In its early days, Ghana’s COVID-19 response was heralded as a success story. Its perspective was captured in a statement by Ghana’s president when he announced Africa’s first lockdown on 28 March:
We know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life.
It was a viral sensation.
But the ovation is fading and the West African nation’s case count is surging.
Ghana isn’t the only African country that initially appeared to have COVID-19 under control. Others, like South Africa, were also praised for taking early, decisive action. But the recent surge in coronavirus cases in Ghana, and the inability of the country’s health system to cope with it, were seeded by the outlook, oversights and omissions in the easing of its lockdown.
The partial lockdown of Accra and Kumasi, Ghana’s principal cities, bought the government time to prepare for the onslaught of the virus. The nation needed to be ready for testing and contact tracing, providing personal protective equipment for health workers and dealing with patients in need of acute care for COVID-19. And it had to make provisions to sustain all these as the epidemic evolved.
But the extra time would only be afforded if the lockdown actually slowed the spread of the virus. So in deciding when to ease the restrictions, knowing the degree of this impact was of the essence, as was progress on those public health and health system reinforcements.
Ghana’s timing was bad.
The government announced an end to the lockdown on 19 April. Yet data published by the Ghana Health Service did not offer conclusive evidence that the objectives of the restrictions had been met.
It was unclear whether the spread of COVID-19 had actually slowed – and by how much.
Some references were made to the health system and public health improvements in announcing the end of the lockdown. But details were opaque. Within 10 days of President Akufo-Addo’s national address, the Ghana Medical Association was attributing rising health worker infections to poor distribution of protective supplies.
Existing facilities for intensive care were still being expanded when the restrictions on movement were lifted, and authorities were still scouting locations for new isolation centres.
Ghana’s limited testing capacity also needed to be expanded, as the entire public health response depended on early case detection. Plans for new and expanded laboratories were still being drawn up when the lockdown was ended.
The authorities touted pooled testing as an answer. Multiple samples were grouped together and tested. The samples in each pool were individually retested only if a pool returned a positive result for COVID-19. If the pool was negative then it was assumed that all the samples in it were negative.
Pool testing is useful where there is low viral prevalence, and much less so in a large outbreak. If capacity for individual testing wasn’t significantly increased before pooled testing reached its limits, Ghana’s ability to detect and manage cases would be severely compromised.
Early in the epidemic, authorities adopted a testing target as the benchmark for ending the restrictions on movement. The objective was to locate some 34,000 travellers who arrived in Ghana between early March and the closure of the border on 22 March; to identify and trace people they had come into contact with; and to test these travellers and their associates for COVID-19.
The “enhanced contact tracing” exercise, as the president explained on 5 April, would inform future action. By 19 April, 1.27% of some 51,721 people – just over half of those targeted – were found to be positive for COVID-19.
This result was used as the primary evidence that Ghana’s disease burden was small, and that the epidemic had been substantively contained.
But that testing wasn’t representative. It ignored community spread, which had been documented as early as 20 March. It seemingly underestimated the risk of a large outbreak from undetected cases; how quickly that might happen; and the impact on the still limited laboratories, the still inadequate public health infrastructure, and the still underprepared healthcare system.
The reduction of the volunteer contact tracer workforce after the lockdown exemplified the authorities’ rhetoric that the worst of COVID-19 was over.
Eighteen weeks into the outbreak, Ghana’s COVID-19 response is buckling under the weight of reality.
Counting the costs
Data released on 6 July, the 117th day of Ghana’s COVID-19 epidemic, laid bare the state of affairs. The cases confirmed over the week leading up to that date made up nearly a quarter of Ghana’s total count at the time. The 992 reported on 3 July remains the West African record.
The 642 new cases confirmed on 6 July raised the nation’s tally to 23,464, from 1,042 at the end of the lockdown. Included in those new cases were samples collected as far back as 9 June, a 27-day delay that shows the slow pace of testing.
This was not an anomaly. About one in seven new infections reported so far in July involve a testing delay of at least two weeks. The consequences are obvious: the growing pool of unidentified contacts may spawn even more cases and add to a bleak outlook.
The 22.6% positivity rate for 6 July suggested that Ghana’s testing regime is not casting a wide enough net to give a true picture of community spread. That statistic was as high as 30.1% on 3 July, and the average for the week ending on 6 July was 23.8%.
