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Grappling with Globalization in Ghana
In Ghana, internationally recognizable products are advertised on billboards that tower over street vendors selling plantain chips to passing cars. Mitsubishi dealerships nestle next to pockmarked roads, and luxury condos are under construction just a street or two from large communities of lean-tos and huts.
These were the type of contradictions that Professor Jaime Llambías-Wolff pointed out as he led students from his Interdisciplinary Approaches to Globalization class through Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Llambias-Wolff and Fall 2017 Voyagers were in Accra to visit two local non-governmental organizations and learn how globalization can, when done properly, promote positive change in a country, city, or people.
“The most important word is partnership,” said Llambias-Wolff before the field class. “That is how we can actually build things, with partners working together, and working from different environments and different perspectives.”
The field class began in Accra with a visit to the National Vocational Training Institute, a vocational school supported by the Canadian non-profit UniTerra and other international organizations. There, local teachers gave short presentations to voyagers about their various fields and how they are reaching out to women and young people to involve them in vocational job training. Instructors also spoke about the prospective job market for students after graduation and some of the challenges they face in trying to best prepare students for the job market.
“They talked about how they would train their students, and then other countries, such as Cuba, would come to recruit them to work in Cuba and they could pay them lower wages because they got them [the students] before they could graduate the program,” said Lamar Butler of Alabama State University. “They could get lower wage workers, and some students would come back and complete the program, and other students couldn’t because they took on the responsibility of trying to help with family matters. So you see how with globalization there is a benefit for some, but other people pay the price.”
After a brief lunch, voyagers headed to Tema to visit a construction site run by the Artisans Association of Ghana, another local NGO supported by UniTerra that helps connect local artisans with construction projects, support, and training.
Throughout the day, voyagers grappled with the effects of globalization in the midst of a modern and changing economy.
“I think it was really interesting. I’ve done some habitat builds in the past, but this was a whole different side of international collaboration. The whole premise of this class is it’s divided up into three sections, and we started with, ‘What is Globalization?’ and we try to reconcile what it means, and how it affects all of us, and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” said Ann North of Tulane University. “And I think today kind-of playing into the positive sides of what globalization can do. A Canadian NGO is in Ghana and reaching out and helping build better lives and employ people.”
Llambias-Wolff, who has worked in international development for a number of years, articulated what he hoped his students learned from observing the effects of globalization in Ghana, and how working closely with local partners can make sure that time and energy is well-spent.
“Don’t expect that the way we perceive aid, that it is the right way to do it. Take and transform the money into something concrete and something long-term. In other words, create that synergy. Partnership helps you in that situation. You start to understand the people.”