A lot has been written or said about the paradox that Africa is: a blessed continent saddled with enormous problems. From academics like Walter Rodney to Ali Marzui; and from the Bretton Woods Institutions to local politicians, uncountable number of references has been made about the richness of Africa – both its mineral wealth and human resource. In 1979, Ali Marzui spoke eloquently about this in his famous “The African Condition” lecture for BBC Reith Lectures.
This niggling question has not only been had within the political and academic chambers. The ordinary people, who are mostly at the receiving end of the decisions made by these economic and political heads have been harping at the disconnect between Africa’s wealth and strategies that must be implemented to raise living standards.
Artists of different persuasions have sourced inspiration from this paradox, not only for their works, but also, holding the feet of, especially politicians, to the fire.
Sass Squad, a rap duo from the Western Region, who broke from the initial four man Sass Squad posed a question bothering on the stagnant economic progress of Ghana in the year 2000. Their concern was simple: Why are we so blessed yet many don’t have meaningful jobs?.
This question was broached by Sass Squad on “Tuma”, off the album ” Ahodze Pa Nkasa (Quality Beads Don’t Boast). Made up of Shortman and Sane Dogg, the 12- track album was critically acclaimed. (Former group members, Scooby Sellah and Atsu Koliko had left the group to form TH4Kwagees).
“Tuma” was mostly performed in the Dagbani and Fante dialects, and featured dancehall artist, Abrewa Nana. The song title “Tuma” is a Dagbani word for “Work”. The chorus and first verse of the song was in Dagbani and pointed clearly to the ironic issue of Ghana’s abundant resources and the lack of jobs for the youth. It went on to highlight how the unemployed are unjustly criticized by the working class for being lazy.
Shortman rapped from the perspective of a worker with aspirations. He also cautioned the ‘lazy’ ones to find something doing, referencing the bible’s ‘a hand that doesn’t work must not eat’ verse to motivated his colleagues.
He turned his attention on the prevailing circumstances of lack of job opportunities for the youth; urging the rich to invest in businesses rather than holding on to their monies. In the end, he called on the unemployed not to relent but create their own opportunities- take up farming, teaching.
It was quite interesting that Sass Squad chose to perform this important song in the Dagbani dialect. Dagbani is a widely spoken language and the three northern regions – Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions – are the poorest in Ghana makes sense. It’s like a cry for attention, for work and better opportunities in other to stymie the continuous migration of the youth from the north to the south in search of menial jobs.
Unemployment, according to security experts could be a potential time bomb if not addressed. Sass Squad’s ” Tuma” was and is still a reminder on the need to address this very important national problem.