Social media users in Ghana are adhering to the hashtag #FixTheCountry in droves to pressure the government to improve its citizens’ lives. The social media initiative is starting to leave cyberspace and taking first steps in the analog world. Among the new movement’s demands are more jobs, no corruption, fewer taxes, and better education.
Ernesto Yeboah, of the activist group Economic Fighters League, told DW that the present movement came about out of a feeling among the youth of not being heard by those in charge of the country. “We are hungry. Things are bad. Things are difficult. Life is tough. And it doesn’t make the headlines.”
The power of social media
Young people, who make up most of the African population, have long discovered social media to vent their frustrations and to put some pressure on governments. Without admitting that it was bowing to pressure, the Ghana National Petroleum Authority last week slightly reduced petrol prices, after a hike produced mass outrage on social media.
Maltiti Sayida Sadick, who supports the movement, left her home in the north to find work in the capital Accra. She is now employed in the private sector. Sadick told DW that she didn’t stand a chance of finding a job back home.
But earning a wage that would cover her basic needs has also proved elusive. “It is very frustrating, As a young woman of 28 years, who finished school in 2016, and is still trying to find the job that one can be certain will pay for rent, electricity bills, water bills, to clothe yourself, to take care of transportation and your feeding needs. It’s not easy at all.”
Pressure on the government
Only about 10% of university students or graduates find jobs one year after completing school, studies show. That’s in a country that churns out more than 270,000 graduates every year from public and private universities. Dissatisfaction is bound to grow, and the government is well aware of the tensions, especially since more and more users are taking to social media to air concrete grievances.
Government communicator Courage Nobi says he does understand the manifold frustrations of daily life in Ghana. “Post-COVID, post-2020, we’ve run into some very severe difficulties,” he said. “Is it anybody’s fault? No, it’s just the dictates of economics, demand and supply and all the forces that inform prices.” Nobi says the government is doing its best to address the issues.
Ghana’s internet community is not convinced. A call on social media platforms for a demonstration last Sunday was stopped by a court at the request of authorities, for contravening anti-coronavirus safety measures. Maltiti Sayida Sadick scoffed at the concept. “In this country, during elections, politicians were campaigning without regard to the COVID-19 protocols. So we say: lead by example.”
Government supporters in Ghana tried to start a countertrend under the hashtag ‘FixYourSelf’. It was born after a member of parliament, Frank Annoh-Dompreh advised Ghanaians on the social platform Twitter to do exactly that before asking the government to fix the country. The intensity of the backlash forced him to apologize.
That is not enough for activist Ernesto Yeboah, who has placed his hopes on the country’s young. “It’s very clear to us and to many young people out there that our leaders are incapable of lifting this country out of the doldrums of poverty, disease, pain, and squalor. And so it looks like what is happening is a call for new leadership and that new leadership is about to emerge from young people,” he said.
Isaac Kaledzi contributed to this article.