Importation woes; courageous IPA staff

We recently got a taste of the challenges in importing goods to the country when we imported 75 netbooks for field surveys (by air using DHL, not the Tema sea port). The duty applicable on this was 28% and could be waived if we secured the necessary clearances on the basis of their non-profit use. It took us about 5 weeks to secure the duty waiver and lay our hands on the goods lying in the customs warehouse. During this time, we had one staff member fully dedicated to this exercise; about ten days of a driver’s time; several litres of fuel; plus sporadic involvement from other staff in following up on various leads. The papers had to go through countless officials in three different ministries of the Government of Ghana – and only the minister, the deputy minister or the top bureaucrat could sign off on them. 

The netbooks finally made it – to our hands in Accra and then by car to Tamale, where two survey teams had been waiting patiently amidst pressures of multiple deadlines. I have two pictures from the IPA Tamale office, courtesy Noompa’s excellent blog

The netbooks – to the aid of survey teams who have bravely agreed to try/trust modern survey technology 
The brave man who took on the Government of Ghana for 5 weeks – and then, proceeded cheerfully to travel 700 km north by road to work day and night to get the netbooks up and running

Also, an excerpt from another excellent Noompa post

The truth of it is, we’re right here inside the sausage factory. And not every moment is going to be about cutting edge economics work; sometimes, you just do what you can to make sure that things get done. This is true everywhere, and as exciting as IPA is, it is no exception to the rule. Some (many) nights you just roll your sleeves up and dig in for the long haul. And it is all so worth it.

We are indeed inside the sausage factory and this is something that needs to be made clear to those who wish to work with IPA (and I believe this principle holds for all serious development work on the ground). Here, amidst the chaos of field work, staff experience the fear and excitement of heading into a field survey involving dozens of survey staff and a million pieces that need to be monitored constantly. Also working tirelessly behind the scenes, are those who ensure that field teams have (almost) everything they need to make their surveys happen. Every quality dataset that is generated is a testimony to the efforts of these men and women who make these numbers come together – one by one.


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