Nkrumah's Economic LegacyAdmittedly, it has become a cliché to always begin any discussion of Nkrumah’s economic legacy by pointing to the Akosombo Dam, the Tema Motorway (which was supposed to run through Kumasi to Paga), and other major development projects that he initiated between 1957 and 1966 (and, to a limited extent, between 1951 and 1956, when he was leader of limited government under British rule).
But if it is a cliché, it is a necessary one, because these accomplishments help to capture the essence and philosophy of Nkrumah’s approach to national and continental development: Think big, act big; embrace the future today.
And so, long before Iran, for example, began contemplating the development of nuclear power, Nkrumah was already laying the foundation for what became the Atomic Energy Commission at Kwabenya, Accra. Today, nuclear scientists and researchers from Nigeria and other parts of Africa regularly take up residence at the commission to pursue their professional interests – and in the process enhance Nkrumah’s corollary agenda of African unity.
Akosombo, Kwabenya, Motorway, Tema Township, Tema Harbour, and other enduring high-profile legacies of Nkrumah constituted only the nucleus of a wider range of development initiatives strategically placed around the country to ensure high and equitable rates of economic growth and social development.
Throughout the country, his government built infrastructure and established industries of all kinds. Most of the silted and disused dams in the northern part of the country, for example, date back to the Nkrumah period and were part of a broader strategy to close the socio-economic gap between the North and South, which he inherited from the British.
Below is a partial list of industries that were either in full operation before his overthrow or were about to be launched as part of his government’s seven-year development plan (1963/64-1970). (That plan, by the way, would have put us on a par with South Korea in terms of laying the ground work for rapid industrialisation).
Glass Manufacturing Corporation at Aboso, Cement works at Tema, Government Electronics Industry at Tema, Cocoa Processing Factories (Takoradi and Tema), Ghana Publishing Corporation, Ghana Textile Corporation, six rattan factories, two fibre factories, sugar factory at Akuse, television assembly plant at Tema, Tomato Processing Factory, Wenchi, Match Factory, Kade; Pwalugu Tomato Factory; Ghana Glass Factory, Aboso and Tarkwa.
Others are Akasanoma Radio Factory, Gold Processing Factory, Prestea; Meat Processing Factory, Bolgatanga; Dairy Farm At Amrahia and Avatime, Paper Processing Factory, Takoradi; Pomadze Poultry Farm, Winneba; Ghana Cement Factory, Takoradi; Ghana Household Utilities Manufacturers, Sekondi-Efiekuma; Volta Aluminium Company (Valco), Tema Steel Company, Nsawam Fruit Cannery, State Hotels (Star, Meridian, Ambassador, Continental, Atlantic, City Hotel Catering Rest Houses, Ghana Black Star Line with almost 15 ships; Ghana Distilleries, Accra; Ghana Shoe Factory, Kumasi; Ghana Jute Factory, Kumasi; Tema Food Complex and GIHOC.
Other companies include: The National Management and Productivity Institute, Ghana Film Industries, Accra, Ghana Airways Corporation, Ghana National Trading Corporation, Cocoa Marketing Board, National Investment Bank, Ghana Commercial Bank, Agricultural Credit and Cooperative Bank (later, Agricultural Development Bank), silos for food and crop preservation and State Construction Corporation.
After his overthrow, most of these industries were sold off or allowed to decay under the misguided notion the state has no business in the economy. For example, the State Construction Corporation, which built Job 600 and other projects and was designed to develop hands-on technical skills in both the state and private sectors, gathers dust at Abelemkpe, Accra, while the China State Construction Company today dominates the construction industry in Ghana, including, ironically, the renovation of the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum for his centenary anniversary.
Contrary to claims by his detractors, Nkrumah was not anti-private sector. He was, however, against the exploitation of workers, either in the public or private sectors by Ghanaians or non-Ghanaians.
This is what he said when he submitted his seven-year development plan to Parliament on March 16, 1964.
“Mr Speaker, in order to accomplish our objectives, we have decided that the economy of Ghana will, for some time to come, remain a mixed economy in which a vigorous public and cooperative sector will operate along with the private sector”.
Nor was he against foreign investment, as indicated below: “Mr Speaker, foreign investment as the private sector of our industrial development can play an important role in our economy”. It has a valuable contribution to make to our economy and to the attainment of certain specific objectives. Among these will be production of consumer goods, the local processing of Ghanaian raw material and the utilisation of Ghana's natural resources in those lines of economic activity where a large volume of investment is required.
We expect, however, that such investments will not be operated so as to exploit our people. On the contrary, we expect such enterprises to assist in the expansion of the economy of the country in line with our general objectives. Foreign investment enterprises will contribute personal initiative, managerial ability and technical skills towards the development of the country. They will also further the growth of similar initiative, ability, technical skills and habits of saving among Ghanaians”.
The plan itself was unequivocal on the role of the private sector:
Any suggestion that vigorous state and private sectors within the same economy are incompatible is unacceptable. Ghana's policies will be so designed as to obtain the maximum contribution from each sector towards the overall growth of the economy.
One of the biggest myths, indeed slander, against Nkrumah is that he “squandered all the money he inherited from the British”. Quite the contrary, the British left us precious little both in terms of development and money. In fact, they rather owed us, having skimmed millions of pounds from our cocoa exports to support the battered British pounds after the Second World War. Nkrumah simply asked them to repay that “loan”, which with interest came up to a £200.00 million.
When one considers the fact that the Nkrumah government paid 35 million pounds (out of a total of 70 million pounds) for the Akosombo Dam and spent millions more on worthwhile projects like Tema, once a small fishing village, and the many state hotels around the country, the question we should rather be asking is: How could he have done so much with so little? African leaders who squander their nation’s resources typically own villas and mansions around the world; not even the most strident of Nkrumah’s detractors can accuse him of such venal extravagance.
Under Nkrumah, Ghana (by today’s measures) was a middle-income country. The per capita income at the time would be equivalent to about US$1,500.00 in today’s prices, compared to the US$500.00 that we currently have. In that respect, Nkrumah did better (much, much better), on the economic front than any Ghanaian leader has ever done.
His accomplishments – and philosophy of dreaming and acting big with measured impatience – remain the touchstone of national development endeavours. We either emulate them or risk continuing to lag behind others as we have done since his overthrow.
Article : Nii Moi Thompson
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