Following my last post I’ve been asked about WAWA.
I first heard this expression on a beach one Sunday in Ghana. A group of friends from the British High Commission and I had driven up the coast and thought we’d found the perfect spot for a picnic. A glorious stretch of sparkling white beach with the crashing Atlantic waves breaking before us and a crystal, still lagoon surrounded by palm trees at our backs.
But as we edged onto the beach, our Range Rover sank axle- deep as the seemingly solid surface proved to be just a dry crust over wet sand. We engaged four wheel drive. Lightened the vehicle. Revved. Pushed. Reversed. All to no avail.
An old man in traditional cloth appeared, greeted us, surveyed our predicament in silence for a moment, then quietly offered ‘You know, we can help you with this…’
Machismo, national pride and an unwillingness to cough up the fee this was bound to involve all combined to inform our polite but firm refusal.
‘British engineering,’ the leader of our group and driver replied. ‘Best in the world. We’ll be fine, thanks.’
We weren’t. All our efforts merely made things worse.
‘We had some Germans stuck here last weekend,’ the old man observed. ‘They too put their faith in their engineering. Even ordered a tractor to come and pull them out. They had to pay us to get both unstuck. When you’re ready I’ll be over by that tree.’
After another half an hour, we admitted defeat and agreed the cost of our rescue. The old man whistled and immediately a dozen young dived into the lagoon and swam over to us, two pushing before them what looked like railway sleepers. All of us except the driver were politely ushered away into the shade, the vehicle was rocked energetically from side to side, the sleepers thrust below the wheels and the Range Rover roared free.
And the rest of us realised we were, ever so politely, being held hostage pending payment.
‘You have just seen an example of WAWA,’ the old man said to me with a smile as he counted the notes we handed over.
Satisfied, he shook my hand. ‘West Africa Wins Again. Drive carefully.’

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