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THE twelve years since the war have brought a staggering change in the tempo of African development. Vast new economic resources have been opened up, export incomes have soared. The whole area has been spanned with new links and communications; where else, I wonder, has the airplane drawn together so much that formerly was isolated? Education has advanced, new African universities have been founded. Above all, political ideas are on the march. In 1939, apart from the special case of the Union of South Africa, only one African state—Liberia —was completely independent. Today eight are independent, while many others stand on the threshold. And everywhere men and women are beginning to search consciously for political means to solve their problems and advance their hopes.
This is a general situation which I feel we in Ghana can, without presumption, help to interpret. As a country we have shared intimately in all the major developments of postwar Africa. New prosperity has flowed into Ghana due to high postwar commodity prices. In Ghana, too, this wealth has been used for sustained development and, with special emphasis, for education. Ghana is the site of one of Africa’s great new universities. And Ghana has been a spearhead of African political advance. The agitation for full self-government goes back many decades in our history; but the last decisive phase of the struggle opened as late as 1948. After that, it took only a little more than eight years to bring Ghana to complete independence.
Our sense of sharing in the profound, creative movements of change in Africa has been enhanced by our experiences at the recent meeting of independent African states held in Accra—the first such conference ever to be convened on African soil. I had the honor to preside at this meeting of statesmen from Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Republic, and after it I visited each of the capitals of the participating Powers in order to consolidate my impressions of our common problems and purposes. Thus it is on the basis both of Ghana’s own development and of my own very recent contacts outside Ghana that I feel I can advance a genuine interpretation of some aspects of what we called at our conference the “African personality,” and also of the African approach to world problems.
There are, above all, three traits that should be stressed. In a continent of the scale and diversity of Africa, it is only natural that there should be divergences and differences and varying points of emphasis. But these three points I believe to be common to all emergent Africa and they must decisively affect its relations with the rest of the world.
The first is our desire to see Africa free and independent. The second is our determination to pursue foreign policies based upon non-alignment. The third is our urgent need for economic development. There is no area in Africa today where these three points are not on the agenda of politics.
There is no need to underline for American readers the reason for Africa’s rejection of colonial status. We believe, as do Americans, that to be self-governing is one of the inalienable rights of man. In Africa, if peoples are to be truly independent, their governments must reflect the fact that in all parts of the continent the overwhelming majority of the population are native-born Africans. Even in countries of considerable European settlement, such as Southern Rhodesia, nine-tenths of the people are African. When, therefore, at our recent conference, we called for an end to colonialism, we were doing no more than stating our belief that the fact of a vast African majority should be accepted as the basis of government in Africa.
It is important to underline this point of majority rights. We are often accused of black nationalism, of racialism in reverse. I think I can honestly speak for my own government when I say that we are more concerned with a fundamental human right than with any particular color of skin. Of course, we feel a special sympathy with those who are kin to us in race. But equally we have special relations with other African states, such as Tunisia, which are not bound to us by any racial ties. And we feel ourselves part of a general human community in which man as such, not his pigmentation, is the decisive fact.
We can claim, I think, that in Ghana there is ease and naturalness of contact and genuine mutual respect between people of different races. It is not a forced thing. Visitors coming from other parts of Africa have been impressed by the atmosphere they find of good will and confidence. We certainly do not intend to project into our foreign policy a racialism we do not practise at home. But we cannot accept racialism in reverse and reconcile ourselves to the prolonged rule in Africa of minute minorities of alien stock.
Now I am not unmindful of the difficulties. As I see them, they are twofold. There is the general problem that in this century groups drawn from a different race, speech, color or religion find it very difficult to settle down and form a community. The deep division of religion which tore India apart and the recurrent disturbances between Tamil and Sinhalese in Ceylon remind us that the difficulty is certainly not confined to black and white groups in Africa. Since minorities tend to fear majority rule, safeguards and guarantees are needed in Africa just as they are in Asia or elsewhere. These safeguards should be part of the country’s constitution, or created by legislation.