The medical community’s fears have also materialised. The rate of infections among healthcare workers is staggering. A total of 779 had been infected in the line of duty as of 1 July, and that number has been revised to upwards of 2,000 over the course of the month. Insufficient and inadequate PPE, slow testing, and limited institutional capacity are driving this disturbing trend.
The present state of Ghana’s epidemic is at least partly attributable to the premature lifting of the shelter-in-place order. But its future hinges on whether the nation’s strategy will remain unresponsive to the evolving realities of community spread, the limitations and urgent needs of its fragile public health system, and the daunting risks health workers continue to face.
So far the evidence is not promising.
Authorities in Ghana continue to ease restrictions. Schools have been reopened for final year students, despite public concern. Scores of students and staff have been infected. The health minister rejected calls to reconsider this decision on the grounds that it would be cowardly to reverse course. He only recently recovered from the virus himself.
A mass voter registration exercise is also under way nationwide, despite an open appeal against it by over 200 physicians who cited the obvious risk of further spread of COVID-19.
Ghana has a reputation as one of the more established democracies in sub-Saharan Africa. It has successfully organised six elections in its fourth republic, with power changing hands between the two largest political parties, the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress.
These two parties represent almost 95% of voting numbers based on past elections.
Over these elections, women have participated and been elected to positions in parliament. Some women have also been nominated as running mates and have run for the presidencies, albeit for small parties. But few have made it onto the ballot for national elections.
Until recently none of the two major parties had ever selected a woman on their ticket even though there have been calls over the years for this to be remedied.
Now one of the country’s two largest parties, the National Democratic Congress, has selected a woman vice-presidential candidate – Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyeman.
In a study I completed 10 years ago I looked at political marketing strategies to explore the marketability of candidates. The study focused on some of the past elections of Ghana and the key marketing tools deployed by the two leading parties.
Using the study as a framework, I explore the prospects and constraints of her selection. I conclude that although there were more popular candidates within the National Democratic Congress, her largely scandal-free background and strong public service record gave her an advantage.
Political marketing: what works, what doesn’t
Well executed political marketing campaigns can help parties win elections. A good example in the Ghanaian context was the 2004 electoral win of the New Patriotic Party, a repeat of the 2000 victory, though the party’s winning percentage fell from 56.9% in 2000 to 52.4% in 2004. The close 2004 contest was won in part by the brilliant marketing communication campaign led by the party’s campaign strategists. Slogans like the “so far so good” theme and “never again” advertisements reminded the electorate of the governance record of the opponents, the National Democratic Congress.
The 2004 New Patriotic Party marketing communication campaign was seamlessly integrated across radio, TV, print and outdoor with common campaign themes, thereby amplifying the effect of their media expenditure. The campaign jingles were also easy to sing along to and therefore had high resonance with the Ghanaian electorate.
Conversely, we found that the party made serious marketing mistakes in the 2008 election. This included the failure to communicate with the grassroots electorate and the perceived aloofness of the incumbent president. This created an advantage for the opposition party to regain power.
The analytical model
Political marketing success is contingent on the successful management of the person, or party, being marketed.
So how marketable is Opoku-Agyemang?
Three factors are worth exploring: who she is, her relationship with the National Democratic Congress party and the party’s ideology.
One of Opoku-Agyemang’s unique selling propositions is that she has served as the vice-chancellor of a public university. She was the first woman in Ghana’s history to hold this position. From 2008 to 2012 she was the University of Cape Coast’s Vice-Chancellor after serving as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.
This has given her managerial experience. She is also relatively scandal-free compared to other possible women candidates available within the party.
Another plus is that her presence is likely to enhance the popularity of former president John Mahama as he seeks a return to power. This is because both candidates are independent personalities with positive equity due to their past records in public service.
But there are some downsides to her candidacy. One is that there are conservative elements within Ghana that are opposed to women in leadership positions. Another is her lack of affinity for the Volta region, which is considered the power base of the National Democratic Congress. How the region feels about a candidate matters.
She is also not a widely known party figure, especially to the rank and file of her own party and even to political neutrals.
The selection of a woman alone will not enhance the National Democratic Congress’s electoral chances in 2020.
