Mark, 38, is from the Central Region of Ghana, but currently lives in Accra. He noticed me typing away while I was editing a story and asked what I was working on. When I told him about The Sahara Concept, he replied, “Okay. Ask me.” So I did.
January 9 2017 Accra, Ghana
Dayna: Of any superpower that you can imagine, which would you choose to have and why??
Mark: Um, as in uh, as in countries with better economies, or?
D: No, I’m just asking, personally, you– if you can think of a superpower that normal people wouldn’t have–
M: That’s what I want you to explain. Superpower. Are you talking about countries?
D: Just personally–
M: If you say superpower, what comes to my mind is countries that have better economy and are well-developed, like developed countries, yes. Those are what I would consider superpowers.
D: Okay. I guess what I am thinking is, individually, if you could choose… If a genie came out of this beer bottle right now and said, I will grant you any superpower that you, personally, would like to have–
D: –what would you choose?
M: I would like to be, um… the Spider-Man.
D: Oh, you would like to be Spider-Man! So your superpower would be to…
M: To help.
D: To help people.
D: In what way?
M: Um, to… to help people, like, who are in need, who are in trouble, and that kind of stuff.
D: Okay. And what sort of help would you provide, and in what way would you do it? ‘Cause Spider-Man is like a spider. He can shoot webs, he can crawl up buildings. That’s sort of his superpower and he uses that to help people. Would you want the same superpower as him, with the webs or would you want–
M: No, without the webs. ‘Cause I don’t want to fly.
D: You don’t want to fly?
M: Yes. I don’t want to fly like the Spider-Man, but I would like to have the superpowers to be able to help people who are in need and those who are in trouble. So to say.
D: Okay, so think if you were some sort of super-human being, and say you are like some kind of God on Earth, and you had this… power. What kind of power would you have? What would the thing be that you could do that no one else could do? You could use it to help people, but what would it be?
M: Yes, eh, I think we, like in Ghana here, or let’s say in Africa, we really suffer from some strange diseases, yes, so I would like to use my superpowers to help on that side.
D: Okay, what’s your superpower?
M: Um, maybe to heal? [laughs] To heal those people who are helpless, who are sick and helpless. To heal them. And the very poor in society, so those who are sick and helpless and the very poor in society, because sometimes you go to certain communities… even drinking water is a challenge, you know? So maybe with my superpower I would like to help in that kind of way.
D: Okay. Have you had anyone close to you who has been personally affected by a strange disease?
M: Um, no. No. Um, basically, those who are close to me who are affected by some diseases, I don’t know if I would actually call it diseases, but they are mostly high blood pressure, and it developed into heart attacks, and it affected a couple of my family members. Yes. So, basically those are, that is what really has affected me as a human being.
D: What do you think would be able to help them avoid those sorts of things?
M: Well yes, eh, ’cause we all know how blood pressure starts and what it leads to, so in my own small way, trying to educate my family about how not to get it. What to eat, what not to eat, what to do or not to do and other stuff like that.
D: Okay, so you think education would probably be the starting point of how to prevent that sort of thing??
M: Yes. Yes, I really think so.
D: Yeah, that makes sense. That’s smart.
D: What is it… if you could pinpoint something that wakes you up every morning, what would it be?
M: Something that wakes me up every morning is to be able to exhibit my God-given talent to help my company, the company that I work for, and like, in extension, help the whole of Ghana. ‘Cause when I do my bit for my company, it extends to helping the whole economy as a whole.
D: What company do you work for?
M: I work for Ghana Community Network Services. It’s a… basically it’s shortened as GCNet. That is the short form of Ghana Community Network Services.
D: What exactly do you do there?
M: We are basically IT service providers for the government. Yes, so we work with alot of government institutions. For instance, Ghana Revenue Authority, Registrar Generals Department, Ghana Shippers Council, Ecobank, a whole lot of them. We provide both hardware and software services to them and then we manage it for them. So that’s basically what we do, and I’m a back room staff. Like, I’m a network engineer. So we are the back room. When they have a problem, they call our data center, and then we solve it for them..
D: Oh, you’re the face behind the scenes.
M: Yes, we are behind everything. They don’t see us but we are behind everything. [laughs]
D: So what exactly does that provide for Ghanaians that helps with their lives?
M: Basically, we kind of help the government to collect taxes. Yes. So people pay taxes through our system. When it comes through the Ghana Revenue Authority platform, they pay, everybody like, pay taxes through our system to the government. And then the Registrar General too, anybody who wants to register a company has to do it through our system, pay the money, everything through our system. Yep, so, in that case, the government is able to give out enough revenue ’cause since our system came into being, we help the government to increase revenue to… I can’t really mention a particular value but the revenue are increased at an appreciable level since our system came into being.
D: So when people pay taxes it’s going towards, well, hopefully it’s going towards bettering the system and public services and providing–
M: –basic services like health, education and other things.
D: Yeah okay. And now that there is a change in government– the NPP is in government, and that is who you voted for?
D: So that’s probably more motivation as well, it feels better because you’re–
M: Yes. I’m more attached to this present government. Yes. Because I believe in their philosophy.
D: So, it feels like you’re helping facilitate what the government is trying to establish for Ghana?
D: Okay. Well that’s great. That’s really good. Okay so, what is the most beautiful place you can think of?
M: Like, in Ghana or any other place?
D: Anything that comes to mind. It could be a place that you have been to, but it could also be a place that you haven’t been to. Any place that you can imagine.
M: Like, I think if I had my own will, I would visit Copacabana Beach in Brazil. [laughs]
D: Okay, what makes you say that?
