Ghana exports gold, cocoa, timber, minerals—and little else. These were our same primary exports at the time of independence. And like most African nations, Ghana imports almost everything our population consumes, from televisions to toothpicks. We even import goods and products that we are more than capable of producing locally, like rice, sugar, wheat, poultry and flour. Not surprisingly, the amount spent on imports exceeds the amount earned on exports.
It means that our fate is at the mercy of forces not always within our control. That’s a precarious place to be—but we should be used to it by now. Africa seems to be perpetually perched on the verge of war, famine, failure and—of late—success. Perhaps that is why Dr. Nkrumah, with his prescient words, prepared us for this day, this time in our maturation.
“From now on,” he said, “today, we must change our attitudes and our minds. We must realize that from now on we are no longer a colonial, but free and independent people.”
The next phase of Africa’s transformation must begin with the understanding that our natural resources are not the sum total of our net worth, as we were once asked to believe. We have much more to offer the world, and ourselves. We must continue to forge global partnerships and remain active on the world stage, but we must also invest in our own industries. The more revenue we are able to recycle in our economies, the faster we will be able to build our individual countries. And that would make Africa truly triumphant, independent and free.
John Dramani Mahama is president of the Republic of Ghana. He is also author of the critically acclaimed memoir My First Coup d’Etat: And Other True Stories From the Lost Decades of Africa. Follow him on Twitter.