On March 31, 2011, the Mayor of Accra, Ghana visited MedShare to discuss a partnership in getting containers sent to support their health care efforts. Global Atlanta covered this visit, and we wanted to share their article with you.
Accra Mayor: Delta’s Atlanta-Ghana Flight Fulfills Promise
By Trevor Williams
A nonstop Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Accra has bolstered Ghana‘s case for attracting foreign investment and helped the country’s diaspora stay connected to their families, said Alfred Vanderpuije, mayor of the Ghanaian capital.
Since it launched last June, the flight has augmented efforts to make Accra a focal point for business in West Africa, Mr. Vanderpuije told GlobalAtlanta.
Delta flies to Accra four times per week from New York and three times per week from Atlanta, serving the country every day from the U.S. The airline, which also serves Monrovia, Liberia, via Accra’s airport, is building an expanded terminal area there that is slated to open later this year.
“The Chinese are coming. The Japanese are coming. The Americans are coming. Accra, and for that matter, Ghana, is now a very attractive centerpiece for international activities,” he said.
Mr. Vanderpuije visited Atlanta for the third time on March 31, almost exactly a year after his last trip.
He went to the Decatur warehouse of MedShare, a nonprofit that collects donated medical supplies and raises money to ship them to hospitals in developing nations. MedShare has already shipped 20 containers to Ghana. Each full container holds supplies with an average value of $300,000, said Nell Diallo, vice president of corporate and international relations.
Mr. Vanderpuije watched workers pack the final pallets into a 40-foot container that will leave April 20 for a six-week journey across the Atlantic to Accra. The shipment included many common supplies – gauze, gloves and more – as well as devices like an oxygen concentrator, which is used as a substitute in developing countries for more expensive oxygen tanks.
The shipment highlights the importance of Accra’s ties with Atlanta while meeting a real need in his city, Mr. Vanderpuije said.
The four hospitals in the mayor’s jurisdiction are fully staffed with doctors and nurses, but they often lack sufficient supplies and advanced equipment. Frustrated working in this environment, many doctors choose to leave the country, he said.
Having the right supplies will help retain doctors and build the health system Accra needs to attract more foreign visitors and businesses.
“We want Accra to be a tourist center, where people can easily come in, enjoy the culture, enjoy the people, Mr. Vanderpuije said. “But when they are there, we want to assure them that their health is very important for us.”
He added that the city is working to instill a “culture of responsibility” in its people with regard to pollution and sanitation.
During his March 2010 trip, Mr. Vanderpuije told GlobalAtlanta that a major problem plaguing Accra was a lack of classrooms, which forced children to go to school in two shifts.
A year later, the mayor is happy to report that the shift system had ended after the construction of 500 temporary classrooms.
Mr. Vanderpuije came to the U.S. some 25 years ago and eventually became a teacher. He served as a middle-school principal in Columbia, S.C., before his appointment as mayor by Ghana’s president.
Before traveling to Atlanta, he visited Columbia, with which he hopes to establish a sister-city relationship.
He also met in New York with development economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Accra, a city of 4.5 million people, is one of 11 African cities chosen for the institute’s Millennium Cities Initiative, which helps urban areas enact reforms that make them more attractive for foreign investment.
The mayor of Kumasi, Ghana’s northern economic hub and another Millennium City, is scheduled to visit Atlanta on April 7 to promote the city’s International Black Arts Festival.
Ghana is often seen as a bellwether for democracy in Africa. President Obama made a major speech in Accra during his first swing through Africa after taking office.
With fighting ongoing over election results in neighboring Ivory Coast, Mr. Vanderpuije said Ghana must hold tight to its role as a “shining example” for democracy on the continent.
“The challenge for us is to continue to sustain our democracy to the extent that other African countries will see that it pays to champion the cause of democracy,” he said.
To watch last year’s GlobalAtlanta video interview with Mr. Vanderpuije, read: Accra Mayor: New Delta Flight Good for Business
Visit www.medshare.org to learn more about MedShare.
Thanks to everyone who had a part in making this shipment happen, and thanks to Global Atlanta for helping spread the word about MedShare’s impact worldwide.