Ace Journalist Amos Safo-The Writer

Sixty-six years after political independence, Ghana has made marginal improvement in attaining economic independence, a trend which lends credence to the assertion that many African countries, if not all, only attained political independence and may never attain economic independence.

Two factors account for this assertion; the first is the disruptive military coups and political instability that gripped African countries shortly after independence, leading to lack of visionary leaders. The second is the unfair world economic order that was hatched by the west to ensure that Africa remains primary producers and suppliers of commodities to industrialise western economies. The under development of Africa is an ideology that is still driving the global agenda of developed countries. Nevertheless, the collective failure of Africa leaders to launch a development path and envision a bright future for the past, current and future generations is at the core of the current backwardness of Africa. It is not about whether others are fair to us, it is more about whether we have the collective will to fight for our economic independence.  This economic independence will never come on a silver platter. We have to fight for it through good leadership and good local policies.

Import substitution

After political independence Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah launched a seven-year development plan with rapid industrialisation as the long-term outcome. In other words, the seven-year development plan aimed at moving Ghana’s agrarian economy to a producer of basic industrial and consumer goods to reduce dependence on imports. This approach is called “Import substitution Industrialisation (ISI). Import substitution industrialisation is an economic theory used by developing countries that wish to decrease their dependence on developed countries. ISI targets the protection and incubation of newly formed domestic industries to fully develop sectors, so the goods produced are competitive with imported goods. The long-term outcome is to reduce a poor country’s dependence on foreign goods and push towards local industrialisation and self-sufficiency.

GIHOC companies

However, after the demise of the Nkrumah government subsequent government’s failed to follow the path of ISI, a policy which caused the collapse of the Ghana Industrial Holding Companies (GIHOC). GIHOC group of companies were state-owned and managed by the public sector. While there may be justifiable reasons why the state should divest itself of managing industries, in the context of a new independent country, the decision by Nkrumah to build Ghana’s industrialisation on state-owned industries was prudent. All developed countries started their industrialisation drives with state dominance and later private sector participation or through public-state collaboration.  Sadly, the military interventions and a series of short-lived elected governments stifled the initial hope Ghana had to become the beacon of hope for Africa both politically and economically. 

Subsequently, the GIHOC companies were looted and starved of the necessary support to remain in business. In the 80s and 90s the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) led by Jerry John Rawlings implemented a rigid IMF and World Structural Adjustment Programmes, which compelled the government to sell some, if not all the GIHOC state-owned companies established by the Nkrumah government. The industries were sold to political cronies who had no capacity and resources to manage them, little wonder that some of these industries were later sold to churches, which converted them to auditoriums.

Subsequent development and industrialisation policies such as, Dr. Busia’s rural industrialisation drive and General Acheampong’s seven-year development plan based on ‘operation feed yourself” could not be sustained because of foreign dominance of our policy making space. In fact, Ghana had the biggest opportunity to turn economy around between 1981 and 1991, when there was uninterrupted political power. Sadly, it was during this period Ghana’s economy caved in under a barrage of western policies, especially the unbridled trade liberalization policy that opened our market to shoddy goods from abroad. The trade liberalisation policy virtually killed any competitiveness in local industries. In that regard, we are not truly politically and economically independent because we produce and distribute little. Most of the things we buy and consume are produced by others who care little about us. Of course, they are not to blame, we are to blame because when we are not producing anything, we are not controlling anything. Those who produce are those who control the world. That is why we have become guinea pigs for all types of economic and scientific experiments.

No vision

After 66 years of independence, we have not been able to define and implement a long-term and inclusive development path and vision for current and future generations. The continuous use of party manifestoes as the blueprint for economic development is repugnant, and an indication that we are not serious. Moving forward, the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) should be strengthened and made non-partisan to develop an inclusive long-term vision for Ghana, irrespective of which government is in power. This far, we have only succeeded as political torchbearers of Africa, with very little economic success as the country remains a net importer of basic industrial and consumer goods.

