The stooges for neocolonialism are alive and well in Ghana – and still as powerful as ever. The lackeys of Western capitalism are hard at work, making sure that the political party that made a number of promises to Ghanaians, including one it made directly to those who opposed the Vodafone takeover of Ghana Telecom (GT), and got their votes on the strength of that specific promise, gets as many excuses as it can possibly assemble, to enable it get away with not fulfilling that particular election promise. What are discerning, independent-minded, and nationalistic Ghanaians to make of the rather curious argument being made in certain quarters, that reversing the takeover of GT by Vodafone will hurt Ghana – because it will make it a less attractive place for foreign investors? Have those who make that illogical and self-serving argument stopped to ask themselves, for example, whether or not the fact that the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime eventually succeeded in getting rid of Malaysia Telecom, ever stopped Malaysians or other foreign nationals from continuing to show an interest in investing in our economy?
Did even the many partial-nationalizations and full-scale nationalizations of private foreign companies, undertaken by the Acheampong military regime in the 1970’s, as result of its policy of seizing the commanding heights of the Ghanaian economy for Ghanaian citizens; ever stop foreign investors from eyeing Ghana as an investment destination? What is it about Ghana’s educated urban elite that makes them lack self-belief to the extent that they more or less despise their own kind but bend over backwards to help foreigners, particularly non-African and lighter-hued foreigners? Do those who say that foreign investors will lose confidence in Ghana if the Vodafone/GT deal is cancelled not understand that ultimately we must do what the Japanese and the South Koreans did to lift their countries out of poverty after the Second World War – and concentrate on empowering Ghanaian entrepreneurs to help us lift our country out of poverty? The Vodafones of this world do not come here to help us build our nation – they only come to our country in order to exploit us and pile up as much profit as they possibly can for their overseas shareholders.
Since Vodafone was happy to give a secret stake in the privatization of the state-owned telecom company in Kenya, to some powerful individuals amongst Kenya’s corrupt ruling elite, can it not be argued that that makes it a company that is not only willing to condone illegalities, but also take part in unlawful actions if need be, in order to gain access to markets in Africa? Would that perhaps be the reason why those in the previous regime, who are said to have benefited from the Vodafone takeover of GT, ensured that a law indemnifying all those who struck that deal from prosecution (if any illegal actions arising from that one-sided transaction ever came to light eventually), was hurriedly passed by parliament? Just how does something that so clearly flies in the face of the constitutional edict that enjoins all Ghanaians to fight corruption, help in the fight against corruption in our country, and the rest of Africa, I ask, dear reader? Is corruption not a cancer we must all fight if this continent is ever to grow and prosper and see an end to endemic poverty – so why do some want Ghanaians to fold their arms and do nothing to right an egregious wrong, done their country in an opaque privatization deal, which amounted to a massive rip-off of a poor developing nation, by a predatory multinational company aided and abetted by powerful local self-seekers amongst Ghana’s ruling elite?
At a time when corporate governance issues have assumed such importance in the Western capitalist nations, where much of the present economic crises facing those countries have been blamed on the unethical actions of greedy corporate executives, what makes those who think that taking Vodafone to task, because of the discovery of any unethical practices they might have engaged in during the takeover of GT, is going to make foreign investors whose businesses are underpinned by corporate good governance principles, wary of investing in Ghana? On the contrary, ethically-run overseas companies that are committed to the principles of corporate good governance in all aspects of their businesses will only be too glad to operate in an African environment, in which corruption is not tolerated. Perhaps those who make those inane arguments about foreign investors losing confidence in Ghana because we elect to rid ourselves of a company that acted unethically and unlawfully in a privatization deal, really ought to talk to those companies that were also interested in taking over GT, but lost out to Vodafone, because they never had a level playing field in the “bidding process” in a real sense: since vital information that would have affected the final figures they offered for GT, was more or less withheld from them.
Not being told the full extent of the total assets of GT that the government was going to make available to the winning “bidder” in the privatization of GT, was a material fact that amounted to their being deliberately misled by those who stood to benefit from a Vodafone takeover of GT. Consequently, it will surprise Ghana’s stooges for neocolonialism to discover that far from alarming those companies that competed with Vodafone to buy GT, but lost out to that company because crucial information was withheld from them, the cancellation of the Vodafone takeover of GT will rather be hailed by them, and elicit fulsome praise for the government from all those companies – who instead of vowing never to invest in Ghana because Vodafone had been given its just deserts, will commend the Mills administration for being bold and principled enough to correct an injustice done our country by those who allowed Vodafone to buy GT for a song. That is why cancelling the Vodafone takeover of GT, if any illegalities or unethical actions are unearthed by the probe into the deal, will never make genuine and principled foreign investors lose confidence in Ghana as an investment destination.
The existence of widespread corruption in the continent is what puts off genuine and serious foreign investors and makes them decide against investing in Africa – because they know that they can never get justice in the law courts of such nations. We will only be seen to be applying the rule of law in dealing with any infractions of our laws by Vodafone in the takeover of GT – if the outcome of the probe into the takeover deal results in our bringing them to book. That can hardly be a situation over which genuine and serious foreign investors whose businesses are underpinned by corporate good governance principles will lose any sleep over – if they are minded to invest in Ghana. Let the Mills administration keep its promise to those who voted for them because they were opposed to the takeover of GT by Vodafone and decided to vote for the party that said it would take a second look at the takeover deal to see if there were any irregularities in the GT privatization upon their assumption of office. If we are serious about fighting corruption, no foreign investor, including Vodafone, must ever be rewarded for breaking our laws by engaging in corrupt practices.
At the barest minimum, Vodafone must, amongst other things, agree to assume those debts of GT that Ghana was unfairly burdened with by Vodafone, because it made that a condition for the purchase of its 70 per cent stake – and it must also pay our country the true value of GT: which even little primary school children in Ghana are aware, is a figure not less than some US$5 billions. Perhaps a practical solution to this most outrageous of injustices will be to simply change the existing shareholding structure of the company. For most discerning, independent-minded, and nationalistic Ghanaians, even a 70/30 share allocation in favour of Ghana would be acceptable – on condition that Vodafone agrees to sell their share back to Ghana and accepts a collateralized future receipts arrangement (contingent upon the company’s profits) in lieu of cash upfront as payment if it ever wants to offload its shares in the company in future. On that basis, there is no reason why the day to day management of the company should not continue to remain in the experienced and efficient hands of Vodafone (which can still keep the Vodafone brand-name as the restructured company can be known as Vodafone Ghana Telecom as a goodwill gesture on Ghana’s part). Speaking as a follower of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (of blessed memory), that is an outcome one feels will be acceptable to most patriotic Ghanaians who opposed the takeover of GT by Vodafone on national interest grounds – short of the government booting Vodafone out of Ghana for any unethical and unlawful actions it engaged in during the takeover. That is a practicable and sensible outcome that can be described as an equitable solution, which ought to settle accounts fairly to the mutual benefit of Vodafone and the Ghanaian nation-state. The Mills administration must not listen to those negative and self-seeking types who do not understand that as an investment destination, Ghana is without compare in Africa – whether or not it boots out unethical foreign investors who shortchange it in privatization deals. A word to the wise…