The Ghanaian culture of being seen as disrespectful: To showcase what you do, and to respond to elders/seniors/authority or not?

Monday, July 25, 2022.

For over a decade, I have tried to share a lot of what I do on social media, through emails etc. Now I even have a blog. My aim has been to generate intellectual discussions, learn, teach, advocate etc. I have been amazed by some of the responses I received, often from senior people in my profession. Three (3) of such responses that shocked me are:

  1. Are you the only person doing a good job in Ghana?

  2. Mention one thing (outside yourself) that you have praised/commended on this platform in the last 365 days.

  3. Are you ever wrong?

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t respond. However, I found myself responding to all of them.
This is the response I gave to the second:

Mention one thing (outside yourself) that you have praised/commended on this platform in the last 365 days?


I have thought carefully about what you wrote about me yesterday. I wanted to let it go, but I have decided to respond because I realise that is one of the major reasons why we find ourselves in our bad situation in Africa.

Is it my duty to talk about the good things someone is doing? Maybe yes. But who can better talk about the good things they are doing than the person himself?
Do I rubbish good things people are doing when they post them here? Only yesterday, I congratulated ………. when he posted the commendation he received on good bedside manners.

The USA is great because people are encouraged to talk about the (good) things they do. Sometimes we here read what they write and respond that we are doing better but not ‘trumpeting’ it. Nobody has asked us not to trumpet what we do.

I think your comment is one of the reasons many young people (not only in medicine) do not showcase the good they do in our part of the world.
If we do not change this, we can never compete with the best in the world.

Have a great day.

I bring this up because not many people are like me and can/would respond. What are we doing to the younger ones after us if we make them feel that expressing themselves is wrong? That once they have convictions that they try to hold on to, it means they think they are never wrong, or once they showcase what they do, it means they are trying to tell the world that they are the only ones doing good work? This is baffling to me!
It goes beyond this. How do we ’empower’ younger ones to be able to respond to such comments without being seen as disrespectful or without ‘deflating the egos’ of the seniors?

I think these are important things we must look at if we want to build a next generation ready to compete with the rest of the world.

A childhood friend of mine who has been out of Ghana for many years sent this to me:

We are taught to be “humble”. It is very bad. Very few of us can speak of our achievements publicly. Why? It is cultural. Speaking up means you are being ‘too known’. It is very very bad. You may not notice it until you travel abroad and have to compete with others. Then you will know that someone can sweep a small place and write a sweeping report that will make you fall over. And they will not be lying. They will just describe it so well and in detail that you will promote them immediately. We do our work and keep quiet so no one even notices us!

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