I'm not a fan of Ghana. I'm going to try to get to Togo (to the east) and maybe Burkina Faso (to the north) but from what I've read, neither are any nicer than here.
The country used to be called the Gold Coast. There's lots of gold here, so mining is a big industry, just like in lots of southern Africa. They've also recently discovered that they have a lot of black gold as well, so of course the Arabs are now streaming in to help solve that problem. China is here too for that. China is huge in Zambia - funding projects everywhere you go to improve the roadways, but that's it - no other infrastructure, no factories, no schools, no shopping centers, no nothing. The only thing the Chinese are sponsoring there (and magnanimously, I might add - they have it painted all over on signs advertising said projects) is building the roads. Because it helps them ship out the natural resources (copper's a primary one in Zambia) faster to places where its cheaper to smelt it for market.
I actually wrote a bit about China in Africa when someone made a recent post about it on Metafilter, here. I'll paste the text of it here for those too lazy to click:
China is raping Africa, economically, because they can, because there's not enough motivation for the rest of the world to blow the whistle. So Africans stay poor and keep battling AIDS and malaria - as long as you can still get your value meal at McDonald's in Peoria, that's all that really matters to you, right?
I've spent the last month living in Zambia, and working in some of the more remote provinces around the country. You know how much gasoline costs in Zambia? Almost 9,000 Zambian Kwacha per litre. That's about $2.80 a litre depending on the day's exchange rate. There's about 3.75 litres to a gallon, right? Zambians pay $10.50 a gallon for gas. And people in the US are crying foul whilst trading in their SUVs...
Why does gas there cost that much? Because the Chinese are smart - they realized that to gain a solid bargaining position, the best thing to control to a land-locked country in Africa was the overland trucking industry. They have a stranglehold on it, and anything they ship into the country comes at whatever premiums they choose. And they maintain this through a complex series of bribes to the political leaders of whatever port host-country it is easiest / cheapest for them to move oil, et. al. through. That's just gas. But of course it takes gas to get food, clothing, building materials, or really anything else for that matter, to market. You can't get a decent meal for under $10 in Zambia.
And so an otherwise completely fertile country sits pretty much stagnant as China swiftly relieves it of its natural resources - shipping off valuable copper to neighboring countries where it can be refined. Zambia sees little to nothing in the way of recompense. Again here, political leaders taking pay-offs to look the other way. They're president has been (theoretically) off in a French military hospital for the last month, for crying out loud.
Why would China bother to do business with Africans in Africa, when its much cheaper to pay off a powerful few, and do business with no one? As long as the rest of the developed world isn't going to step in, it will still be Chinese weapons that ZANU-PF uses to keep Mugabe rich and the rest of the people starved. It will still be Chinese aircraft scorching the earth of Darfur's destitute villages. It will still be China leaching the natural resource out of every country here not sufficiently structured to defend itself from a greedy older sibling on the planet when there are no parents to set rules.
Instead, we, the collective free countries of the world, go to Beijing to play in the games and pretend that China isn't propagating mass suffering in the dark continent, let alone raping the environment in their own.
But at least I can get great Chinese food here, right?
So, yeah. China's here in Ghana too.
And of course they're in Sudan and Zimbabwe too. Its a sad pattern, but here I am one guy working with one humanitarian org, one voice on the internet that only a couple of people will hear. That's not a lot compared with hundreds of millions of oil-hungry Chinese, not to mention the oil-hungrier US (did you know that California alone consumes more gas than all of China? Gas, not oil - an important distinction, but still. China could eclipse California this year, with 1.3 billion people to CA's 37 million).
I feel like I can see something that's wrong with the world, that's an important thing that needs to be fixed, and pretty much the rest of the planet is deaf and dumb and blind to the problem. It's like that line, I can't remember where its from: "98% of the population is asleep. The other 2% are staring around in complete amazement, abject terror, or both."
The scary thing is that even if I am in the 2% awake on this issue - its only on this issue.
I really want to go surfing and feel like things are going to be OK, for a bit.