Friday, December 24, 2010

The Be Bold Event

If you missed Be Bold last year, don’t miss it this year.

BE BOLD 2011 is going to be an extravagant night showcasing the best of Ghanaian talents!

Come have dinner, network, and have a fabulous time with the Boldest in Ghana.

Featuring: KNAF Couture, Mina Evans, Christie Brown, Heel the World, DV Designs and many more outstanding performances..

Main Highlight of Event, the official launch of the Be Bold Talk Show on ETV Ghana with Christal Jeanne.

Venue: Golden Tulip

Date: January 7th 2011

Time: 6 pm prompt

Rate: GHC 60 Regular, and GHC 100 VIP

BE BOLD! Bringing Education and Building Opportunity for Leadership and Development.

BE BOLD! Step Into the Limelight

Sponsors: Global Media Alliance, eTV, Yfm, Koala, INEN, Creatives

ALSO on January 8th 2011

Venue: Golden Tulip

Reversing the brain drain.

The difficulties of establishing your own business.

How does the average Ghanaian survive in our developing economy?

The answer to these questions and many more will be addressed at the Be Bold forum.

BE BOLD: Bringing Education and Building Opportunity for Leadership and Development.

Not only do we want Ghanaian graduates to return home and work at local companies and/or start their own business in Ghana, but also promote the importance of education and building equity and development for the youth in Ghana.

Come listen and participate in the be bold forum.

Speaking will be renowned leaders and innovators such as Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, Felix E Addo Country Senior Partner Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Joseph BW Winful, Senior Partner KPMG, Sheba Safo Addo Director Corporates Standard Chattered Bank, Edward Boateng, Chairman of Global Media Alliance and many more.

Rate: GHC 50


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Diaries of a Ghanaian Saudi Princess- Part III

December 6th 2010

“The Arrest”

Today is the last day of the conference. I had interviewed so many people the day before that I was confident that today I could just explore Saudi Arabia. So we asked the conference organizers about going around the market areas to record what Saudi was like. They said it was strictly forbidden to have people in our shots but as long as there is no one in shot we were fine. So I went along with Isaac and Edward.

Saudi Arabia is a beautiful city! Very much like New York or Toronto, but cleaner and more spaced out. Everything looked planned, organized, and done with such class I was totally impressed. I was expecting a bit of the dessert, and buildings that looked like those in Egypt or morocco but it was the complete opposite. We went by the mall which was beautiful as well. It was there that I saw how women were not fully covered like the women at the conference or the airport. In fact some of them had all their hair covered, others showed a bit of the hair in front and more of their face. I saw 3 women at the entrance who had their scarf around their shoulders but had their hair fully exposed. Although everyone was indeed in black I also noticed that some women had become very fashionable with their Abayas by trimming the black Abaya with beautiful colourful fabric or patters. Some had on red lipstick, huge designer glasses and bags much of what you would find ladies in the western world doing. The mall however was also sectioned off. The ground floor and first floor were unisex and the 2nd floor was only for women. There was a guard right on the stairway making sure that only the women would go up to that floor. I also noticed that the stores didn’t have changing rooms. It turns out you get to purchase the item you want and try it on within 3 days and bring it back if it doesn’t fit. Mind you under those Abayas are usually western clothes like jeans and a shirt or a beautiful jacket so people did wear western clothes underneath their Abayas.

