The Cost of Imports
First let me start with a disclaimer: Not only am I not an economist, but I also have little to no understanding of the financial workings of economies. What I do know consists strictly of what I have learned from my paychecks and consequentially my budgets. I don’t even play under the full rules of Monopoly. Seriously.
This having been said, I have noticed in this last two months the great cost of imports. While in the states, imports particularly those from obscure places can be pricey, these pale in comparison to the cost of imports in Ghana. The amount of imported goods in Ghana is much higher, at least on a simple analysis. Take chocolate for example. Ghana is one of the leading producers of cocoa. Ghanaians often say that you cannot have chocolate anywhere in the world without having a little taste of Ghanaian cocoa in the product. According to my obviously biased sources, Ghana has the best cocoa. Upon hearing this, the average tourist might expect to be exposed to a variety of new and exciting confections. The average tourist might then be disappointed to find that Ghana has one sole chocolate manufacturer (Cocoa Processing Company Limited) that is sold among the more popular imported European brands. The company is mostly state owned and has been around since 1965. The chocolate is manufactured and shipped from Tema, Ghana. The brand, Golden Tree Chocolate, carries only a handful of varieties for which I have sacrificed my diet, for the sake of research, of course. The chocolate is less creamy than some of its American and European counterparts, but with a more authentic cocoa taste. The chocolate is a harder and bit granular in order to withstand the blazing Ghanaian heat. It is decent chocolate. More significantly, it is Ghana’s attempt at processing its world-renowned cocoa locally.
I could speculate as to why Ghana and many other African nations have this skewed economy that exports so many raw materials while never developing more local producers, but this is the neither the time nor the place. Instead, I can share the every day effects of this situation: the expensive price tag of imports. Items that probably cost a fraction of a cent to produce can be marked up to prices that are truly exorbitant. While I can understand items that are niched for the expatriate clientele being more expensive (though I fail to see how anyone could spend the equivalent of $20 on a single wilted red bell pepper), products that appeal to the majority of Ghanaians also seem to be overly priced.
The differences between American grocery stores and Ghanaian markets have been fascinating. The lessons learned in the marketplace have been golden, but the elevated price of imports would not be missed if corrected perhaps in an economy that was less dependent on the products of the other major players of the global market. When writing this entry, I wanted to be conscious of my own complaints. While I might grumble at overpaying for my dried rosemary, I am very aware that I am fortunate. I can spoil myself with the imported comforts and Ghanaian cocoa that I crave.