Laughter, good vibes, charming anecdotes and scintillating conversation. Quite ironic that one would find all these at an event titled “Everyone in Accra is sad” but Openspace Global’s first event of 2023 had all these and more. Hosted at the Café Bar Noir on the 24th of February, the event promised to be “a unique and thought provoking discussion that delved into the cultural and societal factors that contribute to the emotional experiences of those living in Accra” according to a post by Sydney Scott Sam, Openspace Global’s Founder.
Boasting of captivating moderators such as Joseph Nti, Afi Tsegah, Yanfo Hackman and Tabitha Asangsia, the conversations were extremely engaging and thought provoking. Sydney served as an MC of sorts and introduced the audience to the amazing panel members. Rules were set and the event officially started.
Sydney Scott Sam, Openspace Global’s Founder.
Thoughtful introduction of icebreakers quickly led to the start of conversations. The air quickly became charged and exciting as we began examining Accra and everything it stood for, our sadness, feelings of inadequacy but ultimate obsession with the city that Accra is.
Topics ranged from Accra as a city itself to what we found enjoyable in it, the huge sense of school spirit and the alumni system, to finding work and working in Accra. We also discussed Ghanaian parents living in Accra, dating and companionship in Accra, gifting as a love language and the realities of being a creative or an individual in the arts and entertainment industry.
The main question being asked was “Is everyone in Accra sad?” After discussing fuel prices, the struggle to break from societal norms and find ways of self-expression, Ghanaian parents and their subtle yet constant pressure, terrible salaries and many other issues, we could patiently conclude that sadness looked very different to every single person living in Accra.
There were a few major takeaways from this event
Participants at the 'Everyone in Accra is sad' event
How is Accra different from other cities?
When asked if they’d take a well paying job outside of Accra some individuals were adamant they’d reject it.
· In Accra, your inconvenience is someone’s market.
· There’s a certain je ne sais quoi found in the air that just can’t be explained.
· The night life and vibes are truly unmatched.
What’s the big deal with the alumni scene in Ghana?
· Being a part of such huge alumni networks helps many get opportunities and serves as a stepping stone for many careers.
· Ghanaians are extremely classist and elitist and this helps them decide whether you’re going to be treated as a member of “the cool kids club.”
Finding work and working in Accra
· A major reason why we’re sad in Accra is the discrepancy between our salaries and the work we actually do. Most individuals tend to go the extra mile and engage in tasks that aren’t even part of their job descriptions. After all that, one receives quite a meagre salary that doesn’t create a dent in the bills and actual needs of individuals in this current economic climate and high cost of living.
• The working environment in Accra doesn’t really make provision for outliers and this is a major cause of the high rates of entrepreneurship in Accra. People get exhausted with all the code-switching and conforming they have to do and branch out to work on their personal projects.
• Lack of vertical progression in the working environment. As a young person when you join companies in Accra there is no clear way to pursue a rise to the top and eventually get to management level. Discussions about growth and better salaries tend to not be encouraged. Higher-level positions are also sourced outside of the company.
What is dating in Accra like?
· There is a lot of pressure on young people to be as flashy as possible. Lavish gifting, excessive displays of affection. This serves as a deterrent for most young people as they think they can’t “afford” dating.
· Parents try to dissuade you from dating when you’re a teenager but once you click twenty five, they start asking when you’re getting married.
· People who believe in splitting bills should date others who agree instead of trying to impose their ideals on others.
Existing as a creative in Ghana
· Most parents try to dissuade you because they are genuinely scared you’re going to end up broke and aimless.
· Most people consider entertainment as a guilty pleasure instead of a vital part of humanity and diminish the importance of artists.
· Most Ghanaians do not like to pay creatives what they’re worth.
· It’s difficult to get your big break in Ghana as a creative unless you get some international recognition.
One could ultimately argue that sadness looks different to everybody. In a capitalist society such as ours, one could argue that rich people aren’t sad since they don’t have to worry about money issues. However, they might be having issues with dating or their parents. Ultimately, we need more spaces such as “Everyone in Accra is sad” so we can discuss our different pains and find comfort in community.
Written by Elizabeth Blessing Adams