Find out about London's Ghanaian community
Ghanaians in London represent one of the largest and oldest West African communities in the capital. The vibrancy of its culture means that for many Londoners their very conception of what is African derives from Ghanaian culture.
Britain’s role in the colonisation of Africa and the slave trade meant that Ghanaians, either by force or, in time, through trade, have found themselves living and partaking in London life from the seventeenth century onwards. At first most Ghanaians where part of the transient community of sailors around London’s Docklands. Today, Ghanaians live across London but are concentrated around Dalston, Brixton and Lewisham.
The pull of employment and education opportunities and, in turn, the love of their homeland has insured a steady flow of Ghanaians to and from London over the last hundred years or more. Some Ghanaians in London fled political oppression and turmoil but in the last decade there has been political stability in Ghana making return possible for political refugees.
In 1992, after eleven years of military rule, President Jerry John Rawlings took over the presidency and after his constitutional limit of two terms in office, he stepped down. The 2000 elections saw John Agyekum Kufour win office. Kufour's tenure has seen a stabilising of Ghana's political and economic life. Ghana gained independence ahead of many of it’s neighbours in West Africa. Unfortunately, in the latter half of the last century the country was plagued by political turmoil and violence.
Life for some Ghanaian emigres to London was a struggle. Many Ghanaians that arrived in London in the 50's, 60’s and 70’s had professional qualifications but access to their professions was more often then not impossible. Also many first generation Ghanaians much like other ethnic communities in London kept the expectation that they would return to their homeland close to their hearts.
Surviving in London meant working in manual jobs. This experience has meant that second and third generation Ghanaians now seek to realize their abilities and professional ambitions in a way that was not possible for their parents. Education and qualifications are very important to young Ghanaians.
This in turn has leant a new and growing confidence in Ghanaian Londoners. This confidence is built not only on developments in their homeland but also on the Ghanaian contribution to London. Music, sport and fashion in London are just some of the cultural forms that owe much to Ghanaian Londoners.
Fish from all over the world are on display at Brixton Market in London.
LONDON — Walking at the Brixton market among the parrotfish, doctorfish and butterfish, Effa Edusie is surrounded by pieces of her childhood in Ghana. Caught the day before far off the coast of West Africa, they have been airfreighted to London for dinner.
Ms. Edusie’s relatives used to be fishermen. But no more. These fish are no longer caught by Africans.
On the underside of the waterlogged brown cardboard box that holds the snapper is the improbable red logo of the China National Fisheries Corporation, one of the largest suppliers of West African fish to Europe. Europe’s dinner tables are increasingly supplied by global fishing fleets, which are depleting the world’s oceans to feed the ravenous consumers who have become the most effective predators of fish.
Fish is now the most traded animal commodity on the planet, with about 100 million tons of wild and farmed fish sold each year. Europe has suddenly become the world’s largest market for fish, worth more than 14 billion euros, or about $20.6 billion a year. Europe’s appetite has grown as its native fish stocks have shrunk so that Europe now needs to import 60 percent of fish sold in the region, according to the European Union.
In Europe, the imbalance between supply and demand has led to a thriving illegal trade. Some 50 percent of the fish sold in the European Union originates in developing nations, and much of it is laundered like contraband, caught and shipped illegally beyond the limits of government quotas or treaties. The smuggling operation is well financed and sophisticated, carried out by large-scale mechanized fishing fleets able to sweep up more fish than ever, chasing threatened stocks from ocean to ocean.
The European Commission estimates that more than 1.1 billion euros in illegal seafood, or $1.6 billion worth, enters Europe each year. The World Wide Fund for Nature contends that up to half the fish sold in Europe are illegally caught or imported. While some of the so-called “pirate fishing” is carried out by non-Western vessels far afield, European ships are also guilty, some of them operating close to home. An estimated 40 percent of cod caught in the Baltic Sea are illegal, said Mireille Thom, a spokeswoman for Joe Borg, the European Union’s commissioner of fisheries and maritime affairs.
“We know that it’s much too easy to land illegal fish in European ports, and we are really eager to block their access to European markets,” Ms. Thom said.
