First impressions: 72 hours in Ghana

— Hugh Adams, WE 

WE Global Pro Bono Experience GhanaIn an industry where first impressions are pivotal, what have I made of my first few days in Accra? I say Accra very definitely because, one place, one city, does not equal a country. That is something pollsters, politicos and news generators in the UK and US have come to understand all too drastically over the last 18 months. What can be said is that this is undoubtedly a city in motion, you can feel that in the streets. There is an energy to the people, an understanding of where they have come from and where they are going to.

What is stark is that the motion of the economy, one of the fastest growing in Africa, hasn’t brought everyone with it. There is stark contrast between the very affluent, middle class and extreme poverty that you encounter. A visit to Jamestown—just ten minutes’ drive from our hotel—put that into powerful perspective. Poverty is something you will meet in any large city in the world. Anyone who has walked the streets of London, Shanghai or New York will have seen examples of this, but you sometimes need to be removed from your normal surroundings to really see it in effect. What's important is how this insight will impact the work we have been challenged with. How much does what we have seen in our few days in Accra reflect the life of Ghana?

Women in Accra, GanaWhat of the work? Well, I truly have no idea yet. I have met a diverse group of people with a wonderfully different array of skills. That reminds me that integrating skills and talent is one of the key facets of transformation. The solution is unlikely to be a communications-only challenge, and integration of ideas will most definitely be needed to ensure success. We will need to collect the respect and insight of a variety of different stakeholders to craft an impactful set of recommendations.

From what I have seen of Accra, Ghana may well be a country with explosive moments of motion that capture some, maybe many, and not others. There are transitional shifts, that if were speaking of a football team I would describe as mercurial. It is a different environment to get my head around and, to continue the football analogy, I am playing away from home. What can be said so far is that building on the sense of Ghana’s history and momentum seems to be important in creating impact. Bringing everyone along will be a much greater challenge. Like a professional footballer, this is not time to play, it’s time to go to work.

This post is part of a series about WE’s first Global Pro Bono Experience. Check back often to get more in depth snapshots of Hugh, Stephanie and Chrissy’s adventures in Ghana.

Connect with the author, Hugh Adams, on Twitter.