The security and progress of any nation will depend largely on how many businesses are in the hands of the indigenes, and how they are faring. This is ideally true, because, in reality, expatriate-owned businesses will transfer most profits to their countries, while the indigenous ones will retain theirs at home.
In Ghana, local businesses face tough challenges due to two major factors, uneven playing field with the foreign ones, and a sheer matter of greed.
In the 90s, a young Ghanaian businessman, Nana Yaw Oduro, started a chain-retail shop in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi called A-Life Supermarket. Soon his shop was a household name and everyone was flocking to A-Life. His goods were far cheaper than his competitors, and petty traders would buy in bulk to retail.
While the shop seemed to be doing well, its bankers were not operating its accounts according to strict banking regulations, causing excessive capital flight between about three of the banks in the country – Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB), Bank for Housing and Construction (BHC) and Ghana Co-op Bank. Due to liabilities exceeding assets in BHC and Ghana Co-op Bank, businesses were brought to a halt, and these two indigenous banks went into liquidation. The two banks had been weighed down heavily by the A-Life Supermarket scandal, in which the owner fleeced several banks of some ¢120 billion (GH¢120,000 or over GH¢2.9 billion, today).
So, on January 17, 2000, Ghana lost three indigenous business bodies, two banks and a top notched retail chain shop, and the first female Managing Director of GCB lost her job. The problem was more on greed and corruption than on mismanagement. While Ghanaians were envisaging A-Life shops in all regional capitals and big towns, where they could buy good quality goods at very affordable prices, some few greedy and corrupt ones were plotting its collapse and permanent shut-down.
Today, Ghana has no indigenous retailing complex worth its salt to boast and brag to the world about. The Palaces, Shoprites, Games, Koalas, Max Marts, and the likes are, largely, under foreign control, and they dictate what we buy, even if it is fungi-infested fruit, near expired products, and rude services with racist tendencies.
As one is wondering when a Ghanaian-owned company will grow to become a giant multinational in the same category of the Chase Manhattans, the Stancharts, the Shoprites, the MTNs and others, it seems more had to be uprooted, even at their sprouting stage.
So it became, as seven indigenous banks went into official liquidation very recently, because their liabilities far exceeded their assets.
The underling factors in most cases were greed, corruption and complete violation of banking practices, taken from what Bank of Ghana official sources disclosed.
Unless the affected banks have a good side to the story which will exonerate them from all forms of guilt, it is very unimaginable to comprehend how, in one case, depositors’ monies could be misappropriated by the shareholders, who always benefit annually from the profits made by the banks. And, in another, shareholders contracted huge amount of loans, but paid no interest. Has greed reached this level?
And, again, after the taxpayers’ money was used by Bank of Ghana to assist such self-induced distressed banks to be up on their feet and provide good services for their customers, these shareholders were not done yet. They went ahead and shared the GH¢610 million among themselves, with one even using his loot to open another bank. Has corruption reached this far?
What is equally unbelievable is that none of these persons are known partisan politicians. Today, in this day and age, every form of corruption is traced to the bedroom of the politician. And so, to unearth an eerie and horrendous corrupt act, led by a self-accomplished man of God who is gradually sinking into the level of perfidy in his relationship to the very Word of God, is just shocking.
For Pastor Dr. Mensah Otabil to be alleged to be the mastermind of this act of stealing from the poor to enrich the rich, who, instead of feeding the multitude, has turned them rather to feed him, is a big blow to the moral principles of Christianity. We know there must be an explanation, and we will love to hear his side of the story.
Anything else, then all his motivational speeches about how to lead upright and moral lives in order to achieve successes and help this country grow into a second world nation, were allegedly a means to hoodwink the vulnerable Ghanaian in order to steal, and steal big time from them on their blind side.
This is what greed and corruption have done and/or contributed to always stillbirth the success of our local businesses, meanwhile, almost every aspect of businesses in Ghana are partly or fully in the hands of foreigners, with some deep-rooted in sectors originally and legally reserved for Ghanaians.
And instead of getting in the strong mood of contemplation and find out how to prevent any more falls of home-based businesses, we mock the unfortunate ones, as if we are content that Ghana can do well without big, strong and powerful indigenous companies. Maybe we love to second class citizens in our own country.
Hon. Daniel Dugan