If cost is an indication, fish are poised to become Europe’s most precious contraband. Prices have doubled and tripled in response to surging demand, scarcity and recent fishing quotas imposed by the European Union in a desperate effort to save native species. In London, a kilogram of lowly cod, the traditional ingredient of fish and chips, now costs up to £30, or close to $60, up from £6 four years ago.
“Fish and chips used to be a poor man’s treat, but with the prices, it’s becoming a delicacy,” said Mark Morris, a fishmonger for 20 years in London’s enormous Billingsgate market.
On a wintry day at 5 a.m. in Billingsgate last month, as wholesalers unpacked fresh fish from all over the world, the vast international trade that feeds Europe’s appetite was readily apparent, even if the origins of each fillet and steak were not.
Less than 24 hours before, some of these fish were passing through Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, a port with five inspectors to evaluate 360,000 tons of perishable fish that must move rapidly through each year. The Canaries, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Morocco, have become the favored landing point of illegal fish as well as people.
Once cleared there, the catch has entered the European Union and can be sold anywhere within it without further inspection. By the time West African fish get to Europe, the legal fish are offered for sale alongside the ill gotten.
“In the fish area, we’re so far behind meat where you can trace it back to the origins,” said Heike Vesper, who directs the Fisheries Campaign of the World Wide Fund for Nature. The long distances and chain of fishermen and traders make that a difficult task, and every effort to regulate catches, it seems, pushes fishing fleets to other regions.
Mr. Morris, the fishmonger, said: “There are quotas in Europe, and with airfreight cheap it’s much more globalized. We don’t order ourselves; there are middlemen.”
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At Billingsgate, for instance, the colorful boxes of shrimp called “African Beauty,” bearing a drawing of a beautiful woman in tribal dress, were fished off Madagascar and processed in France. “Ten years ago it was just from Britain, Norway and Iceland,” said Mr. Morris, whose family has been in the business for generations.
But many kinds of fish, like tuna, swordfish and cod, are not readily available from European Union waters anymore. In September the European Commission banned the fishing of endangered bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean for the rest of 2007. Such rules barely slow the industry.
“There isn’t a market we can’t access anymore,” said Lee Fawcitt, selling tuna from Sri Lanka, salmon and cod from Norway, halibut from Canada, tilapia from China, shrimp from Madagascar and snapper from Indonesia and Senegal.
To many traders, the origin of the fish hardly matters. “We try to do something, but once it’s here, my attitude is that if it’s been caught it should be sold.” Mr. Fawcitt said. “I’d hate to see it being thrown away.”
Tracing where the fish come from is nearly impossible, many experts say. Groups like Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation have documented a range of egregious and illegal fishing practices off West Africa.
Huge boats, owned by companies in China, South Korea and Europe, fly flags of convenience from other nations. They stay at sea for years at a time, fishing, fueling, changing crews and unloading their catches to refrigerated boats at sea, making international monitoring extremely difficult.
Even when permits and treaties make the fishing legal, it is not always sustainable. Many fleets go well beyond the bounds of their agreements in any case, generally with total impunity, studies, including some by Greenpeace and Environmental Justice, show.
Under international law, the country where the boat is registered is responsible for disciplining illegal activity. Many of the ships fly flags from distant landlocked countries that collect registration fees, but put a low priority on enforcement.
When the Environmental Justice Foundation, which has studied the fishing industry, teamed up with a Greenpeace boat in 2006, more that half of the 104 vessels it followed off the coast of Guinea were fishing illegally, or were involved in illegal practices, the study found.
Their cameras recorded boats whose names were hidden to prevent reporting; boats whose names were changed week to week, presumably so multiple boats could use a single permit; the catch from a licensed boat being offloaded in the dead of night to another vessel, so that the boat could start fishing again.
“There’s a big competition out there with foreign vessels, especially from China,” said Moshwood Kuku, a fishmonger at Afikala Afrikane, a stall that specializes in African fish at Billingsgate. “Locals can only fish the coast.”