On our way back we decided to start filming. We took videos of the buildings and the streets. We were so impressed that we did not see that we were approaching the ministry of interior affairs where there was a police check point. So all of a sudden we see a police man aggressively waiving at our taxi driver to stop the car. At this point, I was gripped by fear and was confused as to what the fuss was about. He came towards the taxi yelling in Arabic, asked the men to step out of the car, took the camera from Isaac and kept yelling in Arabic. I believe he was saying “Who are you, what are you doing? This is forbidden in our kingdom!” I did not understand him but I knew very well that we were in big trouble. Within minutes, more Saudi police men arrived and none of them could speak English. We tried to explain that we were tourists from the conference and we were just taking pictures of their beautiful city. They kept yelling back in Arabic and pointed to camera and said “NO, No!” and crossing his hands in a manner that clearly meant “this is not allowed in our country, we go to police station!”. The police men looked at me thinking I was Arabic and so I had to keep explaining that I wasn’t. We gave our passports for proof and they still persisted in speaking Arabic with us. Panic had completely taken over and all my thoughts were of returning home to Ghana. Truth is I wasn’t worried about the men at all, because they respect men out here, but I was horrified as a woman. Women seem to have no voice here and I know from stories that there have been cases where they have acted irrationally towards reporters who were disobeying their laws so I was really nervous. To top is all off, there was a police man outside my door who kept talking in Arabic and this time he was motioning his hand on his arm as though he was saying “In this country if you get caught doing this we cut your hand either short sleeve or long sleeve!”. Not sure if that is what he said, but I was just thinking all the worst things possible. To make a horrible situation worse, I had the urge to use the bathroom. So the pressure was on! I begged them to let me go to the washroom because no one was coming to solve this problem yet. Luckily for me I had interviewed the Secretary General of Saudi Council of Chambers and passed the card to my boss to contact him to come and explain the situation. FOR THE FIRST TIME BEING A WOMAN SOLVED THE PROBLEM! They let me take the taxi to the washroom! I rushed off to the hotel, used the washroom and found the conference people who then accompanied me back to the street where we were stopped. I was asked to stay in the car and keep a low profile while they did the talking. However to my surprise by the time we got there Edward and Isaac were practically sipping tea with the police officers since they had managed to negotiated their way out of the situation. I was baffled. I was told later on that the secretary General of Saudi Council of Chambers that I interviewed a day earlier spoke to the police who decided to let us go! I HAVE NEVER WANTED TO GO BACK TO GHANA AS BADLY AS I DID AT THAT VERY MOMENT! In Saudi Arabia it is forbidden to take pictures of certain places especially near the ministry of interior affairs. So we had to delete the video. Earlier on I had taken so many pictures of the building because I thought it was so beautiful. Not knowing I could have had a gun to my head had they caught me, this is what I was told by a Saudi local who had experienced it himself before.

Back at the conference Edward and Isaac teased me for my fears and taunted me about my need to use the bathroom. I tried explaining that I needed to use the bathroom regardless of the situation. The whole ordeal was a definite experience that I’ll not be forgetting anytime soon.

At the Conference- THE SUMMARY

During the smaller working sessions I stepped into, the talks revolved around Agriculture in which the Mozambique agricultural minister basically stated that investors should be investing in the current cultivated land instead of investing in land that had not yet been cultivated. There were trends showing that less than 25% of arable land was being utilized, that there is a high potential for irrigation and lots of room for innovative technology.

Another room dealt with the ICD fund which is basically a fund for private business in African countries. However in order to be a member of this ICD fund you had to be part of the Islamic Conference. For example if you wanted to apply to World Bank or IMF for funds you would have to be a part of the United Nations. This room stirred up a huge discussion between our fellow Ghanaians and Zambian colleagues on one side and Benin and heads of ICD on the other side. Our Ghanaian’s and Zambians who were not members of ICD yet wanted there to be an exception to the rule for them since they wanted access to funds right away. Member such as Benin were giving examples of why that would not be possible because of the steps a country has to take to become a member of the ICD. They encouraged Ghana and Zambia to follow the application process just like Ivory Coast did and attained membership of ICD in about a year.

In the final plenary session that summed up the entire discussions of the different workshops this is what the action plan of the Gulf Africa conference 2010 was:

  • Encourage corporation between Africa and Gulf states, especially in the rural areas
  • Business men are expected to forge business relationship
  • Realize the importance of promoting the different countries
  • Noted how Saudi Arabia had excellent ties with Africa in communication, infrastructure, agriculture, trade and energy and mines to name a few.

