‘Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all these shall be added unto you.’ That was a favourite mantra of the great Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president. From my understanding of this mantra, Africa must secure its political independence, and economic development and wellbeing will follow. But the question is, was he right?
Most African countries have been politically independent for 50 years or more. Most of them are endowed with abundant natural resources. But can you tell me which of the 53 politically independent African countries – with the exception of South Africa, perhaps – can be called an advanced economy? Why, after 50 years, are most of these countries still struggling to get out of the economic woods?
The answer is not far-fetched. It is simply because we are at the mercy of the advanced countries which dictate the price of our export commodities; which invest in our economies with their money, technology and expertise. Africa’s economic relations with the West are, in my view, a one-way street. We need to bend over backwards to meet their sometimes unfair conditions before they exploit our natural resources, enriching themselves in the process and leaving us mere crumbs. And woe betides any African country that attempts to assert itself and gain some measure of control over its God-given asset. They will immediately set their powerful media on the misinformation trail. Zimbabwe is a prime example. Attempting to correct a colonial injustice set in motion a chain of events that has rendered that beautiful country a pariah state. But let me use Ghana as a case study.
When the current Mills government assumed office in January 2009, one of the first things it did was to investigate why 70 per cent of Ghana Telecom was sold to UK’s Vodafone at the relatively low of price of $900m. The report of the committee that looked into the Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) was a damning indictment on the previous Kufuor government and led most Ghanaians to expect the deal to be either abrogated or re-negotiated. Even before the government had officially declared its stand on the issue, the Western media went to town, crowing that the government’s action would dent foreign investor confidence in Ghana. Vodafone is now the proud majority owner of Ghana Telecom (now re-christened Vodafone Ghana) because ‘powerful people’ from the West breathed down the government’s neck, and also because President Mills did not want to fight a battle he felt he couldn’t win.
Now every country, particularly an African country, that discovers oil in commercial quantities, heaves a collective sigh of relief for obvious economic reasons. Ghana, fortunately, is about to produce oil in the last quarter of this year. Last year the government objected to one of the joint venture partners in Ghana’s Jubilee Field, Kosmos of the US, decision to sell its stake to US oil giant ExxonMobil in a $4bn deal. The government rightly argued that Kosmos erred in not giving Ghana, through the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), the first option. Moreover, Kosmos broke a contractual agreement in divulging Ghana’s seismic data to a third party without government approval. This time, the government has been resolute, resulting in Kosmos withdrawing its proposed sale to ExxonMobil.
The government’s resoluteness has incurred the wrath of the almighty US of A, which has set its misinformation machine into overdrive. First, the US embassy in Accra refused visas to the Harvard-educated chair of the GNPC and the energy minister to enable them travel to that country on official business. After much protest, the embassy made a U-turn, but the chair refused the visa offer.
Every economist and business analyst worth his salt knows that Ghana’s economy is on an upward trend, and that the indicators are going to be even better with the onset of oil production and due to other policy measures. But the influential Forbes magazine, which seems to have relocated from the US to another planet, in a survey on African economies, described Ghana as among the worst economies in the region. Why this misinformation? Your guess is as good as mine.
In July the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) suspended a political risk insurance contract for the new oil production facility due to handle Jubilee’s initial 125,000 barrels daily output, citing the need to conduct due diligence into the contract. May I point out to you, dear friend, that MIGA, as part of the World Bank, is controlled to a large extent by the US.
Most shocking is Standard & Poor (S&P), the global credit rating agency’s decision in August to downgrade Ghana’s credit rating from a B+ to B. Downgrading Ghana’s credit rating means that investors are going to have a re-think over investing in the country. Most respected analysts, not to mention Ghana’s finance ministry, and even the IMF, are aghast as to why S&P should take that action at this time – a few months before oil production starts (see pages 28-29).
Oh, before I continue, let me remind you that S&P is headquartered in the US and these are all attempts to cow Ghana into submission. What is wrong in a sovereign nation like Ghana trying to have some control and greater ownership of its own resources? Is the US and the West only those with a divine right to control the global economy? The answer is a big NO! Africa has sought and got political independence. It is about time we started fighting for our economic independence too. I rest my case.