In its quest to industrialise, Ghana must first lay a solid foundation in agriculture, not only to be able to produce enough food and raw materials, but to free up extra labour to support its industrialisation programme, Prof. Emmanuel Akyeampong of the Harvard University Center for African Studies has said.
In the same vein, he argued whilst delivering an Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lecture at the University of Ghana, leapfrogging manufacturing and concentrating too much on the services sector is dangerous.
No country, he said, has done that successfully, especially since the consumption and use of the products of manufacturing are not going to go down.
Anything far from an efficient agriculture sector, where fewer hands produce to feed the population and for export, he warned, could have dire consequences for Ghana’s industrial dreams.
“William Arthur Lewis, as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s first chief economist, noted that when you go into industry, it is often because agriculture has developed to the point that it can do two things. First, it has become efficient to the point that fewer people are producing more, like the US.
It should be efficient to the point where it can provide food and raw materials to industry. At this point, it can also release labour which is extra to go into industry.
The second thing is that when agriculture is prosperous, it means people have money in their pockets. So, they constitute the first viable market for the products of manufacturing.
Once you can feed yourself, and you can produce enough, then, industrialisation can follow. This is because the first line of industries is often agribusiness, adding value to agricultural produce,” he said.
Prof. Akyeampong, who is a professor of African and African American studies, Openheimer Faculty Director, Harvard University Center for African Studies, said the fact that 40 to 60 percent of unfarmed arable land in the world is in Africa, yet the continent cannot feed its population, means all is not right.
“We sit on this land that people are looking for; we have all the mineral resources but we are still dependent on food import and food aid to feed ourselves.”
Speaking on the topic, ‘Nkrumah, cocoa and the United States: the vision of an industrial nation-state’, he said: “We seem not only to have declined in our agriculture, but we have skipped manufacturing to go into services like telecommunications and the rest. No country has developed by skipping manufacturing.
Though I have issues with President Donald Trump, I find sense in some of the things he is doing. When Britain became an industrial power, it was based on steel, coal, and building ships. Trump, now, is pointing out that steel and aluminum are the basis of American manufacturing.
This means that we also need to go back to the basics and the basics means that we cannot feed ourselves. So, why should we skip agriculture and manufacturing and leapfrog to other things?” he asked.
Going forward, Prof. Akyeampong said it was high time the country adopted two models of development from China.
The first, he explained, relates to creation of special economic zones around the country, where government would provide world class infrastructure at certain areas. These areas would then be used to drive production and then to lift other areas around them.
The other, he said, is agriculture demonstration centres to help farmers with issues relating to how to use fertilizer, soil nutrition, mechanisation, and irrigation, among others.
The Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lecture series was instituted in 1957 to commemorate the contribution made by three persons: James Kwegyire Aggrey, Alexander G. Fraser and Gordon Guggisberg, memorialised to the founding of Achimota School, and more generally to the advancement of education and particularly higher education in Ghana.