Last updated: 24 may, 2010 - 13:39 GMT

Africa Kicks: Ghana

Day 1

CK Mann talking up Ghana's World Cup chances:

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The Atlantic Ocean appeared on our right as we approached Takoradi from Ghana's border with Ivory Coast.

My phone rang with the nod from a contact that we had the go ahead for an interview with highlife legend, CK Mann.

Highlife is a music style once synonymous with this part of West Africa.

Born in 1936, CK Mann was once the biggest name in Ghanaian music.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, he travelled the globe to entertain audiences with his highlife dance music.

Today, he is settled in Takoradi, just an hour's drive from his birthplace, Cape Coast.

The town council has named the street of where he lives CK Mann Avenue, which makes him an easy Mann to find.

CK Mann no longer plays music.

His last performance was nearly a decade ago. One of the last collaborations he did was with the young US R&B singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash in 2001, at just 22 years old.

Nowadays he just likes to listen to jazz. He holds no truck with Ghana's new hiplife scene - the fusion of traditional Ghanaian beats with hiphop - complaining that the words are obscured by the loud, fast delivery.

Anyway, he says, people don't want to hear hiplife, people want to hear highlife.

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So why not play? Come out of retirement and play?

Money. He needs a good keyboard, or a good guitar. He has a song to record but no money.

In his pomp he tasted the musical highlife but, he claims, lack of music piracy laws and no protection for artists' copyright in Africa mean royalties do not reach him.

He could gig if he chose - there are offers but he says he's done. Burned too many times by 'offers'.

Today the highlife legend administers his CK Mann Foundation, a charity that educates 60 children with situations that remind him of his early struggle as a homeless runaway on the streets of Takoradi.

Now he has his own street, and Takoradians all know of the retired highlife grandee in their midst.

As we relax after the interview, listening to the sound of the crashing Atlantic surf, he shrugs:

"They all know me, when I played, people used to name their babies after me, but there is just one CK Mann. I am CK Mann."

Day 2

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Our three day stop in Ghana has been tailored around the broadcast of three live BBC Africa Have Your Say debates.

In Accra, on Thursday, the topic for debate was electricity shortage and prices.

The programme was hosted in the grand auditorium of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons.

As transmission time approached, seats began to fill and final checks of the audio equipment were made.

Host Alex Jakana introduced himself and went through AHYS debate etiquette with the guests, his patter warming the audience up for airtime.

"Hello and Welcome. I am Alex Jakana and today's Africa Have Your Say is coming to you LIVE from Accra, Ghana."

And with those words, the auditorium launched into an hour long live discussion on power as the audience began sharing their experiences and frustrations with Ghana's inadequate electricity supply.

One of the most memorable moments was when a gynaecologist based in Accra explained how he had to complete an operation on a patient by the light of a mobile phone's display screen when the hospital power failed.

The debate on Ghana's electricity shortages raised challenging questions

Ghanaians directed their anger at at the government accusing it of failing to take adequate action to improve electricity supply in the country.

Electricity prices rose by 40% just last Tuesday but, despite govenment assuarances, the consumers remain in the dark about any improvements in the reliability of supply.

"When will all this talk turn into action?" asked one local journalist.

The deputy minister for energy, Kofi Buah, who was in the panel discussion, faced hard questions from the audience.

He blamed the problem on an antiquated infrastructure that is heaving under the strain of huge demand and explained that there are no resources to fund the high costs of modernisation.

With no clear solutions in sight attention turned to electricity companies.

One woman in the auditorium told us how she had phoned her supplier to report her broken metre, but months later nothing has been done. Meanwhile her electricity is free.

Alex Jakana pressed Ghanains about their own responsibility. Is it all down to the government? Does the population not have a role to play?

One contributor from Nigeria joined the debate on the line to explain how his pressure group, Light Up Nigeria, makes it their business to keep the issue of electricity supply high on the agenda.

Contributors asked why alternative sources of power are not being explored with more conviction?

The debate was electrifying with many people venting their anger and frustration.

Alex changed tack: "Is electricity in the same category as water, as food, as shelter - is it a basic human right?"

"You need electricity to power the water pump for it to reach our cities", snapped back the response.

The broadcast ended with no guarantees that the power supply would be reliable, but everyone left the auditorium with a sense of satisfaction that their views had been thrown directly at the officials present and also shared with the rest of the continent on BBC radio.

As Ghana waits for oil to start flowing off Takoradi's shore, many hope the income generated will power a brighter future.

Day 3

On the road to Togo

Our time in Ghana is up.

The bus arrived to collect us on a cool and wet Friday morning dressed in a huge colourful BBC Africa Kicks branding that now runs the length of the chassis.

The vehicle began a slow trundle out of town through the notorious Accra traffic and off towards the town of Aflao at the border with Togo.

Once free of the city's congestion, we rolled along at a good pace.

The skies remained overcast and slightly sulky, refusing to let the sun's rays filter through for the duration of the eight hour journey.

Comfort breaks became a more tightly policed affair by our onboard safety adviser after we drove off from one the first refreshment stops of the day without two of our colleagues. Head counts now mandatory.

Rajesh Joshi from the BBC Hindi Service and our Lagos reporter Fidelis Mbah had to scramble on to motorbike taxis from the village to rejoin the Africa Kicks crew a little way up the road.

Arabic reporter Mahmmoud Ali Elkassas was due for a live transmission at 1230.

Ghanaian solicitor Stephen Antwi to talk to the BBC when he saw the Africa Kicks bus on the road to Aflao

It was at this stop that we met Stephen Antwi.

Mr Antwi is a solicitor from Accra. He was driving to Alfao and Togo when he saw the gleaming new branding of the BBC bus parked by the highway.

He had been listening to our reports on the BBC in Ghana and pulled up to meet and greet us.

We were all chuffed to meet someone who was following our progress and enjoying the programming.

We are on the right road.

Further on the innocuous light rain gave way to a more determined downpour, and the skies darkened.

The bitumen surface ended and our progress was slowed significantly by the quality of the unsealed road in the rain.

The bus negotiated its safest path through the potholes while, onboard, passengers nodded in and out of sleep.

Life for local people gets harder the further along the road you go.

Where the surface runs out, the homes are made of mud and wood and palm fronds instead of bricks and mortar.

The busy border town of Aflao was the last stop for the BBC Africa Kicks bus in Ghana

People go barefoot and the loads that women carry on their heads seem larger.

It highlights the importance of good roads to the economic health of a country.

In Ghana, where the money is scarce, people have welcomed the Church and Christianity with gusto.

Small busnesses, shops and stalls name their premises with a God-praising slogan:

New Hope Clinic, In Sight Of God Opticians, Jesus Is The Winner Fashion, King Of Glory Enterprise, Miracle Fast Food, and Dominion Manifestation Time Is True.

I don't know what kind of business the last one is in. It took me too long to mentally process the name and then we were gone.

We splashed on through puddles of rust; the road continued to deteriorate. Children would spot the bus and stop mid sentence, transfixed by the passing vehicle.

Aflao is sprawling. And when you reach the outskirts of the busy trading town, there is still a distance to travel before you cross the border.

The traffic is chaotic and noisy and the roads scarred with potholes.

The rain continued. The bus parked up, its new branding splashed red with mud from the road.

We waited in no man's land, damp and weary, for visas to be issued while business went on around us.

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