Updated: Mar 10
Associate editor Kamo gives his verdict on Dr Kojo Koram's book 'Uncommon Wealth – Britain and the Aftermath of Empire' and reflects on Ghana's progress as the nation marks 66 years of independence.
Having recently read Kojo Koram’s 'Uncommon Wealth – Britain and the Aftermath of Empire' I am asking myself why, we Ghanaians, do not realise what Koram amplifies in his book?
Koram's book is primarily about the history of the British Empire, its rise and demise, and the flawed direction in which it is heading. In my opinion, we have fallen further behind since our 'alleged' independence.
I read Koram's book with a Ghanaian eye. Of course, the British Empire has also impacted many of world's poor nations and the poor within Britain itself. But I have seen how this history has impacted negatively my country of birth.
The British Empire
Koram traces the path through which the British Empire has used its strength in its legal system to maintain and strengthen its stranglehold and influence over its colonies. Although the Empire has diminished in size and power, and the USA has built up a greater empire, Britain is still able, through its strength in the world's financial and legal systems, to thwart the efforts of its former colonies to be on a level playing field.
Think-tanks operate around the world doing the bidding of their master/s against the interest of poor nations and the poor in rich countries. This section filled me with a very deep feeling of doom!
This process/system has been tweaked and refined over the years to a fine art and as a result, many people do not recognise what is happening to them.
The wealth gap between rich and poor nations (Britain and its former colonies) is widening as it is, as is also the case between the rich and poor in Britain. Therefore, the book’s title rather apt.
Although, I was generally familiar with the topics Koram discussed on the surface, I gained so much insights. This reading crystallised many for me and reminded me of others that I previously knew and had forgotten.
I was somewhat aware of the present state of affairs regarding the stranglehold corporations have over world economies but did not understand the history of its genesis. Koram's book provided me with a much better understanding of how historically, we have arrived at the point we are at, confirming also that our state is not by accident.
The Rise of Thatcher
In chapter four entitled: 'The Debt' (The Rise of Thatcher) the author touches on the power of seemingly benign think tank and illustrates their how globally pervasive and pernicious they are. They operate around the world doing the bidding of their master/s against the interest of poor nations and the poor in rich countries. This section filled me with a very deep feeling of doom!
Kojo Koram will be discussing his book at Waterstones, Gower Street, London, on Tuesday 7th March 18:30 Click here for details and to book your place.
It felt as though there is no hope for US! Our oppressors are so powerful, our political leaders just talk the talk and serve themselves! They are certainly not blind to our unfavourable position in the world economic system, and yet we continue on the same path. I see no attempt to change direction and to forge our own path to free ourselves of the current malaise.
As much as I have enjoyed this book - and I am not certain if I should say enjoyed (perhaps I should just say that I have been impacted by it), I see little hope for the foreseeable future. Is there a will to change the current status quo, particularly as it has been in the making for centuries.
Achieving the alternative
The book also did not offer a way out or back to where we should be. Although the book talks about an alternative in the chapter: 'There is an alternative', it does not say HOW to achieve this! Those in control would not want to relinquish that control. We know the alternative, but how do we achieve it?
So, I ask: what does it mean to be independent? How have we progressed since 1957? What can we improve? More importantly, how can we achieve these improvements? Are we aware of the forces that work against our improvement? And are we aware of how well orchestrated this effort is and how well it is financed?
I reflect on the phrase 'Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!'! - Nkrumah’s cry on Independence Day. And as a proud Ghanaian, I ask myself: what about our daily lives in Ghana? What about the future for our beloved country and for those living in the diaspora?
Is there really a light at the end of the tunnel and are we drawing closer to it? Are those in the diaspora and in Ghana, who are materially successful, taking the nation along with them or are they glorying in their relative success at the expense of the majority?
As we approach the 66th anniversary of our independence, I am struggling to find anything to celebrate other than our symbolic success in removing the shackles of colonial rule.
I imagine Ghana as someone who was blindfolded for many years, who then had the veil removed from their eyes, and who suddenly is in a wilderness - full of light - but still cannot see.
They are now however, required to function, keep up and CATCH up with those whose eyes are already accustomed to the light. This is how I see Ghana in 2023!
Sadly, many of us do not realise our predicament and instead believe that we are on course for successes that, in reality, are only available to the few. These and other insights into our ‘real ‘situation are summed in Koram’s 'Uncommon Wealth – Britain and the Aftermath of Empire' - have a read and tell me if you agree.
Koram will be discussing his book at Waterstones, Gower Street on Tuesday 7 March 18:30 Click here for details and to book your place.