know what to do.

1. Not Convenient

The other unhappy client I mentioned was someone who has an account in Liberia, but was in Ghana on business and had written himself a check that he needed to cash. After the many endorsements to be made had been made, he was told to return the following day. The man, being more patient than I politely asked if the money would be ready for pick up the next day. The banker’s response? “God willing”. The client repeated incredulously “God willing?” Even I, just looking on could understand his frustration. What had God to do with this? The bank was either going to work on getting his money to him or it was not. “But I thought this was a trans-national bank?” he stressed. Somehow the banker started to speak like the client was the one being unreasonable, when in fact, he had every right to expect a more efficient service.

My own experience that day wasn’t any better. First, why did I have to go to the bank to pick up my check books and ATM cards, instead of picking them up in the mail? Why couldn’t Ecobank offer that service for clients like me who have some scruples about taking an hour from the time that our employees pay us to work to conduct our own business? After standing in line for most of the hour that I was there, I still did not receive my ATM cards. The cards were not ready although a month had passed since I'd ordered them. I was able to cash some money (something I couldn’t do at an ATM because I did not have an ATM card), and get a bank statement but that took some waiting in line as well. It seemed that the tellers were spending about five minutes with each person who just needed to either deposit or withdraw money. Why are they so slow? Having spent an hour already, I decided to get back to work instead of waiting another hour to finish what business I still had to conduct.

2. Not Reliable

To be reliable is to be dependable. On two consecutive days, I went to the bank during working hours only to be told that their system was down and so I could not get my money. Thankfully on those two days, I did not need the money urgently. I was taking it to pay for gym membership so not getting the money on those two days only cost me time. But I still wondered, what if my mother was sick, and I needed money to rush her to the hospital? Ecobank would have failed me on two consecutive days and it would have taken me 3 days to access my own money. A reliable bank is one that can be relied on to function as expected, all day, every working day of the year. From my experience, I’ll say Bank of America is reliable. I can’t say the same for Ecobank.

Note that this happened was at a time when I had still not gotten an ATM card from them even though i’d been saving with them for over a month and had ordered the card. So I couldn’t have gotten money from an ATM. I had money in the bank, but no way to withdraw it. What a banking experience, and from what is touted to be the best bank in Ghana too!

3. Not Accessible

If Ecobank interprets accessibility only in terms of placing ATM machines and bank branches in locations where people can find them, then they are doing well. But common sense tells me that the point of taking the ATM machines and banks closer to the people is so that the customers can access the money when they need it. In this, they are not doing well.

Just this morning, I went back to the bank because I wanted to withdraw more money than is allowed at an ATM cash point. (The daily limit for withdrawals is 400 cedis). I had my ATM card with me as well as other forms of identification, but not my check book. I’ve been spoiled by the US where with only my ATM card and identification, I could get my money at no fee so I was optimistic that not having my check book would not be problematic. The teller informed me that the only way to get my money was to get a bank check, and one leaf of it would cost me 2 cedis. I initially thought she was joking. God, I wished she was joking but she wasn’t and I could not allow myself to be ripped off this way so I did not pay the two cedis and consequently, I did not get my money.

So what do we do about it? Just rant and leave it at that only to have to deal with it again next time, or worse, throw our hands up in the air in despair? No, of course WE CAN do something and I have the following suggestions:

1. Let Ecobank Know

If you know any Ecobank employees, particularly workers who have some authority such as the CEO, please copy and paste the link to this post to them in an email with the subject “3 Reasons Why Ecobank Ghana Sucks” and see if s/he pays attention. Reading this along with other people's comments might nudge them to do better?

2. Let Ecobank’s Competitors Know

Send it to any friend who works in another bank. Maybe that bank could work on pleasing customers where Ecobank has failed and by so doing, capture some of Ecobank’s share of the market.

3. Conduct Your Own Research

I’m hopeful that at the very least, you will do a better job at researching banks before you pick one and save yourself the unnecessary wahala I have had to deal with.

See what other Ghana Bloggers have to say about Ecobank :

1. To Whom It May Concern

2. Ecobank Visa Gold Cedi Credit Card. First in Ghana

3. Ecobank Group Launches New Brand Identity

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stories Which Make News: Salma Hayek Breastfeeds "Hungry African Child" as ABC News Records

My friend Therese sent me this article from Time Magazine about Salma Hayek, who they describe as a "beautifully busty actress" breastfeeding a "starving" child in Sierra Leone. Therese says she's not sure what taboos exist elsewhere in Africa concerning breast feeding so she will hold off her comments on that. What she does know is that in Ghana, many women have no problems breast feeding their children and she personally knows many women who have even breastfed children whose mothers could not breastfeed them because the mothers were 'dry' or died during child birth.