The second difficulty lies in the fact that in such areas as Kenya or the Rhodesias the European minority still has something of a monopoly of education, skill and resources, and European activity sustains to a very great degree the whole economic life of the community. Disrupt it and everyone suffers.
For these reasons we at our African conference proposed a phased political transfer of power. We asked for the fixing of definite dates for early independence and called upon the administering Powers to take rapid steps to implement the provisions of the United Nations Charter and the political aspirations of the people, namely, self-determination and independence. These steps should, in my view, include a greatly accelerated and enlarged program of education and technical training, the opening up systematically of new opportunities for Africans in agriculture and industry and a rapid growth of African participation in the country’s political life. They would restore what we believe is most lacking in Africa’s plural societies—and that is the element of confidence and hope on the part of the African majority.
How can Africans believe in talk of partnership if they see so little evidence of the efforts in education and development which are needed to make them effective and responsible partners? They suspect that the talk is double talk, a device to keep them quiet while the rule of the minority is endlessly prolonged. No independent African government can accept this situation. Our conference called in fact for reasonable evidence that the metropolitan Powers genuinely intend to make progress in Africa. Take away that evidence and it may well be impossible to achieve Africa’s aspirations in the atmosphere of good will and order which have so happily pervaded the process of gaining independence in Ghana.
Does this determination of ours place us in opposition to the West? It is, after all, the old colonial Powers of Western Europe that still exercise control in Africa and it is migrants from Western Europe who make up Africa’s dominant European minorities. Perhaps after Africa’s concentrated experience of total colonial control you might expect the pendulum to swing back towards a total rejection of the colonial Powers and all their works. Statements have been made in Europe and America that “the whole African continent will be lost to freedom.” It is, therefore, important to clear up some of these misunderstandings which give a totally false picture of the mood of emergent Africa. At this point, inevitably, we come to the question of what is really meant by Africa’s claim to base its foreign policy upon the principle of “nonalignment.”
First of all, non-alignment can be understood only in the context of the present atomic arms race and the atmosphere of the cold war. When we in Africa survey the industrial and military power concentrated behind the two great Powers in the cold war we know that no military or strategic act of ours could make one jot of difference to this balance of power, while our involvement might draw us into areas of conflict which so far have not spread below the Sahara. Our attitude, I imagine, is very much that of America looking at the disputes of Europe in the nineteenth century. We do not wish to be involved. In addition, we know we cannot affect the outcome. Above all, we believe the peace of the world in general is served, not harmed, by keeping one great continent free from the strife and rivalry of military blocs and cold wars.
But this attitude of non-alignment does not imply indifference to the great issues of our day. It does not imply isolationism. It is in no way anti-Western; nor is it anti-Eastern. The greatest issue of our day is surely to see that there is a tomorrow. For Africans especially there is a particular tragedy in the risk of thermonuclear destruction. Our continent has come but lately to the threshold of the modern world. The opportunities for health and education and a wider vision which other nations take for granted are barely within the reach of our people. And now they see the risk that all this richness of opportunity may be snatched away by destructive war. In any war, the strategic areas of the world would be destroyed or occupied by some great Power. It is simply a question of who gets there first; the Suez Canal, Afghanistan and the Gulf of Aqaba are examples.
On this great issue of war and peace, therefore, the people and government of Ghana put all their weight behind the peaceful settlement of disputes and seek conditions in which disputes do not become embittered to the point of violence. We are willing to accept every provision of the United Nations Charter. We go further and favor every extension of an international police force as an alternative to war. One of the most important roles of the smaller nations today is surely to use their influence in season and out of season to substitute the peaceful settlement of disputes and international policing of disturbed areas for the present disastrous dependence upon arms and force. For this reason, at our African conference we underlined our demands for controlled disarmament, we deplored the use of the sale of arms as a means of influencing other nations’ diplomacy and we urged that African states should be represented on all international bodies concerned with disarmament.
