Is Ghana in the race to industrialisation?

Ghana’s participation in the race to industrialisation among newly independent nations in the late 1950s and early 1960s was remarkable. Leaders of new nations such as Singapore, Malaysia South Korea etc., visited Ghana or sent emissaries to find out what we were doing and how we were doing them.

Initiatives:

By the early 1960s, just three years after independence, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had initiated the establishment of “some 300 and counting,” state-owned enterprises to operate in all sectors of the Ghanaian economy.

Understandably, state ownership was the way to go at the time as indigenous private enterprises lacked capital and the know-how to meaningfully participate, let alone lead the process.

So, in the skies we had state-owned Ghana Airways, on the rail tracks we had Ghana Railways …. , petroleum, fisheries, textiles, insurance, financial services, electronics, glass technology, automobile assembling plants, precious metals and many agricultural and agro-processing initiatives. The “Ghana this and Ghana that” were dotted all over the country… not forgetting the huge investments in the Akosombo dam for hyro-electric power to run factories.

 

Investment:

All the investments, except the Akosombo Dam, were financed from Ghana’s own resources such as reserves from cocoa exports held in London. The policy was obviously consistent with the pillar of self-reliance in the Nkrumaism ideology. It also gave meaning to the belief that the African and Ghanaian for that matter, was capable of managing his own affairs when given the opportunity.

Nkrumah was nevertheless criticized, not necessarily for the self-reliance policy which compelled the state to lead the process, but for the mere fact that he thought the state should do business in place of the private sector at the time.

 

Public Private Partnership – PPP:

Successive governments, at least since the year 2001, have openly acknowledged the role of private politics referred to as “the private sector” in their efforts to bring development to the people. In the Kufuor administration (2001-2008), a whole ministry for private sector development was set up to make it a capable partner to government for national development.

In the 2004 Public Private Partnership (PPP) policy guidelines, which attempted to officially integrate the two sectors in the development process, the private sector was positioned as Ghana’s “engine of growth” to indicate its importance. Unfortunately, failure to fully operationalise the guidelines denied the sector, the needed energy and capacity (fuel, body and tyres) to drive the economy to the envisaged destination.

In the Atta-Mills administration, the initiative was maintained, leading to the launch of another national policy document on PPP in June 2011, by then Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. Kwabena Duffuor. The objective of the document was to set out clearly the process for all aspects of PPP project development and implementation; from “project identification, appraisal, selection, to procurement, operation, and maintenance and performance monitoring and evaluation”.

 

Policy alignment:

President Akufo-Addo has stressed over and over again, that  “Government is also working hard to improve the infrastructure in our cities – roads, railways, ports, aviation, communication, as well as the rural areas – where we must add value to our time and make it easier to do business in Ghana,”. He insists that, adding faster and less costly import and export practices should lead to investments in better technology and machinery that will boost productivity and scale up volumes from our local industries”.

Unfortunately the gaps between the lofty policy statements and the realities seem to be widening. Public servants and technocrats do not seem to keep the overall objective of the nation in view when advising and or implementing policies, especially those that affect the indigenous Ghanaian investor and manufacturer.

Even the fresh legs in government who until recently were operating in the private sector that one could expect be very familiar with and sympathetic to the indigenous private sector challenges, seem to have forgotten too soon. Implementation of the local content law in the petroleum sector seems impossible for many reasons.

 

Realities:

Are the lofty statements of policy visions aligned with our overall development goals? When we say industrialisation, what do we mean and what does it mean to us individually and collectively? Take a look at the realities of an accomplished Ghanaian entrepreneur, Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, in a recent social media post.

“WHO IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE WELFARE OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR IN GHANA? THE TAX MAN SAYS USE MY STAMP OR NO SALE; THE REGULATORS SAY INCREASE YOUR CAPITAL OR QUIT THE BUSINESS (INSURANCE, BANKING, INVESTMENTS, ETC.); GHANA MADE PRODUCTS AND PEOPLE ARE OUT THERE, YET THE STATE KEEPS IMPORTING COMPETING PRODUCTS AND EXPERTS; LAWS AND REGULATIONS ARE BEING PUT OUT THERE THAT EXEMPT FOREIGN INVESTORS BUT WANT TO KEEP GHANAIAN ENTREPRENEURS IN A “CHICKEN COOP”;

OFFICIALS ARE STILL COUNTING SUCCESS BY THE FOREIGN INVESTORS THEY ATTRACT – WHAT ABOUT US?; THE PEOPLE JUBILATE WHEN ONE OF OUR OWN FALTERS – WHY NOT STRAIGHTEN THEM UP AND GIVE THEM A HAND UP? THE GHANAIAN PRIVATE SECTOR IS BLASTED LEFT AND RIGHT EVERY TIME DURING SERMONS IN CHURCH AND YET ARE THE SAME PEOPLE WE GO TO WHEN WE NEED SPONSORS – WHO WILL SPONSOR THE HARVEST, THE LEAGUE, THE SOCCER TEAM, THE BRILLIANT BUT NEEDY STUDENT, THE LIBRARY, THE ORPHANAGE, ETC IN GHANA IF NOT US? RESPECT? NO. BUY AND SUPPORT MADE IN GHANA!”

The overarching nature of transformational development, through industrialisation is such that, even in countries where central direction has played a significant role in the process, strategic room has been created for indigenous private sector and individual initiative to participate in order to ensure that the stream of innovations needed for the development of cost-reducing and productivity enhancing technologies are generated. China and Singapore have passed the test. What about Ghana? Are we in the race?

 

The Last Uprising
…with William DOWOKPOR (billdowokpor@gmail.com)

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