Review by David Appiah Dankwa

Of the 26 essays—including a poem – in “I Speak of Ghana”, nearly all are devoted to pointing out the deeply flawed habits and thinking of the ‘Ghanaman’ and the leaders of the country Damoah affectionately calls, “Sikaman,” which translates to “land of money.”

A few, such as ‘Are We Really Ready for the Oil,’ ‘Brown Leaves Fall, Green Leaves Fall Too,’ and ‘The Future Started Yesterday and We are Already Late,’ double as advice columns, designed to motivate Ghanaians to improve themselves.

One essay, though, appears to have wandered into the book by mistake. Perhaps, it lost its bearings in the Volta Region, a part of Ghana that Damoah and his family toured. That adventure makes for an interesting travel story, but ‘I Speak of Ghana’ should have never been its destination. To say it is misplaced is being too generous.

Still, if you can look past that, Damoah manages to do many special things in this book. His patriotic fervor is particularly infectious. As a Ghanaian I love how much he loves his country.

My biggest takeaway from the book, however, is the message Damoah sends to young men and women who “are causing wealth loss to their generation [by] sitting on inert ideas, bottled-up potential energy and scratching the ground.”

The author writes that young people in Ghana “are so disillusioned they live life without any urgency.”

Damoah’s message reminds me of an article I read recently by an economist – It was an open letter to everyone under the age of 30. The author starts by narrating an old story about a guy taking a smoke break with a non-smoking colleague.

“How long have you been smoking for?” the colleague asks.

“Thirty years,” says the smoker.

“Thirty years!” marveled the co-worker. “That costs so much money. At a pack a day, you’re spending $1,900 a year. Had you instead invested that money at an 8% return for the last 30 years, you’d have $250,000 in the bank today. That’s enough to buy a Ferrari.”

The smoker looked puzzled. “Do you smoke?” he asked his co-worker.

“No.”

“So where is your Ferrari?”

The lesson here, which is identical to Damoah’s message to Ghana’s young people, is that time is one of the greatest assets a person owns. The economist -author said it’s the biggest financial asset that most people are not even aware they own.

What you do today will determine whether you are able to turn cigarettes into Ferraris or Damoah’s ‘Sikaman’ into the land of money.

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