But Opoku-Agyemang has strong points. She has good standing within an important academic bloc. The University of Cape Coast saw growth under her tenure, and as George K.T. Oduro, a Professor of Educational Leadership at the school, noted in a recent article:
She is a woman of integrity and that is what she brings to the Mahama ticket.
It would seem that her brand differentiators are competence and integrity.
Study shows Satellite TV reception increases by 23% in Nigeria and 19% in Ghana in 2019 since the last study, conducted two years ago; SES (www.SES.com) currently reaches 35 million TV households across the African Continent.
SES, the leader in global content connectivity solutions, has unveiled the results of its annual Satellite Monitor survey, which reveals a steady increase in the penetration of satellite TV across Africa. The study on TV reception also shows an increase in SES reach from 33 million African households in 2018 to 35 million households in 2019.
In Nigeria, the Satellite Monitor results revealed that satellite TV reception was the choice for 11.8 million households in 2019, a 23% increase compared to 2017, and a further 4.7 million in Ghana, up by 19% from 2017. The study also highlighted that High Definition (HD) TV sets are becoming increasingly popular, already present in approximately 50% of Ghanaian and Nigerian TV homes.
Other TV reception modes in Nigeria and Ghana currently include terrestrial, cable and IPTV. According to the latest survey results, satellite TV is steadily gaining popularity as the TV reception mode of choice in both markets, with 70% of TV homes in Ghana and 33% of those in Nigeria opting for satellite in 2019 – an increase from 64% and 27%, respectively, compared to 2017.
TV reception modes (in million homes)
TV reception modes
(in million homes)
TV reception modes
(in million homes)
The Satellite Monitor results show that SES also increased its reach across the broader African continent. In addition to the growth of homes reached in Nigeria and Ghana, the study shows that SES’s satellites reach 11.6 million homes (satellite and terrestrial) in anglophone West Africa; 6.2 million satellite homes in francophone West Africa; 17.7 million homes (satellite and terrestrial) in sub-Saharan Africa; and 0.9 million satellite homes in East Africa.
“The results of our annual Satellite Monitor market research demonstrate that satellite continues to be the optimal infrastructure to deliver hundreds of TV channels and in high picture quality too, while offering an affordable solution in the transition from analogue to digital TV,” said Clint Brown, Vice President of Sales and Market Development for SES Video in Africa. “With the deadline for the analogue switch-off looming in both countries – 2020 in Ghana and 2021 in Nigeria – the 2019 Satellite Monitor findings confirm that end consumers in regions going through digital migration are satisfied with satellite TV and choosing it for its better value proposition and variety of free-to-air offerings, rather than purchasing new hardware and switching to digital terrestrial TV.”
This SES annual market research offers a comprehensive and in-depth analysis into the TV market in each country it surveys and is designed to assess the development of TV reception modes and SES’s total reach in the market, as well as to serve as a benchmark for the TV and satellite industry. In 2019, Ghana and Nigeria were the main surveyed African countries as they stand as the most dynamic and highly penetrated TV markets in sub-Saharan Africa and have been surveyed by SES since 2015.
Academic freedom is supposed to enable academics to conduct scientific enquiry and produce knowledge to be used for the public good. Academics need it so that they can meet their obligation to society. And the state has a corresponding duty to respect this freedom and protect it from abuse.
Academic freedom in Ghana started well with the establishment of the University of Ghana in 1948. Special measures were put in place to insulate the academic staff from governmental interference.
This trend was continued into independence. But it began to deteriorate when respect for liberal democracy, embodied in Ghana’s Independence Constitution, started to wane simultaneously as the country morphed into a one-party state and later into military rule.
In 1992, Ghana passed the Fourth Republican Constitution, which explicitly recognises “academic freedom”. This makes Ghana one of only 14 African countries to do so. The constitution bars the president from taking the position of chancellor of any public university. It also gives universities the power to set up their own governing councils.
But the constitution also grants the president the power to appoint a national council for tertiary education to coordinate the functioning of the public universities.
The current government is attempting to circumvent a key aspect of these constitutional provisions meant to promote and protect academic freedom in its attempt to overhaul the running of the universities with a new Public University Bill.
