50 years and still a one-way street

‘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.

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  1. Pan African -ism has been a total failure cos most it ideas has been high jack by a bunch of intellectual misfits who dress up in their African cloths once in year to celebrate African history month talk about how we should not deal with the west blahhhh,but most of them so westernized than these whites boys they have no plan and full of shelf hate.By the way 97% of blacks in America or Europe will never move back to Africa cos they have no plan and economic foundation.Our Pan Africans leaders in Africa preach poverty no ideas whatsoever so what you have a large group of lazy people sitting around talking about how the west messing us up at the same time waiting for aid.We can only fuck these whites boys when you get into their financial system through big time MBA programs to understand how deal are made in the 21th century.the Chinese did it, they figure there no way to fight these whites boys with their weapons so their got into their money machine.By the way most Asians countries are all in the western money machine.The Problem is Africans..sorry.

  2. As a white westerner I hesitate to comment and certainly don't know enough about the specifics in Ghana. Conspiracy theories usually have some truth about them. But I think you do your argument an injustice when, in the same article, you gratuitously refer to misinformation on Zimbabwe. There are enough independent reports on Mugabe's reign in Zimbabwe to go far beyond any perceived western conspiracy theory.I can't help thinking, Kofi, that maybe what Africa needs most is for some of the educated, liberal thinking, economically literate, democracy experienced, African diaspora to go back to live in their country of origin and contribute more than they can by sending money or thoughts back from abroad.You asked me to comment!

  3. Nkrumah’s VisionI am not at all sure that any serious African can proclaim Nkrumah wrong on this one simply because we haven’t arrived at the destination he envisaged yet. Political sovereignty must mean more than the ability to run one’s own constitution or raise taxes within one’s own specified locality. It must be a package which includes everything necessary to make a people live out their aspirations such as they are; and that must surely include the ability to control one’s economic activities and their ramifications – wherever they lead!If the journey to a golden Eldorado is 100 hundred miles, a traveller cannot cover 60 miles and declare the proposition false because they haven’t arrived at the destination yet. Nor can they abandon the journey after covering 60 miles [and expect to be taken seriously] claiming that they ran into a bunch of scary monsters whom they did little to eliminate from their path.Until we Africans honestly [and ‘manfully’] face squarely up to our challenges, fight them off and patiently work towards the political sovereignty we dream about, we render ourselves incapable of passing judgement on Kwame Nkrumah’s eternal truism. The evidence is staring glaringly at us! No excuses will tilt us over the threshold into the Eldorado he envisaged!! We simply must do the ONLY thing needed to get there, which is to TRAVEL there – whatever it takes!!!

  4. I see so Nkrumah was right ,we can be resolute but if we dont understan d the politics then of course without economis unity we are being broken one by one.As for the chinese they dont even try intergrate into our communities -they probably have been told in their ignoprance tht we are monkeys!!

  5. My own view is that, of course, we're still harvesting what any country at the periphery of the geo-economic order is compelled to take home. Which, essentially, is a clinch of unfair trade practices, unfair pricing of primary products, prohibitive costs in establishing value-adding industry, and a relentless onslaught aimed at consigning our continent to a perpetual market for foreign manufactures. First the west, and now the Chinese.Between west and east, the impact on our politics has hardly been positive. Western powers dislodge our autonomy for policy making, making the adoption of Bretton Woods-crafted political and economic governance policies a pre-requisite for any trade concessions, development aid and even diplomatic engagement. Whilst the east (a euphemism for China) hardly dictates any policy direction, their strategy on gaining traction on their trade interests revolves around an exclusive elite engagement with governments in African countries which, in those polities where there are significant democratic deficits, has the effect of empowering repressive, unrepresentative governments. This creates a ripe atmosphere for the festering of the kind of comprador capitalism that Fanon warned us about. Whilst African governments have been too ready to entertain Chinese interest on account of its eschewing of political interference, they have failed to assess the impact of China's role in Africa beyond the immediate political dividends that ready money presents for them. In Zimbabwe, for instance, platinum deposits worth around $40 billion had been provisionally signed off for no more than a mere $5billion by the financially crippled Mugabe government. A repressive government so empowered, such as the one under Dos Santos in Angola, has no incentive for inclining its ear to its citizens. That is a travesty of Africa's independence and represents a serious contradiction to Africa's quest for the total liberation of its people from both international powers and domestic despots.

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