FEATURES Ghana's power crisis; seeing industrial focus as a solution

After Nkrumah’s overthrow, successive governments forgot entirely about the industrialization drive, as a result of which Ghanaian businesses focused only on buying and selling,  - and that is how we find ourselves in our current situation as a nation.

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It is an obvious fact that industrialization accelerates the pace of development of a nation. This is because it has the ability to transform the national economy in a manner that would positively affect growth and social advancement.

Among other things, industrialization helps a nation to reduce its dependence on importation of foreign products and increase its exports, thereby bringing in the much-needed foreign exchange. Industrialisation also helps create employment and revenue generation; but even as one begins to get dazed by all these benefits, one must also consider getting answers to the crucial question of sustainable power supply that would support the industrialisation process.

It is clear that no meaningful industry can thrive without a dependable source of electricity to drive production. It was this wisdom that motivated Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to push for the building of the Akosombo Dam about 50 years ago. With Akosombo in mind he established over 200 import substitution industries in Ghana to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign products. The vision was to branch into heavy manufacturing industry eventually, until his overthrow in 1966.

Thereafter, the nation has seen an industrial nose dive that has persisted until now. The point is any government that has industrial expansion as its cardinal objective must first think of power generation. The trend since 1966 has been a complete dependence on Akosombo Dam without any effort to put up other power generation plants. The result being that today, much like other dispensations, Ghana is saddled with the problem of having to shed load constantly for more than two years!

This is a clear indication that as a people we are not driven by the quest to industrialize. What has been seen with successive governments is that they go for what experts refer to as the market economy. But this type of economy is subsidiary to the industrial economy. History has it that Europe started to develop during the industrial revolution (16th and 17th centuries) when most of the inventions of the world came about.

During that period almost every corner of the villages and towns had cottage industries producing textiles, plastics, cast iron, steel, refining gold, etc., and to allude to George Elliot in his book Silas Marner, the church at Lantern Yard in England was transformed into a factory. The reverse is what is happening in Ghana today. Come to Tema as well as other industrial areas in Accra and one would see warehouses and factories being converted into churches.

The outcome of the industrial revolution in Europe was that there was excess of manufactured goods such that there was the need to look for more markets across the world. That was how come the ‘whiteman’ started looking for other lands to dump his goods and also buy raw materials to feed the numerous industries at home.

After Nkrumah’s overthrow, successive governments forgot entirely about the industrialization drive, as a result of which Ghanaian businesses focused only on buying and selling,  - and that is how we find ourselves in our current situation as a nation. Pressure is exerted on the few industries in operation to employ the ever-increasing numbers of job seekers. Meanwhile, the country has to import almost everything, from airplanes to tooth picks.

It is sad, therefore, that as we sing ‘buy made in Ghana goods’ today, we only mean textiles, sandals, plastic plates, etc. We can’t talk about cars, television sets, etc., because we are not in a position to produce those ones.

If we are to develop we must wake up as a nation and begin to think industry and then we would get the drive to solve our energy problems. Then we would be taught the simple lesson that heavy car, airplane, ship manufacturing industries cannot depend on a unreliable power source like hydro which is heavily dependent on weather conditions. If we want to industrialize, we would be looking at the prospects of nuclear and solar energies.

An interaction with Mark Safo, a Nuclear Scientist at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission revealed that atomic energy is perhaps one of the cleanest and most enduring means of power generation. This is because a country that produces nuclear fuel comes back for the waste it generates. Again, nuclear does not use carbon based fuel that are injurious to the environment, so it doesn’t contribute to global warming. As the scientist observed, once a nuclear plant has been established it can work consistently for between 30 to 50 years without interruption.

According to him, Ghana has satisfied all protocols to the establishment of a nuclear facility including citing, training and security assurance. “Perhaps what is keeping us back is the fear of the unknown, but why should we fear since nuclear energy is already in use by other nations?”

But perhaps the side of the energy issue that baffles many the most is that of solar energy. It is baffling because even countries in the cold temperate zones of the world are harnessing the enormous resource the sun provides, whereas well-endowed tropical nations like Ghana are not. The experts even say that apart from the direct light from the sun that can be converted into electric power, the heat of the sun could be concentrated to provide the needed temperature for thermal power generation, and we know how much we waste this heat daily in Ghana as the sun rises, scorches us and then goes back to its abode.

Why then are we silent on the issue of solar if we are not comfortable with nuclear energy? Considering the nation’s current economy which is saddled with low revenue generation and unemployment, it is about time our governments begin to consider industrialization as the only means of transforming the economy.

Kudos to the Mahama Administration for securing the power barge which is finally on Ghanaian soil, but even as it comes to help address the short-term challenges of ‘dumsor’, we should cast our eyes far beyond to ensure that when the power barge eventually outlives its usefulness (which would certainly happen with the present growth rate of the country’s population and a corresponding increase in the demand for energy), there would be a more dependable and sustainable source of power that would drive socio-economic development.

This piece was written by Alexander Nyarko Yeboah for Ghana News Agency

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