TUC’s lament: A broken record

Ever asked yourself (if you heard the story) why the British colonial school administrators in the Gold Coast banned Ephraim Amu from wearing African cloth and jumper to preach in church? Why were they insisting that he wear western clothes?

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Simple: the British economy was not going to survive if the African colonial subjects stopped relying on clothes imported from the UK!!! At the risk of boring my readers to tears, I will this week revisit one of the most visited subjects of all time: eat what we grow and wear what we sew from our cotton.

In an incredible, were it not so pathetic, display of lack of appreciation of what constitutes the most basic need of the population, government after government of Ghana has failed in the area of agriculture.

In addition to the abundance of fertile, well watered nutrient-rich land, 12 hours of sunshine, and an army of unemployed youthful labour, Kwame Nkrumah, our first President, recognising the futility of pursuing agriculture without Science Technology and Innovation, set up CSIR and other research institutions whose mandate was inextricably linked with agriculture.

At the University of Ghana, we had an Agriculture Faculty headed and populated by Professors and PhD holders.

Lamentation

Last Wednesday, when the TUC Secretary-General, at the 2024 May Day Parade, began his lamentation over our over-reliance on imports, I switched off the radio. Why waste my ears on a broken record, listening to a 1950s vinyl record player whose pin was stuck in the groove, producing the same sound over and over!

The President was listening. How often had we not been reminded of the need to move away from the “Guggisberg economy”! Rawlings had used that expression, so had Busia, Limann, and all Presidents after him. What has been the effect? Agricultural policies turned upside down.

Only two Presidents, on hearing this message, felt the pricking effect of nails on their seats and were compelled to jump up to pursue a home-grown agriculture agenda. The response of the first President, Kwame Nkrumah, was the Workers Brigade; General Acheampong’s was the hugely successful, unprecedented Operation Feed Yourself.

In response to an appeal by President John Mahama in that famous State of the Nation Address, a private hotelier, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, began a revolution in his hotel chain where his restaurants served only local rice. President Kufuor’s ‘Friday Wear’, though it was fashion-based, was a call to use the cotton we grow to spin yarns and produce the needed textile for our clothes.

The down-side to this policy was the counter-policy of excessive trade liberalisation that rendered the efforts of GTP, ATL etc fruitless. But thank God for Kufuor’s initiative, the private sector persisted and today, WOODIN, GTP and ATL have formalised male-wear from local fabrics.

People buy Woodin shirts as birthday gifts to CEOs. The banks have accepted Friday wears. Even Parliament has moved on from the era where an MP would be deemed to be “naked” if they are not in suit.

Dependent on imports

So we are moving on. But — and I agree with the TUC Secretary-General — we are still too dependent on imports. It’s a crying shame that Ghana imports onion, plantain, etc from Sahelian economies such as Burkina Faso and Niger.

A few of our supermarkets and shopping malls have begun to stock local plantain, cassava, tomatoes etc, but on the whole, the percentage of imported food in our foreign-owned shopping malls is strangling the cedi. The cedis collected from shoppers (and these are really big time shoppers) end at the forex bureau for dollars.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, accountants of the foreign-owned churches queue at forex bureaux buying dollars to be repatriated to the native land of the church founders. Do you remember when one foreign church stuffed the tyres of its 4x4 vehicles and driven through the borders to Nigeria?

We shall return to this evil in subsequent articles. For now, my appeal goes to our future presidents. We should leave out Akufo-Addo for now. The agriculture policies pursued by his PhD Ministers of Agriculture did not factor other aspects of the supply chain.

Our so-called successful agricultural plans forgot that the produce had to be moved to the market. So our farmers look on helplessly as their produce begins to rot at the farm gate.

To salvage what is left of his toil, they accept the peanut from the market queens who arrive with trucks. To Bryan Acheampong, it’s been, so far, business as usual. I’d forgive him if he claims he did not read THE KIBUTZ REVOLUTION proffered by PR guru, Frank Apeagyei.

 Apparently Bryan is not old enough to know that Mr Apeagyei was a Special Assistant to Major Courage Quarshigah, one-time Agric Minister. In the name of Ghana, I will urge our current Agric Minister to go to his party headquarters: they have Mr Apeagyei’s contact. Agric must be business unusual.

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