A Tale of Recovery: Indigenisation Will Rescue Ghana's Cedi

Just recently, about two weeks ago, I was expressing patriotic sentiments about the cedi and Ghana’s repeated recourse to the International Monetary Fund.

A friend of mine interrupted and claimed that this happens because we have no solution as a nation to the problem of our economy. But I disagreed – because I believe that if and when we do the necessary things in the necessary manner, we shall surely overcome this difficult phase of our economic journey. We must endeavour to change what we have been doing for so long and want to take a new course, and then we will find that the results are different.

I have this notion that when we are able to forgo the Western lifestyle – the lifestyle we inherited and have adopted over time as a result of colonisation – we will be more than a milestone ahead and will free ourselves from this economic tether.

Ghanaians think and act globally without due recognition of who they are. Meanwhile, the adage tells us to think global but act local. We despise ourselves and who we are but hail who and what others are. We seem deliberately to ignore how our culture is our economy. If it is true that culture is the way of life of a people, then we should not have any hesitation in embracing and redeeming our culture.

From Operation Feed Yourself through to the age of structural adjustment programmes – talking about domestication and now, Ghana Beyond Aid – our objective has been to strengthen and stabilise Ghana’s economy. Sadly, we are doing so with foreign standards and systems, without due consideration for how we live and organise our lives.

So it is no surprise that our story has not changed. We keep revolving around the same orbit, when there are other, sharper ideas we can consider, no matter how challenging they seem to be.

“Insidious” colonisation

Our lifestyles as Ghanaians are supposed to induce indigenous business of a sort to generate indigenous employment and income. However, our case is the opposite. Our lifestyles rather promote other economies at the expense of our own.

 It is about time we realised that who we are as a people is central to the development we seek, because no foreigner has Ghana’s development at heart more than Ghanaians. We can live our culture and be admired by other cultures. Nobody will accept us when we do not accept ourselves. No one will endeavour to speak our language, eat our food, wear our clothes, listen to our music and the rest of what we have as a people if we disregard these things.

Ghana’s folklore has suffered because of her colonial experience. Of course, the colonial experience has shaped our culture. We no more appreciate the authentic culture that defines us. But we can never be more British or American than the British and American people. No matter how far away we go, we are still who we are: Ghanaians.

To quote Wole Soyinka, the great Nigerian playwright, poet and essayist, on engaging with and contesting “colonisation discourse, power structures and social hierarchies”: “Colonisation is insidious because it invades far more than political chambers and extends well beyond independence celebrations. Its effects shape language, education, religion, artistic sensibilities and increasingly popular culture.”

Free your mind

We cannot deny that our colonisation experience has had such effects on our development even after independence. Almost everything we have done since independence betrays foreign traits and symbolism. This situation has provoked many puzzling questions as to whether we are really independent.

Politically, we are independent – but we are still in slavery when it comes to living our lives as Ghanaians. We run after foreign goods and services at the expense of Made in Ghana products. We hold the perception that foreign goods and services are superior to the ones we produce here.

Such is the norm 62 years after our independence. And it is not as if we have not tried to do anything for ourselves. Indeed, Ghanaian entrepreneurs are still trying to make a breakthrough by backing import substitution industries. Yet, with the persistent perception that Ghanaian goods and services are of inferior quality, we remain an import-dependent country. The “Ghana Beyond Aid” and One District, One Factory policies, however good the intent they prefigure, will become a mirage if we fail to change our taste for foreign consumption.

President Akufo-Addo recently pointed out that “if you buy things abroad, you are creating work outside Ghana which you can create inside this country and at the same time, be much more competitive on the things we produce”. We can get to that trajectory where we have been able to disentangle ourselves from the hooks of colonisation. That will be living consciously according to the values of our own cultural beliefs.

Reader, I have never agreed with Dr Nkrumah’s perception of a need at independence to change the national currency from the pound to the cedi but acceptance that we adopt English as Ghana’s official language. Did he think it would help us fight imperialism?

When we gained independence we failed to strip our dear nation’s socio-cultural component of its foreign psychological influences though it would have been easier to do it then. Even now, it is not impossible: but it will be challenging. It only requires the commitment to do it as we endeavour to make the first step.

In this regard, I would commend the National Folklore Board and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture for their noble initiative of launching Folklore Clubs in selected schools. At least such efforts will inspire the young Ghanaian to understand, embrace and appreciate his or her identity and will in the long run culminate in the kind of development we seek. Concerted effort must be put into this programme to yield the results we claim to be looking for.

Through education, Ghanaians will become knowledgeable about who they are and the essence of the way of life of Ghanaians. This will enable a situation where the Ghanaian will choose Ghana over what is not Ghanaian. We will then have a brand which will empower us to take charge of every aspect of our lives.

Speaking in tongues

We have to resist the phenomenon where foreigners use Ghana as a market hub for their products and services – they exporting and we importing almost everything into the country even though we claim to have anti-dumping laws to check excesses in that regard.

Yes, economics is the principal reason why the relationship between our cedi and the dollar has become a sour one; but the remote cause is the neglect of Ghanaian folklore. Let us live and do everything the Ghanaian way. That will help redress the woes of the cedi. Who thought that media practice in Ghana was possible using local languages? Today, the proliferation of media outlets using our local tongues is a strong signal that we can use Ghanaian philosophies to champion the course of our development.

Ghanaian folklore is not inferior to that of the West. We, too, have something good to showcase to the world. We cannot continue to be admirers of foreign culture at the expense of our own. The time to change that story is now.

Let us work together as Ghanaians to change the story of our cedi-dollar relationship by embracing and accepting ourselves for who we are and what we represent in the world, rather than helping to harp on the glories of the West at our economic expense. We should stop relying on ad hoc measures of salvaging the cedi whenever it is in distress, securing bonds to shore it up, and turn to more prudent, long-term and permanent methods by living within our means, the Ghanaian way, according to Ghanaian folklore.