While talking on the phone with my grandmother, she asked me if I see a lot of poverty here. While it seemed expected to just answer ‘yes’ because of the American preconceptions of Africa and because of conversations I’ve had with Ghanaians about their economic situation, I paused before answering. I had to stop and think about what I had actually seen here myself that signified poverty, as poverty looks different around the world. Poverty is lacking the material possessions that would satisfy basic needs of survival and cultural norms (https://www.britannica.com/topic/poverty). In the U.S., I notice poverty in people on the streets whereas in Ghana, I notice poverty in the infrastructure. This may be because I’m used to the buildings, homes, and roads of the U.S. or because it seems Ghanaians mostly live their lives outside the home so more people are visible all day making their collective presence on the streets normal. I don’t feel as if I can look at someone in Ghana and guess their economic status as I probably could in the U.S.
I asked teachers I work with at New Mission how they can tell if someone in Ghana is rich just by looking at them– wondering if it was clothing, materials, technology, way of speaking, etc. One man said most rich people hide their wealth. I was asking because the New Mission teachers dress in business casual/business attire, which to me is fancy and therefore presumably expensive. They said it isn’t actually expensive and is their dress code in order to be respected and viewed more positively despite their actual income being very low. The research on poverty in Ghana is dense but I hope to explore it further as well as ask Ghanaians their perspectives.
For further reading: http://www.statsghana.gov.gh/gssmain/fileUpload/pressrelease/POVERTY%20MAP%20FOR%20GHANA-05102015.pdf