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Opinions of Friday, 24 November 2017

Columnist: Andrews Bempah

Nkrumah had misplaced priorities, current leaders must get it right

Whether you believe it or not, eventually we all die, the earth and everything in it belong to God.

In this era of incredible technological breakthroughs, the chronic problems of starvation and lack of access to clean drinking water facing many people around the world is one problem that can be solved when mankind focus on addressing it.

I am a Ghanaian born citizen of the United States, where the population is a reflection of the whole world because it comprises individuals like myself who were born outside the borders of the United States and migrated years later.

The United States, even though has social problems, is a country of blacks and whites working together to be the greatest nation in the world.

Today, whether you admire it or not, it is a major recipient of individuals fleeing political oppression and economic hardship.

One step among many, Ghana and Africa as a whole can take to awaken the potentially great continent (which is now laughing stock largely because of systemic mismanagement of limited resources) is to emulate the United States and widely open up the continent to everyone who would like to come in to complement our effort to rapidly develop.

Many African policy makers typically put style ahead of substance. For example, a whole new city will be constructed from scratch while the country is net a importer of food, even though the continent is endowed with vast arable lands to be a major exporter of food.

I watched a YouTube video in which a former president of Ghana Rawlings told a white interviewer that the water the white use to flush his toilet is cleaner than what most Ghanaians drink. Ironically, he may be one of the many Ghanaians who are proud of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah for building Tema city and harbour while millions of his fellow citizens mostly living in rural areas drinking dirty water getting sick and even dying. I say this because I believe at that time with about six million population the Takoradi harbour was not inadequate or obsoleted and resources could have been used to provide Ghanaians with clean drinking water first.

We all will leave this earth one day and the important thing now is to harness technologies available now to create jobs, this would control or eliminate news I am hearing about Africans risking their lives on the Mediterranean Sea to entre Europe illegally.

Nkrumah’s industrialization goal, I understand prompted development of Tema city and harbour. Since every country on the planet has limited resources and therefore incapable of getting all its needs at once. I believe the first post-colonial government should have devoted resources on infrastructure development across the country and agriculture modernization to keep food production in balance with the fast-growing population. Such a move would have provided future governments solid foundation to build industrialization on.

Production, it’s said is not completed until the finished product reaches the consumer. How fair is it to implement industrialization policy when many towns and villages are yet to be accessible by cars and trains.

Firstly, had president Nkrumah prioritized agriculture modernization, farmers aided by modern farm equipment would require fewer workers, thereby creating farm workers unemployment, yet they would be in strong position to keep food production in balance with the fast-growing population.

Then it would be sound policy, if the country had foreign exchange reserves, if not approach the world bank for loan and the bank considering Ghana’s good credit, since it had no bad debt outstanding would be glad to approve the loan with no instructions attached because Ghana had already displayed sophistication in financial management and could not be told what to do, to establish factories across the country to provide jobs.

The United States after years of establishing solid agriculture foundation transition to industrialization and after many years industrialization now superseded by information economy - all because it has a solid base of agriculture which plays an important role in the promotion of stability because a hungry man is an angry man.

In contrast, Ghana’s industrialization initiative took place while farmers were still using primitive tools of cutlass and hoes.

Apparently, the president and his advisors didn't recognize that the method of farming in the country is not sustainable with the fast-growing population and extensive government service jobs being created, and so industrialization be deferred until improvement in agriculture materialized.

Furthermore, the sprawling 68 state owned factories established had only domestic market and would not boost export over import, and Ghana facing severely declining foreign exchange earnings sustainability was questionable. The trade-off of the industrial policy was that, some cocoa farm workers, an industry which provided more than half of the nation's foreign exchange earnings, working on farms located in areas without electricity and clean drinking water seized on chance to take factory jobs located in cities where all the modern amenities were concentrated. Inadvertently, the industrial policy negatively impacted the cocoa industry in loss of foreign exchange earnings. Until recently, food crisis did not surface in Ghana because majority of the population living in rural areas were getting free food and meat by hunting in the wild. These days, even in Ghanaian forests, one would be lucky to spot a deer and other animals. Meanwhile, it’s common for one driving in quiet Washington D.C. residential areas at night to spot deers with horns roaming the neighbourhood, this is culmination of earlier generations having the vision to establish a mechanism to produce their own beefs and chickens while preserving the wildlife for future generations to observe as well.

Timber, one-time major component of Ghana’s export base, is now no more because of years of harvesting trees without planting. Had the first post-colonial president demonstrated to the public the importance of trees by making random visits to rural areas to ensure trees were planted, future presidents would have followed his good initiative and this generation would not have to talk about reforestation in Ghana, the day his government ended he was on his way to Hanoi Vietnam. Africa unification, first OAU and now A U is not going anywhere unless strong policies are implemented. I look forward to a day a large Ghanaian corporation would float common stocks across Africa stock markets and other African corporations doing likewise, it’s such interstate commerce which would lay a solid foundation for long lasting Africa unity.

Many Ghanaians appear to believe that there would be more jobs if only there were enough factories, hence the ruling party campaign slogan one district one factory.

I am all for factory jobs, but the reality is that Ghana must boost exports.

Once exports increased with foreign exchange reserves, foreign corporations would be attracted to establish factories to manufacture local items Ghana used to import from them and even export to other countries. Ghana can become a respected agriculture nation if we do it right.

