Yesterday I was on one of the many side streets in the Nima-Maamobi community in Accra trying to buy a new phone. Efo Selassie, the driver said I would get a better rate at any of the shops there over those at the Accra mall. The HTC Sense I brought with me from New York was pilfered at a hang out spot in Osu less than a day after I arrived in Ghana. Akwaaba indeed!
As I stood in front of Masha Allah Electronics and Phone Accessories trying to strike a bargain with a tall dark-skinned vendor with two gold teeth a scrawny kid who looked no older than 12 years walked up to the store. He wore a red baseball hat and an oversized sweater. He wanted to know if the vendor had headphones for the mp3 player he had in his hand. The vendor took the mp3 player and said that the earpiece was available.
“How much?” asked the kid .
“70,000*”, the vendor said.
To which the boy yelled, “Jesus Christ!!!!”
Selassie, the vendor, and I burst into laughter.
The kid didn’t laugh.
Committed to getting his headphones the kid asked again, “you don’t have earpiece for three cedi?”
The vendor smiled and said he could make the kid a deal for five cedi.
I asked the vendor if he couldn’t give it to the kid for three cedi stressing how so very cute the kid was. Something about the look of desire on the kid’s face took me back to not so long ago when I was a child. In Freetown I pestered my mother daily for ice-cream as we drove past Atson’s Supermarket on the way home. As we pulled closer to the Supermarket’s entrance I would stare at my mom beseechingly with desire in my heart feeling like my world would certainly end if I didn’t get the ice-cream. Most times I didn’t get it.
As the kid stood there wide-eyed salivating over the ear piece I told the vendor that I would pay the difference for the earphones when I payed for my phone. As the vendor moved to pull the earphones down from the shelf. The kid shrieked, “Oh I only have one cedi!”
He opened his palm to show me the one cedi coin and all three us of burst into laughter again.
Then Mr. Selassie said, “that’s a Ghana boy for you”. Hinting that there was something very cunning about the way the kid’s funds had suddenly reduced to just one cedi.
The kid fell silent looking at me in wonder. The he said “How much where you going to give him for me?”
“I was going to pay the difference”, I said.
“But how much…”, before he could complete the sentence Efo Selassie shooed him away.
The kid turned to leave and then turned back and looked at me.
“Thank you”, he said in a quiet sad tone.
He walked away shaking his head like someone who knew they had just missed out on a really good opportunity.
I decided on a certain nokia commonly known in Sierra Leone as the ‘PRSP’. It borrows its name from the from the Povery Reduction Strategy Paper. Such a miserly looking phone that no one would dare steal it even if you forget it in a taxi. In short its a poor man’s phone.
It calls, texts, and has a flashlight.
*Most Ghanaians still use the old value before the 2007 revaluation of the cedi. 10,000 of the old is equal to 1 new cedi.