If you are in Ghana, take a look a cedi note. It is written somewhere that the note is legal tender. That means it is legally acceptable in exchange for goods and services in Ghana. It would be illegal if anyone was to reject the note as payment for goods sold of services provided.
What you may not know is that paper currencies have not always been legal tender. Different items or articles have served as currency at different times at different times. Past currencies included gold dust/coins, silver, cowries, salt and even slaves. There were times and places where there was no currency at all: people exchanged one type of goods or services for another, a practice called barter.
Now each type of currency is specific to a particular place and a particular time more or less. For example, the Ghana cedi has been the currency of Ghana since independence. Before then the British pound was the legal currency in Ghana. The same can be said more or less about other countries.
It means that as soon as you step out of Ghana, the Ghana cedi becomes completely useless ( especially since it is not convertible). If you are going to the UK you will need to change your cedis into pounds. You would be completely stranded in London if you failed to do so. Either you have beg for pounds sterling or you steal. In case you are wondering what I am driving at, this is just an analogy, or an example.
There was a time when humans measured their worth in terms of the amount of precious metals – bronze, copper, silver and gold – that they owned. At another time it was livestock, or slaves. There was also a time when people measured their worth in terms of military power, social status, etc.
In today’s world a person’s wealth is calculated on the amount and quality of useful knowledge they have. In other words, knowledge is the new legal tender, the new currency of the world. Unlike other currencies, it has no specific jurisdiction. It is legal tender everywhere and every time. This is The Knowledge Society. In the Knowledge Society the only true wealth and only real currency is knowledge.
And that is where the problems start for Africans. Africans have virtually no useful knowledge. Africans don’t read and people who don’t read do not have knowledge. Additionally our educational systems are a sad joke compared to other parts of the world. As a university lecturer I can tell you that most students are only interested in obtaining certificates but not in acquiring knowledge. People who enroll for Master mostly do so only for promotion.
Ghanaians in particular hate reading, preferring to be in the singing and dancing at churches, outdoorings, parties and funerals. A few year ago, young man came to my office looking to translate his Bachelor’s transcript into French so he can search for a job. He had just graduated from a private university. Some of the course on the transcript were:
The Gifts of the Holy Ghost, Introduction to Speaking in Tongues, Missions and Evangelism, Deliverance from Demonic Oppression, etc. Now tell me, how is such a person going to get a job at Apple or Google or Tullow Oil ? No wonder most of the high-paying jobs in our oil industry are held by expatriates with Ghanaians mostly doing the boy-boy jobs.
Now the Knowledge Society has many many good things: smartphones, iPad, cars, etc. and Ghanaians love goodies. Even the cleaner at the market has a smartphone. Every Messenger at the Ministries wants to drive a Toyota Corolla and every SHS girls wants to wear the most expensive Brazilian hair. But those goodies are expensive, very expensive. Only those who earn big salaries at Tullow, TOR, Google, etc. and business tycoons can genuinely and honestly afford them. Meanwhile Ghanaians don’t have the knowledge required to work in the Knowledge society so they can make that much money honestly.
The only options left are to beg (Ghanaians are big time beggars, including our government) or to be corrupt, and we are very corrupt.
But mind you, Ghanaians are corrupt not necessarily because they enjoy being corrupt. The fact is that they don’t have a choice. They are compelled to be corrupt in order to survive. Very few Ghanaian workers can actually survive on their salaries because they have low-knowledge and low-paying jobs. Besides, every person that has a job in Ghana has at least several relatives – parents, siblings, uncles, etc. hanging on their necks.
So you see, anti-corruption campaigns, and preaching and even jailing people will not stop corruption in Ghana because corruption is a matter of survival. If you have no valuable skill, you can be corrupt or start a church or both. Until we Ghanaians start reading, until we acquire the useful knowledge that enables us to live and work in the Knowledge Society in stead of the Spirit Society, until we can make serious cash honestly and genuinely, we will always be poor. And we will remain corrupt for as long as we are poor.
This is not to say that some rich people are not corrupt, all I am saying is that a well-fed man or woman is more likely to resist corruption than a starving man or woman, all other things being equal.