Ghana moving ahead on upward trajectory

Lead Story By Samba Diop *

Ghana moving ahead on upward trajectory

Under the leadership of Nkrumah, Ghana experienced an economic boom with the construction of infrastructure - roads, dams, ports, factories, airlines, etc.


At the outset, it is important to revisit the recent history of Ghana in order to shed light upon the present and, thus, take the risk to look ahead in order to make a few predictions. The decolonization process started in Africa after the Second World War, in 1945 when the British colonial empire started breaking up. In Asia, India was among the fi rst countries to became independent in 1947. In Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah spearheaded the independence movement of the country which gain freedom in 1957. In the process of writing this paper, it struck me that Ghana and India share a certain number of commonalities. Here are a few: both were British colonies and had a small anglicized political and intellectual elite; at independence, both chose socialism as an ideological marker and, to that end, got very close to the USSR, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics; interestingly enough, both countries declared themselves as members of the Non-Aligned Movement in the wake of the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia and within the global context of the Cold War; In India as well as in Ghana, some members of the leadership who were fighting for freedom were imprisoned - Nkrumah in Ghana and Nehru in India; both countries are members of the Commonwealth, so on and so forth. I must add that, at the cultural plane, India has been present in Africa for a long time, most notably thanks to its fi lm industry, commonly known as Bollywood. However, economic cooperation between India and Africa has been weak but it is changing, picking up steam.

Ghana UpwardHowever, there are quite a few differences between the two countries, the most notable and overarching one being that India, since 1947, without interruption, has been a democracy and has actually been labelled the biggest democracy in the world. At the opposite end, Ghana, has experienced four Republics, most of them military ones, starting in 1966 with a coup d'état in which Nkrumah was deposed by a junta led by Lieutenant-General Ankrah. Then started a long night of dictatorship. Life was harsh and diffi cult. The hope that Ghanaians and most Africans had in 1957 was shattered even though it is fair to say that, under the leadership of Nkrumah, Ghana experienced an economic boom with the construction of infrastructure - roads, dams, ports, factories, airlines, etc. The education sector, as inherited from the colonial system, was overhauled and an airline company was created, fl ying the black start fl ag all over the world.

According to most observers, it was not until 1981 with the violent advent of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, albeit a soldier, that Ghana started experiencing some kind of normality, the break of dawn, so to speak. When Rawlings left power in 1993, Ghana started trekking the long road of democracy with the civilian presidencies of John Kufuor, John A. Mills, John Mahama, and the current incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo. When closely looking at the Ghanaian political landscape, what is noteworthy is a kind of paradigm shift. As I noted earlier, Nkrumah opted for socialism, in addition to being a great Pan-Africanist and an avowed anti-imperialist (synonymous with being anti-Western). Nkrumah was the champion and tireless defender of a united Africa whereby all the former European colonies, whether French, Belgian, English or Portuguese, would give up their sovereignties and unite under a single fl ag. Thus, the parts would have meaning only while making the whole. Nkrumah's wish was not going to be fulfi lled for, up to today, the artifi cial borders (between African countries), as inherited from the European colonial powers, still prevail.

The paradigm shift I alluded to earlier can be explained in the following fashion: if Nkrumah was vying for a continental political and economic ensemble, it must be noted that since the return of democracy in the 1990s, the Ghanaian elite has become conscious that Africa was not ready for the type of continental confi guration that the fi rst President of the country was advocating. Rather, each single African country must fi rst develop itself while, at the same time, being a member of a larger sub-regional ensemble. Thus, ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1975. Ghana is a full member of the organization. There are two other notable similar economic organizations in Africa: EAC, the East African Community and SADEC, the Southern African Development Community. The aim of ECOWAS is to facilitate the integration of its member countries, in addition to making easier the circulation of peoples and goods as well as easing trading tariffs at some point in the future. One current task of the organization is the creation of a common currency. By reversing the Pan-Africanist ideal, Ghana verifi es the saying that ‘reality is fi rst and foremost local before being universal’. In effect, it is important to fi rst develop the country before aiming for the whole continent just like the European countries have done, by developing single strong economies and, then, create the European union, the EU (the European Economic Community, EEC preceeded the EU).