M: ‘Cause I see video footages about the place, how neat it looks, and how much fun people have over there. So it has always been an attraction to me. One day I would like to visit that place.
D: Can you tell me about one video that you’ve seen? And what was happening?
M: You know, my choice for that place… is like, on our beaches, ya, we don’t really keep them neat, all of the beaches and even the sea itself. But then when I see video footage of that place, the sea is neat, the beaches are very neat, the way they’ve arranged those resorts around there and stuff looks so attractive. Yes. Those are some of the reasons I would like to visit that place one time in my life.
D: Do you think you’ll go there?
M: For now, I don’t know but I will try. [laughs]
D: You should try.
M: Yes. It’s a matter of getting the financial power, and then making the decision, that’s all.
D: It is.
M: When the financial power is there, I just make the decision and then off I go.
D: You know what though, as long as the financial power is not there, you can make the excuse that the financial power is not there.
M: For now I don’t have that financial cloud to be able to make that decision.
D: Right. Do you have a family?
M: I’m not married.
D: Do you have kids?
M: No. No kids.
D: Okay, so it’s just you. Well, then you don’t have any responsibility in terms of family?
M: I do. I take care of my sisters kids. It’s cool. And every now and then if there’s a funeral in the family, I’m one of the people who contribute money for everything. So those are my basic responsibilities.
D: So you provide financial–
M: Financial help for my family, yes.
D: Okay, and is that something you are expected to do?
M: Yeah. They all expect me to get married as soon as possible.
D: Do you want to?
M: I really do.
D: You do.
D: Okay. No girlfriend?
M: I used to, but it’s not working the way I want it to, so now, it’s almost like it’s not there.
M: Yeah. Almost like it’s not there.
D: Well, you shouldn’t force it, right?
M: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be forced. Matters about the heart are choices you know, so if somebody doesn’t want to make that choice, you don’t have to force it.
D: Exactly. How old are you?
M: I’m 38.
D: Okay. You’re still young, you got time.
M: [laughs] I’m 38 now, yeah. I’m 38. I look… sometimes, I feel I look like… me, I feel like I’m 26, 24, 25…
D: Yeah, I would not have guessed 38. No. You got good genes.
M: Maybe. [laughs] Maybe.
D: Or you just got lucky.
M: Ehm, no, because… because my grandma died at the age of 91. Then, she was really strong, even before she died. She was really strong, she could go out, buy everything for herself, cook for everything for herself. I mean, wash her own clothes.
M: Oh yes. She was that strong. So I think maybe I took her genes.
D: Ah. So you did get lucky with the gene pool.
M: Yup. Ha. I did.
D: That’s cool. I don’t know anyone who is 91 who could do that.
M: Oh really? My grandma did. My grandma did.
D: Is that normal here, or is that not so normal?
M: Ooh. Not too normal, not too normal. Yes. Not too normal.
D: She was an exceptional lady, then..
M: Exceptional, yes. We have some exceptional cases like that. Because right now, people, like, people die very early. Twenties, thirties. Those are the ages where people really die more.
D: Really? Why?
M: Let’s say between twenty to fifty. Let me just… yes. I don’t know but I think it’s lifestyle. Lifestyle like, uh, eating habits– drinking, smoking and other stuff. Yep. So the lifestyle is also having a toll on the youth.
D: So, maybe health isn’t promoted enough here?
M: Yes, yes.
D: It’s something that should be done.
M: The risk of doing all these things, like not eating the right food, not eating at the right time and excessive drinking, excessive smoking and other stuff. So it has made a lot of the youth develop high blood pressure and some other diseases that come with all these kind of habits. So that is why, of late, the youth are really dying.
D: I didn’t quite realize that.
M: The youth are really dying. When I was really young, say in my teens, when somebody is dead, the person should be a very old person, about 80 or 90, but now everybody can die, anybody can die, at any age, yes. Because of some of these issues.
D: Do you think that these lifestyle habits were less, and people were more healthy ten, twenty, thirty years ago? Or do you think that you became more aware of it because you started becoming that age?
M: Yes. Uh, I think I became more aware when I got to thirty and above. I became more aware.
D: And it’s strange when people your age are dying.
D: It’s strange.
M: Very, very weird.
D: Yeah. ‘Cause it’s so young.
M: People are dying very young. All through lifestyle habits. It’s not easy but it’s like, sometimes, I close my mind, take a couple of drinks and a couple of cigarettes. I know it’s not right but maybe just a way for me to relax..
D: Right. A little bit of a vice. I think in North America, healthy lifestyles are a lot more promoted and it’s become more a part of popular culture to be healthy, to eat organic, eat local, drink less, not smoke, that kind of thing. So definitely people are more aware of it. And here there isn’t really anything…
M: That’s true. Health promotion is not really good.
D: I mean, people know it.
M: People know it!
D: People aren’t dumb.
M: But they still do it. Some people even know it but they still do it.
D: I think everyone who does it, knows it.
M: Normally, I told them, really, if you do this, this is what you get. I know it! Because I read. I’m enlightened. I read. I have a university degree, I’m even doing my masters now..
D: In what?
M: Telecommunications engineering. Yes. So I know it. But I also have the hope that I will stop. That I will quit. I always have that in mind, that I want to quit.
D: It’s always kind of back there as your doing it, right? You’re like, I shouldn’t, but I am.
M: Alwaysss, always at the back of my mind.
D: Always easier said than done.
M: Very good. Easier said than done.
M: Mosquitoes, right?!