Thus it is not indifference that leads us to a policy of nonalignment. It is our belief that international blocs and rivalries exacerbate and do not solve disputes and that we must be free to judge issues on their merits and to look for solutions that are just and peaceful, irrespective of the Powers involved. We do not wish to be in the position of condoning imperialism or aggression from any quarter. Powers which pursue policies of good will, coöperation and constructive international action will always find us at their side. In fact, perhaps “non-alignment” is a misstatement of our attitude. We are firmly aligned with all the forces in the world that genuinely make for peace.
This is not empty rhetoric, as two concrete examples can help to illustrate—one in the field of policy, another in our international relationships. When the coup d’état in Iraq suddenly heightened the sense of crisis throughout the Middle East and led to the dispatch of American troops to Lebanon, my government at once issued a statement of policy which said that all attempts to pass judgment on what had happened would simply heighten tension and that the task now was to secure a workable solution for the future. This, we suggested, would be based on three principles: the substitution of a United Nations force for the American troops, the holding of free elections in Lebanon under United Nations supervision and the subsequent establishment of Lebanon as a free and independent state with a status of neutrality internationally guaranteed on the analogy of Austria. Subsequently I went further and proposed that the entire Middle Eastern area should be quarantined, that the sovereignty of every state should be guaranteed by the great Powers and that the oil resources of the region should be brought under international arrangements similar to those now operating successfully at Abadan.
My second illustration concerns Ghana’s continued association with the Commonwealth. Some Americans have expressed surprise that Ghana, after emerging from colonial status, should choose of its own free will to remain within the Commonwealth and thus—amongst others—in partnership with the United Kingdom, which the day before yesterday was still our colonial overlord. But we believe that the evolving form of the Commonwealth is an institution which can work for peace and international coöperation. It is the only organic world-wide association of peoples in which race, religion, nationality and culture are all transcended by a common sense of fellowship. No policies are imposed on it from above. It does not even seek unity of policy. But it provides a unique forum in which men of different culture and different approach can sit down together and see what can be done to lessen tensions and to increase the economic and social well-being of themselves and their neighbors. This is not a bloc. It is not a power grouping. It is a club or family of friends who see their continuing friendship as a strand of peace in a troubled world. It is because the Commonwealth is this kind of association that Ghana was happy to become its first independent African member, on the basis of free association and unfettered sovereignty.
But, as a result of the old colonial link, many of our ties are with Europe. We welcome them. Links with schools and universities, the mutual benefits of trade, the capital invested in our roads and utilities, the service and help of European men and women in many fields—these contribute a web of common interests which we can freely acknowledge, once we are free ourselves. You cannot cancel 100 years of history, and history has brought Africa and Europe into close community. This historical experience can lead to continued coöperation provided independence and equality are recognized in time. It turns to bitterness and enmity only when foreign rule is maintained. Hope deferred, they say, maketh the heart sick. But where hope is realized, sane and healthy friendship is the result.
And there is yet another reason why friendship between the peoples of Africa and the West could, under certain conditions, be close and lasting. No responsible African leader would make much secret of the extent to which he needs outside economic assistance in the decades to come. One may sometimes wonder if the Western Powers fully understand the dilemma facing political leaders in the emergent lands. They have gained independence for their peoples. The hazards and excitements of the struggle lie behind. Ahead lies the workaday world in which people must live and eat and hope to prosper. Independence of itself does not change this world. It simply creates the right political atmosphere for a real effort of national regeneration. But it does not supply all the economic and social tools. The leaders are now expected, simply as a result of having acquired independence, to work miracles. The people look for the new schools, new towns, new factories. They expect political equality to bring economic equality. They do not realize what it may cost. In this situation, however poor the country, the new government cannot sit and do nothing. Construction must begin. There must be something to show for independence. And if there is nothing to show, popular discontent may split the country apart.
