Ghana: Discordant notes in high places

Posted by By at 15 December, at 19 : 28 PM Print

Ghana: Discordant notes in high places.

Were lofty speeches potent enough to transform things, Africa would be a paradise.

Our leaders simply love to make speeches. They seem to love the sound of their voices so much that they crave any platform to entertain us with their oratorical skills.

We often said in this column that African leaders are simply beyond irony. They are also shameless to boot.

How else do we explain the sight of leaders from countries where, after over fifty years of self-government, citizens still struggle for basics like water and electricity strolling, with peacocks gaits, onto world stages to praise their efforts? How else do we explain leaders who lack the wit to mobilise their people to feed themselves, telling global audience that their countries are on the right track.

African leaders appear to be in their elements when they stroll onto world stages to render well-crafted, albeit totally useless, speeches.

What does it matter that they talk absolute gibberish? And who cares that no one take serious anything they have to say?

Wikileaks informed us about the pathetic state of our national security (our officials blab more than canaries) and also that the major powers know all that go on in our countries, and they know the pathetic situation we still live in, so why should they not regard our leaders as pure jesters?

African leaders believe that they have done their noble duties so long as they can attire themselves in the most expensive Saville Row suit, jet themselves off in their Presidential jets (never mind that their national airlines have no single aircraft), chauffeured-driven in the longest limousines available and give speeches at the UN.

I honestly do not understand our leaders in Africa; they remain enigmatic to yours truly.

I have lived in Europe and I have visited the United States, honestly were I to become a leader somewhere in Africa, shame alone will dissuade me from showing my face to the world.

Seeing how far ahead other people are, and seeing all that other people have accomplished in terms of physical development of their societies, I will feel so uncomfortable with myself to show my face to the outside world.

The honest truth is that we are far behind the other people. But the real problem, the real tragedy is that we (especially our leaders) appear totally unaware, or is it unconcerned that the gap between us and the other people is huge.

I was totally over-awed by the New York Metro system. On enquiries, I discovered that it was built over a hundred years (1904 to be exact)!

If mere mortals, with the same faculties like you and I, were able to accomplish that monumental engineering feat over a century ago, why should I not feel affronted when I have leaders whose ambition does not soar beyond the provision of school uniforms?

I try to read as many speeches by African leaders as possible and, honestly, almost all are so pathetically pedestrian that it left me wondering why a leader should waste time travelling to New York to deliver it.

Our late President Mills went to the UN to boast about providing uniforms for school children. I don’t know why his advisers did not tell him that that should not be something to boast about after over fifty years of self-government.

President John Mahama also went to talk about accomplishments like school enrollment.

Again, we ask, why should that be the concern of the UN?

However, the part of the president’s speech that is of concern to us is when he said:

“We cannot continue to be exporters of raw material and primary produce. We need to add value to our exports. We cannot continue to export raw cocoa beans in Ghana. What we need to do instead is process more of those beans into value-added products. 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 toward 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 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.”

Nice speech. Applause, applause.

But what exactly prompted Mr. Mahama to talk about wishes when he could, very easily, have asked for the plans his illustrious predecessor, Kwame Nkrumah, drafted for Ghana and start to implement them?

Since the Osagyefo already had the vision to draft his 5-Year Plans, President Mahama need not re-invent any wheel.

But then, talk is cheap, isn’t it?

According to a UN Africa Report: Africa loses $63bn, yearly, from multinational corporations’ illegal tax evasion and exploitative practices.

So, our president is right to suggest the need to change gear.

But then, few weeks before his speech at the UN, our minister for trade and industry, Haruna Iddrissu (whom, we presumed, sits in the same cabinet as Mr. President) announced that some Japanese investors are to be granted 2-year tax holiday.

This is how it was reported:

“Government is to offer a two-year tax holiday to Japanese investors in agro processing and other sectors of the economy, TV3 News can confirm. The tax holidays, beginning this year, will boost investor confidence, according to the sector minister. Haruna Iddrisu disclosed this to TV3 News on Thursday, July 25, 2013 when a delegation from Japan called on him at his office in Accra. … Mr Iddrisu underscored business opportunities for the Japanese delegation. … He spoke about government’s commitment to ensure tax holidays for investors as “strategic incentives”. “The Japanese too have a strong manufacturing background and we are encouraging them to come in and they have expressed interest in rubber plantation and setting it up in the Western Region and then agro-business if we can facilitate the cost of land.” The delegation is in Ghana following President John Mahama’s visit to Japan early this year.”

And here is another piece of news that totally undermined what our president went to preach at the UN.“

The Head of Policy Monitoring and Evaluation at the Office of the President, Dr. Tony Aidoo says he is surprised at expressions of surprise over revelations that that some foreign mining companies in Ghana retain virtually all earnings. He said that has always been the trend in the past – that Ghana’s natural resources are exploited for free – to the detriment of national development, safe for efforts by Dr Kwame Nkrumah and Gen. I.K. Acheampong who made some real efforts to increase national stake in those ventures. Dr. Tony Aidoo told Radio Gold on Wednesday he would even prefer that the mineral remains untapped in the ground so that local mining techniques, are employed to exploit it, even if primitive and means we can tap only five per cent of the lot.