A memorandum accompanying the bill states, in part, that it is designed to curb “grave improprieties in the utilisation of resources” in public universities.
Based on this claim, the bill seeks to grant the president the power to appoint the chancellors of all public universities. The same applies to the appointment of chairs of all university councils. The council is basically the board of the institution. Currently, chancellors are appointed by university councils whose heads are appointed by the president.
The bill also whittles down the composition of the councils from about 21, depending on the university, to 13. The majority – eight – would be appointed by the president.
The new bill allows councils to appoint vice-chancellors. But the president’s majority stake in council membership means that vice-chancellors would in practice be presidential appointees.
Consequently, all three principal officers of a public university will be beholden to the president.
The president will also have the power to dissolve a university council if he deems there’s an emergency on the campus. The president can replace it with an interim council of his choice.
The universities’ freedom to control their own admission processes is to be replaced by a centralised application board.
These and many other provisions of the bill intrude into the university’s autonomous space.
These attempts by the government to control public universities are unjustified – not only in law but also in fact.
The country has laws that are strong enough to control financial management in the universities. And the ministers of education, finance and others have roles to play in ensuring compliance.
The solution does not lie in making a new law which seeks to control university governance through the back door.
The bill will create more problems than it seeks to solve. For example, it will mean that the minister of education will have to approve applications for grants and even the purchase of equipment to furnish a lecture theatre.
The respected Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, in its memorandum to parliament, noted that among the effects of the draft bill will be:
The introduction of direct executive control over public universities, both as corporate bodies and as academic institutions, and
The constriction of space for differentiation among public universities, for innovation, and for the drive for excellence.
It concluded that “the proposed draft Ghana universities bill is unnecessary” and should not be allowed to pass.
The University Teachers Association of Ghana, on its part, noted in its memorandum that it opposes
the enactment of a harmonised act and statutes to regulate all public universities under one platform.
In its opinion, the bill sins against fundamental provisions of the Fourth Republican Constitution and if passed in its present form, it will not hesitate to institute legal proceedings to challenge them before the Supreme Court.
The government has already shown itself to have little regard for academic freedom. Recently, its brusque interference in an impasse at a public university led to the dismissal of a vice-chancellor and dissolution of the school’s governing council. It also tried to control the conversion of polytechnics into technical universities by setting up a state education agency as the de facto governing council for the technical universities.
The bill also reflects tensions around perceived governmental interference in the removal from office of a vice-chancellor at the University of Education, and the appointment of a new one.
What will be lost
The Public University Bill, if allowed to pass, will take the country back to the 1960s. It will result in the loss of institutional autonomy, self-governance, collegiality, tenure and individual rights and freedoms of academics and students. This will in turn impact negatively on the congenial atmosphere required to promote creativity, innovation and competition on university campuses.
Ghana is considered a bastion of democracy in Africa. It has a large measure of respect for human rights and the rule of law compared with many other African countries. Its democratic credentials will suffer great harm if the bill becomes law.
Political news reporting in Ghana is changing. It is more common to find sensational and humorous stories incorporated into political news than it was a few years ago. This raises questions about the quality of political news and the impact it has on democracy.
The medium that seems to be leading the trend is radio, particularly the privately owned stations.
Since a court ruling in 1994 which opened the doors for private radio stations to operate, there are far more of these in Ghana than state-owned stations.
In Ghana as in much of Africa, radio is the most popular and accessible medium. It has the biggest audience share over all other traditional media like TV and newspapers. Because much of the political news people consume is through the media, radio serves as the dominant source of political information. This gives radio immense power in shaping public perceptions about politics and politicians.
Yet most consumers know very little about how political news is selected.
To find out, I interviewed political editors and journalists from two private radio stations in Ghana in addition to (women) politicians and civil society experts.
The findings showed an increase in commercialisation of political news content and a lack of professionalism.
Both of these trends undermine democracy as they result in news that does not reflect the full range of political voices or views. Political content focuses on views that conform to the radio stations’ operational goals. If the quality of democracy in a country partly relies on the kind of political information that citizens get from the media, then attention must be paid to how political news is produced.
Commercialisation of content
Generally, journalists employ news values to select information. Key among these are impact, proximity, conflict, power elite and prominence.
