What is this film about?
In 2004 in Ajumako-Bisease Ghana, Sir Bob Geldof was made Chief of Development in front of the whole town. Geldof wrote about his visit and crowning in the book, Geldof in Africa. “I was in the King of Bisease’s house”, he says in the book. “He made me king too in front of his people. It was fun and the local kids got the day off school.”(1)
WORLDwrite’s volunteer crew visited Ghana to shoot a series of films about what Ghanaians made of the G8/Live8 events and outcomes and what impact it might have had on their lives. In Ghana WORLDwrite volunteers and Chew on it productions were urged by our Ghanaian partners to investigate this crowning. It was literally our last day of filming and we thought we should go and visit the town. We had no idea what to expect. Maybe Geldof had procured serious money; maybe the town had “taken off”. We should not have been surprised when it became clear that the town had got nothing, but the saddest part was the hopes the people of Ajumako-Bisease had invested in a rock star and their genuine belief he would make all the difference to their development needs. The film outlines our findings and forms a letter to Geldof, since getting him to respond any other way has proved impossible. The people of Ajumako-Bisease are still waiting for the development promised to them.
1. ‘Geldof in Africa’, Published by Century The Random House Group
Who is Bob Geldof?
Bob first shot to fame as the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats in the late 1970s. He is the co-founder of the media entertainment and marketing company Ten Alps Communications, and lies fifth in the Irish entertainers category of the Sunday Times 2006 Rich List.
What are Bob’s links with Africa?
In 1985, Geldof organised Live Aid to raise money for the Ethiopian famine and in 1986, Geldof was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2005, Bob Geldof organised Live8, a series of concerts which ran alongside the Make Poverty History campaign and reinforced the aims of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa. Live8 sought to put pressure on world leaders at the G8 summit in Gleneagles to drop the debt of the world’s poorest nations, increase and improve aid, and negotiate fairer trade rules in the interest of poorer countries. Sir Bob Geldof is still popularly venerated in the UK for his work in Africa. He was a Nobel Prize Nominee in 2005 and was honoured with the 2005 Nobel Man of Peace award. He also received a European human rights prize in recognition of his campaign efforts against Third World poverty made by the Council of Europe-backed North-South Centre that recognises "exceptional commitment" to human rights. In the same year he was also made an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society at Trinity College Dublin and received the Free Your Mind Award at the MTV Europe Music Awards. In 2006 he was voted third in the list of “Heroes of our time” compiled by the magazine New Statesman and in 2007 Bob Geldof was awarded a special honorary degree from Newcastle University to honour key figures in the campaign against world poverty. In June 2006 Tony Blair set up the Africa Progress panel in order to monitor the progress of promises made at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 summit. Bob Geldof is on this panel alongside Kofi Annan and the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Geldof states that the aim of the panel “is to maintain the international political profile of Africa achieved in 2005.”(2)
What was Bob doing in Africa in 2004?
In the run up to the Live8 concerts in 2005 Bob Geldof had been working on a television series Geldof in Africa and an accompanying book of the same title. “People had to know what they (Blair and Brown) were arguing for, so we went to the BBC and said; ‘Why not do a load of things from Africa’…The deal was that I do a series from there, too. I agreed, but I didn’t really want to. I don’t like doing telly – it’s a lot of work and exhaustion…but the idea was by doing stuff out of Africa we would inform people about this wondrous, fantastic place.”(3) Shot in 3 weeks in 2004, the documentary series spans the vast continent, following Geldof through West Africa (Ghana, Benin and Mali), Central Africa (DR Congo and Uganda) and East Africa (Ethiopia, Tanzania and Somalia). It was broadcast as part of the BBC Africa series in June 2005 and the DVD was released in November 2005.
Why did Bob go to Ajumako-Bisease?
In Episode 2, “Coco Slaves and Goo”, of the documentary series Geldof travels along the West African coast. On his way through Ghana, he visits a cocoa plantation in Ajumako-Bisease, which according to the commentary on the DVD was a “completely unplanned stop”(4), an upshot of a broken car in the middle of nowhere. In fact members of a production team met with the Chief of Ajumako-Bisease, Nana Okofo Kwakora Gyan III and discussed the possibility of filming part of the Geldof in Africa series at Ajumako-Bisease. They were interested in filming the kola nut and cocoa pods. After 12 months of arrangements and scheduling, Geldof and a film crew came to Ajumako-Bisease, stayed for 2 days and were taken to the bush to film the kola nut and cocoa pods for their documentary.
4. Transcripts of the Commentary of Director and Presenter (John Maguire and Bob Geldof) from the ‘Geldof in Africa’ documentary series.
Where is Ajumako-Bisease?
Ajumako-Bisease is a town in the Ajumako-Enyan-Essiam district, Central Ghana, West Africa
What’s the main industry in Ajumako-Bisease?
Ajumako-Bisease depends on small-scale agricultural activities which revolve around cash crops such as cocoa, palm fruits, oranges, and vegetables. Small scale gari, palm-oil and palm-kernel processing units exist at a household level in some communities.
Does it have a college?
