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Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Ghana & China: Is It Time To Change Our Masters? by Kwaku A. Danso

The recent pronouncements of China's relationships with Ghana is funny to examine especially when one sees how na´ve our African leaders act when they think somebody is going to loan them money, as if a loan is a free gift! On June 19, 2006 Ghana web published an article titled "Ghana Supports One China Policy."

Honestly the article did not attract many readers, or comments. Why? Because who cares!? However, while the topic may not be of interest, reading between the lines makes one aware of the strategic plans the Chinese may have for Africa and how they are going about achieving it. First they will start by opening their markets and selling cheap goods to Africans who like cheap goods; then they will extend some credit to us in terms of construction loans and of course insist that they build the projects. They will underbid on projects to win the first one or two using their Cheap Chinese labor. As the loans accumulate and we cannot pay, they will give us more loans to pay the interest on the loans and insist further that they take over the construction of our roads, our stadiums, our dams, and of course the interest on the defaulted loans may go up a little to compensate for risks.

Folks, I am not being facetious. Remember the scenario that was painted recently by one Ghanaian who said he had finally settled in Ghana and warned at the end of his article that "by the time those overseas came back to Ghana, the Chinese would be ruling Ghana." This article was perhaps the most circulated among friends that I have ever seen. Let's read carefully between the lines.

Let's examine words realistically in such messages of so-called Summit meetings. Russia could have said the same things in the 1960s. Americans would have said the same things in the 1980/90s. Britain and the Europeans said the same things when they came to our shores first in the 1400s!! Now we see the World Bank and IMF seem to be pulling back and seeing some guilt. The evidence is now becoming glare that these institutions have taken over and ruined the economies of some third world nations, as author John Perkins puts it in his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. At the end of each of those encounters, Africans had the short end of the stick. We had either sold our people to them as slaves; they had taken our lands by force as they did in South Africa, or sold our land to them. Or in the best of cases we had signed our countries to them to "protect us," as "protectorates" such as the Bond of 1844 in Ghana.

Folks, read well between the lines!!

What do we have to offer China in this "working together" and "bilateral trade," "favorable conditions," rhetoric?

Look, folks, I don't know if you can read in between well. Let's analyze a few statements:

"Additionally they agreed to work together to tap the potential in their economic and trade relations and to set up co-operation in infrastructure, construction, telecommunications and human resource development."

What does this imply? Questions: Does Ghana have any major companies that can go to China and help them in infrastructural development, such as building telecommunications and HR development? Does Ghana have anything that can benefit the Chinese economically? In construction?

Read further:

"In line with this, the two Governments would encourage their companies to expand business ties and cooperation to create favourable conditions for boosting bilateral trade and investment. The Communique said China promised to provide assistance to Ghana to the best of its ability and to contribute to its economic and social development."

What do these words imply? Questions: Is Ghana shipping some more goods to China that we may not be aware of? What does "favorable conditions" in international talk mean? Anybody who knows about globalization should be familiar with such words. It simply means "make it easy for me to sell my goods in your country." Despite America's flowery language to third world countries, have they agreed to stop subsidies on their agricultural products and have they given our products an equal chance on their markets? Have you seen Ghana Pineapple lately at an American shop? And if you were to go beyond raw material, have you seen any American company looking at Ghana to set up their next expanded electronic assembly line or software development factory? Has America agreed to some of the treaties that are not favorable to their interests?

Look, I am not blaming America for seeking their own self interest in any situation they are. That is what makes them the great nation they are today: Very aggressive to achieve their aims, and very competitive to the win at all time! And if any of their leaders deviates they don't forgive them! The Key issue here is the "National Interests" of the country. The concept of "what's in it for me" applies well to a society that sees itself as being number one! American takes second to no-one and whether a whole country like Panama or Iraq or Afghanistan gets run to the grounds with their people, their own interests [oil, minerals, etc] must come first!! One cannot blame them sometimes. The Bible has many scenarios where wars were waged for God's people the Jews to have their wants! These people have used their brains well where we Africans have not, and rather our leaders seek for some free help from some divine sources! President Kufuor wasted the better part of the first 2 years in office traveling, and despite all that, the most affluent part of Accra the capital does not have adequate line voltage to power a central air condition! This writer has spent the last year chasing after Electricity Corporation and Ghana Water Company management to rectify the water situation and electricity instability problems in one of the best parts of our city! We expect somebody to come from his country to set up a simple technology of water systems and electricity for us! Even setting up city councils, we wait for our President to appoint DCEs and MCEs and give them pittances as budget when they could collect taxes as legal entities in their towns form homeowners and provide the water, clean covered sewage and utilities for them. They would rather wait for somebody's money!

