Ghana@60: Where Is Our Wirtschaftswunder (Economic Miracle)?

In March every year, young Ghanaians are served great and inspiring tales of a country that was experiencing the African version of Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) until the military coup of 1966. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, we are made to believe, had bold plans for the newly independent West African country. He had embarked on a massive industrialisation programme, building factories, manufacturing plants and quality roads.

The national and continental vision was big. The famous lines delivered at the Polo grounds still ring true: “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent…after all, the blackman is capable of managing his own affairs.”  He had told us to think big and act big. We were supposed to go forward in our development, never going back to where we started from.

At independence, we were the toast of the world. We celebrated the day with American Vice-President, Richard Nixon, Adam Powell, Ralph Bunche and Philip Randolph. The charismatic civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., was also present. On his return to the States, he preached a sermon titled: “Birth of a new nation.”

In the sermon, he said “And I could hear that old Negro spirit once more ‘free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty.’ You can interpret Ghana any kind of way but Ghana tells me that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice.” The alliteration of ‘free at last’ would be repeated in the phenomenal: ‘I have a Dream’ speech in 1963.

60 years on, the miracles that were promised us on 6th March, 1957 have become an economic apparition, frightening away the brilliant ideas we desperately need to salvage the last surviving vestiges of our grand vision. Sometimes, the young ones doubt that the beginnings were as glamorous and promising as history has it. We must have managed our lives very carelessly to have gotten to an open defecation state.

One man one car and one house

The German Wirtschaftswunder was a real miracle. The great and rapid reconstruction of the economies of West Germany and Austria after World War II was so phenomenal that the Germans created a word for it. Wirtschaftswunder also means the miracle on the Rhine. Today, the two countries offer better economic miracles than they were after the war. They continue to prosper and deliver more miracles while we just dream.

Perhaps Kwame Nkrumah was moving too fast, acting too big to buy a big future for the former Gold Coast and the African continent. Historians say if we had moved the same pace after we deposed him, we would have had a fine country today. Our economy will be stronger and perhaps his dream of one man one car and one house will be an affordable reality. We would have built more factories instead of running the few down.

Some of us are moderates; we believe in thinking big, starting small, and learning fast. At least, that gives us time to reflect, strategise, plan and execute. Even at this rate, if we had done things right in this country, we should be a better country at 60. We should be counted among the success stories and economic miracles of this century.

I share former diplomat, K. B Asante’s, optimism that Ghana would turn the corner in his lifetime. There are great expectations but there are also enormous possibilities to make things better for ourselves and our children’s children. There is so much hope around here, just as there is a lot of cynicism. The solutions will not come from elsewhere.

At 43, I have reason to hope for a prosperous country where university students can look forward to decent employment after graduation. I have reason to hope for a country which provides good social protection for vulnerable sections of the population.  I have reason to hope for a country that has enough opportunities to retain its citizens in their country of birth, so they will not travel abroad for better economic pastures.

I have lived through not-so promising and often difficult conditions under four presidents in the Fourth Republic. I would be able to tell my children that I was at the Independence Square when Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was sworn in as President under the Fourth Republic. I should also be able to tell them the state of the country when we celebrated the historic milestone of 60 years after independence.

Is our 60th independence anniversary celebration the best I have seen since I trained for the ritual of school marches as a pupil in primary school? This time, we were not looking for how big the party was or how flawless the army displays were. We were not also very concerned with the wardrobe expressions of our important personalities. At 60, you think about how the present can guarantee you a comfortable retirement.

The anniversary speech was inspiring and promising, devoting space and time to recount the history of our struggles and those who made it count. As a people, we are not very good at remembering the heroes and heroines who blazed the trail in the making of Ghana. I heard Theodosia Okoh, Philip Gbeho and J. B. Danquah.

I heard the names of Dede Ashikisham and Akua Shorshorshor, popular market women who financed Kwame Nkrumah and the activities of the nationalist movement from their market sales. The story of Ghana is a collection of stories; it is not a single narrative lodged in the vocal cords of one or two persons. The story tellers are many and there are no small parts or small roles; everybody counts in this story.

We set off on this journey a long time ago. We should be getting closer to our economic miracle after walking for 60 years. We are poor; graduates have no jobs; malaria is killing us and we are so polarised. All we can do is to hope against hope.

It is one thing to travel hopefully and another to travel in hope. I don’t know which way we have travelled since 1957 but I know that we have missed the way to our economic miracle. Nana Akufo-Addo has promised to deliver our Wirtschaftswunder. We have no excuse to be poor, he told us on 6th March, 2017.  Nana will succeed.

By Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin/Tissues of the Issues

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