Identifying the reality of the Gulf Trade and investment ties between the gulf and Africa were still low

  1. Many opportunities for promotion of investments through utilization of mineral resources in Africa and money in the Gulf states
  2. Differences between the two foreign direct investment business ventures.
  3. Investments in Africa region lack guarantee and return on investment.
  4. There is a lack of Gulf states banks in Africa

Identifying reality of Africa

  1. Identification of African markets
  2. High customs rate
  3. Unstable Exchange Rates
  4. Instability of laws and legislation on foreign investments

New Proposal

  1. Start forging Gulf Africa Partnership after determining investment regulations
  2. Africa should prepare investments climate to get Gulf funds
  3. Government rules in GCC and Africa should encourage investment flows and trade
  4. Create Africa & Gulf Fund for promoting the two regions.
  5. Ensure food security
  6. Urge GCC banks to open branches in Africa
  7. Establish trade fair exhibitions with institutions to promote both nations
  8. Create an Africa Gulf Agreement to encourage Trade
  9. Allocate Investment fund to promote joint investments
  10. Establish Regional blocks and organizations
  11. Boost Sovereign Funds
  12. African Countries to make rules for Saudi export funds

The end.


Diaries of a Ghanaian Saudi Princess- Part II

December 5th 2010

“Soul Searching Saudi Princess”

On the day of the conference, all my attention was geared towards acquiring interviews. I had done my research and knew who I wanted to talk to but that came with its difficulties as it always does. Upon arrival at the conference I immediately got to work. There were special seating areas for the women where they were separated from the men and were not allowed to sit anywhere else. So, I proceeded to sit with my female counterparts. Stature was irrelevant, it didn’t matter if you were a minister or a student we were all segregated to a section of the conference room. There was also a special lounging area for us where we could go for coffee and tea! However, I actually forgot about that room and joined the men during coffee break! No one stopped me so that was fine.

Meeting with the women who were completely covered, felt strange. I wanted to get to know them but the manner in which they carried themselves made it difficult and near impossible to engage in conversation. The vibe they gave was of a quiet person who does not voice out their thoughts and simply wants to be left alone. The fact that they covered up made it impossible to read body language as to try to determine the potential characteristics they have. A lot can be said about a person from their appearance but the only visible part were the eyes which I must say were beautiful. All I had to go on, were the eyes. The ladies were very friendly and answered all the questions we (the foreign ladies) had about them that made me want to interview them later to find out more details about living in Saudi Arabia as a woman.

The conference began and we were either listening to the translator translating Arabic or directly to the speaker who spoke English. The conference was about investment opportunities between the Gulf states and Africa. It focused on the main difficulties, investment facilitation and the measures that can be undertaken by governments to reduce the risk investors’ face. In 2008 only 2 countries (Saudi Arabia and united Emirates) had relations with Africa. Some of the reasons given where the lack of infrastructure in most African Countries such as roads, railways, telecommunications and the lack of human & Institutional capacities. Conferences such as these are to educate us about the Gulf and Africa (as was done during the first and second sessions of the conferences when the presidents and heads of the countries came to speak). The conference was also meant to be a platform to find solutions to some of the problems mentioned earlier. It was a great networking opportunity for investors, financial institutions, governments and individuals inquiring about investments in both Africa and the Gulf.

What really had me intrigued at the conference was the reason why the Gulf and Africa had not established this relationship for so many years. I was amazed at the depth of cultural differences. Although it appeared as though we had a lot in common (respect in society, how we can eat our food with our hands) I also saw a lot that we didn’t have in common (the roles women play in society, religion especially for the predominantly Christian nations such as Ghana). I definitely did not hesitate to ask these questions during my interviews.