However, my study revealed that for journalists in Ghanaian private radio stations, newsworthiness is about power elite, controversy and conflict. The more important the personality, the higher the audience appeal. Journalists said they do not only prefer higher ranked politicians but those with charisma and social capital. These tend to attract more listeners.
Politicians who can give exciting soundbites, who are notoriously controversial or who already have a large social following have greater media access than those without these qualities. Such sources, together with controversial or conflict stories, make for good listening.
As one journalist stated:
any editor will know about the news values but for us, the most important is where is the conflict and where is the controversy?
That focus creates a combative political reality over time. It may also fuel divisions and discourage some citizens from participating in politics.
In this news-making model, audiences are viewed not as citizens but as consumers. News has limited informational value since content is more sensational than factual.
Additionally, focusing on political sources with particular traits means that only a limited view of political issues and perspectives is represented in the news. This serves to exclude many other sources – such as female politicians, who noted in the interviews that they were generally opposed to being drawn into aggressive “debates” on air.
Lack of professionalism
Apart from news values, other factors shaping political news production are media ownership and incentive-driven coverage leading to biased reporting. Private radio stations are owned by political actors or entrepreneurs who are usually affiliated to a political party. The state broadcaster is not a dominant player in audience share as might be the case in other countries.
One senior editor explained:
Media ownership today in Ghana is in the hands of the people we are supposed to be watching and questioning and demanding accountability from. The print, electronic, TV and radio media are controlled, owned, managed by politicians and business owners … So true independent media today in Ghana, I can say, does not exist. Even state-owned media which is supposed to be public service television and radio aren’t entirely independent.
Consequently, news content usually favours these allies.
Similarly, the culture of paying journalists to cover events, popularly known as “soli” or “payola”, affects reporting. This was a sore point raised by women we interviewed who were candidates in the 2016 elections.
Because female politicians have less campaign funding than their male counterparts, they struggle the most with getting their activities into the news. This is partly because they do not have the funds to pay journalists to cover them. A few media organisations have banned their employees from taking any payola but the practice is too widespread for the bans to make much of a difference.
Consequences for political participation
Private radio stations in Ghana play a role in holding government officials to account and serving public interests. But the political news-making practices that have been outlined here present a limited version of politics and politicians to citizens. These practices also undermine people’s trust in the media and discourage political participation.
Additionally, they contribute to presenting politics as a reserve for men, weakening national and global efforts to achieve gender equality in politics.
While the National Media Commission and Ghana Journalist Association need more stringent measures to address this growing trend in political news production, citizens should also be more critical of the news they consume and demand higher standards of journalism.
Floods are the second most prevalent and devastating natural disasters in sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2000 and 2019 floods accounted for 64% of all disaster events in the region.
They affected the livelihoods of about 53 million people and killed more than 14,000. Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique were hit severely over this period.
Policies and strategies to confront the increasing flood frequency and deaths on the continent are on international, regional and national agendas. Most of these documents acknowledge that information is an important resource for flood preparedness. The recent World Disaster Report, for example, states that the impact of floods has reduced in some parts of the world because the general public obtained useful information about the risk and acted on it.
Mass information campaigns through radio, TV, newspapers, audio vans and weather reports have been ramped up globally in the past decade to improve flood disaster awareness. Such efforts are premised on the idea that people’s ability to prepare depends on getting the right information about the flood. They need to know – in clear language, at the right time – what might happen and when, and what they can do.
Unfortunately, it appears that efforts in flood risk communication haven’t always helped the general public to prepare better.
Ghana’s government conducts flood education campaigns annually before the rainy season. But in the country’s flood-prone informal settlements, where about 62% of the urban population reside, floods still have devastating consequences. In one of the most recent floods in the Greater Accra region in June 2015, one-third of the 152 fatalities were within or around informal settlements.
Our study set out to investigate the effect of community participation in strengthening the relationship between disaster risk information dissemination and disaster preparedness. We chose three flood-prone communities (Old Fadama, Nima and Kotobabi) in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. We developed a model to test whether communities prepared better for flood disasters when they have been involved in communicating information. The study was undertaken a few months after the June 2015 disaster.
Our study showed that information that is accessible, comprehensive, and tailored to the needs of flood-prone populations strongly influences intentions to prepare. But this is only when city authorities make it possible for the public to get clarity and support to act on the information.
