“We want to build a Ghana beyond aid; a Ghana which looks to the use of its own resources. We want to build an economy that is not dependent on charity and handouts, but an economy that will look at the proper management of its resources as the way to engineer social and economic growth in our country.”
These were the statements of the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for the first time, when he held a meeting with some selected Chief Executive Officers of leading African and international companies, on March 20, 2017.
Respectfully, I would want to state clearly that this is not a mere policy statement but a harrow to our development agenda, i.e. when our President on one occasion says “Africa can develop without aid” and on another occasion says “Don’t ignore Africa”.
In the words of the prominent Nigerian playwright and activist, Wole Soyinka, had said that, “a tiger does not proclaim his tigritude, he pounces". In other words: a tiger does not stand in the forest and say: "I am a tiger". When you pass where the tiger has walked before, you see the skeleton of the antelope, you know that some tigritude has been emanated there. That is how actions speak louder than words.
In fact, our former President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah would echo that, “it is far easier for a proverbial camel to pass through the needle’s eye, hump and all, than for an erstwhile colonial administration to give sound and honest counsel of a political nature to its liberated territory.” The reality is that the condition of our country’s underdevelopment and other shortcomings predisposes us to seek for the crumbs the fall from the table of the capital metropolis, known as ‘aid’. The outcome of this is the retained and extended economic grip by the artful schemes of systematic ‘aid’.
WHAT IS ‘AID’?
In “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, Walter Rodney emphasized that ‘aid’ is an investible surplus which ensures dependencies on the capital metropolis for the reverse lease of our raw materials and resources. Simply to say, ‘aid’ is the sum total of concessional loans and grants according to Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid”.
Today, Ghana is celebrating her 61st Independence Anniversary under the theme “Ghana beyond aid”. But the irony is that fate of development has not smiled at her face for 61 years. Our total debt stock has hit 138.9 billion from last year according to Bank of Ghana’s (BoG) report on the summary of economic and financial data contributing to debt-to-GDP ratio of 78%.
It turns out that ‘aid’ is a pseudonym for exploitation, a modern method of capital export under a superficial name. For example, in my open letter to the President last year on the sale of ECG, I indicated the strategic interest of the United States in our energy sector with the Compact II agreement of the Millennium Challenge Account – which the largest US government transaction under energy power in Africa containing $498.2 million.
The consequence of this loan is the hardened interest in the purchase of ECG and VRA thermal plants to foreign concessionaires. Ghana is poised to become one of the largest energy producers (habour) in Africa despite our unseemly power crisis. This is as a result of our gas supply connected with FPSOs Kwame Nkrumah, Mills and John Kufuor – which would produce electricity in excess of our demand. With such dilemma, how do we achieve our stride as a foremost industrialized economy through the development of our Integrated Aluminum Industry (IAI) to cause much generated income?
ACHIEVING AN ECONOMY BEYOND ‘AID’
Our efforts at investments promotion have attracted almost largely the illusive Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). As desirable as it may be, it cannot be depended upon to transform in a meaningful and sustainable way our economy. 61 years since our independence, Ghana’s equity ownership of her economy is insignificant. The key drivers of our current economic growth have been the service, mining and oil sectors. It would be prudent to look at the local equity in these sectors.
There are four service providers in the telecom industry. Apart from the minimum of Ghana government’s share in Vodafone equity, which obviously came from the privatization of interest in Ghana Telecom, there is barely any Ghanaian equity interest in any of these telecom companies. Nigeria with a population of over 180 million, the second largest telecom service provider, Glo, is 100% owned by a Nigerian. And all other telecom providers including MTN, have significant Nigerian equity share ownership. Now are we surprise that our cedi exchange rate is almost always under pressure? Because every now and then cedis are mashed up and sent to the banks for exchange. Indeed, if Ghanaian equity interest are large in this sector, I believe our plight of capital will reduce.
The banking sector is somewhat not different. According to BoG, out of 35 registered banks in Ghana, only 21% are Ghanaian owned. What happened with the collapse of Ghanaian owned UT and Capital Banks typifies the situation. This reflects the true state of the Ghanaian economy once we consider capital flight. If you juxtapose this to the top ten Banks in Nigeria, all being Nigerian owned, many of whom are prominent in Ghana and have gone international, perhaps our desire for foreign ‘aid’ could be obsolete if we were in that state.
The mining and oil sectors is more appalling. The Ghanaian equity interest is woefully insignificant, if not void. Even with our emerging oil and gas sector, the largest percentage at the stock exchange is owned by foreigners.
With all these capital will leave without notice with negative consequences for the economy. Giving the likes of ‘Ken Bond Saga’ and Exxon Mobil oil exploration alleged violation of our laws for lack of transparency in their tender processes, and the failure to create active Ghanaian equity participation in the key sectors of the economy, I am afraid, real economic growth will continue to be elusive, and ‘aid’ will be unavoidable.
A thunder strike needs no amplifier. It always sounds after the lightning strikes. At the moment the policy shift of ‘Ghana beyond aid’ has seen more rhetoric than practical steps to achieve the objective. The popular sloganeering must give way to more in action than in words. Let’s change the paradigm. Let’s create active Ghanaian equity participation in the key sectors of the economy. Let’s promote Ghana interest. Yes we can. God bless our homeland Ghana. Happy Independence Day!
By: Michael Sumaila Nlasia
Centre for Data Processing and Geo-Spatial Analysis