Large corporations could be established to produce, for example pineapples. The corporations would have resources to employ agriculture scientists and others. Provide workers with uniforms and boots and there would be potential export market to other African countries, Europe and Asia. The country of New Zealand, I understand has more sheep than humans, Ghana with its vast land resources cannot make similar claims, yet the country has massive unemployment and many people with barely enough food and clothes on their back.

If a government’s main source of revenue is from export of the country's natural resources, the government seems complacent with high unemployment, because it’s main source of revenue is not from workers. On the other hand, if a government’s main source of revenue is from businesses and workers taxes the government has one main goal, to create conducive environment for jobs creation because the more new businesses established and more people working means more tax revenues to the government for national development and economic growth.

The country in scenario number one, typically had high unemployment, the government, largest employer through bloated bureaucracy and characterized by slow or stagnant economic growth. While some Ghanaian politicians vehemently expressed displeasure for not having control on price of natural resources export and the west pay arbitrarily low prices. ln America some politicians express dissatisfaction with Japan and China for dumping America markets with cheap exports. In order to keep their workers in employment and also obtain the necessary foreign exchange to pay for imports, the Japanese and Chinese governments would rather subsidise exports to the west.

One way to create more jobs and control corruption in Africa is to have more publicly traded corporations doing business. Individual business owners, typically befriend top government officials in order to gain the benefit of paying less or no tax. Corporations, as long as there's demand for its products continue upon death of founders, and directors have direct investments in it and so they work hard to meet or beat budget. Many cocoa farms in Ghana died with the individual owners, because their children who would have continued the business were not interested in the family business.

After sixty years of independence, now is the time to take giant steps toward modernization of the economy.

The retail sector dominated by almost countless petty traders is in urgent need of consolidation.

Initially, legal monopolies could be given to two or three corporations to open big supermarkets across the country.

More job opportunities will be available to accountants, corporate lawyers, stockers etc.

The existing traders be given the option to exchange their inventories for equal amount of stocks in the new supermarkets.

The main reason for the legal monopoly is to allow the new companies mature before deregulation.

Ghana streets will be clean and motorists will be able to drive unimpeded by aggressive hawkers. A public corporation, unlike private one books are open to the public and hence it's operations more transparent to the public than private one.

Ghana’s first president Nkrumah, while in office had time to award himself the title of saviour, build statues of himself, declared himself president for life, put his portrait on Ghanaian currencies and had to go to Egypt for his bride.

These are characteristics of a dictator, egomaniac and party time. A serious leader who recognized the magnitude of the work ahead would be a humble person, put in best performance and let future generations judge.

In America, the first president George Washington, after serving four years wanted to retire but was persuaded to serve another term which he did and retired. Before President Franklin Roosevelt, there was no constitutional requirement for a president to serve two terms. Nevertheless, every president who got elected served maximum two terms and retired, following Washington’s footsteps.

Imagine, first president Washington had imposed himself on Americans and denied them freedom of speech and press and an uncouth military guy with no management background but courageous had removed him from office. America might not be the great country it's today.

President Nkrumah’s dictatorship and perceived corruption in his government paved the way for military interventions in Ghana, which allowed adventurous soldiers not vexed in management chance to become heads of state and president.

To be fair, President Nkrumah himself did not possess esteemed management background, but because he led the independence movement, he concluded that he knew the nuances of management to be able to effectively manage the country with few trusted advisors, and today we are paying the price through entrenched corruption and indiscipline in government, which the June fourth revolution clearly failed to uproot, because the leader is still walking in Ghana talking about corruption in government.

President Nkrumah, unlike subsequent leaders of Ghana, did not inherit a debtor nation but rather a country rich in terms of natural resources and according to reports had over 400 million pounds in foreign exchange reserves at independence. These enabled him to finance more capital projects without first going to the world bank to negotiate for loans.

Not so great for subsequent leaders who inherited a heavily indebted country, high crude oil prices and since the government is yet to develop a strategy to generate enough revenues locally for capital projects, constantly had to approach the world bank for loans and endured the arduous conditions with the loans. The British colonial rule in Ghana, in order not to arouse concerns of the colonists resorted to politically correct strategy of financing government expenditures largely with revenues from export of natural resources.

It worked under colonial rule, because no budget for free education from primary school to university, no foreign missions abroad to maintain and capital expenditures were relatively small. Post-colonial governments aggressively expanded the budget, yet miserably failed to achieve corresponding increase in revenues to pay for the new programs. Potential exists for jobs creation in agriculture in Ghana. Two or three corporations, could be organized to operate in poultry farming business to supply the entire nation with chickens. Chicken prices would become affordable to Ghanaians and more jobs would be created, since corporations buy in large quantities they gain trade discounts and per unit fixed costs decline with more quantities produce. In the United States there are corporations such as Boeing which manufactures airplanes to burger king which sells hamburgers. It’s also worth noting that while the number of sole proprietors and partnerships businesses far exceeds corporations, corporations are responsible for about eighty percent of the United States gross domestic product.

The limited liability corporation’s invention has made possible businesses which require huge amounts of capitalization, it allows individual investors, pension funds and other institutions to become owners of a large corporation. In my opinion, it’s one powerful invention Africa is yet to fully exploit its benefits. I believe that if president Nkrumah has had the humility to recognize Ghana not as a superpower but a fledgling newly independent nation, stayed away from geopolitics and devoted resources providing all Ghanaians with clean drinking water, extending the road and railway networks to other parts of the country and negotiated with the Europeans total decolonization of Africa, these would have been more cost effective to Ghana.