No. Ajumako-Bisease, like many rural towns, has very few facilities.
How big is the hospital?
It does not have one. Ajumako-Bisease has a small poorly-equipped health centre, which does not even have a resident qualified doctor.
How is Ajumako-Bisease’s traditional chieftaincy work?
In the film, Nana Okofo Kwakora Gyan III explains that he is second-in-command to the paramount chief of the Ajumako district and is chief of Ajumako-Bisease town. He has nine sub-chiefs reporting to him. Each chief has a well-drafted function and is appointed according to his suitability for the role, his ability to perform, and the approval of community elders. Chiefs are responsible for initiating programmes which promote growth and improve the standard of living for their towns. Geldof illustrates his understanding of the chiefdom in his commentary on the DVD, Geldof in Africa, where he says, ‘’…usually they pick the guy who’s the most on the case…what they are doing is actually giving you the biggest honour that they can give you.’’(5)
5. Transcripts of the Commentary of Director and Presenter (John Maguire and Bob Geldof) from the ‘Geldof in Africa’ documentary series.
How did Bob become Chief of Development?
Geldof’s presence in Ajumako-Bisease was a result of prior planning by researchers and production team members who had been in touch with Nana Okofo Kwakora Gyan III between March 2003 and September 2004. During this time Nana Okofo Kwakora Gyan III had asked if Geldof would become his Chief of Development. Geldof accepted. Nana Okofo Kwakora Gyan III believed that Geldof would be an ideal Chief of Development for his region as he had already done a lot for Africa. In September 2004 a special durbar (or festival) was organised for the enstoolment of Sir Bob Geldof as Chief of Development, complete with special permission from the Ministry of Education for all school children to take the day off school. On a Friday, in the presence of the whole town, Nana Okofo Kwakora Gyan III crowned Geldof Chief of Development and Geldof made his acceptance speech. He was now Chief of Development of Ajumako-Bisease - Nana Kofi Kumasah I. Geldof constructs a very different version of events, in which his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, he stumbles upon a town called Ajumako-Bisease where he meets John, the town’s chief and is made their Chief of Development.
What does it mean to be Chief of Development?
“The answer is in the title”, says Nana Okofo Kwakora Gyan III, the chief of Ajumako-Bisease in the film. In accepting the title of Chief of Development, Geldof is expected to deliver on his promises to help finance the expansion of Ajumako-Bisease’s kola nut plantation including machinery and to help them build a covered market at their new proposed site and a road to and from the market.
What has Bob done for Ajumako-Bisease?
In Nana Okofo Kwakora Gyan III words in the film, “nothing”. Ajumako-Bisease still lacks the development it needed when Bob Geldof first visited the town and was proclaimed Chief of Development.
Isn’t Bob doing enough already?
No. Not for the people of Ajumako-Bisease. Much as it was an honour for Bob, he was in fact crowned Chief of Development for a purpose, and he accepted that role. Ajumako-Bisease still does not have the roads or the covered market. There is still no agricultural mechanisation in a town with an economy based on kola and cocoa crops. Geldof certainly made a very moving case for people to turn out in thousands brandishing white wrist bands to end poverty. When asked whether Live8 worked his response was, “Yes it did. Are they less hungry because of what we did last year? Yes they are.”(6)
Is being “less hungry” good enough?
People in Ajumako-Bisease have far bigger aspirations than mere survival, yet they are still waiting.
Should Bob shoulder the burden of development in Ajumako-Bisease?
Bob accepted the role of Chief of Development, he made promises to Ajumako-Bisease and he has the means to keep those promises.
What has Bob said about Ajumako-Bisease?
Bob is expected to return every August for the durbar, which he acknowledges in his documentary commentary: “I will go. But erm, I will go back there because I thought it was a great place. Look, I mean look at it…. All this plantation is around Ajumako-Bisease, and, you know it’s a pretty little town....”(7)
7. Transcripts of the Commentary of Director and Presenter (John Maguire and Bob Geldof) from the ‘Geldof in Africa’ documentary series.
What are we hoping to achieve by making this film?
The best thing that could happen is for Ajumako-Bisease to get the development that it was promised in 2004. They asked for a covered marketplace, mechanisation for the expansion of their kola plantation and a good network of roads. The people in Ajumako-Bisease we met wanted serious development.
The Ajumako-Bisease story raises many questions which we believe need to be considered: Do our ambitions for Africa meet the aspirations of Africans? Why are celebrities now seen as the saviours of the developing world? Bob Geldof is clearly not just a rock star, but how has he become a spokesman for Africa rather than Africans themselves? Isn’t this a case of the Kiplingesque White man’s burden revisited? Did the Live8-G8 jamboree really assist our peers? We hope that this film puts these questions on the agenda, and most of all we hope that Ajumako-Bisease achieves a level of development that is enviable.
What can I do?
Now to the Ajumako-Bisease appeal. Stand up for the aspirations of our peers and not just the survival-level goals of existing campaigns. Question every attempt to mobilise pity and oppose the meddling which denies our peers their political freedom, their voice and their aspirations being met.
Tell your friends about this film and pass the word on.