Ghana’s young middle class: cutting and running

I was at a glam wedding in Accra this weekend, a tapestry of beautiful people enjoying themselves. There were several events, culminating in a dance on the final night of the two days of eating and drinking. I don’t propose to talk about the clergyman and his self-indulgent sermonising both in the wedding service and at the reception, save to say that sometimes His loyal servants give Him a bad name – even among agnostics like myself. What was both magnificent and very sad related to a contingent of young Ghanaian professionals come over from the UK. Indeed, bride and groom are living there and many of their friends were doubling up holidays with a few days in Accra for the marriage.

What was sad? Well, they were fine looking, articulate, fun-loving, hard-working and successful middle class people who play by the rules and are on top career trajectories in law, medicine, management and the City. In the UK. Not in Ghana.

I remember several occasions when I lived in the UK when there was an outcry about the ‘brain drain’ from the UK to the US. Thousands going west for better prospects. Here, it is pernicious. The continuing diaspora of young, ambitious Ghanaians to UK and US educational institutions and who then ‘stay on’ leaves the country with a deficit in the intellectual elite who can challenge the establishment and the archaic and sometimes corrupt practices of Government bodies. Every country needs youth to lock horns with the previous generation, forcing change, improving the lot of people with altruism and rationalism before they, themselves, become corrupted or de-clawed by osmosis among the insidious ruling (largely male) political, social and business elite. But I don’t sense much of that idealism exists. Perhaps the lure of middle class England is greater than the challenges and vicissitudes of middle class Ghana? Perhaps, in mythological terms, they don’t, symbolically, want to kill the Father and prefer these fleeting visits to keep in touch with the old country but not to get involved in intractable problems of its society.

I met a Japanese girl who is currently working in East Africa for Medecin Sans Frontieres. Now there is a charity worth supporting! She is an idealist, giving some of her life for the benefit of others. Ghana needs its own young people to be filled with the same idealism. It should not be a breeding ground for western-bound intellect and skills or it will, forever, be ruled by dynasties appealing to the largely poor and ill-educated populace with reductionist slogans and offering them little likelihood of meaningful change in their lifetimes.

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