There is no doubt, however, that Ghana has a lot of economic potential, given the enormous natural and human resources the country is endowed with.  To reverse our current situation and move towards industrialization, we have no option than to become competitive. We need to aggressively pursue the import substitution industrialization started in the first republic. And the only way to become competitive is to use our resources and ingenuity. We must intentionally nurture local businesses by giving them preferential treatment over foreign competitors.

In that regard, the One District-One factory (IDIF), which is the closest to the GIHOC industrialization by Kwame Nkrumah should be vigorously pursued. We must note that others cannot do for us what we fail to do for ourselves. We need to fight for our economic independence by consuming what we produce and reduce unnecessary importation of goods we can do without. We should not expect other people do for us what we fail to do for ourselves.

Competitiveness and productivity

For Ghana to gain economic independence we need a vision and strategy to enhance competitiveness and productivity. In the 2023 State of the Nations Address (SONA) President Akufo-Addo disclosed that in collaboration with the private sector Government is anchoring Ghana’s medium-term growth drivers on competitiveness, integration, adaptation and digital innovation. These strategies are aimed at raising GDP per capita from the current US$2,500 to US$4,500, in tandem with the Ghana Beyond Aid Charter by 2030.

He further stated that  a five-member Cabinet committee is working on a policy to enhance domestic production and export development with a four-fold strategy to: (1) reduce the country’s import bill in the short-, medium- and long-term;  (2) enhance domestic productive capacity in selected products; (3) generate widespread employment opportunities; and (4) diversify and expand our export capacity to Africa and beyond, especially through the vehicle of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“On the evidence of existing local productive capacity, we have identified a list of twenty (20) priority products in the categories of primary agricultural products, processed foods, and manufactured goods, where we can confidently enhance domestic production. Amongst these are rice, fish, poultry, fruit juice, sugar, tomatoes, vegetable oils, oil palm, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, soaps and detergents, insulated wire, ceramic products, corrugated paper and paper board, cement/clinker, and motor vehicles”, he said.


Ghana’s productivity and competitiveness cannot be attained without investments in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in the long-term. Thankfully the Akufo-Addo administration has committed to improving STEM and TVET to make it attractive to the youth. According to him since the introduction of free TVET, enrolment in TVET schools has increased from 13,000 in 2021 to 47,000, and assured Ghanaians that investment in TVET and STEM will continue. “In 2022, the TVET service recruited 3,400 staff, the highest in the history of TVET in Ghana, to accommodate this development”, he added.

Perhaps, Ghana can take a signal from South Korea and China. These Asian countries had the same development indicators as Ghana, but a commitment and investment in STEM and TVET the last 50 years catapulted them to the fastest growing economies in the world. These two countries are now responsible for producing a sizable percentage of cars for Africa. In my estimation six cars out of every ten cars on Ghana’s roads are from South Korea and China. STEM and TVET is the development path Ghana should follow, by asking China and South how they did it.


Undoubtedly, information technology is one sector Ghana can leverage to boost economic productivity, as   the impact of technology has become an irreversible fact of development. In the area of information technology, Ghana has made a lot of gains over the past six years. “We are fully convinced that our investment in information technology and the digital infrastructure will help us to redefine our traditional concepts of time, space, speed and nature of conducting business within our society, economy and culture. Information technology helps in facilitating the production, distribution, and consumption of information within the whole economy and society”, says President Akufo-Addo.

Prioritising tourism

The President further disclosed the decision to prioritise tourism for economic diversification, job creation and growth.  Ghana has comparative advantage in tourism due to the central role she played in the slave trade. Ghana has most of the forts and castles which epitomized slave trade than any African country. The World Economic Forum Report 2021 Travel Index ranks Ghana as the number one tourism destination in West Africa.  International arrivals nearly trebled last year, from a low of 355,108 in 2020, to over 915,000. Domestic visits to tourist sites are also up by over 55.7% during the period, says the President. “All these have been made possible by deliberate marketing initiatives and upgrades of tourist infrastructure by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and its Agency, the Ghana Tourism Authority.” Thus, the potential contribution of tourism and the arts to GDP must be given the desired attention. 


The writer is a Development and Communications Management Specialist, and a Social Justice Advocate.  All views expressed in this article are his personal views and do not represent those of any organization(s).