In the 1990s, Kwame Mainu was employed by Warwick University in England on a partnership programme with Kumasi University in his homeland, Ghana. The programme provided opportunities for junior academics and technical staff from Kumasi to undertake short upgrading assignments in Coventry, but selecting the right people was always a challenge. The universities wanted everyone to return to work in Ghana but some people were looking for a chance to stay in the UK. Even more worrying was the temptation presented by a Kumasi-based drugs cartel offering lucrative contracts to would-be couriers.Kwame had formed a three-man selection committee with himself as chairman and including the Director of the Technology Consultancy Centre and the Dean of the School of Engineering. Stephen Okunor, the Chief Technician in charge of the university’s mechanical engineering workshop, had recently returned from a successful his visit to Coventry, but his mission related more to his private workshop at Suame Magazine than to his university duties. Kwame proposed extending the scheme to other private workshop owner-managers.
‘But the programme is intended to develop academics,’ protested the dean. ‘We made an exception for Okunor because he runs our mechanical workshop but we couldn’t include outsiders.”You don’t gain much from developed academics who run away!”They don’t all run away.”Out of four so far, one succeeded in absconding and one carried drugs and might well have run away if not arrested. A third was seriously tempted to abscond but I conducted him through London airport and practically pushed him onto the plane.”You’re a Ghanaian; don’t you want to help our people?”Of course I do, but this is not the way.”What is the way?”To help people like Stephen Okunor develop basic technical skills to produce the goods and services the people need.”That’s a very slow process and doesn’t help the university.”I think you mean it doesn’t help the people who work in the university.”Isn’t that the same thing?”You might think it is, but I don’t.”Reach your chests down,’ broke in the TCC director in Twi. ‘It won’t help to solve the problem if we end up fighting.’ The dean looked chastened and Kwame felt the same. It achieved nothing to get into an argument in which both parties became deaf to the other.
They had dug deep to the bedrock of the development dilemma, the one that had haunted Kwame all his adult life: How do you persuade an educated person to forego the fast route to a personal fortune to help in the slow process of community development? He felt that he had resolved this problem in his own heart and mind but to what extent was this due to the accident, as it seemed, of material security. He must be slow to judge others while at the same time seeking to work with those who felt some obligation to help the community which had supported them thus far.