From Gold Coast To Ghana – A country at a crossroads 58 years after independence

From Gold Coast To Ghana

OUT AND PROUD: Ghanaians take to the streets of the capital Accra to celebrate 50 years of independence

THE PORTUGUESE, Swedes, Danes, Dutch, German and British at one time or the other had some influence on the Gold Coast, either as trading or industrial partners.

They had built forts and probably indulged in the slave trade, but it was not until the Bond of 1844 was signed by some seven coastal chiefs that the British had some authority over the administration of the colony of the Gold Coast, as Ghana was then called.

The Conference of Berlin in 1884-1885, when European countries met to formally partition and divide up the countries of Africa, endorsed European rule on the continent except for a few countries such as Abyssinia, now Ethiopia.

For Ghana, the agitation for emancipation started much earlier than when independence was gained in 1957.


The Aborigines Rights Protection Society formed in 1897 specifically to protest against the transfer of land to the British continued with the campaign against indirect rule that resulted in ordinary citizens being elected to participate in the Legislative Assembly with the chiefs and British officials.

The National Congress of British West Africa formed in 1920 brought the campaign for self-rule to the agenda in Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria but it was not until 1947 with the formation of the United Gold Coast Convention that the fight took on a national significance.

It was Kwame Nkrumah who broke from the UGCC in the earlier years to realise that dream of independence with the Convention Peoples Party in 1957.

Nkrumah had been influenced by several Pan-Africanists such as Marcus Mosiah Garvey, George Padmore, W E B Dubois and had participated in the 1945 5th Pan Africanist Conference held in Manchester, England, that was attended by other leading lights of the black emancipation movement.

It was in honour of Garvey’s Black Star Line that the black star was placed at the centre of Ghana’s flag.

His vision was that “our independence is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Africa”.

His challenge was “that new Africa is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs”.

But either that his vision was too lofty to achieve or 58 years is too short a time to judge because there is still work to be done.

Nevertheless, Ghana has come very far considering its inheritance at independence was a colonial economy.

The social systems were underdeveloped, few hospitals and health care posts existed, no processing plants built for the cocoa, gold, and timber that were taken and therefore no added value or employment possibilities could be generated for the unemployed mass of the people.

There were about 100 educational institutions in the 100 years of colonial rule when what was needed was the more than 1,000 established in the 10 years after independence.


Drastic measures were required and the only option was to dismantle the colonial economy with import substitution and rapid industrialisation using science and technology as a base to produce goods for the masses and provide jobs for the people.

But the 1960s were not easy times for any emerging country. Most newly independent countries were caught in the middle of a Cold War, an ideological war between unbridled free market capitalism from the West against the socialism promoted by the East.

ICON: Kwame Nkrumah in traditional dress prepares to enter the Ghana National Assembly in 1965 to open his second parliament

Although Nkrumah emerged as one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, proclaiming boldly that “we face neither East nor West we face forward”, he was invariably caught in the war and fell victim to the American, tried and now perfected, foreign policy tool of regime-change through a CIA inspired coup d’etat in 1966 and with that the end of the independent development dream.

It is as if Ghana has not been able to recapture the moments when it stood tall in Africa and was an inspiration to the rest of Africa and the black world.

The military interventions did no good. These leaders have been the most corrupt and although they always claim that they are in government to correct the problems of multiparty politics, they stayed too long and lacked a vision for our development and growth. They did more harm than good to the economy and our social development.

In the first 35 years of independence military rule took up 22 years. It is only since 1992 that multiparty democracy has flourished and with that came renewed attempts to recreate the Ghanaian dream and to refocus on what Ghana needs to do to set the agenda for the black world again.


But the development plans of recent years pale into insignificance and relevance to the bold 7-Year Development Plan that Kwame Nkrumah tried to implement from 1964, which would have turned Ghana into an industrialised country by 1971, if there had been no military take over.

The plans are no longer our own – Structural Adjustment Plans by the IMF, Vision 2020, Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy, Millennium Challenge, Millennium Development Goals are in reality all responses to requests that have been foisted on Ghana by development partners and multilateral agencies who insist on all sorts of inimical conditions before they can provide assistance.

INSPIRATION: Nkrumah was a student of the philosophies put forward by Jamaican Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey

Ghana relies on donor aid to fund its recurrent government expenditure and there is little left for social investment that would yield any solid returns and add to sustainable economic growth. Whilst Western partners are only really interested in development of institutions, Ghana now has to rely on China for infrastructural development and, of course, they also want the natural resources on the cheap.


Economic growth at seven per cent is still the envy of matured economies and though there is pride and dignity as an independent country, there is a lot more that must be done to reclaim the lost status as the trailblazer of Africa and the black world.

Ghana is at a crossroads. The economy is facing some challenges at present: electricity generation, water distribution, standards of education, health care are all problematic and have not matched the growth in the population but without its own vision of development based on the needs of the people and competitive advantages with linkages with the rest of the black world, Ghana will remain a donor dependent country, even though it is now considered as a middle income country with per capita nearing $4 per day.

No amount of adjustments and bailouts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral agencies will make the economy grow again.

A political, social and economic transformation will only happen when Ghana starts doing things differently taking into account the needs of the people for jobs and using its own resources to make goods and services for the benefit of the people.

Reinvestment in education is critical to create a skilled workforce that will produce goods and services on demand.  Ghana must feed itself, it must develop and create industries out of its unique culture. It is only when the people are comfortable with what they have that governments will be able to address the international demonstration effect that makes the people crave goods that they do not produce.

The need for industrialisation must be revisited and attitudes must change to focus on inculcating a new work ethic that will foster increased productivity.

Ghana is a country blessed with rich natural resources but it will only prosper if there is a comprehensive plan for Ghana designed by Ghanaians and implemented by Ghanaians.

It is always darkest before the dawn and the future for Ghana is certainly brighter than the past.

Ade Sawyerr is a partner at Equinox Consulting a management consultancy that works on social and economic issues affecting disadvantaged communities in Britain. He can be followed on Twitter @adesawyerr or at

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7 thoughts on “From Gold Coast To Ghana – A country at a crossroads 58 years after independence

  1. Excellent analysis and historical rundown, except permit me to elaborate by pointing out that Nkrumah was actually a co-organiser rather than a mere participant at the 1945 5th Pan-African Congress. We will be marking, along with others, the 70th anniversary of the 1945 Congress, which is an important part of African British history.

    Glad that The Voice also published it, which spreads the reach of the article.

    I included a review – ET Mensah’s ‘King Of Highlife Anthology’ (RetroAfric) Box Set For Marking Ghana’s ‘Independence’, which commented on Ghana, where I was last week in the March 6 BBM Newsletter:

  2. God bless our homeland Ghana but our leader in Ghana they don’t think to make Ghana great nation so my opinion us let’s NPP,NDC,CPP and all parties in Ghana to sit down and think about our dear nation to make Ghana proud thank u very much

    1. Akeem,
      thanks for your comments. this article was written from and non political perspective in the sense that i think that we must all be prepared to assist in the work of making Ghana strong again

      1. A good article by Ade Sawyer.
        Agree We must all be prepared to tighten the belt, and be disciplined to make Ghana strong again.The discipline should be seen come from the top and made to permeate the society otherwise we are doomed,moving from crises to crises rather than planning planning strategically.

  3. I do share some of the views if no all but the aftermath of nkrumah and Busia reign saw the various commissions of enquiry such as the Justice Annie Jaggie and Tayour Commissions and what they reveal?

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