This insight shows how disaster management professionals and policy makers can integrate the cultural, social and value systems of a community into the communication process. Risk should be clearly communicated in languages that are understood locally and information must be channeled through traditional and community institutions.
Flooding in Accra
The government carries out educational campaigns on radio, TV and other media through the National Disaster Management Organisation, Ghana Meteorological Agency and National Commission for Civic Education. These campaigns talk about the type of hazard, areas to be affected, potential damage and in some cases preventive measures. But they don’t involve the active participation of the public.
There’s a need to revisit this one-way information flow, and instead encourage dialogue between experts and the public. This could happen when public authorities build a good relationship with communities. A sustained relationship builds trust. This could in turn give communities the confidence to share experiences of their response to floods.
Our study results showed that providing flood information to the public instigates discussions among community members but has little impact on preventive action. It’s more persuasive when the public is actively engaged in discussions with experts on flood risk preparedness. This should be on transparent and open platforms where experts readily address people’s doubts and uncertainties.
The study revealed that regular engagement between experts and the public is an opportunity to clarify messages, seek additional information and build trust. This can influence positive behavioural changes in terms of flood preparedness.
Participatory disaster risk communication
The risk of climate-related disasters worldwide is growing, especially in developing regions. To build local resilience, disaster management experts and policymakers must make community participation the core element of risk communication to the public.
Our study showed that the level of community participation matters when it comes to disaster preparedness. When people get information in an engaging and interactive manner, their behaviour changes in positive ways. As one respondent quipped:
Give me more information but also seek my views and experiences; then I will act.
The public shouldn’t just receive information but take an active part in what is communicated and how, so that it is useful in their local circumstances.
Matthew Abunyewah, Sessional lecturer, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle; Kim Maund, Discipline Head – Construction Management, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle; Seth Asare Okyere, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University, and Thayaparan Gajendran, Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle
During a state of emergency, governments, as the duty-bearers, are allowed to temporarily suspend the exercise and enjoyment of some rights. They are also allowed to bypass some procedural limits to have more of a free hand to deal with the emergency, while maintaining law and order.
But national and international laws set limits for governments to follow to avoid abuses and possible human rights violations.
Ghana has introduced a range of measures in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus. These include quarantine and isolation of those who have the virus. Restrictions have also been placed on a host of events, including public and social gatherings. The country’s borders have been shut and partial lockdowns imposed in Greater Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Greater Kumasi.
Many of these measures have been imposed under a new law, the Imposition of Restrictions Act, which was passed by parliament two weeks ago. The act was opposed mainly by the parliamentarians belonging to the minority party.
The law states that “the imposition of the restriction under subsection (1) shall be reasonably justifiable in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.”
But this is not the case. This is just one of a number of big concerns with the new law, and the way in which the president has gone about enacting it.
The first is that it is draconian and opens the door to overreach and violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Ghana. Second, the president chose not to put an expiry date on when the provisions of the act will be lifted. Thirdly the act is general – its doesn’t mention COVID-19 as its focus. Section 7 provides only a broad definition of “disaster”, which means that any president can use it in future under various circumstances.
The problem with the Act
The Imposition of Restrictions Act was enacted based on a directive issued by the president on March 15 to introduce emergency measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. In his speech, he directed the attorney-general to introduce “emergency legislation” to that effect.
The act is “to provide for powers to impose restrictions on persons, to give effect to paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) of clause (4) of article 21 of the Constitution in the event of an emergency, disaster or similar circumstance to ensure public safety, public health and protection.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January. Based on the WHO definition, a state of emergency exists in Ghana as in many other countries affected by the pandemic.
Ghana has a law – the Emergency Powers Act, 1994 (Act 472) – that allows it to declare a state of emergency. Its 1992 constitution also makes provision for a state of emergency. The reasons for this include a public health emergency which can trigger a quarantine or isolation order. This would justify restricting people’s movement.
This shows that the president didn’t need a new law. He had all the powers he needed set out in the constitution as well as a number of existing laws to restrict the movement of Ghanaians during a health crisis such as COVID-19.