After this background, we can now turn on to Ghana of today. At this juncture, my remarks are both general and personal. I visited Ghana for the fi rst time in 1994 in order to attend a conference in Accra. The place was very expensive, infl ation was extremely high and the currency, the Cedi, was worthless, to say the least. I subsequently went back in 1995 and 1996. While in the country, I travelled to the Cape Coast and to the Kumasi regions; these trips allowed me to see rural life in Ghana. The last time I was in Ghana was in 2010, again to attend a conference. I was very pleased and noted deep changes for new roads were being built, the housing industry was booming and the Cedi was very strong (3 Cedis to 1 US dollar) and the mood was upbeat, confi dent, and optimistic, so on and so forth.

In the recent past, huge off-shore oil deposits were discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, along with important gold mines. For many years, since the colonial times, Ghana depended mostly on a single crop, namely cocoa. Now, the country can count on three natural resources in order to develop itself - cocoa, oil, and gold. At any rate, self-suffi ciency is the posturing adopted by President Nana Akufo-Addo, along with the slogan ‘Beyond Aid’. According to him, Africa can develop without aid; taking the case of his own country, he says that Ghana will raise money internally, from its own resources in order to develop itself and, thus, will not need the help of institutions such as the IMF. However, he must not forget that Ghana is also part of the global world economy. President Nana Akufo-Addo is adamant in his idea that Africans must sever the ties of dependency and beggary as well as break the chains of assistance; as an example, at the recent World Summit in Education held in the Senegalese capital Dakar in February 2018, President Akufo-Addo strongly advocated that Africa does not need external fi nancial assistance in order to develop its education sector.

Potential Areas of Cooperation between Ghana and India

The first area is the Information Technology (IT) sector in which India has made huge strides and one can consider the implantation of Indian high tech companies in Ghana; thus, the former can use the latter as a beachhead in order to penetrate the West African market. The off-shore oil sector can also be of interest to Indian companies for drilling and exploitation. Apart from these above areas, the medical sector is an important one to the effect that, again, Ghana can serve as a platform where Indian companies can fabricate medical equipment, supplies, and drugs for the big West African market. The fourth area that can be earmarked for a mutually satisfactory cooperation is agriculture. Ghana has a huge amount of arable land and fresh water. However, the agriculture sector is underdeveloped, due to the imposition of the single crop of cocoa for a long time. With Indian expertise in agriculture, Ghana can diversify its agriculture and the whole of West Africa will benefi t from it. Ghana is a safe, stable, and democratic country, open for business and investment, with a dynamic burgeoning economic sector. I hasten to add that I have outlined above only a few areas. However, President Nana Akufo-Addo, along with the future leadership of Ghana, and all African elites at large have some serious house cleaning to do. The ‘To Do’ list comprises: The stamping down on corruption; the imposition of a system based on meritocracy and fairness; the total elimination of ethnicism, regionalism, and tribalism; the development of genuine national unity; a reliable electoral system that ensures the choice of good and competent leaders, so on and so forth.

Still pursuing my personal remarks, I visited India for the fi rst time in September 2016. I had fi rst gone to Mumbai and then Pune where I delivered a lecture at MIT, the Maharashtra Institute of Technology. While in Pune, I had the opportunity to visit modern hospitals, farms, and a big IT company. The conclusion and observations I drew from my visit is that technology in India is crafted in a way that it is affordable and easy to maintain (which does not mean that it lacks sophistication). Many African countries have similar environmental conditions like India, including the landscapes and farming conditions, rural life, the eradication of poverty, the rapid growth of urban areas and its attendant challenges, such as the concomitant development of slums, waste management, rapid population increase, etc. All the abovementioned areas have potential for cooperation between India and Africa. The ultimate benefi cial aim for African countries such as Ghana is to benefi t from Indian technology transfer and, thus, mitigate the dependency syndrome.

All in all, Ghana and India must establish a win-win partnership. Ghana and Africa as a whole must make sure that they gain from partnerships with emerging countries such as India, China, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, etc. Africans must learn from their recent colonial past when they were exploited by the European imperial powers such as France, Britain, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, etc. More specifi cally, as concerns India, the latter has the appropriate technological and scientifi c tools that Africa needs in order to exploit its vast natural resources and mineral wealth. Additionally, for geopolitical reasons, it is vital that India acts as a counterpoise, a counterbalance to the other behemoth, namely, China. Needless to say, China has a big head start in Africa. Be that as it may, with the establishment of a genuine frame of cooperation, India and Ghana (in fact the whole of Africa) can develop mutually benefi cial partnerships. I will conclude by highlighting the irony of history and the fact that, both in the case of India and Ghana, at fi rst ideology was reigning supreme, however, nowadays the economy prevails.

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