This blog entry is written byNancy Brinker, Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State.Accra, GhanaWednesday, February 20, 2008
The morning we arrived in Accra, we went to the Osu Castle where the Chief of Protocol and I led the introductions of our respective delegations and Presidents. After a meeting and Press conference, we attended a lunch at the residence of Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater. President Bush and The First Lady were joined by the Peace Corps volunteers that are so essential to providing development and assistance to the Ghanaian people year-round. Ghana was the first country in the world to welcome Peace Corps volunteers in 1961, and since then, they have worked together to further support its commitment to democracy.
After lunch we went to the United States Agency for International Development West Africa Trade Hub. At the Hub, 30 tribal chiefs from 10 regions visited with their delegations, and entertained the President and Mrs. Bush. Their dress was all individually beautiful and colorful. We had the opportunity to view the exhibits of the products made through the support of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the program President Bush supported and worked to reauthorize in 2002. Products such as soap, woven baskets, and wood carvings, were some of the many sold for export, and to companies such as Target and Walmart.
The umbrellas shading the Chieftans were extraordinarily colorful. I was taken back by the beauty and intricacy of all the products, so uniquely and carefully handmade. Without the benefit of factory production, the scale and amount of products is limited, but the beauty and quality prevails.
In a lengthy conversation with Sue Brown, the United States Deputy Chief of Mission, I learned that the average per capita income was $1,400, up from $600 in 2005, and that the level of education was improving. However, there is a scarcity of teachers since so many left the country and a real need for more educational programs continues. I also asked her about the health awareness and the diet of the average Ghanaian.
That afternoon, Mrs. Bush and I visited The Maamobi Polyclinic, a primary health clinic focused on Malaria control, the education for nutrition, and for the care of mothers and children. The 2007 American Idol Winner and advocate for combating malaria, Jordin Sparks, gave an impressive performance of our national anthem. At the polyclinic, we had a demonstration of retreating bed nets, encouraging people to take part in what can be a simple solution. The insecticide-treated bed nets have shown to be effective, since the mosquitoes that cause malaria seem to bite primarily at night. The use of the bed nets is especially important for pregnant women and children.
President Bush participated in a Tee Ball Game at the Ghana International School and shortly after met with President Kufour. President Bush announced his new initiative to provide $350 million dollars over a five-year span to combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, such as hookworm and river blindness. President Kufour was very grateful for the support.
In the evening, we went to the elegant State dinner that President Kufour and Mrs. Kufour held for us. The setting was very memorable and many of the men and women were dressed in their colorful National dress. Ghanaian President Kufour wore his as well. The music was what is called Highlife, a mixture of Jazz and African rhythm. President Kufour gave a wonderful toast to President Bush, where he expressed his gratitude and dedicated the new highway that will be funded from the Millenium Challenge as the George Bush Motorway. Dancing and celebration followed. Our visit was appreciated very much and even at night when leaving the reception, the streets were lined with Ghanaians waving flags and inviting us back.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
The next morning was the realization that our trip was soon coming to an end. We were ending our 5-country journey with a visit to Monrovia and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I had met her a few months ago when she came to meet with President Bush and was awarded the National Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award a President can give. This is the fourth time she and President Bush have met, proving their desire to only build stronger relationships.