A tale of Ghana and Africa

Cultural Insights — By on March 21, 2007 at 8:05 am

If you are interested in understanding more about Africa, there is a fascinating story in Time Magazine that traces the history of Ghana over the past 50 years, along with some of the successes and failures of the African continent in general. The story achieves this by focusing on the lives of three generations of a single family – Kwame Deh, 72, who was a young man when Ghana first achieved independence, and his daughter Suzzy and grandson Delight.

When citizens of the British colony called the Gold Coast gathered to witness the founding of their new nation a half-century ago, they carried not only their personal hopes and fears but also the aspirations of a continent.

As the first colony in sub-Saharan Africa to break away from its foreign master in the post-1945 era of independence, Ghana was the symbol of a land throwing off its shackles, the first breeze of what British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan would later dub “the wind of change.” “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent,” said Nkrumah that night.

Fifty years later, Ghana, a country of 22.6 million, remains an uncannily accurate measure of Africa’s successes and failures, its ambitions and broken dreams. As was true for many African states, the optimism of independence gave way to unrest, militarism and economic decline. As elsewhere, Ghanaians struggled back, rebuilding their country, renewing their democracy and securing fresh reason to hope.

Today Ghana is a bright beacon for a continent the world too often sees only for its suffering. The country’s rise and fall and rise again have given many Ghanaians–and many Africans–a more realistic understanding of what it will take to develop their continent’s fragile fortunes than they had in the first flush of freedom. And it has left them with a deep appreciation of basic principles that others take for granted: stability, democracy, jobs.

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