The ‘gold for oil’ discourse


“We bled Africa for four centuries; we looted their raw materials, then we told them lies that the African is good for nothing. In the name of religion, we destroyed their culture; we became rich at their expense. We now steal their brains through education and propaganda to prevent them from demanding retribution against us” – Ex-President Jacques Chirac of France

The Ghana government has mooted an innovative idea to start swapping gold for oil. Perhaps government’s response is an attempt to reduce demand for dollars to import oil and ease pressure off the national currency, the cedi. The decision to use commodities as a medium of exchange is in response to the global economic meltdown that is having an excruciating impact on Ghana’s economy, especially the cedi’s rapid depreciation and spiralling inflation.

Already, Russia – one of the largest producers of gas and oil in the world – has stopped accepting the United States dollar for its commodities. Ghana is one of the leading producers of gold and cocoa in the world, but reaps little profit from raw sale of the commodities due to the two commodities being controlled by western countries. Perhaps more commodity producing-countries need to consider swapping their commodities for foreign imports as a means of reducing the pressure on their currencies. If actualised, the policy will insulate the cedi against increasing dollar-demand for foreign imports. Also, this innovative idea will beat down the cost of oil and its effects on the Ghanaian economy, especially on the transportation of food.

Western media

Quite expectedly, the western media (Reuters and BBC etc.) and some of Ghana’s have put a spin on the Ghana government’s plans to swap gold for money, describing the move as an attempt by Ghana to stop using the dollar for international trade. To all intents and purposes, this western media interpretation is designed to cause a diplomatic spat between the Ghana government and government of the United States of America.

The stance of the western press is part of the neoliberal agenda to demonise African governments trying to wean themselves from western domination. In fact, the western media constitute one of the strongest neoliberal tools western governments continue to use for casting Africa in a bad light and keeping its people down under the water. In their book ‘The global media’, Edward S. Herman and Robert W. McChesney describe western media as the “New missionaries of corporate capitalism”.

Ghana’s Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia who broke the topic on social media, has been explaining the rationale of the gold for oil deal.  According to the Vice President, the intention is not to stop using the dollar for international trade as the western media are projecting, but more to ease the pressure on oil imports – which constitute Ghana’s biggest import bill. So, what would government be doing wrong if it decides to swap gold for oil? As a sovereign country, shouldn’t we have any right to make sovereign decisions in the interest of the future? Because the American economy is the largest in the world and the whole world depends on the dollar for international trade, they printed trillions of dollars as part of COVID-recovery without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Oil imports

According to figures from the Ministry of Finance, currently Ghana uses US$400million a month to import oil – twice the amount of a year ago. Cumulatively Ghana spent an estimated US$3billion on oil imports over the last two years. This huge import bill, mostly in dollars, is the cause of a drastic drop in the country’s import cover – as government has dug into the foreign reserves for dollars to import oil. Therefore, it makes sense that a government under such economic pressure would think outside the box to basically restore confidence in the economy through cutting inflation.

How will the gold for oil deal work out? I have gathered that government has agreed with major gold producers to sell 20 percent of their gold to the Bank of Ghana. The Bank of Ghana buys the gold in cedis and holds them as a store of value. Globally, even non-gold producing countries use gold as a store of value… so why not Ghana. So, beginning 2023 Ghana’s government will search for oil producers and marketers who wish to take gold for oil. If this works, it will reduce the U$400million monthly oil imports, hence there will be no need to be chasing dollars for oil imports. In all honesty, what’s wrong with such a move? Unfortunately, apart from the spin put on the idea by the western media, some opposition elements are hoping that this policy will fail at birth.

Africa’s resources

Ordinarily, the challenges arising from global economic conditions should not be biting Africa as they are now, given the huge amount of natural resources the continent is endowed with. Africa is home to 60 percent of global arable lands, 90 percent of all raw material reserves, 40 percent of gold reserves, 33 percent of diamond, 95 percent of world uranium deposits, and has the largest bauxite reserves in the world besides huge manganese, crude oil and iron deposits – yet the continent is described in derogatory terms as the world’s poverty-capital.

Ex-President Jacques Chirac of France is quoted as confessing: “We bled Africa for four centuries; we looted their raw materials, then we told them lies that the African is good for nothing. In the name of religion, we destroyed their culture, we became rich at their expense. We now steal their brains through education and propaganda to prevent them from demanding retribution against us”.

Truly, for over four centuries Africa has never been in control of its huge resources. A study in 2016 by War on Want – an international NGO – revealed that a total of 101 British companies control US$305billion worth of platinum reserves in Africa, US$276billion worth of oil and US$216billion worth of coal, all at 2016 market value. In addition, these British companies own mining and mineral licences in 39 African countries and control vast swathes of Africa’s land four times the size of the United Kingdom.

Besides, the study revealed that Africa subsidises the rest of the world by US$32billion annually. A 2017 study by Global Justice Network estimates that US$161.6billion came to Africa in the form of aid and loans while US$202billion left the continent in the form of interest payments on loans in the same year. For example, in 2017 Africa received US$19.7billion in aid and paid US$18billion in debt repayment – a clear case of giving with the left hand and taking back with the right hand. In short, Africa’s biggest headache is the debt burden as most countries, including Ghana, have borrowed between 25 to 75 percent of their gross domestic product but with little or nothing to show.

The global economic and financial system is designed to ensure that Africa never rises from the ashes of the slave trade and colonialism. What else can explain why amid the global difficulties western rating agencies only chose to downgrade African economies – though some European economies are worse-off? The obvious intention is to compel African economies to borrow at high interest rates, which will further worsen their debt condition and keep them underwater forever.

As if that was not enough, while diaspora remittances to Africa is estimated at $32billion annually, multinational companies siphon US$32.2billion in profits each year out of Africa. Also, an estimated US$29billion is stolen out of Africa through tax holidays, illegal logging and mining. How can any can continent develop with such gory statistics which are obviously in the interest of western countries?


An analysis of current global trends calls for a new African leadership that will try to control our resources and make us benefit from what nature has endowed us with. I think this is exactly what President Akufo-Addo’s government is trying to do with the ‘gold for oil swap’. Government should however be mindful that this initiative might not yield the needed results easily. I can foresee the western countries suddenly devaluing the price of gold and cocoa just to tame Ghana. Nevertheless, African leaders need to cultivate a new sense of patriotism.

At this critical stage of transition, Africa needs selfless and dedicated leaders to pursue the course of economic emancipation – not selfish and clueless leaders. It is our collective responsibility to protect and defend Africa. We need to do this through liberating our minds by refusing to play second-fiddle to any race. In the past, slavery destroyed our dignity; religion divided us; ignorance is controlling us… and truth scares us. With these retrogressive forces working against us, Africa will remain a dark continent to the delight of the west. Remember, whoever controls Africa controls the world – and that is why major economic blocs have launched initiatives to improve and stratify economic ties with Africa.

Responding to the news of his overthrow, Kwame Nkrumah was reported as saying: “It is only Ghanaians and Africans who can genuinely develop our continent. We can produce what we need, instead of going cup in hand begging for handouts from those whose only wish is to exploit us or make us secondary to their interests. We must cultivate a sense of national dignity. We need a new phase of African revolution for economic emancipation of the continent after political independence”.  Undoubtedly, Kwame Nkrumah’s words and vision are even more relevant today than in 1966 when he pronounced them. Are our leaders ready to fight for Africa’s economic emancipation?


Davidson, IN. 2022. Know your Africa. A video on the manipulation of Africa.

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