The China National Fisheries Corporation, which first sent boats to the Atlantic in 1985, now has offices up and down the coast of West Africa, accounting for more than half its international offices. It also has a huge compound in Las Palmas.
But some of those contributing to overfishing are European as well, said Rupert Howes of the Marine Stewardship Council, a fisheries conservation group. “We are allowing boats from places like France and Spain to rape and pillage West African fishing grounds,” he said. The European Union spends 265 million euros per year, or almost $400 million, to buy foreign fishing rights for its distant-water fleet.
While small local fishermen in West Africa tend to fish sustainably, large seagoing boats use practices that are dangerous to the environment, particularly the use of vast nets to trawl the sea bed. The nets destroy coral, and unsettle eggs and fish breeding grounds. They gulp up fish that cannot be sold because they are too small. Their competition decimates local fishing industries.
By the time huge mechanized vessels have thrown the unsalable juveniles back into the sea, they are often dead, bringing stocks another step closer to extinction. Of the estimated 90 million tons of fish caught worldwide each year, about 30 million tons are discarded, Ms. Vesper of the World Wide Fund for Nature said.
Many experts feel that a better way to control overfishing is to end the system of flags of convenience and to improve port inspections at places like Las Palmas. But enforcement requires resources, which would probably push fish prices even higher.
The European Union is exploring the idea of requiring officials at its ports to check with officials from countries where boats are registered to make sure they are legal and have fishing rights. It is proposing to provide financial assistance for more enforcement in developing countries.
In the short term, prices will be higher. Procuring genuinely sustainable fish means buying more expensive fish, or not eating fish at all. “We’ve acted as if the supply of fish was limitless and it’s not,” said Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation.
Because of an editing error, an article on Tuesday about the thriving illegal trade in fish to
Because of an editing error, an article on Tuesday about the thriving illegal trade in fish to
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush greeted Ghanaian tribal groups in Accra on Wednesday.
ACCRA, Ghana — President Bush said Wednesday that he hoped Pakistan would remain committed to working with the United States in combating terrorism in the wake of this week’s parliamentary elections, in which the party of President Pervez Musharraf, a close ally of the White House since the 2001 terrorist attacks, was drummed out of power.
“It’s now time for the newly elected folks to show up and form their government,” Mr. Bush said during a news conference here in Accra, the capital of Ghana, the fourth stop on his five-country tour of Africa. “The question then is, ‘Will they be friends of the United States?’ I certainly hope so.”
Mr. Bush avoided commenting directly on the elections, in which Mr. Musharraf was not on the ballot. With the count almost complete, the parties of two former prime ministers — Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December, and Nawaz Sharif — appeared the winners. The vote has been interpreted as a rejection of Mr. Musharraf’s leadership.
But the president did offer praise for Mr. Musharraf, saying he had lived up to his promise to end emergency rule and hold democratic elections.
“There were elections held that have been judged as being fair, and the people have spoken,” Mr. Bush said. “I view that as a significant victory. I view it as part of the victory on the war on terror.”
Mr. Bush is traveling through Africa this week to promote his foreign aid programs, and he has been handing out assistance packages all week. On Wednesday, with President John Kufuor of Ghana by his side, Mr. Bush announced he would make available $350 million over five years to provide treatment for tropical diseases, including river blindness, hookworm and schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever.
The American government has spent nearly $20 billion over the past five years fighting higher-profile diseases, including AIDS and malaria, while treatment for tropical diseases has been neglected.
While here, Mr. Bush also tried to dispel the notion, widespread in Africa, that his administration intends to establish military bases on the continent. The Pentagon last year announced plans to establish Africom, a command headquarters that would consolidate operations that had been spread out over three other regional commands, none of them with Africa as their primary focus.
But the plan has generated intense suspicion in countries like Ghana, where the memories of colonial rule are still fresh, and the Pentagon has backed off. The Africom headquarters are based in Stuttgart, Germany, instead.
“I know there’s rumors in Ghana: ‘All Bush is coming to do is to try to convince you to put a big military base here,’ ” Mr. Bush said at the news conference. “That’s baloney. As they say in Texas, ‘That’s bull.’ ”