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02.11.2023 Business Features

Ghana Lithium Deal, Can We Learn from the Past?

By Ishmael Nii A. Dodoo and Evans Kwesi Mensah
Dr Ishmael Nii A. Dodoo and Evans Kwesi MensahDr Ishmael Nii A. Dodoo and Evans Kwesi Mensah
02.11.2023 LISTEN

This is a clarion call to all meaning citizens. Enough is enough. It has come to that time when ordinary citizens need to have a voice as far as having a seat at the table concerns how ournatural resources are managed and used. Ghana was the beckon of hope for the entire African continent, but no more. The glory of the Republic seems to be fading away or instead tampered with unscrupulously.

The Euphoria that greeted the birthing of the Republic of Ghana in the late 1950s enjoyed up to the early 1970s, seemed to be a mirage. Why? We have mismanaged ourselves. We have failed with bad leadership and governance. We have never thought to show good stewardship for our naturally endowed resources, forming the springboard upon which we build our economies. Our democratic governance has been a disaster too.

Today, our resources are like badges on the wall as if they are degree certificates hung on our office walls which meansnothing. Since we cannot afford basic needs for our citizens, onewould ask if our resources were turning out to be a curse rather than a blessing.

In a recent interview on one of the radio stations, we shared our frustration over the current Lithium deal our Ghanaian government is having with Atlantic Lithium Limited (an Australian company). However, the concern raised by us was frowned upon with many excuses why it cannot be handled any other way by some government authorities, stating the capital needed for the exploration was very expensive, therefore the need to partner with Atlantic Lithium Limited, who has the expertise and the funds to do it, and that, we should take emotions out of the deal. Really?

To us, this is short-term thinking, especially when our resources,including minerals, lands, and factories, are being taken over by external parties. We believed that we would learn from the mistakes of how poorly we handled other resources in the past,which is haunting us today, so to address this discovery in Lithium, with tact, corporate decisions filled with ideas from diverse experts and concerned citizens, like the many professionals Ghana has home and abroad is paramount. We see similar patterns to how we handled our Cocoa, Timber, Bauxite, Gold, Diamond, Oil, and Gas. We wish to exclaim as compatriots of our country - Can anyone in leadership today tellus precisely what we have used our natural resources to build for citizens' benefit? We still have 9,300 schools under trees; westill owe judgment debt; we can’t fix our electricity; we can’t handle a natural disaster such as the recent dam spillage effectively; we still behave like we have no understanding and don’t care about our future. Could we ask? What legacies doesleadership want to leave for the next generation?

Proposed Solutions
We unambiguously decry the Lithium deal and wish to suggesthow to cut a better deal for Ghanaians. Let’s look at somescenarios below regarding solutions we want to offer all Ghanaian citizens, at home and abroad.

Firstly, consider leveraging the profits accrued from other mineral resources like oil, gas gold, etc., to cover the exploration cost to get the most out of the proceeds. This puts us in a stronger bargaining position toward maximizing the benefits of our Lithium negotiation. With this approach, we can hire the expertise of external parties to accompany us to fulfill our sovereign strategic goals, which would benefit citizens.

Secondly, consider opening a national ‘window’ for about 10,000 individuals who are Ghanaian citizens (living locally orabroad) to invest $30,000 each to raise the capital/funds for the exploration. This amount and number of citizens proposed is as scalable as an example where it could be amended per the need. I encourage the reader to do the math and see what can be achieved by a simple strategy instead of creating perpetual debt for the country in the name of investment, where, instead of fortunes, we leave behind debt for our children to pay. For a population of 35 million, this approach is not far-fetched. It will raise about $300 million, far more than was required for the minimum investment. The advantage is that Ghanaians who contributed will be shareholders of an ensued company that could be established independently by Ghanaians with good ethics, accountability, and exceptional competence, devoid of parochial politics. We have several Ghanaians to fulfill this national call, managing with extraordinary competence some of the most valuable Fortune 100 companies or net-worthindividuals.

Thirdly, take inspiration from other countries that have used their resources wisely to promote their countries. Let’s take Rwanda as an example. A country in the 90s that suffered war and genocide. Today, they have been able to build their economy by exporting tea and coffee, not to mention other developmental activities in the digital sector that are attracting a lot of foreign investors to that country. It is believed that the neatness of the country is one to write home about. This cannot be achieved without outstanding leadership with a clear long-term focus.

Another example is Botswana, a country described by experts as predominantly landlocked and tropical, which, to most, was not favorable to their development despite their diamond assets.They, however, managed to create, adopt, and work excellent policies in their favor to help their economy flourish. This is not to say everything was or is rosy and perfect but to make sure they use their natural resources correctly to benefit theireconomic development. As a result, the ordinary citizen could mostly feel its positive impact. With good policies comes the fruit of sanity and adherence to the policies, and unlike other countries with similar resources like Congo, Angola, and Nigeria, to mention a few, Botswana has been able to offset civil wars or intense infighting to take over or control the proceeds from diamonds due to its policies in place.

Finally, look to the Western and Developed Worlds like the US, Canada, Australia, United Arab Emirates (Dubai), China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, to mention a few, have managed to use whatever resources they have (or not) to create a world for which we desire to live/visit (in most cases) and want to replicate their strategies, however not willing to suffer the short term pain for it. If you take China, Dubai, and Malaysia asexamples, their development only took less than four decades to get to where they are now. As early as the 70s, they werenowhere near development. With long-term thinking coupled with outstanding leadership, such countries have become the destination points of investment and tourism because they manage their resources very well. Why can’t Ghana do the same? It’s been long overdue to use the same tactics and then expect different results, and we can say with grave concern that we are too far behind. There is an urgent need for re-awakening.

Therefore, we are calling for an absolute reversal of the Lithiumdeal until citizens have been given ample opportunities to shape the deal to fulfill the optimal interests of Ghana. Indeed, enough is enough! Long live Ghana. Long live the Republic. Long live the Citizens. God bless our Homeland, Ghana, and make our nation more significant and robust.

Authors: Dr Ishmael Nii A. Dodoo (Diplomat, Senior Strategist, and African Human Development Expert) and Evans Kwesi Mensah (Accomplished Author, Lecturer and Management Expert).

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