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‘Go to Canada and see’ viral comment on rent wrongly attributed to Ghana’s Foreign Minister

Claim: Multiple media reports say Ghana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has told Ghanaians complaining about the high cost of rent in the country to “go to Canada and see” what exists there.

Verdict: False. A search conducted by DUBAWA showed the comment was made by the country’s Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Mavis Hawa Koomson, and not Ms Ayorkor Botchwey, as alleged. Also, one of the originators of the story has apologised for a “lack of due diligence” in delivering an accurate and undiluted report.

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A viral comment in Ghana has been attributed to the country’s Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey. 

Multiple media reports claimed the former lawmaker had told Ghanaians complaining about the high rent cost in West Africa to go to Canada and see how expensive things are there.

“Shirley Botchway claimed that the evidence and comparative analysis she had gathered from meetings and diplomatic engagements with Ghanaians living abroad corroborated her observation,” Ghana celebrities reported on Feb. 21, 2024.

The news portal continued:

“She underlined that while rent in Ghana may be pricey for some people, it is not nearly as pricey as rent in Canadian cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Discussions were spurred by the comment among Ghanaians, many of whom expressed shock at the difference in home affordability between the two nations.”

Another news portal, Ghanafuo, also reported on Feb. 21, 2024, that:

“At a news conference to discuss global economic disparities, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration said, ‘If you think rent is expensive in Ghana, go to Canada and see.’”

In its story, Ghanafuo reported that: 

“In response [to the foreign minister’s comment], a few individuals chastised her for drawing comparisons between Ghana and Canada when, in reality, their circumstances are dissimilar.”

Also, see here and here for similar reports.

DUBAWA decided to investigate the claim in its campaign against misinformation and disinformation in West Africa.

Verification

A detailed search conducted by DUBAWA showed the comment was made by the country’s minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Hawa Koomson, and not the Foreign Affairs minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, as alleged.

Speaking to Accra-based Onua FM on Feb. 20, 2024, Ms Koomson told Ghanaians to be grateful to the government of President Nana Akufo-Addo for the economic progress made so far.

“I heard someone saying that today, things are expensive in Ghana. S/he should go to Canada. Last year [2023] August, when I went to Canada, the monthly rent was over 2,000 Canadian dollars. That’s for a single room, not even a chamber and hall,” Ms Koomson, who doubles as a legislator, said in a mixed English and Twi dialect. 

Citing an Akan proverb to stress her point, Ms Koomson told the presenter in the video posted on X (formerly Twitter) from minutes 0:35 to 1:57:

“If you haven’t been to someone else’s farm, you will think you are worse off or better than someone.” 

Although the educationist admitted some people are suffering in the West African country, she said it does not mean the situation in Ghana is worse off than in other countries.

The minister’s comment on fisheries and aquaculture development was widely reported by reputed media organisations in the country, including the state-owned Daily Graphic newspaper. See here, here, and here. The Foreign Affairs minister’s name was not mentioned anywhere in these reports.

Also, one of the originators of the story that attributed the comment to Ms Ayorkor Botchwey apologised for the poor reportage.

NKONKONSA.com published on Feb. 23, 2024, that: 

“…[we] wish to render an unqualified apology to the foreign minister, Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, over an earlier publication by our news outlet. The report claimed the foreign minister had pointed out that it was far more expensive than Ghana to rent even a single room there—more than 2,000 Canadian dollars a month. 

This was false, as our subsequent findings revealed she did not make such a statement on any platform. In the pursuit of delivering accurate and timely information, we unfortunately fell short of our standards, and we deeply regret any confusion or misinformation that may have resulted from our report.”

Admitting that it erred in its attempt to file an accurate report, NKONKONSA.com assured its readers that “immediate steps” have been taken to address the issue internally, including “reviewing our editorial processes to prevent similar errors in the future.”

Although the other news portals that attributed the viral comment to Ms Ayorkor Botchwey have yet to either apologise or pull down their stories, available evidence has shown that Ms Koomson made the comment.

Conclusion

It is, therefore, not true that Ghana’s Foreign Affairs minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, told citizens who complained about high rent costs in Ghana to visit Canada to see how things are expensive there. Rather Ms Koomson, the country’s minister for Fisheries, made that comment. 

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