Almost working…

Still making contact with the people I need to know to do my larger business research studies. Today was very productive, and unbelievably hot. First I went down for a meeting in Legon at the university with the head of the migration studies centre. She was very helpful with advice about researching in the northern region. Apparently there is a part of it that is so inaccessible, and even more so when the rains come, that it is referred to by Ghanaians as ‘overseas’.  Apparently a lot of people just move out in advance of the rains because they know if anything happens, no one will be able to get to them until the season is over. She also told me that, contrary to what others have been telling me, this is considered the perfect time to do survey work in the north. Apparently they do their censuses here in March/April, because people are all home in their villages.

I had got the seasons wrong – there’s a ‘famine’ season just before the rains, when the stored food has run out and people have to leave to find work so they can eat. So lots of people are missing from their villages then. I had thought it was around now, but it turns out the south has two famine seasons, march/april and september, each followed by a rain, whereas the north just has the one. So in my ignorance, I have chosen a good time to work.

Mariama, the head of the migration centre, also advised me there was nothing more recent than the 2000 census to tell me about the towns I would be researching, so I had to go get it. In most places, the census is either free online or at least can be bought on a CD Rom. The Ghana Statistical Office is a Dickensian nightmare. It’s piled up to the ceiling with statistical publications that are mainly from the 80’s, with two (very nice) men sitting in the middle of it watching chatshows at full volume on a tv with bad reception. Together we managed to dig out a copy of the census, which turned out to cost nearly $50, and weigh slightly more than I did. I lugged it back to Kokolemle and had to take a shower to celebrate.

I have had several competing opinions from people on what I will find in terms of internet cafes when I do this survey. Several have said I will be lucky to find any in the north, while others have muttered darkly that my study is ‘ambitious’, which is academic for ‘you have no idea what you are getting into, and next year they will find your bones bleaching in the sun’. I’m hoping the truth is somewhere between the two, although it’s possible that both may be true.

I piloted my SME questionnaire today, which I expected to be a bit of a mess but which actually went very well. Bizarrely, it confirmed my main hypothesis, which is that internet cafes depend on international networks. The manager I interviewed had not migrated, but it turned out she was leasing it from a guy who went to England, earned some money and set up a business back home, and is now back in London. So bingo. Pity this one isn’t part of the study, since it’s only a pilot. It would be a huge irony if the same result didn’t turn up again in the other hundred or so interviews I’m about to start.

In other news, I had a meeting today at an IT company that was exactly like SPECTRE’s headquarters in the Bond movies. All dark echoing marble and a spiral stair that leads somewhere mysterious. And receptionists who smile menacingly at visitors. I expected the CEO to be stroking a white cat, but alas, no. I also found Boo Radley’s house, but the connection is too slow to upload photos today so that will have to wait for another time.

On my way back I wandered inadvertently into an area of town where the streets actually have names and the houses have numbers. They also have barbed wire, dogs  and security guards. I hadn’t realised Accra had one of these bits, but every city does somewhere so I guess it was only a matter of time. It was a contrast with my neighbourhood, where people’s doors don’t lock and the only security is provided by fierce, ancient, topless ladies who cook outside so they can keep an eye on what’s going on in the neighbourhood. I think I prefer mine.

Hannah and I went out last night with Kwabena, Auntie’s nephew, to Bywell, a place in Osu that has a band on Thursdays. It was like going back in time  – classic bebop with African drums mixed in, and Sinatra tunes. It was all very well-mannered and suave, in a slightly tatty kind of way, as if everyone had been caught in a loop since the 1950s and only the decor had aged. Great place.

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