One of Therese's friends posted the article on her facebook and received the following comments:

Vongai, zimbabwean

I am flabberwhelmed, confused...and everything else in between. I will likely make this my departure point at CIES because this eccentric act sits on the frontiers of ethics, culture, realism, women's choices, and Western notions of solutions to structural causes of Africa's material deprivation. about emotionally confusing these children...huh?

Epiphania, GH

What a tiring and boring day it was when movie stars started to think that they were 3rd world philanthropists, hopping around adopting poor African and Asian children ad infinitum -despite the many ignored possibilities for adoption in their home countries. and now we are breastfeeding Africans into civilization. What an utter lot of racist rot and foolishness!!!

Shea, American

WHAT????!!! Okay - I don't know what Africa's (sweeping continental phrase) notions of breast-feeding and sex are, but how on Earth can anyone fault a woman (celebrity or not) of feeding a baby(African or not) breast milk??!!! I don't understand why this offends people! Who cares where it's taking place? Who cares if there were cameras? The fact is, that child, whose mother is dry, got some VERY necessary nutrition! I'm MORE offended and confused by the comments than by the original story.

Dela, Ghanaian

Well, that's the point, Shea. The context within which this child was given breast milk by a busty celebrity is utterly manufactured. It is the only way it would end up in TIME magazine and be sensationalized. If the mother had no milk, it is NOT Hayek's job to take out her breasts to feed the child. To nurse this "starving child" only conjures up images of Africa that, quite honestly, are mostly erroneous. Most African cultures have systems in place to take care of their own, way before Tinsel Town was created. Breast-feeding as far as many of us are concerned is NOT a taboo. Babies were being fed before Gerber and Nestle came along. So what happens to the baby now? Say the mother is STILL dry and Ms. Hayek is busy making a movie or feeding her own child.... what happens to those women who are lacking milk? Why are they lacking? These are some issues we need to address...Afterall, Hayek was not the only lactating mother around. No one asked why did others not feed the child.


I'm confused about whether the issue here is one of new moms being dry or one of new moms plainly refusing to bf (given taboo). Seems like the two are conflated in this story....which gets me to the point that the solutions for either would be so radically different.

Also, can't speak for all of Africa, but it's news to me that brestfeeding is taboo in what in this story is painted as most of the continent. Quite the contrary in places with which I'm familiar; there's lots of stigma associated with not brestfeeding....But hey, I applaud Hayek for being champion for what is, very frankly, a non-existent cause.
Dela, Ghanaian

Exactly right, Peris. I was thinking about this conflation while I was supposed to be listening to a someone's presentation. The are two stories here: Breastfeeding as a so-called taboo that Hayek is trying to bring awarness to and (2) a mother not having milk to give her baby. In the latter case, we cannot tell whether that mother also does not breastfeed.

So yeah... I am still waiting on the Sierra Leonians on enlighten me on which part of their country has this taboo...

I remember when my sister had her first child and was feeling a little uncomfortable taking her breast out to feed her 'starving child,' my mother and aunts just looked at her like: "what is WRONG with you? Your baby needs feeding. Clearly, you have spent too much time outside Ghana!" So yeah, the taboo is news to me too.

I'd be interested to know what you think about the story given what you know about breatfeeding in your own communities. I'll begin.

Esi Cleland, Ghanaian

What irks me about this article is that Sierra Leone is mentioned once at the beginning, and subsequently, the stigma (if it exists) is described as an African problem. I would be very surprised if this taboo is everywhere in Sierra Leone. My guess is that if even there is a stigma, it is probably in one small village somewhere in Sierra Leone. That's not to say that there is no need to educate the women there about the benefits of breastfeeding but the story has been blown way out of proportion. Traditionally, Ghanaian mothers are encouraged to drink lot of soup so that they will have milk for their children. I do not know of any taboos surrounding breastfeeding, and we don't need Salma Hayek to come and teach us something we've been doing for ages. Next thing we know, she'll be launching the "breastfeed a hungry child in Africa" campaign. As Therese suggested, maybe someone should write a rejoinder.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Guest Blogger E.K.Bensah writes...: Great Expectations Non-fulfilled of 24/7 Electricity

When you get off that plane to a humid Accra and are immediately whisked off to an air-conditioned airport terminal, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a foretaste of what is to come in the country!