During lunch time, I thought “hey we are at intercontinental, maybe I can sit with the men and mingle a little” and there came the waiters, “the women are seated back there, sorry you cant eat here” so as I was going to get my bag I was told again and again that I had to leave to the women’s area to eat. I must admit I was slightly irritated. I mean I didn’t have to be told so many times, I was on my way to our secluded area. Again we were sectioned off with no waiters serving us. It was as though we were children set aside by the family to eat alone. However, it turned out to be fun after all because all the international women were summoned to this area and we all shared the same experience so we just went on and on about it. It gave me the opportunity to see the faces of my mysterious women that I couldn’t figure out. I saw familiarity, kindness, fun, intelligent and charismatic ladies. Turns out majority of the women are well educated with masters and doctorates. After lunch I interviewed so many people including my ladies whom I certainly wanted to know so much about. I’ll tell you some of the stuff I remember.

The Interview:

Christal: So can you tell me why you guys are covered up so much?

Saudi Lady 1: We choose to wear this. It’s part of our culture to cover up. No one forces us to wear this Abaya and to cover our face. We take it off as soon as there are no men around.

Christal: I noticed that women are segregated a lot. Even at the conference we sit away from the men, we have our own coffee tea room and had to eat lunch separately. Tell me about that.

Saudi Lady 2: I would not use the word segregation. It’s more about making the women feel comfortable and treated special that is why we have special treatment.

Christal: But I was almost not allowed to enter this building, are there places you can’t enter as a woman?

Saudi Lady 1 & 2: There’s no where we can’t enter as women.

Christal: What about working? Since I have been here I have not seen a single woman working either at hotel reception, or as a waitress or in any position that you would normally find women working in other parts of the world.

Saudi Lady 2: We are allowed to work. There are some women that work in 5 star hotels. It’s also that in work places women also have their sections where they can work.

Saudi Lady 1: I have a business myself that I started and a lot of women do the same.

Christal: I heard that you are not allowed to walk alone. That you either have to walk with your relative or husband?

Saudi Lady 2: I am here at the conference now, where is my father? No where! And where is my relative? I came on my own.

Christal: What about the fact that women can’t drive, does that bother you?

Saudi Lady 1: It is not our priority to drive, our priority is our education. Driving is the last thing on our minds.

Saudi Lady 2: We are princesses and should be driven around.

Christal : I heard you don’t have clubs or alcohol here so do you guys party?

Saudi Lady 1: We party alright. We just don’t do it in clubs. We have our houses, hotels etc where we can jam.

Christal: What about love? How do you find it?

Saudi Lady 1: It’s either arranged by the families, in which case they check to make sure that the couples don’t have diseases and can actually conceive a child or I can find my own husband to introduce to the family and they check their background.

Check out part 3 for the final section of a Ghanaian Saudi Princess.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Diaries of a Ghanaian Saudi Princess- Part I

I went to Saudi Arabia from the 2nd to 6th of December for the Gulf Africa Investment Forum and witnessed another part of the world! It was the most amazing experience ever! I'll be telling you about my experience in several parts through a diary I kept while I was away. Tried my best to keep it as short as possible, but I guarantee you that it is a must read!!!

Diaries of A Ghanaian Saudi Princess

2nd December 2010

“I’m not Ethiopian”

After an arduous week we finally make it onto Ethiopian airlines. In my humble opinion, Ethiopian airlines in Ghana, is the epitome of quality service and customer comfort. The services they provided certainly helped the journey begin on an excellent note. I came across several individual who mistook me to be of Ethiopian descent. These individuals consisted of flight attendants as well as citizens of the country. To my surprise, some were so convinced of my ethnicity to the point where they engaged conversation with me in their local tongue which is Amharic. When I told them I was not Ethiopian, the reactions I received were varied. Some were so convinced of my ethnicity that it resulted in the nudging of their spouse for confirmation to take a closer look at me. Others got offended and gave me the “I can’t believe you are Ethiopian and don’t speak your language, shame on you!” look. That was an experience in itself. At the airport at Addis Ababa I saw a lot of Muslim women, either on a journey to Mecca or returning from Mecca. To my surprise, the women were more colourfully draped than I expected. Seeing all those women dressed in black Abaya’s (that’s what they are call it) made me feel out of place. Luckily I had visited Nima (in Ghana) before embarking on my journey and had purchased one to take along with me. I quickly reached into my back and covered up as to not offend their way of life.

