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Opinions Fri, 18 Feb 2011

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Self Reliance In The Ghanaian Economy

Gandhi or Gandhiji was a national hero in India during the struggle for

independence in India in the 1940s. He taught Indians to grow their own food,

make their own clothes and even produce their own salt. That lesson he taught

Indians has bore fruit as India is one of the emerging economies known as the

BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). South Africa may soon join

it to become BRICS. We need similar home-grown strategies in Ghana so that we

drastically cut down on imports. Nkrumah tried to establish an industrial and

intellectual property base for Ghana but unfortunately his efforts were

shortlived. He established factories such as Match Factory at Kade, Corned Beef

Cannery in Bolgatanga, Fruits and Vegetables Cannery at Nsawam, Textiles at Tema

and Akosombo, Cement Works at Tema, Oil Refinery at Tema, Flour Mills at

Takoradi and Tema, Jute factory in Kumasi, among others. He wooed and brought

in foreign business tycoons such as one Drevici and there was the famous

Savundra case. He formed alliances with former communist countries such as

Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechoslovakia. The Czechs established a Sugar Factory

at Komenda and I am sure they sold the Skoda cars in Ghana. The import of this

paper is to reflect on our current situation where Ghana has become a dumping

ground for almost every small item from sewing needles to toilet rolls, rice,

meat, apples, plastics and even confectioneries. Why can’t we be self reliant

by growing our own food and rearing our own animals? Of course, Michael

Porter’s famous thesis of comparative cost advantage stares us in the face.

What we need to do is to decrease considerably some of our imports to create a

sort of autarky or closed economy in order to provide space to grow our infant

industries. I think we need a bit of intervention so that the closed economy

multiplier which has a bigger bang or impact than the open economy multiplier

can work to our advantage. We have not crossed the threshold of full employment

as there is room to grow. If all these items of rice, salt, matches, plastics

and pig trotters were produced locally, what a huge employment it would create.

Besides, we need to focus more on the sunrise industries in the tertiary and

quarternary sectors such as deepening our comparative advantage in the

educational and hospitality sectors. More jobs can be created using ICT

facilities such as having call centres, outsourcing accounting jobs, training

staff online, among others. We can create a Silicon Valley in Ghana where young

IT geniuses can create softwares for export. Given our fertile lands and

fertile intellect for creativity, we stand to gain considerable comparative

advantage if we focus more on the agricultural and tertiary sectors. The mining

sector is a wasting economy and it benefits the multinationals more than

Ghanaians. This is because the powerful and domineering multinationals make

sure that our negotiators fail to get any good deals out of them. Hence, our

natural resources being mined or exploited do not serve us much purpose.

Ghana’s economy, therefore, needs massive diversification away from the

traditional sectors of mining and cash crops into areas of service delivery,

local crafts and agriculture.

BY KWESI ATTA SAKYI

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

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