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Opinions of Thursday, 11 September 2003

Columnist: Acheampong, Kwame B.

The Saga of Post-independent Economies of two West African states

Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are two contiguous countries in West Africa along the Atlantic coast with common boundary. While the duo share common socio-ethnic identities, they on the other hand, have contrasting politico-economic experiences. This article will share some perspectives on policy development strategy pursued by different leaders of these two countries after independence. It is important to note that the current political and socio-economic situation in these two countries to a large extent, are the reflection of post-independent policies initiated by the leaders of that era.

Both Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire share a common stock of the Akan ancestry – a large ethnic group with similar linguistics and cultural background. However, there is a distinct difference in degree of cultural adulteration and influence in both countries as a result two different colonial experiences: British in Ghana and French in Cote d’Ivoire respectively. Ghana was the first country in Black Africa to achieve independence under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1957. In 1960, Felix Houphet-Boigny became the first President of Cote d’Ivoire. It is interesting to note that Cote d’Ivoire achieved her independence as part of the unilateral proclamation of independence in French West Africa by French President General de Gaulle.

Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana emerged as a strong Pan-Africanist who advocated pro-active continental government for Africa. No sooner he burst into the political scene as a leader than he introduced his socialist policies to define the developmental path for Ghana. The state became the main vehicle of production and distribution of the products and services of the infant industries that his government established across the length and breath of the country. The economy of Ghana at independence was far stronger than that of Korea and other Asian tigers capable to support most of the programs that Nkrumah’s government initiated. Ghana was the world’s leading producer of cocoa, her major export-earning commodity.

Subsequently, corruption and mismanagement of the economy based on socialist policies could not spawn a buoyant economy anticipated by the leadership of that era. Hence the bubble burst after a sharp declined of the producer price of cocoa at the world market in 1965. A failed economy, an unpopular Preventative Detention Act that sent a large number of his political opponents to prison without a recourse at the courts and other social problems brought Nkrumah’s government to her knees in February 1966. In short, Nkrumah’s centrally controlled economy that could not encourage entrepreneurship and private initiative increased capital flight that virtually killed capital accumulation. Despite a failed economy of Nkrumah’s government, one distinct program that succeeded was her accelerated, free and compulsory education. Ghana today boasts of quite a number of distinguished scholars, top-notched civil servants in international organizations and capable practitioners of all disciplines.

The next decade of Ghana was no better than Nkrumah’s era as the country began to witness a mixture of a pendulum experiment of government under the military and civilian. The economy totally came to a halt under the military leadership of General Kutu Acheampong’s Supreme Military Council I & II. That cyclical military /civilian rule continued - sometimes bloody – which eventually brought total hardship to Ghanaians, particularly during the military regime of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.

Cote d’Ivoire, on the other hand, experienced a sustained market economy under Felix Houphet-Boigny. The economy attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that contributed to the success of huge commercial agriculture. By mid-seventies, Cote d’Ivoire has surpassed Ghana in cocoa production. Houphet-Boigny transformed the economy of his country where basic infrastructure was built. Abidjan, the commercial capital was modernized; agro-business industries were dotted around the country. Foreign capital ventures were encouraged and thus, foreigners dominated the economy of Cote d’Ivoire at the expense of the indigenous Ivorians and micro-entrepreneurs. Despite the success of market approach economy under Houphet-Boigny, Cote d’Ivoire’s economy today is nothing to write home about. It has just gone through a serious political upheaval, where northerners were pitted against southerners, Muslims against Christians and a sustained instability waged by pockets of rebels attempting to capture political power.

From the above, it is therefore imperative that the current governments of these two countries adopt market economy within the sphere of globalization. But, of course, indigenous entreneurship must be encouraged to create wealth among individuals and small businesses. Certainly, this strategy would promote poverty alleviation to harness creativity, risk management and self-empowerment by indigenes. Corruption must be a practice of the past. Rule of law must above all cardinal in shaping public policy. This would build confidence in the market place to encourage long-term contracts under the supervision of sound judicial system that is critical for high performance and economic growth.

Finally, good governance must be strengthened. Resources must be channeled to promote good health, education, housing and infrastructure development. In Ghana, President Kufour and his government is aggressively pursuing that to attract foreign investors. His government is further providing resources to encourage both rural and urban entrepreneurship among indigenes – the basis of the government’s privatization policy to avoid the experience of Cote d’Ivoire. For, the economy should not be a domain of only foreign capital but indigenous participation to encourage partnership among all stakeholders. Modernization of the capital, Accra will not only serve as an attractive tourist spot but a serene commercial center to favorably transact business. The painful past of these two sister countries must, as a lesson rather serve to promote healthy future and enabling environment for development in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Kwame Acheampong
Policy Analyst/Management Consultant
Editorial Advisor African News Digest

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
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