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17.03.2009 Feature Article

The Paradox of Ghana: A subset of the paradox of Africa

The Paradox of Ghana: A subset of the paradox of Africa

As asserted by the first President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah, 'Africa is a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism. Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below her soil continue to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups and individuals who operates to Africa's impoverish' (Nkrumah 1965:I). The paradox of Africa is as the paradox of Ghana. In Ghana today, areas which are endowed with resources are the most deprived areas as my study in Bia District of Ghana in addition to other studies like that of Beckford and Sachs have confirmed. The Bia District produces the bulk of Ghana's cocoa and timber but the place is one of the poorest Districts among the poor Districts in Ghana. The place lack good roads, good drinking water, health centres, communication network, proper housing and other basic amenities to make life worth living. As a resident of Debiso voiced out: ei! Masa, as for our roads, the whole world! As for me I think this place is not part of Ghana. When I'm counting districts in Ghana, I don't count this place. I feel it's not part of Ghana. Very bad, our roads are bad. They are beyond repairs! (Electrician at Debiso)

Also a health official emphasised that: As I'm speaking right now, we don't have even one Kilometre tired road in the district. Some of the areas are very hard to rich. Due to bad nature of the road people die on their way when they are referred to other District and Regional hospitals (Health Official at Essam.).

This place is rich in resources and produces the bulk of Ghana's cocoa for example but the road net work is bad. That's why sometimes you see these trucks which transport the cocoa to the harbour get stacked on the road. Once it rains, one cannot travel (an excerpt of responses by technical officer at Essam health centre).

In fact there is no single kilometre road tired within Bia Districts, meanwhile cities like Accra Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi and others have the roads connecting them from Accra are tired and even have been enjoying resurfacing. Though not all areas in Accra, Kumasi and many cities have tired roads, there is a great disparity in the infrastructural development in rural towns like those in Bia District by comparative analysis. Besides, the road network, other social amenities are nothing to write home about. The only district Senior High School in the District (Bia Secondary School at Debiso) lack teaching facilities such as computer laboratories, accommodation for both teachers and students couple with inability of parents to take care of their wards in school due to high level of unemployment. As a student voiced out: Our facilities are not good at all.... We don't have library, no laboratories, I've seen computer before but I've not use it before. I don't know how to operate it. (Year two high school Business [Accounting] student at Bia Secondary Technical)

Paradoxically, the Bia District contributes immensely towards the National Income. My findings from the Bia District just as what was found by Dr. Beckford in Ghelema in the Northern Region, Obuasi in Ashante Region and Wiaso in Western Region seem to confirm Michael Ross Theory of resource curse. But is Bia District poor because it is blessed with a lot of timber and produces the bulk of Ghana's cocoa? Should the people of Obuasi (where bulk of Ghana's gold is mined) be subjected to constant pollution of their source of drinking water by the activities of mining companies and their total neglect of the development of the place because it is endowed with a lot of gold? I do not I agreed with Ross on this basis; but I agreed with Dr. Cyril Obi (a renowned Nigerian researcher at the Nordic African Institute in Sweden), when he challenged the resource curse hypothesis during his lecture on Conflicts in Africa. To Obi, if oil leads to conflicts which in turns lead to poverty, how come Norway, US, Canada and other places in the Developed world endowed with natural resources like oil are not engulfed with conflicts but rather peaceful and developed? It is erroneous for one to attribute poverty in Ghana to that of resource curse.

Theoretical and empirical sources (both secondary and primary) suggest that inequality created by both internal and external power holders have thwarted the economic development of Ghana and for that matter rendered may Ghanaians impoverished. I will emphasise here that internal power holders (not only politicians but any individual who power has been vested at any sector in the country including traditional rulers) have all contributed to the deepening of inequality in the distribution of the county's resources thereby rendering many ordinary Ghanaians poor.

Almost more than five decades ago African educated elites including Nkrumah of Ghana fiercely wrestled power from the European colonisers. Western black Africans educated elites, made the ordinary Africans to believe that they of high standard or have the same charismatic authority as the Europeans to take them to the promise land of glory by freeing them from Whiteman's oppressive rule. However, like many African countries, Ghanaian leaders have wilfully failed to lift the country to its promised land of economic independence to prove to the world that indeed the black men and women are capable of managing their own affairs.

Systemic corruption; the opulent lifestyle of some political authorities and their members (both past and present governments) couple with their continuous use of old fashion of Western models of development without any domestic ideas to solve domestic problems, have made many Ghanaians expressed their concerns and asked whether colonial rule was better than the rule by their own Ghanaian brothers and sisters. In fact, during my recent field work in the Bia District of Ghana, many of the residents I interviewed blamed political authorities and their members at the local level and national level. Thus, they attributed the poor living conditions in the area to the neglect of the central government and inability of the local government representatives to develop the place in spite of the numerous benefits the country receives from the place. The total neglect of development in the Bia District by power-holders in Ghana is disrespect to the fundamental human rights of the people to live life of dignity as enshrined in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human rights. I think power-holders in the country do not care about people's right to life so they are comfortable to see ordinary farmers struggling to transport their produce to market centres, struggling to reach health centres due bad nature of roads which have made many people died on their way in an attempt reach far-away health centres for treatment; and many other assaults on their lives as result of not only income poverty; but lack or denial of basic capabilities to give them the freedom to develop themselves. As the couples of Asuopiri in the Bia District commented during my interview with them:

We can't pay school fees, buy clothes for our children, no electricity, good drinking water, communication centres. The leaders are really cheating us. They don't use the country's money for what is supposed to be used for. We need light, water....there's no money in the system. In fact it's a problem. We're really poor. Those who think they ok then they don't know what they're talking about. A bag of rice now is costing GHC 56 ($US 49), no electricity and kerosene now cost GHC6 ($US 5.2) a gallon. We are suffering! The leaders are sitting on our rights ['fahodie' as it is called in Akan languages of Ghana].

I can say that the paradox of Bia District is a sub-set of the paradox of Western Region of Ghana; the paradox of the Western Region of Ghana is a sub-set of the paradox of Ghana; and the paradox of Ghana is a sub-set of the paradox in Africa. There is this popular saying in Ghana that 'the best comes from the west'. Thus many people believe the Western Region of Ghana is endowed with much of the country's resources such as gold in Tarkwa, Pristea, Bibiani, Juaboso; bauxite in Awaso; endowed with lots of timber; largest of producer of the country's cocoa (in Bia district –Essam/Debiso environs) and the current massive oil discovered at Cape Three Points also found in the Western Region. Besides, it has two international borders (Elebo and Sefwi Osei Kojokrom) which generate revenue for the country. More importantly the first president who led the country to independence heals from the Western Region. In spite of the aforementioned, many areas in the Western Region are deprived. Looking at the poor state of development in many areas in Western region particularly the Juabeso and the Bia Districts or specifically the northern part of Western Region (Sefwi areas), I think the popular saying that the best come from the West ought to be refined and completed. Yes, the best come from the West but the Worst is in the West just like the paradox of Africa as a continent.

Collins Armah
Collins Armah, © 2009

This author has authored 5 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: CollinsArmah

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