This is the dilemma of recently-won independence. If independence is the first aim, development comes straight on its heels, and no leader—in Asia or Africa—can escape the pressure. We in Ghana can, I think, approach this vital issue of economic development with a measure of objectivity. Ghana, in part by good fortune and in part, I hope, by good management, is not in the dire straits of some other newly-independent lands. There is as yet no extreme pressure of population on our resources. We have been fortunate in that our export crop, cocoa, has commanded a very high world price since the war and has not fluctuated as violently as some other primary products. And we have pursued a policy which, I believe, has enabled us to gain a maximum benefit from the high postwar prices. We have held the internal price fairly stable at a level about eight times that of prewar and the balance over and above that level has been put aside for general economic development. On the one hand, we have avoided internal inflation. On the other, we have been able to set aside some $700,000,000 for development which, in a country of only 5,000,000 people, gives us some elbowroom for the future.
Yet we are short of much that we need for a really rapid economic advance, the kind of advance our people expect and want. We need technicians. We need experts of all kinds. We have hardly enough teachers for our expanded program of education. We need—and welcome—foreign private investment from all countries to help our people to learn the new industrial skills. This fits in with our determination to diversify our economy, to increase agricultural production, and to industrialize. It is perhaps necessary to emphasize that Ghana does not seek direct financial grants; we want investment, both public and private, only in sound projects which can ultimately repay the original investment. Above all, we need to end our dangerous dependence upon a single export crop, cocoa. Yet to do so and to develop our chief alternative—the export of aluminum—we need outside capital and technical assistance to launch our great Volta River scheme. At present this scheme, which would bring into play our large bauxite reserves and our important hydroelectrical potential, is unhappily stalled by the decline in Western economic activity over the last 18 months.
Yet if Ghana with its real measure of stability and prosperity needs this outside support and stimulus, how much more urgent is the need in other less fortunate communities? On my recent tour of African states, the impressions I gathered were again and again of the direst pressure and necessity. I remember with respect the industrial and agricultural efforts being made in some of the countries I visited, but I remember even more vividly the endless crowds of children we encountered wherever we went. I wonder how even the most active and determined leaders can achieve even a measure of economic stability while the inexorable birth rate presses each year more heavily against the limited agricultural resources. It is surely not surprising that such leaders look outside for economic help. They have no alternative. The pressure of population mounts all the time. They must have help or founder. It is as simple as that.
I believe, therefore, that the Western Powers have the opporunity to play a new and vital rôle in Africa. The colonial phase is dead or dying. But a new phase is opening in which the whole of this continent will struggle to achieve the institutions and opportunities of modern life. Leaders are fully aware of how much is lacking. Education is limited in spite of heroic efforts since the war. Since so many areas are only now emerging from a subsistence economy, local capital is often absent. Vital needs in agriculture are not met for lack of basic research or of trained technicians. The endless list is a measure of Africa’s need and the Western Powers’ opportunity.
Nor is the advantage one-sided. Under the impact of postwar prosperity, Ghana’s imports have nearly doubled in little more than five years. A growing African market based upon a steady increase in African productivity is of vital interest to all the great trading Powers of the West and quite especially to Western Europe, which already conducts nearly a quarter of its extra-European trade with the African continent. Although not on so great a scale, American trade and American interests have also steadily increased in Africa since the war. Exports, for instance, have quintupled, and all responsible African leaders wish to extend this trend on the basis of reciprocity and equality. It is the surest guarantee of permanent friendship between Africa and the West.
But Africa’s desperate need is not only the West’s opportunity. There is a risk here as well. As I have said before and must emphasize again, the leaders of the new Africa have no alternative but to look for outside assistance. The hopes and ambitions of their peoples have been planted and brought to maturity by the impact of Western civilization. The West has set the pattern of our hopes, and by entering Africa in strength it has forced the pattern upon us. Now comes our response. We cannot tell our peoples that material benefits and growth and modern progress are not for them. If we do, they will throw us out and seek other leaders who promise more. And they will abandon us, too, if we do not in reasonable measure respond to their hopes. Therefore we have no choice. Africa has no choice. We have to modernize. Either we shall do so with the interest and support of the West or we shall be compelled to turn elsewhere. This is not a warning or a threat, but a straight statement of political reality.
And I also affirm, for myself and I believe for most of my fellow leaders in Africa, that we want close coöperation with our friends. We know you. History has brought us together. We still have the opportunity to built up a future on the basis of free and equal coöperation. This is our aim. This is our hope.