Black star with a dose of the blues
Not for the first time Ghana, called by independence leader Kwame Nkrumah the Black Star of Africa, has sought to build on prosperity to create a regional leadership position. As before, such hopes have crumbled as commodity prices have fallen, the local currency has depreciated and import dependency has persisted. Chris Cockerill reports
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Ghana, it seemed, was doing all the right things. Its sound fiscal and monetary policies were beginning to pay dividends by the mid-1980s, as the country aspired to regional leadership. Under president Jerry Rawlings, the flight lieutenant who seized power in a coup in 1979 and then again in 1981 before being elected president in 1992, Ghana was set on the road to prosperity. Foreign exchange restrictions were lifted, markets were opened up and a privatization programme was implemented. Ghana thought itself ready to lay claim to the title "The Gateway to West Africa". But by 1998 Rawlings's republic started to look a little shaky and by 1999 the economy had begun to nose-dive.
The gateway has become an emergency exit. "The country received very positive publicity when the idea was aired," says Philip Ihenacho, director of London-based Afrinvest, "but underneath all the reforms Ghana is still a commodity-based economy.