Opinion / 8 October 2017, 09:23am / Victor Kgomoeswana
I am writing this in Accra, a few hours before I have to depart for Abidjan. A one-hour flight from the capital of one country, Ghana, which gained independence in 1957, to another. Based on when they gained their independence, Ghana is 60 years old, while Ivory Coast is 57. Still, as I prepare to board, the words of 60-year-old Nigerian-Swedish dentist Alban Uzoma Nwapa ring in my head: ‘Hello, Afrika - tell me how you are doing!’
In his 1991 hit, the man known better by his musical name, Dr Alban, muses about the state of his motherland.
So, being in this neighbourhood for a few days - including my curious foray into Liberia to witness national elections this coming Tuesday - casts my Afro-optimistic mind wide into the 15-country, 300-million-strong Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
When it gained its independence in March 1957, Dr Kwame Nkrumah declared the organic interdependence of his country’s freedom to that of all the other African states.
Being the eminent visionary that he was, Nkrumah understood that there was no meaning in one African country being independent if the others on the continent were not.
To be precise, his writings on what he labelled neo-colonialism decried our false sense of sovereignty as disparate African countries when we truly are still in the clutches of our colonial masters.
Returning to my travel between Ghana and Ivory Coast, one businessman I had just met in Accra told me of how he hoped the pro-Ghana resolution of its four-year old maritime dispute with Ivory Coast would free up some headroom for economic recovery.
Ghana is battling high indebtedness and sluggish growth due to lower international oil, among others.
In the last week of September, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea delivered its ruling on the contestation over an oil territory between the two neighbours.
The 57-year-old Ivory Coast had been accusing its 60-year-old neighbour of illegally developing the Tweneboah, Enyenra, Ntomme (TEN) project off the coast of Ghana. Ghana had enlisted the services of London-listed company Tullow Oil to drill for oil, further powering ahead as Africa’s newest oil economy.
This discovery had been mainly at the heart of its fierce economic surge in the 10 years to 2013.
Tullow Oil, in the meantime, is said to have lost $308million of its market value in 2015 over concerns that this dispute with Ivory Coast would scupper its projects in West Africa.
Today, lower oil prices, over-indebtedness and the slowdown of importers of African resources such as China are among the factors that have brought Ghana to the point of stressing over how to pay off its 16 billion-cedi ($3.6 billion or R49.5bn) debt.
What would Nkrumah say, seeing his country owing 68% of its GDP when he prioritised financial self-reliance so much?
Two African countries bickering over borders that they did not create is depressing: our borders were imposed on us by the Berlin Conference in 1884-85.
This was a gathering of colonial forces slicing resource-rich Africa among themselves in far-away Germany; yet, we Africans are still throttling each other in 2017 to protect these fault lines!
Ghana and Ivory Coast have no business fighting over maritime rights and oil projects. They should be collaborating on dominating the chocolate industry instead - they are the world’s top two producers of cocoa.
Along with another neighbour, Nigeria, which is also in the top four, these two countries could easily be the shining example of what agri-processing means.
After all, my flight to Abidjan is a lousy hour long.
These are effectively members of the same family who ought to be working together instead of upholding their Francophone-Anglophone dichotomy.
As much as it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that the battle over oil fields is trivial, as in 2002 when Cameroon wrestled Nigeria over the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, such mutually destructive tussles should be quashed.
For our failure to heed your call, we beg your pardon, Dr Nkrumah!
* Kgomoeswana is author of Africa is Open for Business, a media commentator and a public speaker on African business affairs - Twitter Handle: @VictorAfrica
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.