Working my way through the Saudi Arabian immigration was a breeze since I now looked like an Arab! I have come to the realization that I may have a unique ability to blend into various cultures. I stood in awe as I observed all the women draped in black Abaya’s and the men in crisp white Kaftans’ with their Ghutrah’s (red and white checkered head gear with the black crown on it). I noticed a lot of cloth and silk drapes all around the airport. Then I thought to myself, you can have a bad hair day and still look fabulous! All the males carried themselves as kings and I could not help but wonder if they felt that way as well.

3rd December 2010

“Kicked out of Restaurant”

Upon arrival at my destination, I slept for about 5 hours and woke around 4am and went downstairs for breakfast and to prepare for the conference. I was truly anxious to confirm whether my research of Saudi Arabia and its customs were true. My boss, Mr. Edward Boateng sees me for the first time since my arrival in Saudi Arabia and was overwhelmed with laughter at my Abayan outfit. He stated that he did not find it necessary to go to such a great extent of wearing the clothing of the Saudi women. I on the other hand disagreed entirely. According to my research and the taxi driver who drove me from the airport, he stated with his Arabic English accent “as a foreigner you have 24 hours from airport to hotel, next day Abaya!”. That was the first full sentence he was able to make in English so naturally, I cracked up with laughter. Before leaving Ghana, it was my intention to follow the concept of “When in Rome do as the Romans Do!” and that is exactly what I did.

At breakfast at Golden Tulip in Saudi, I noticed people were staring at me. Especially the men, well there weren’t many females around! I wasn’t sure why. Either it was because I wasn’t fully covered (showing only my eyes) or they couldn’t figure out if I was Arab? I proceeded to eat my breakfast and went to register for the conference.

As we got to the gate of the conference, we were stopped and our taxi driver and the guards at the gate of the King Faisal Conference hall exchanged some Arabic words. Soon after he said “sister in the back (pointing at me) not allowed inside!” Naturally I was stunned and confused especially since I had travelled all the way from Ghana for this conference. I thought to myself “Clearly there had to be something wrong because I registered for the conference as a woman and so why didn’t they tell me this?!” So we explained that we were here for the conference and he finally let us in! I was amazed but had just experienced my first encounter of being a woman in Saudi Arabia.

After registration Edward, Isaac Yankson ( My favourite Camera man) and Myself decided to head out to town to get some Saudi Arabian food to eat! So we asked and found a fast food joint near the hotel. We get to the restaurant venue and realized that they were all closed for prayers. It turns out people in Saudi Arabia pray five times a day so each and every time they go to pray everyone closes their stores and business seizes for the 20 minutes that they pray. It’s quiet normal to find some people not praying either because they have already prayed or have plans to do it later on. Working hours are usually as follows, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 4p.m. till 10p.m. if I remember correctly. Even with that, if prayer time falls within those hours everything closes temporarily. So we waited outside the fast food place for about 10 more minutes and entered. We really wanted to sit down on the floor where they had carpeted the place and had these little center tables to sit around with people, but as a woman I was not allowed to sit there so we sat on the table. Shortly after trying to order, someone who appeared to be the manager of the place literally pointed at my boss from a distance, shook his finger in a disapproving manner and pointed his thumb out the door ushering us to leave! Yes, leave because I was a woman and wasn’t allowed to eat with men in an open area. So we got take away and left. It turns out that you are only allowed to eat in areas where they have family sections (where they basically use room partition to hide the women who eat with their husbands). As the day progressed we met up with the Ghanaian delegation and that marked the end of my interesting day.

Watch out for Diaries of a Ghanaian Saudi Princess- Part II