By taking these steps the government has gone the route of a number of states which have enacted what have been described as emergency laws in response to the coronavirus pandemic, without actually declaring a state of emergency under law. Terms such as “restriction”, “lockdown” and “lockout” are preferred.
The new act violates the constitution in a number of critical ways.
The main problem is that it was enacted outside the purview and control of the 1992 constitution.
First, the Emergency Powers Act requires the president to consult with the Council of State, an advisory committee of eminent citizens, before declaring a state of emergency.
Yet the new act gives this power to a “relevant person or body”. This opens it to abuse.
Second, parliament has the power, under the constitution, to revoke the declaration of a state of emergency or extend it for up to three months.
However, under the new act, this power is reserved for the president.
Act 1012 seeks to derive its authority from article 21(4)(c) of the constitution, which is limited to freedom of movement only. Yet the act restricts the enjoyment of many other rights. Among them is the right to privacy. The act grants the government wide powers to intercept communication and the services of the network provider at the disposal of the state for mass dissemination of information.
There are other protections the act does away with. For example, the constitution stipulates that a person restricted and detained under a state of emergency will be accorded certain privileges and will be released immediately after the expiration of the state of emergency.
No such privilege exists under the new act, which can have a person incarcerated for up to four years.
Flexibility is important to deal with emergencies. But it does not justify the steps taken by Ghana’s government to deal with the COVID-19 emergency.
Governments generally have an uncanny desire to exploit novel situations or emergencies to gain political advantage. In my view the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 lends itself to abuse as it can be applied in a variety of situations that the government can imagine – or create.
Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, has observed that in dealing with the pandemic
emergency or not, states must reach the same threshold of legality, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality for each measure taken.
Instead of seeking to protect the health of Ghanaians and stop the coronavirus epidemic by instituting totalitarian surveillance regimes, the government should rather focus on empowering citizens. An empowered citizenry is well-informed and self-motivated, trusts the state and is ready to propose new social contractual terms with the state to deal with an emergency.
This comes about where the state is transparent and accountable and also trusts the citizenry.
Several African governments on Sunday closed borders, canceled flights and imposed strict entry and quarantine requirements to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which has a foothold in at least 26 countries on the continent as cases keep rising.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and warned the outbreak could have a “potentially lasting” impact on the continent’s most-developed economy, which is already in recession.
Measures to be taken there include barring travel to and from countries such as Italy, Germany, China and the United States.
“Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa,” he said, adding that South Africans who visited targeted countries would be subjected to testing and quarantine when returning home.
South Africa, which has recorded 61 cases, will also prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people, Ramaphosa said.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government was suspending travel from any country with reported COVID-19 cases.
“Only Kenyan citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to come in, provided they proceed on self-quarantine,” he told the nation in a televised address.
The ban would take effect within 48 hours and remain in place for at least 30 days, he said.
Schools should close immediately and universities by the end of the week, he added. Citizens would be encouraged to make cashless transactions to cut the risk of handling contaminated money.
Kenya and Ethiopia have now recorded three and four cases respectively, authorities in each nation said on Sunday, two days after they both reported their first cases.
In West Africa, Ghana will ban entry from Tuesday to anyone who has been to a country with more than 200 coronavirus cases in the past 14 days, unless they are an official resident or Ghanaian national. Ghana has recorded six cases.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a televised Sunday evening address that universities and schools will be closed from Monday until further notice. Public gatherings will be banned for four weeks, he said, though private burials are allowed for groups of less than 25 people.
In southern Africa, Namibia ordered schools to close for a month after recording its first two cases on Saturday.
Djibouti, which has no confirmed case of COVID-19, said on Sunday it was suspending all international flights. Tanzania, which also has no cases yet, canceled flights to India and suspended school games.
Other nations have also shuttered schools, canceled religious festivals and sporting events to minimize the risk of transmission. Some 156,500 people worldwide have been infected and almost 6,000 have died.
Commercial vehicle operators including trotro, taxi and bus drivers are expected to provide hand sanitizers to passengers boarding such vehicles to curb the transfer and spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19).
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in an address to the nation on update of coronavirus, tasked the Ministry of Transport to work with private and commercial transport unions to make it possible.
“The Ministry of Transport should work with the transport unions and private and public transport operators to ensure enhanced hygienic conditions in all vehicles and terminals, by providing amongst others hand sanitizers, running water and soap for washing of hand,” the president said.
