Flag, Ghana, Red, Yellow, Green, Black

After vowing he wouldn’t turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Ghanaian dictator, Jerry John Rawlings, was forced eventually in 1983 to inflict this misfortune on his people. Aside from causing the collapse of large sectors of Ghana’s industries and throwing thousands of people out of work, the new policies imposed on the authorities produced a market providing the public with practically no choice. People were compelled to buy whatever it satisfied the traders to import. Long cherished products vanished to be replaced by cheap copies of dubious quality.

Tom, an English engineer visiting Tamale in northern Ghana in 1987, was told that the northerners greatly appreciated the British products which they had come to know and trust in colonial times. The Lister diesel engine was much used for corn milling, water pumping and generating energy and there were many old installations scattered throughout the Northern and Upper Regions. Similarly, the northerners adored the Raleigh bicycle and the original Land Rover four-wheel-drive vehicle. They called these products’original’ and always asked for them. But these days they couldn’t be purchased new because almost all present imports were from China and India. These countries produced copies of the Lister engine and the Raleigh bicycles but the northerners had soon came to discover the difference in quality. That was how the demand for the’original’ began.

Tom said that he feared that if the British goods were imported these times the rural people would not be able to afford them, and in any case, the quality wasn’t as good as before. On the other hand, the standard of the Asian products could be expected to improve. He was told in reply that the local people would try to pay more for better quality. The Cotton Development Company had recently imported bicycles to sell to their employees on easy-payment terms. Most of the bicycles were from China but a few Raleighs were included. Even though the cost was higher, it was the Raleighs that were spoken for first.

Tom’s Ghanaian interlocutor said that he was puzzled by what had occurred. But this market did not provide what the people demanded, it supplied what it suited the dealers to import. The people could only buy what was locally available. It was not a free market, it was a slaves’ market.


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