It's only when you eventually check out of a hotel and, possibly, into a relative's abode when you realise there's a different reality altogether with regard to 24/7 electricity.

First of all, the term of 24/7 electricity is a non-starter in this peaceful country of ours; this is simply because it does not flow on a twenty-four hour basis!

If you make the mistake of having secured rented accommodation on the Spintex Road, and therefore believe that this translates to regular electricity, then more fool you! This is because even in these so-called affluent areas (that have as many roads replete with potholes than inside Accra), the electricity provision can be akin to disco lights in a club--intermittent.

In March 2006, a day or two before the 49th anniversary of the country, the transformer on one of the Estates that both a ghanablogger and I live on blew, leaving the Estate and its residents in darkness for a good week! Those who were able to procure generators got them; those who chose to manage without had a lot of work to do as far as their food was concerned. The origin of this blown-transformer had to do with insufficient provision by the owner of the Estate who had built more houses than the power could afford!

While there are apocryphal stories of the sister Estate of Regimanuel having stand-by generators for the Estate, it's clear for many of us to see when walking by ,when there is a "lights-off", that their lights are on!

Even if we forget the load-management that occurred -- much to the chagrin of Ghanaians--from August 2006 for almost a year, we cannot ever take for granted that Ghana's electricity will daily be a 24-hr affair, and so a generator is not needed!

Good luck!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Let's Talk About Love: A view from Ghana

What is a Ghanaian woman to do,
When on 14 February,
She is appropriately clad,
In a mod crimson top,
Long black pants that hug her curves,
And 4 inch heels she'd like to try dancing in?

What is a Ghanaian woman to do
On this perfect chocolate day,
It is raining outside,
And she'd rather be curled in bed,
When Mr. Ghana, is so so far away,
In that great land America?

What is a Ghanaian woman to do,
When a man nearer by,
Calls her on Valentine's day
Just to remind her that he's still available,
In case she has changed her mind,
And no longer wants to wait
for that long distance love?

What is a Ghanaian woman to do,
When she has only coins in her wallet,
And her phone units are all gone,
From talking with a sick friend,
Just drive through the rain,
To her own empty bed?

*I created the picture using the words in my poem on

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Characters in the Ghanaian Church

As for us Ghanaians, we go to church to listen to the word of God o. Well, most of us do, at least, and that’s just as well. Because if we were to spend less of our time fellowshipping and more of it observing, we’d get the giggles. And that wouldn’t be such a good thing to do in church, would it? Anyway, so after watching the people in my church for a while, I described them to my friends and they were so amused by it that I thought I should share it with you.


The Chairman is a osikani belebele (tr: rich man). I call him Chairman because this big man is usually the one who gets to chair harvests and other church events of equal importance. This man shows up to church in the finest of Western style tailored clothing with shiny designer shoes or in traditional garb befitting a chief which he pairs with ahenema. He drives a Mercedes or BMW saloon car and is frequently late to church.

Obia nyɛ Obia

These people form the majority of the Mens Fellowship. Their favourite church attire is the grey or brown political suit which they wear with Opanka sandals or some other Kumasi-made shoe with a “made in italy” label on it. These men cannot dance. When they try, they stick with the wiper dance (shifting weight from one foot to the other in a motion very like that of a car wiper). Their one redeeming feature is they know how to pray long elaborate prayers which begin with Otweadeampong Nyame a, yɛ twere wo a wo ndi yɛn hwiambɔ da! Anapa yi, wo nkoa ne wo mfenaa ya ba w'anim. (tr: God almighty in whom our trust is not misplaced, this morning your servants have come before you)

Ogyacious Brother

This man is on fire for the lord. In the fictional Ghanaian church whose youth fellowship greeting is Aroma, Shake The World, he’d be the one most likely to invent the slogan. This man does not have a great job because his education was terminated due to financial difficulty, however his authority in the church cannot be disputed. He executes his role as prayer warrior with much flourish and in his prayers, he leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is knowledgeable about the bible and has a personal relationship with God. This man may not put much in the collection bowl, but he dances to honor the lord, usually with a handkerchief and his mpɔnkɔ dance (tr: horse dance). He's so vigilant about fornication that one can only hope he’s a virgin. They also believe strongly in the bible passage that says the young will dream dreams and so he will occasion dream that he was getting married to a sister in the church. As he takes dreams seriously, he'll communicate this to the sister and sometimes dreams come true. Praise the lord!

