Monday, June 20, 2016

My Dear Ghana

I am in Ghana, preparing to do two two-day workshops for pastors - one in Accra and one in Tamale, in the Northern Region of Ghana.  Altogether, we hope to present Discipling Marketplace Leaders to 150 pastors from many different denominations.

My old friends and colleagues at Hopeline Institute will be the implementing partner for this program.  They are so well qualified and connected to facilitate this work through the church.  It was out of my many conversations with Fanny Atta-Peters, the Founder and Director of Hopeline Institute who is so passionate about the Church, that the seed of DML began to grow.

But Ghana is hurting, my friends.  Ghana has been such a strong country in many ways for a long time, and has been the economic leader in West Africa for many years. When we lived in Ghana from 2009-2012, the Ghana Cedi exchange rate to the US dollar was about 1.5:1.  In about 2013, the Ghana Cedi crashed to 4:1.  This is significant as there is much importing and exporting in the country.  What used to cost a person 150 Gh Cedis, now would cost 400 Gh Cedis, even though salaries did not rise. Prices, however, went up on many, many things.  Electricity, which might turn on and off a dozen times a day when we lived here from 2009-2012, took a significant hit and went into a pattern of being on for twelve hours, off for twenty-four hours.  Most businesses can't run with limited electricity like that.  While electricity is now on again more regularly, the cost of electricity has gone up 200%. Interest rates at banks for loans continue to be around 37%, with informal loans reaching up to 60%.  Businesses are downsizing or closing and unemployment is rising.  The growth rate of the country has dropped to 3.2% while much of the rest of Africa enjoys a growth rate of 6%+.  The inflation rate for the country is 18.9%!

What is shocking is to see the report from the World Bank of the Ease of Doing Business.  In 2014, Ghana was at a solid 67 out of 180 countries.  In 2016, it has dropped to 114 out of 180 countries.  That is significant.  Very significant.  If you are interested in the numbers, I have included the graphs from 2014 and 2016 where it breaks down the issues.

And 2016:

Taxes have increased, trading across borders has become significantly more difficult, and the country is seen as more risky by investors because of this.

Ghana has elections scheduled for November of this year.  Whether or not a change in government will result in improvements for the country is the major question.

Please pray with us for this country, as well as for the Discipling Marketplace Leaders presentations this week.  Northern Ghana is dominated by Muslims but our Christian brothers and sisters are making every effort to grow churches there.  There are many challenges faced here by the church as well as by business people.  Please pray with us that the message of the need to disciple marketplace leaders can be heard by the pastors and church leaders, and that business people may feel supported and affirmed in their calling to do their business "as unto the Lord."