Under the Neem Tree

Financial engineering 101

Financial engineering 101
  • PublishedSeptember 10, 2011

I have been wondering about the new “discipline” everyone in Ghana is talking about. It is called “financial engineering”, and it is such a neat way of making money that I have decided to set up an institution to teach others the science behind it.

Ghanaweb’s Say It Loud column is so full of insults it isn’t exactly one’s cup of tea. But like a rotting palm tree trunk, it produces, every now and then, pure gems – like the delicious detritus that constitutes a genus of fungus known in the Twi language as nnomo.

I don’t want to cry with longing, so all l shall say about it is this: if you ever get the opportunity to spend some time in rural Ghana, especially the Akan areas, demand from your hosts that they prepare a meal made up of nnomo mushrooms fried with palm oil in a stew of boiled cocoyam leaves. Do insist that the stew should be accompanied by boiled thin plantains of the type known as apem. If possible – and nothing is impossible in a forest setting – wild yam (known as ahabayere) or its sister, asobayere, or both, should accompany the stew.

Insist also that the meal be served to you at either 11am or 3pm. Only a forest dweller can explain to you why this should be so. You see, at between 10.30am and 11am, the freshest palm wine, with a taste almost like the sweet nectar from a coconut, and yet as potent as a bottle of lager, will have been brought to the palm wine bar by the “early-bird” palm wine tappers. This is, of course, devoured by the connoisseurs of palm wine very fast indeed, and between 1pm and 2pm, hardly any of it will be left. Those in the know therefore wait for the arrival of “reinforcements” at around 3pm. That is when the “late-fresh” lot will have appeared. It is given the name “awiasa” (afternoon wine).

If you have ever seen academics consuming “port” after a hearty dinner, you will understand why certain members of the alcohol family make good companions at certain times and not others. At between 4pm and 5pm, for instance, the palm wine tapper might have decided that he needs to augment the quantity of the fast-diminishing 3pm supplies with a little “nature’s wine” (water).

Another tactic used to ensure that supplies never quite run out, is to retain the “impurities” at the bottom of the pot – pieces of charcoal, body parts of dead wasps and bees, butterflies and/or dead leaves – and allow them to form part of the calabashfuls served. Those unable to strain their own calabashful will have become too drunk to mind. And those who do notice the impurities can easily be convinced that the seller’s attention was distracted when that particular calabashful was being dished out. Anyway, a palm wine bar in which there is no quarrelling doesn’t quite fit the description of a good one.

But back to Ghanaweb. I was wondering about the new “discipline” everyone in Ghana has been talking about, called “financial engineering” (it has netted one of its practitioners between US$40 and $60 million – depending on whether one relies on Government or Opposition figures – with no sweat whatsoever), when my eye caught this contribution to Say It Loud. The contributor, who calls himself “Trotsky Jnr.” (who says Ghana’s witty citizens have been depleted in number?) reports:

“Some parents want information about institutions that offer studies in Financial Engineering. Please help. Are there any institutions in Ghana offering this course? The craze was [once] about football; it’s now for financial engineering.”

This acknowledges that whereas football players who make it to European clubs may earn as much as £200,000 per week, they are not quite as wealthy as practitioners of “financial engineering”, who can put a “package” together, “sell” it to a government, and wait. When that government is voted out, the “financial engineer” takes the new government to court, claiming that the old government improperly abrogated the “contract” it had agreed upon with the financial engineer’s consortium. Note that the financial engineer does not say the contract was “signed”. For in British commercial law – which Ghana still practises – even a “verbal” contract can sometimes be accepted by the courts as valid.

Because invariably, the new government is hostile to the one which it has replaced, the “financial engineer’s” case is heard with sympathy by those responsible for accepting or rejecting claims against the government. If they decide that they won’t vigorously defend a claim against the government but “settle it out of court”, no-one can gainsay them. For before anyone would have heard of the out-of-court settlement, the plaintiff would have been paid his money. All that can happen is that the Auditor-General can “query” the payment after it has been made. And that may be some months after the payment has gone into the accounts of the “financial engineer”. If someone has obtained $70 million like this, how do you get it back? Especially if he has been careful enough not to acquire property in his own name that can be traced and sold to retrieve the money?

It is such a neat way of making money that I have decided to set up an institution to teach others the science behind it. (I was going to say “art”, but science is weightier than art, isn’t it? In any case, “engineering – whether financial or what-have-you – is indisputably a science, is it not? Now, before anyone complains that the fees are too high, please do remember that the proceeds from financial engineering can be as high as $70 million for just one transaction alone, and so – obviously – the fees for teaching it must reflect the quantum of advantage it can bestow on the individual who masters it.  

If Mr “Trotsky Jnr” is reading me, I want to assure him that my course will be as good as an “Aladdin’s Lamp”, which employed properly, will fill any amount of barrels – nay, shipping containers – that he can produce with tonnes and tonnes of money.  

My course is entitled ‘FINANCIAL ENGINEERING 101’. It is so structured that the very act of applying and being accepted for enrolment will amount to a “Credit Pass” in the Preliminary Induction Module. It can be used as a qualification to practise Financial Engineering at the “Prosaic Level”. (In the past, it would have been called an “Inter” Financial Engineering degree.) Tuition Fees: $5,000.

After this Level, the Theoretical Aspects of the course proper will commence. Included are Pyramidal Macro-Micro Ponzi-ism;  419; the Madoff Algorithm; the Stanford Paradox and the Miezah Resurrection Principle. This entire Course will be available free of tuition fees. But to implant into potential students the necessity to practise what is imbibed in the Course Modules, experiments in soliciting funds for the settlement of the “Registration Expenses” will be undertaken. An Enquiry Response Fee, a Suitability Assessment Fee; an Interview Fee; a Post-Interview Debriefing Charge and a Pre-Emolument Survival Fee shall become applicable. Cost to Non-Scholarship Students: $5,000.


The institution has used diplomatic contacts to secure Promissory Notes from several overseas-based NGOs (e.g. the Österreich Foundation, the Interface Caucus Gmbh; and the Template Facility Incorporated), which shall provide scholarship assistance to means-tested “indigent students”. The Means Test will cost $5,000. A Scholarship Coaching Fee of $2,000 shall be levied for the purpose of coaching eligible, Means-Tested Students to learn the ropes of acquiring NGO Stipends and/or Endowments.

An Indexed Service Charge of 15% or $10,000, whichever is greater, of the amount awarded by NGOs shall be applicable. For the avoidance of currency fluctuation, only US dollar bills or certified cheques from recognised international financial institutions and banks shall be acceptable.


An NGO shall be an entity certified or designated as such by the Governing Authority in a G8 country.

Available NGOs shall be those authorised by the Ghana Ministry of Foreign Affairs and/or its Agents to operate within the territorial boundaries of Ghana and at Ghana missions abroad.

The service charge shall be subject to an upward adjustment in any instance wherein a designated NGO proves to be uncooperative or recalcitrant or both. The decision of the institution’s management on the NGO’s co-operation or lack thereof shall be final and not subject to appeal or review to or by any tribunal, whether in Ghana or abroad.

No part of these Terms and Conditions, nor any part of this Prospectus, shall constitute an Undertaking to provide, utilise or participate in any Undertaking herein specified.

Written By
Cameron Duodu

Cameron Duodu (born 24 May 1937) is a UK-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a notable novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a distinguished career as a journalist and editorialist.

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