The Rich Man’s Wife

As a wedded wife, her name is Mrs. Paul Kwesi [insert husband’s last name here]. She is active in the women’s fellowship but will not join the singing band or the choir. How can she, when every week, she has to display her latest damask and lace kabas, complete with gold and silver jewellery and hair. At collection time, you do not want her to be dancing in front of you because she dances a little forward, then she dances backward shoving her big ass in front of you. You find her many times in front of the church receiving special prayers which the pastor prays for those who have given thanksgiving offering.

The Singing Band

This is the home of the poor and down-trodden who believe that “let everything that hath breathe praise the lord”. On good days, they sing superbly. On bad days, they are way off key.

The SS-Girl

There are two types of girls in the church, that is the one who attends what she believes to be a superior school such as Wesley Girls High School or St. Roses Secondary School and the one who goes to Benso Secondary. (I like to use Benso secondary because I know their headmaster and think the school deserves some mention). I won’t talk much about the latter, but the former comes to church in clothing that is wonderfully color-cordinated. At offertory time, she does not dance, but walks stiffly. Imagine if she is behind the rich man’s wife. The roles she likes to play are Bible Reader, Usher, and Giver of the Vote of Thanks. After church, she does not stay behind to help the rest of the young people pack up the place but as she is usually the Chairman’s daughter, she hops into their car and they leave. Last to arrive, first to leave. hmm...

Have I left any characters or characteristics out or misrepresented any of them?Align Center

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Six Wonderful Months of Blogging About Ghana

Dear Readers,
I had the crazy notion today that since the blog is 6 months old, I should give you an update. So here we go:

The Beginning

When I first started this blog, I wanted to write about all the interesting, fun and funny aspects about life in Ghana. You know, the kinds of things we talk about with friends we like. The charlie you dey kai (tr: do you remember when) ... moments, and jokes Ghanaians will get in an attempt share what we have in common or at least can relate to. Six months on, I think we've stuck to that goal and had fun doing it. I'll now share how things look.

Where we are
In terms of the numbers, Wo Se Ekyir is ranked Number 6 out of 84 Ghana blogs. While we aspire to become the Number 1 blog in Ghana, we also realize that we are the youngest blog among the top ten and that all the blogs ranked ahead of Wo Se Ekyir have been in existence for at least 3 years so we need to be patient. Even if we never get there, what the heck, we're having a blast! It is also a cool fact to note that the top blogs are all owned by men. Wo Se Ekyir's readership has been steadily increasing since August and last month, we recorded 2103 visits and 3877 page views. The numbers for February already indicate that this month's numbers will be even better as we expect from the steady climb we've seen since August 2008. Someone say yay! The best part of it all is that this has been fun all the way.While it's been entertaining and educative for me, and I knew it was fun for many of you, I couldn't assume that everything was perfect in this space so I posted a poll to ask you (the readers) to tell me what you'd like to see more of.

What You Want
An overwhelming 60% of the forty people who responded wanted me to write about what life is like for a Ghanaian returnee. You wanted to know the frustrations, the surprises, and the joys. Another 20% liked the blog as it is. These people felt that change is overrated:) Another 20% wanted to hear more about political commentary, current affairs and social commentary. These people said that even though there are already many pundits out there, they wanted more of it and they wanted to hear it here. About 10% of you wanted me to write more about self-awareness, philosophical pieces, introspective stuff and about 6% of you wanted us to try podcasting. You'll notice that the numbers don't add up to 100% and that's because you were allowed to vote for multiple options.

Changes & What To Expect
The spirit of this blog will remain the same- fun, interesting, and different. As much as possible, I will try to weight the posts to reflect your preferences indicated in the poll. I'll experiment a lot, we'll keep what works and throw out the rest. For example, giving you this update is an experiment. I thought it would be cool to do, I haven't seen any other blog do it, but we're not exactly any other blog, right? And I thought you might be interested to know some of what's going on behind the scenes. Also, I hope you like the new name. The old name was great but I received complaints from some of you who did not know what it meant (including akan speakers) and I felt that the new addition...What Your Mamma Never Told You About Ghana gives some clue that it is a Ghana Blog, and is also fun and catchy and would encourage more people who stumble upon us to check us out. With Wo Se Ekyir alone, if our Ga or Dagomba siblings cannot read and understand it, they might overlook the blog and miss out on sharing in the fun. The addition is catchy, and true to what we do in here. We talk about the stuff you won't hear anywhere else. I chose this name because if i saw the title somewhere, i'd be curious to see what things I didn't know about Ghana:)

Moving Forward -Where we're going
I can promise that it's going to get more interesting and exciting in here. I'll try to bring you relevant content, quality writing, always about us and for us. I'm still learning the technical aspects of blogging and I welcome suggestions, feedback and comments. Before I go, I'd like to send a big shout to all the 45 cool people who dig Wo Se Ekyir (the followers), and those who comment and make it so much fun in here. Big thanks to all the guest-bloggers who have contributed articles to Wo Se Ekyir. Thanks also to other bloggers especially members of Ghana Bloggers for helpful hints. Our meetings helped to keep me going. To all the readers, thanks for reading, visit again and again, join the discussions, become a follower and please spread the word by sending the link to all your friends. I'm excited to see what 2009 brings as we work towards becoming the very best!