What does is mean when we read this?

"China is also ready to continue discussions on the Bui Dam Project and find a way that would be acceptable to both sides on a win-win basis."

What win-win basis are we talking about? Does anybody know how much millions of dollars it takes to build a dam? The construction of a Dam may involve over $40 million and create over 10,000 jobs. If Ghana cannot see any sense in seeking to create jobs for their people and will sell all our construction jobs to the Indians, the Chinese, the Europeans, then the fault is not in our stars but may be in us, our leaders! It will not be a surprise to me if future more aggressive generations looks on leaders like Kufuor and Rawlings as having caused the greatest financial loss to the sate of Ghana. Will you exhume their bodies and try them or do we want to take the matter on now and protest!

The article a few weeks ago hinted that by the time most of you return home, Ghana would most probably be ruled by the Chinese. Whiles being facetious, the truth is that Ghana does not have much to offer China in return, except sell our raw materials to them and order manufactured goods from them. Recently 3 Stadiums in Ghana were awarded to China to build, for some $20-30 million range [I don't have the article close at hand]. If it is $25 million in the form of a loan, at say 5% interest rate, the contract will demand hiring say 1,000 people to work and paid say $2,000 each. That comes to $2 million that perhaps will go to Chinese employees. At the same time one can guess the material will be shipped from China and if these are material that could have been manufactured in Ghana, which perhaps will amount to another 2,000 jobs that could have been created in Ghana. The interest on the loan, in addition to the loss of jobs, in 5 years will amount to Ghana having to go further to borrow money and keep increasing taxes on cars, denying education to children, denying University students dorm rooms, or denying hospital care at decent prices despite the NHIL levy.

I just want to end by saying that in general our Africans leaders act na´ve when they encounter other leaders. We can live with the Chinese and with the Indians and anybody. But we need to come to the table with an exact mission of what we want that will benefit our people, help create jobs, and keep the money in our country, whiles at the same time being of value to the others! As of now Ghanaians overseas are more "valuable" to Ghana when out of home, sending in $4.6 Billion in 2005 whiles the rest of the economy only raked in less than half of that! Doctors, Nurses and Engineers needed in critical areas of our economy are therefore trained by the tax payers? money only for them to go outside to see employment and send money home to support their parents and family who have no government pension after working for 25-40 years! That is a shame that we lack strategic solutions to such problems. The solutions are there for global competitiveness, but the leaders don?t seem to warm up to the new ideas. We hear of indigenous capitalism and sometimes some of us laugh. It takes 20 tons of cocoa to purchase the equivalent of a simple Computer system that the rest of the world needs! Let us open our visions! It is time our Presidents spent some time to examine their strategic objectives and at least define their relationships in the global arena. The world out there is not unlike a World Cup Soccer game. Each team comes there to win. Ghana must therefore define a national vision, and then focus on pulling our top skilled talent in all fields of knowledge back home and utilize their skills to achieve our common goals. We must examine our opponents and their moves, and dribble our strategies when we meet our opponents in trade, and learn to work together between those at home and those in the Diaspora! That is the only way to build a winning team.

Long Live Ghana Soccer! And better still, Long Live Ghana!

Kwaku A. Danso is an Engineer and Business & Technology Consultant in Fremont California, USA. He was a former Columnist for the Toronto Ghanaian News and his book Leadership: The Role of Government in Africa - The case of Ghana is in preparation for publication. Mr. Danso can be reached at This article appear on Ghana Web.

Kwaku A. Danso

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

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