After independence, Ghana under Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah launched a radical drive to industrialise our young nation.
This manifested the first leader’s understanding of the importance of technology-driven industrialisation to a nation’s quest to actualise and consolidate the gains of self-government.
It is not the authors intention to list the several of such attempts since this piece is not meant to serve any political goal; rather it is purposed to ginger serious discussions on the works of Apostle Dr. Kwadwo Safo and other inventors vis-à-vis Ghana’s technological advancement.
It is sad to note that Ghana, in this age of technology remains a net consumer of technology.
In this situation, it is highly improbable that our national budget can record a surplus; since the value of our primary goods export cannot compare to the highly expensive yet necessary technological imports such as automobiles, electronics etc.
We export our raw produce for extremely low values; and are always happy to hear that cocoa exports have improved whilst our balance of trade remains a huge deficit.
The first post-independence government of Dr. Nkrumah aside, Ghana has not had any plan of using technology to drive our economy (I stand to be corrected) government in government out.
India, after independence in 1947 adopted a national vision to use science and technology as the fulcrum of their national development plan; and today India is not only a net exporter of technology but also a nuclear power. In the half century since independence, India and its people have been committed to the task of promoting the spread of science and have recognized the key role of technology as one of the most important elements of national development (credit: Science and Technology Policy of India, 2001).
Ghana as a nation with over 50 years self-rule cannot afford to sync so easily with the present status quo. The world is moving fast thanks to technology and it does not augur well for any country that is left behind. In an introduction to its science and technology policy India’s Minister of State for Science and Technology & Earth Sciences, Hon. Shri Kapil Sibal, had this to say; hear him:
“Since independence, the government of India has been strongly aware of both needs – the need to build up a powerful science base, and the need to ensure that science is not restricted to the university laboratories. Under a succession of enlightened leaders, Indian governments have long recognised the need for any country that aspires to call itself a modern nation to invest heavily in science and technology” (Emphasis mine).
“The fruits of this foresight are now widely visible. Thanks largely to the government’sdetermination that the country should build a strong independent base in science and technology, India has been able to build up a capacity in a wide range of areas of modern technology, from software engineering to health biotechnology. And this has placed it in a strong position to engage in the global knowledge economy, rather than remaining on the margins” (Emphasis mine).
The above long quote encapsulates what I think should be the thrust of our national development efforts. I do not see Ghana, presently, being in a strong position to engage in the global knowledge economy and I wonder whether we are anywhere near the margins. Ghana is simply not in the picture.
Indigenous inventors – a frustrated pack
Like the voice of one that cry in the wilderness ……. . Ghanaian inventors have been begging us as a nation-state to listen to their lonely shrill cries and we have always treated them with derision or, directed to them, the attention a kid gets when she makes a craft; nothing serious just an intelligent and precocious kid.
That Onua Amoah was frustrated for lack of serious attention for his biogas project is not privileged information. He was born into his own at a time his own was not ready for him, may his soul rest in perfect peace. Barima be ye bi.
The late Onua Amoah was not alone in his predicament; there are several others among them Apostle Dr. Kwadwo Safo, in my view the most notable of them; the extent to which he has gone to publicise his inventions (I use inventions in defiance of a certain notion making the rounds that they are not such).
Apostle Safo has been very bold, about his claim to these inventions we see on TV every weekend, and has taken for example the vehicles to the Vehicle Examination and Driver Licensing Department (VELD) to be examined.
I do not know what happened afterwards, but I have personally seen this vehicle in question, the Kantanka 4×4, moving swiftly on one of our nation’s highways. Americans say if it moves like duck, stands like a duck, feeds like a duck ……then it is a duck.
The Kantanka 4×4 runs as swift as any other four-wheel-drive; indeed it looks like most four-wheel-drives and looks equally as strong or even more rugged. So what is it? It is a four-wheel-drive rugged vehicle made in Ghana, of course.
And how have we received it? Fit for a circus-like display in annual technology fairs, and on television displays where dignitaries and non-dignitaries alike, go to express their amazement and applaud the great Apostle for his vision and that’s it. Whilst we continue to finance the economy of other countries with hard currency, through importation of vehicles needed to run the affairs of state, totally oblivious, of a clear plan and strategy to wean us of such needless dependence on other countries.
Car – making in Ghana a reality
Bob Marley once sung “…in the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty”.
There is an abundance of evidence available in Ghana today, that car – making here in this country is no more a dream but a reality. Henry Ford was right when he said, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you are right”. Listen to Walt Disney “all our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them”. Yes.
A Ghanaian has demonstrated the ability to manufacture cars right here in Ghana. This should be more than good news for any serious nation bent on using technology to advance its development. Have we the courage as a nation to take charge of this reality and develop it as a vital resource for our technological advancement?
Enough of the circus-like displays; it is about time for serious action. I am talking about state intervention. In a few words I will describe how the state should intervene.
The role of the state
The state should set up a body of experts to critically examine the vehicles manufactured by Apostle Safo. The purpose of these experts’ work, would be to calibrate the vehicle and its components, to see, whether they conform to acceptable standards. When this is done, shortfalls that would be identified would then be made known to the manufacturer to work on them, till the vehicles meet every acceptable standard.
When this stage is completed, we will have a vehicle that is durable and reliable. The next stage would be to form a business development team, together with the manufacturer, to assess the requirements in terms of capital, technical improvements, human resource, materials and raw materials supply with the sole aim of putting up a manufacturing plant.
Any shortfall of capital required must be supplied by the state as equity in the business. Say we start with a plant capacity of 50 cars a month. Government would have no reason procuring cars from outside, once we have perfected our own car manufacturing ability and would be producing cars.
The government of Ghana would then be the key consumer of cars churned out of the established plant; four-wheel drives for MMDAs, DMHIS, police patrol and the military; buses for workplaces and schools.
We stand to gain a whole lot from ensuring the sustenance of this dream-become-a-reality. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a footstep. John C. Maxwell has said “ You are only an attitude away from success”.
It is said, a pessimist is a person who, regardless of the present, is disappointed in the future. As Ghanaians we need not be in this category of Homo sapiens. Let these words of Dale Carnegie shine the light of optimism in our hearts – the successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.
Allow me to paraphrase Karl Marx’s conclusion in the Communist Manifesto, we have our chains (of underdeveloped status) to loose and the whole world (and its knowledge economy) to gain.
God bless our nation Ghana.