High five!


Which Ghanaian Celebrities Have You Met?

I lived in the US six years and not once did I meet a star. Sure we had Floetry, Pink, Ann Coulter, Madeleine Albright, Judy Woodruff , Shelly Lazarus and others pass through Smith College when I was there
and I got to see Ama Ata Aidoo once at Amherst College (pictured above), Wole Soyinka, John Hope Franklin and Barbara Kingsolver at Duke University and Sam Jonah at Harvard University but I only got to see them by attending events like book readings, conferences, commencement, and talks. In many of these meetings, I didn't even get to speak with them or shake their hands.

Life in Ghana is sweeter than that. In the six months that I've been back here, I've bumped into the following Ghanaian stars, had chats with them and asked them questions as if it was the most ordinary thing to do:

1. Odompo, who acts in Obra, the popular Akan drama and Ghanaian movies and who I met in Madina and chatted with for over an hour.

2. Brew Riverson one of Ghana's finest actors who I worked with on a voice-over

3. Ebo Whyte, a respected playwright and host of a segment of JOYFM breakfast show called the Rover Report in whose play I'm acting (By the way, the play "Mr. President, Your Move" is showing at the National Theatre, from March 6th to March 8th...March 6th also happens to be Ghana's Independence Day).

5. Akosua Abdallah, another great actress who is remembered by many because of her role in Inspector Bediako, the detective show produced by Kojo Yanka as described in an interview conducted by A Choice of Weapons Blog. I met her through an acting workshop she conducted for the Roverman Group.

6. Amandzeba Brew who I really respect for his commitment to traditional Ghanaian music. I was sitting outside Yoofi Brew's studio (Yoofi is the guy who got me into doing voice-overs) waiting to be picked up by a friend when his brother Amandzeba showed up. I was starstruck but I still managed to tell him what a fan of his music I am.

7. Bola Ray, one of the most popular radio presenters and MCs in Ghana. I met Bola at the MTN Nine Lessons and Carols event at the Accra International Conference Centre where I read a lesson along with others including

George Andah of MTN and

Kojo Oppong Nkrumah of Joy FM breakfast show. Bola was the MC for the event who got a kick out of saying my middle name "woarabae"

8. Then just yesterday, at the gym I met Kwaku Sakyi-Addo at the water fountain:). Though I really wanted to talk, I didn't want to seem like a pest so I just gave him my card, told him how I want to be a writer and asked him to check out Wo Se Ekyir.

Isn't it an amazing thing that an ordinary Ghanaian can meet these personalities in just six months without having to go out of his/her way or even try? I think it's rather strange that so many of these people are in the arts and media. Am I in the wrong profession? Maybe I belong in advertising, the arts, or the media? I was also thinking how enriching it has been for me to talk to some of these people. When you interact with such people in real life you begin to dream that there is no magic gene for being great and that you too could be great at what you do. I think it's wonderful that in Ghana, our stars are within reach and not just people you see on tv. This is cool and should be celebrated!

You know why Wo Se Ekyir is awesome? Because no other blog gives you the platform to talk about your brush with Ghanaian celebrities/greats/icons. Meanwhile we all know we want to tell somebody:) I mean whole publications and websites are dedicated to gossiping about Beyonce and Shakira. Not that we need that kind of madness here but a little chit chat never hurt anyone, especially when in Ghana, we actually get to meet these people feeli feeli (tr: live or in person) without crowds and cameras getting in our way.
I'd really like to meet both ex-presidents and get to talk to them about their lives, Patrick Awuah, Kwame Despite, Kwaw Kesse, do I sound like I want to start doing interviews soon? hehe. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Anyway I'll end with these two questions:

1. Which Ghanaian stars/greats/icons have you met, how did it happen, what did you say to them, were you star-struck?
2. Which
Ghanaian stars/greats/icons (living or dead) would you like to (or have liked) to meet, and why? What would you say (or have said) to them?