It doesn’t make sense, he said, for other nationals to exploit the resources when we don’t benefit from it. He was reacting to comments on the same platform by former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mike Allen Hamah, who said a law passed in 2003 which paved the way for the naked rape of the nation’s natural resources, had not been reviewed after initial attempts to do so, including the setting up of a committee. … The Ghana Mine Workers Union has described the revelation as a wake-up call to restore sanity in Ghana’s mining industry.”

Here is another shocker:Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is shocked after discovering mining agreements signed by government and ratified by Parliament are heavily skewed to favour mining companies.

“Members of the Committee are amazed that up to a 100% of earnings from gold mined in Ghana is lodged in offshore accounts. And all these transactions are backed by Ghana’s law. This was revealed during the first public sitting of the committee, Monday. Explaining matters on Joy News, Ben Aryee, Chief Executive of the Mineral’s Commission said the Minerals and Mining Law 1986, PNDC Law 153 provided that retention accounts agreement be signed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic planning, Bank of Ghana and an applicant mining firm. He said in the course of time, government passed a new mineral and mining law 2006 which amended the previous law to in some cases allow 20% of the earning to be kept onshore.

The Chief Executive says Parliament itself must take the blame. But, the parliamentarians are stunned that Newmont Mining Corporation could sign an agreement with government to take 100% of its earnings offshore – an advantage no other mining company enjoys. An MP wondered how one of these retention agreements was signed on 17th December 2003 and ratified by Parliament on 23rd December 2003 – just five days. He said under the Parliamentary system, this was curious. Another MP said he “was shocked that Parliament could pass such as Act”. Akim Abuakwa South and vice-chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Atta Akyea, described the regime as “Pernicious, arbitrary, discriminatory, [and] weird.” … She said there are a lot of gaps in the current Mining and Minerals Act and urged parliamentarians to review the Act. She wondered how a mining company can retain 100% earning while 100% damages to the environment are left to the mining community to deal with. Water bodies have been rendered useless to communities, land that could be used for agriculture have been destroyed because of activities of mining companies She said Ghanaians are not privy to these agreements because they are confidential. She recommends that earning should be capped at 50%. We cannot continue to be exporters of raw material and primary produce. We need to add value to our exports. We cannot continue to export raw cocoa beans in Ghana. What we need to do instead is process more of those beans into value-added products. We cannot continue to export unrefined gold.

Rather than travel all the way to New York, President Mahama should simply have hopped on his plane and go to Harare and ask Comrade Mugabe to explain his indigenization programme to him.

I am sure Papa Mugabe would be delighted to impart some knowledge.

The July edition of the New African magazine carried a comprehensive report on the indigenization policy the government of Zimbabwean, which was initiated to ensure that the bona fide owners of the natural resources, the people of Zimbabwe, own the majority share of their wealth.

This is how a Zimbabwean minister explained the programme:

We are actually making a contribution to the venture as a senior partner who deserves a shareholding in the company. For example, if a foreign investor can say: ‘I am coming to invest in Zimbabwe, I am bringing my own diamonds and my gold, and also my equipment’, then he can own 100% of the venture. But if he doesn’t come with his own land and gold and diamonds, and is going to work with the gold and diamonds in the soil of Zimbabwe, then he cannot say we are taking away from him if we say to him: ‘The gold and the land you are going to work are ours, the diamonds in the land are ours, the platinum is ours, they were given to us by God, these are our natural resources, so let’s form a partnership in which we get 51% shareholding because we are bringing to the table more than your Caterpillar and shovel combined. There is nothing unfair about it. We are simply saying that we might not have the equipment you have, but the national resources you want is ours, let’s share it! As an investor, you make your money, and we also make our money as a nation. But don’t dispossess us of what God gave us because you are investing in our country. Investors the world over are choosy, yes; but you know what, we have the resources and these resources will go nowhere. They are ours. And even if the investors don’t come today, they will, for a fact, come tomorrow.”

– Saviour Kasukuwere, Zimbabwean Minister for Youth Development. Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, New African Magazine, Special report, July 2013, p. 49.

Wow, wow, what a patriotic African Mr. Mugabe is! Little wonder the imperialists hate his guts.

May the ancestors continue to grant Papa Mugabe good health; he is surely an African leader with his head in the right place.

Of what exactly are our leaders in Africa afraid? What on earth could be more sensible and more logical than to get a fair share of your own resources? Why continue the ridiculous position of allowing buyers to dictate what they pay for our produce or resources?

Rather than continue the unprofitable and ludicrous neo-colonial policies of granting tax holidays and allowing foreign companies to keep 100percent of their profit, President Mahama should have send all his ministers to Zimbabwe to learn some good lessons.

That, indeed, would have been more profitable than deliver speeches that drew only yawns or laughter of derision.


About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and Correspondent for the New African magazine. Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specialises in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

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