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09.04.2003 Feature Article

David V Goliath: The Source Of Our Economic Plight

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I have begun to understand in so many ways that the average Ghanaian does not see the bigger picture when it comes to our economic misfortunes. The reasons for this state of affairs are varied and it involves illiteracy and education. When I talk of education I do not mean education that uplifts the supremacy of Europeans and promotes the inferiority of Africans. Therefore the educational system we go through from primary school to university level will not equip one to be able to see the bigger picture, one will need more than that. Let me now return to the primary substance of this article.

Our contact with Europeans begun in the 15th until then the African continent was engaged in inland trading. Most of our trading partners were Africans and we traded within the continent. The ancient empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Great Zimbabwe, the Hausas and in the 19th the Ashantis traded inland. Our international trade mostly came out of the now Middle East formally North East Africa, the Arabs. Our trading moved to the coast when the Europeans came because of their use of ships. As a result most of the African empires looked to the coast for trading, gradually causing a decline in inland trading and the death of the inland empires.

For the next 460 years; 400 years of slavery and 60 years of colonialism, our continent was thrown into turmoil as we fought against each other for survival sustained by the demand for slaves after the discovery of the ‘New World’ by Christopher Columbus. Whiles we were kept busy fighting, the instigators and sustainers of our demise were enjoying free labor, free raw materials and at home we were even paying them taxes for occupying our countries. For all that period we worked for free and Europe developed and grew whiles both the human and material resources of this continent was been siphoned abroad and nothing brought in.

The famous question is what would 460 years have done to our own civilization? It is anybody’s guess but I can tell you that at the rate at which the empires of Mali, Songhai with their centers of learning, creativity, thinking and trading were growing they would have rivaled anything on earth today.

After independence we were given control of our geo-political structures but not our economics. The situation was dire, after 460 years the continent of Europe and America had developed on our sweat whiles we have been turned into to cultivators of raw material to fuel the industrial needs of Europe and America. We were illiterate with no formal education. In 1957 you could count the number of illiterate people in Ghana easily. There was no economic, political, educational or social infrastructure. Yet we were expected to participate in a world economy which was created, legislated and controlled by Europeans. In an attempt to catch up Kwame Nkrumah, our first president accelerated developmental programs unprecedented in Africa, which we well know included, building Akosombo Dam, Tema Motor Way, Tema Town. He embarked on educational, political and economic development in a seven year plan. But Nkrumah underestimated the capitalist white man. For the capitalists, it is all about profits; and developing our economies through manufacturing meant competition and reduction of their market, threatening their profits. The scariest thought for the capitalist was the fact that we had the raw materials in abundance and with manufacturing we would not need to depend on him. Nkrumah was eventually stifled with the help of our countrymen, branded as a communist. But what we forget is that the capitalist does not mind who is in power as long as he can retain his profits and he would do anything to ensure his interest is secured.

My countrymen this is the cycle, a simple illustration of our plight, if a Ghanaian wakes up in Ghana, the toothpaste and soap that he uses is likely to have come from abroad. Followed by his breakfast, the car he uses, the petrol or diesel he puts in, his lunch, dinner, television, programs on the television, radio, clothing shoes, jewelry, perfume, etc, may have come from abroad. If this is done everyday by even half of Ghanaians, one can imagine what we contribute to the western society.

The facts are there, we are dealing with a partner, ‘Goliath’, who is not sympathetic to our attempts at developing because he wants us to be consumers, the only way he can remain at the top. Aids, loans and grants are all gimmicks; if we are given a little idea as to what kinds of conditions come with these packages we will squirm. Not only will we pay the loans later we will service it whiles we are try to pay. We partake in a world economy where the buyers of our products dictate to us how much they want to buy it and also dictate to us how much they want us to buy their products. It’s a no win situation.

We need to understand the dynamics of our current situation in order for us to formulate the right strategists. I would not deny our participation in our own demise through corruption and mismanagement, but what does one expect in the climate that African governments are forced to operate in. we must always see the bigger picture otherwise we will be premature in our judgment.

In the bible story, David defeated Goliath with divine intervention. We definitely need divine intervention for we are losing this battle; whiles we wait on that, let us strategize bearing in mind the true character of our ‘partners’ to forge ahead our economic development as a nation. One interesting fact we can be proud of is that despite the obstacles placed before us we have done well in 46 years compared to 460 years of European civilization.

Kojo Pumpuni Asante
Kojo Pumpuni Asante, © 2003

The author has 9 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KojoPumpuniAsante

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