The governent has banned entry to non-residents who have travelled to a country affected by coronavirus in the last 14 days, the government officially announced on Sunday.
The ban comes to effect after 48 hours, the Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has announced at a media briefing Sunday afternoon.
In addition, the minister note that "all travels to Ghana is at this stage strongly discouraged until further notice."
Any traveler, except for Ghanaian citizens and persons with Ghana residence permit, who, within the last 14 days, has been to a country that has recorded at least 200 cases of COVID-19 , will not be permitted into the Ghanaian jurisdiction," the statement further said,
Almost 2,500 tons of waste is generated daily in Accra. This is as a result of refuse being dumped and the environment being littered with polythene, bottles and drinking water sachets. Garbage blocks the gutters and can cause flooding and disease outbreaks.
One of the many sources of pollution are plastic sachets in which drinking water is sold on the streets of Ghana. The sachet drinking water business in Ghana is big. Sachet water is packaged in 500 mL polyethylene plastic bags which are heat-sealed on either end. It is a fast-growing source of drinking water in Ghana.
Known on the street as “pure water”, water in sachets is considered to be safe, hygienic and affordable. Consumed mostly by low and middle-income earners, the perception is that sachet water is of higher quality than tap water.
Sachet water is produced under the authority of Ghana’s Food and Drugs Board, which has been keen to promote the proper disposal of the plastic sachets. This is because discarded sachet bags pose serious environmental risks. They are fertile ground for mosquitoes to breed in, block drains and if they’re burnt they cause air pollution.
As a result, some water production companies carry ecological information with the words “respect the environment” and a symbol of a person depositing a sachet into a dustbin.
I conducted research to establish whether consumers pay attention to the messaging on some of the sachets. Did this “green marketing” affect their behaviour? Previous research has shown that consumers can be educated through green marketing tools such as eco-labeling, eco-branding, and environmental advertising .
I also wanted to understand how social factors such as age, gender, education and income affected people’s attitudes and use of water sachets.
The results of the study show that personal factors play a role in people’s behaviour. This includes age, income, education level, and gender.
Based on the results, it could be deduced that older people understand purchasing behaviour better. In addition, levels of education and income are positively associated with green buying behaviour. Green buying behaviour is where consumers are interested in buying products and services that are environmentally friendly while avoiding products that would harm the environment.
Despite this awareness, the problem of poor sanitation continues to be a major problem on the beach. I inferred from this that consumers continue to litter the beach because the environment is filthy.
My findings led me to recommend that a number of steps could be taken to reduce the impact of used water sachets on the environment. These included the provision of litter bins, enforcement of beach sanitation rules and regulations, and introduction of sanitation beach guards. I also recommended that there should be collaboration between regulatory bodies and the producers of sachet water to monitor improvements in labelling sachets.
Factors influencing people
I engaged with 1,589 people aged 18 and over at Labadi Pleasure Beach in Accra in 2017. Labadi beach is one of the oldest entertainment beaches in Ghana and has a serious sanitation problem. It is littered with waste materials, including sachet water bags.
I found that personal factors such as age, income, education level and gender influenced consumers’ decisions in purchasing green sachet drinking water. The older the consumer, the better he or she understood green purchasing behaviour. Older consumers said they knew about the implications of environment degradation, and most said they tried to dispose off the sachet bag in a bin.
In addition, the level of education and income were positively associated with green buying behaviour. Female consumers were also more concerned with green products.
Over 88% of those interviewed said they were aware of eco-information, that they bought eco-friendly products and read the product labels on the sachet water.
The way forward
Ghana needs to take advantage of the fact that people are environmentally conscious. It needs to do so by ensuring that environments are cleaned up. Based on the high levels of awareness on environmental issues, I believe that this will encourage people not to litter.
Several practical steps could be taken. For example, there should intensive monitoring of litter bins on the beach. Beach guards should be hired to enforce sanitation regulations. Beach authorities and producers of sachet water should collaborate to carry out sanitation exercises, and weekly or monthly cleaning exercises. And fines could be imposed for littering.
My research points to the fact that managing sanitation is possible in developing countries if the government, producers, marketers, sellers, and consumers come together towards a common goal.