Ghana is hungry, and it makes zero sense. About 1.2 million people are currently food insecure, and an additional 2 million are vulnerable to food insecurity. Over half of the labour force is employed in agriculture. How is it possible, then, that we spend about US$2.2 billion annually importing food alone? The answer is that we’re not selfish enough.
If we don’t start acting selfishly with superpowers, it’s going to cost us, and in a big way.
The ambassador of the Netherlands to Ghana, speaking at the recent launch of the Value Added Agriculture Expo urged us to stop spending so much money importing food and produce locally. He argued further that agricultural investments would promote trade and economic growth.
While a valid exhortation, it risks sounding disingenuous. Part of the problem of Ghana’s food insecurity is the commodification of food in itself.
The country has been subsumed into a global market in which we have sold large portions of land to international investors and obediently keep our market open to international trade liberalization policies. These agreements were supposed to open up barriers to global trade to the mutual interest of all involved.
The problem is that we’re not quick to scrutinize what ‘mutual interest’ means. The same policies we faithfully adhere to are circumvented by the big dogs. They benefit from slashed import tariffs while our own farmers lose business competing against their goods. These agreements have thus only served to cripple our smallholder farmers by forcing them to compete with absurdly low-priced subsidized goods from industrialized countries.
There is an enormous imbalance of power that exists between us and Western superpowers. This gives them leverage to strike deals that appear benevolent, but are always ultimately in their interest.
Telling us to produce more to promote trade instead of to feed ourselves first is urging us to further shift the limited amount of resources primarily towards production for the consumption of the global market, rather than focus on feeding ourselves, mimicking colonial patterns of trade and production.
Kwame Nkrumah predicted this in 1965. He warned against a new kind of colonialism, one that uses the language of development and aid to establish external control in African countries to benefit from their resources. This neocolonialism is insidious because it lends a charitability to the powers of the Global North that developing countries would be silly not to take advantage of.
The recent fuss about the updated military deal with the United States that the government agreed to is an interesting example to consider. Many believe they have seen through this deal as an attempt of the U.S. to establish a military base in Ghana. Under this agreement, Ghana provides “unimpeded access to and use of’ agreed facilities and areas, some of which may be “designated as for exclusive use by United States forces” in exchange for $20 million and training of Ghanaian troops.
The Minister of Defence argues that the U.S. is not, in fact, establishing a military base in the country. Almost tragically, he says it is not true, that “they do not intend to do that, not at all.” Yikes. It may benefit us to examine how straightforward the United States has been about their interests in the past, for example in Libya, Rwanda and the proxy wars of the Cold War.
Ghana’s lack of selfishness has worked in conjunction with the imperialist language of aid to make us believe that true development can only come about by yielding our resources to foreign countries international bodies to hone them for us. It echoes the ‘let me keep the money safe for you’ experience most of us remember from our childhoods.
Interestingly, one of the main aims of our incumbent government is to achieve a Ghana Beyond Aid. Doing this requires some sacrifices. Moving beyond aid doesn’t just mean Foreign Direct Investment or generous sums from the World Bank and IMF. It means becoming truly independent.
A Ghana Beyond Aid means a Self-Reliant Ghana. This kind of Ghana does not depend on imports to feed her people but exercises food sovereignty. Self-Reliant Ghana is not bullied into cheating herself in the global market but focuses on channeling all her resources towards her
own exclusive benefit, first. Self-Reliant Ghana trains her own people and doesn’t need agreements with equivocal wording for support.
A Self-Reliant Ghana is selfish because she puts her own interests above all else, just like the countries who would attempt to exploit her.
Again, being selfish will necessitate some sacrifices. We should consider, however, if the costs of being truly free forever outweigh the paltry benefits of starving ourselves so that others can eat.
Abrema Quarm is a rising sophomore at Columbia University who is avidly yet nervously interested in African history and international relations.