YESTERDAY marked the 61st anniversary of Ghana’s attainment of independence from British colonial rule, and the occasion offered many citizens yet another opportunity to reflect soberly on our progress and setbacks, as well as the way forward.
Without a doubt, Ghana’s independence in 1957 was a milestone in the struggle against colonial rule, opening the floodgates to independence for many countries on the continent. Dr Nkrumah’s support for liberation across the continent and African unity inspired other leaders to seek liberation, and by 1960, as many as 17 other African countries gained independence.
As of 1957, Ghana was the world’s leading exporter of cocoa, exported 10 per cent of the world’s gold, and was rich in diamonds, bauxite, manganese and hardwoods like mahogany. Dr Nkrumah’s government embarked on massive road infrastructure projects and also completed the Volta Dam project as part of a robust hydro-electrification project, which created the largest artificial lake on earth.
In the first three decades after independence, Ghana established itself as a formidable force in Africa, with massive industrialisation initiatives, such as the ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ and ‘Operation Feed Your Industry’, and promoted the concept of domestication. But the economy floundered and Nkrumah was toppled in a 1966 coup that was followed by several other military adventurists, which have, by and large, worsened our plight as a nation.
Today, Ghana’s history is a mixed picture of little progress and challenges, marked by democratic stability, economic woes, corruption and pockets of progress amid development, education and health challenges. We assumed rapid economic development would follow the political freedom that we had won. Sadly, the economic development that was meant to accompany our freedom has still not materialised.
After 61 years of independence, Ghana still suffers from a political leadership that always turns to the Western world cup-in-hand, seeking for loans to finance the national budget. These loans come with huge interests and strings that have kept the country’s economic umbilical cord tied to the Western world. To compound the woes, official corruption in the form of bloated contracts, kickbacks, nepotism, and other well-orchestrated mechanisms to siphon public resources continue to put the economy on its knees. The annual Auditor-General’s reports have ample examples of such cases.
Despite the huge potential the country has in terms of natural resource endowment, not much has been done to properly harness the gold, cocoa, timber, bauxite, diamond and other resources to transform the economy. Not only did the country lose its first spot on the league table of Cocoa Production to its West African neighbour, La Cote d’Ivoire, but we have also continued to pay lip-service to making agriculture the backbone of our economy while relying, rather heavily, on rain-fed farming methods.
And, until recently, our leaders virtually looked on unconcerned while illegal surface mining, popularly known as ‘galamsey’, did astronomical damage to our farmlands, polluted our water bodies and the air that we breathe. What is even more irritating is the fact that government is poised to spend over $100 million to reclaim the lands destroyed by the illegal miners, while providing alternative livelihoods for people involved in the menace. If this is not an example of backwardness, we do not know what else is.
Perhaps, the story of our failure as a nation will be better appreciated when we compare our fortunes to that of South Korea. Fact is that Ghana’s per capita income at independence in 1957 was equal to that of South Korea, and Ghana, with its rich and abundant natural resources, was seen as the more viable economy of the two. South Korea, then coming out of a three-year war with North Korea and with very little natural resources, did not amount to much in the eyes of economists.
However, some 40 years or so on, the two countries tell an entirely different story. South Korea has moved on to become the 13th largest economy in the world. It is second in the world in shipbuilding, sixth in both steel production and vehicle manufacture, while Ghana is struggling to survive in many areas of development.
The Finder, therefore, thinks the challenge before us is to put a stop to the politics of bickering and divisiveness, which has made us turn a blind eye to governance as a continuous process and watch government after government abandon projects started by their predecessors. Let us, together, build our economy to generate a prosperous, dignified life for the mass of our people. Hard work, enterprise, creativity, discipline and a consistent and effective fight against corruption in public life is what will bring the transformation that we seek.
Ghana first: this must be the clarion call if our independence must come with true economic emancipation.