GHANA'S PRESIDENT JOHN Dramani Mahama, pained by how little the country gets from its natural resources, told the UN General Assembly this September that the country could not continue to be exporters of raw materials and primary produce. "We need to add value to our exports. We cannot continue to export raw cocoa beans in Ghana. What we need instead is to process more of those beans into value-added products."
The president went on: "We cannot continue to export unrefined gold." We need to add value to our gold exports. We cannot continue to export oil and gas. We need to integrate that industry into our economy. We need to process petroleum products and produce power with the gas.
"We cannot continue to export bauxite and then in return import alumina to feed our local aluminium smelter. We need to work towards creating an integrated bauxite and aluminium industry in Ghana... As a president and a father, I owe it to my children--my sons and my daughter--and all the children of Ghana to create for them a country where they can walk with their dignity intact and their heads held high and stand shoulder to shoulder with the children of Europe, South America, Asia, North America and the rest of the world."
It was a nice speech, more so coming as it does in the wake of a UN Africa Report, which said the continent loses $63bn yearly from illegal tax evasion and exploitative practices by multinational corporations operating on the continent.
So President Mahama was right to suggest the need for Ghana to change gear. But a few weeks before his speech, the head of policy monitoring and evaluation in President Mahama's own office, Dr Tony Aidoo, had appeared to deflate the president's UN speech when he said that he was quite surprised that people were expressing surprise at revelations in the media that some foreign mining companies in Ghana retain virtually all their earnings in offshore accounts. That situation, according to Dr Aidoo, has always been the case in the past. Ghana's mineral resources are exploited by multinational companies to the detriment of the nation's development.
Dr Aidoo singled out the country's first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, and the military leader General LK. Acheampong (1972-78) who made some real efforts to increase the national stake in mining ventures. Apart from these two leaders, all those others that followed had sat on their hands as the country's resources had been exploited for a song. Dr Aidoo told the Accra-based Radio Gold that he would rather the minerals remained untapped in the ground so that local mining techniques, even if primitive, could be employed to exploit them. If that meant only 5% of the minerals were exploited, he said, it would be far better for the country than the current situation where Ghanaians themselves did not benefit from their God-given resources.
Dr Aidoo was reacting on the radio programme to comments made on the same platform by the former minister for lands and natural resources, Mike Allen Hamah, who said a law passed in 2003, under President John Kufuor's government, had paved the way for the naked rape of Ghana's resources. Surprisingly, to years after the enactment of that law, it still remained on the statute books in its original form, after initial attempts to review it had failed.
The Ghana Mineworkers Union described Aidoo and Hamah's revelations as a wake-up call to restore sanity in the country's mining industry.
But that was not all. Following hard on Aidoo and Hamah's revelations came another shocker! …