Ghana Without Nkrumah
Footnote To The Nkrumah Story
Africa Report, 1966
The following speech was delivered by
Ghana's President, Kwame Nkrumah at the formal inauguration of the
Volta River project on January 22, a month before he was deposed.
What you see before you is the happy result of the faith and
determination of our people and their friends. It is the outcome of the
readiness of the United States Government, the World Bank, and other
financial institutions which, apart from our own contribution lo the
scheme, have granted loans and other forms of assistance in this great
enterprise. It is an achievement in cooperation and joint endeavor.
I am personally happy that so many of those connected with this scheme
are here with us today for this inauguration. In addition, I am pleased
that His Holiness Pope Paul VI has seen fit to send a Papal
representative to witness the ceremony.
On behalf of myself, and the government and people of Ghana, I extend
to you all a sincere welcome.
We had looked forward eagerly to welcome in our midst today Mrs.
Jacqueline Kennedy. We had wished her to unveil the plaque
commemorating the part which her husband, the late President Kennedy,
and President Eisenhower played in this endeavor. Mrs., Kennedy is
unable to be with us here today. She has, however, written to tell me
that she hopes to visit Ghana with her children, in the very near
future. I have assured her that a warm and truly Ghanaian welcome
Next to the late President Kennedy and President Eisenhower, I must
make mention of my friend Edgar Kaiser, whose faith and enthusiasm for
the Volta Project provided the spark that brought it to life when the
prospects for its continuation were at their lowest ebb. It is a pity
that Edgar's father, Henry Kaiser, cannot be with us today. He has been
a lower of strength and inspiration to Edgar and myself throughout our
efforts on this project.
By this inauguration ceremony, our great and dynamic party, the
Convention People's Party, has kept faith with the people. In our party
election manifesto in 1951, we made a promise that we would do
everything possible to bring the Volta River Project into being. From
that time, this scheme has been one of our greatest dreams. My faith in
it never faltered, in spite of the disappointments and frustrations
created by the difficult and intricate financial negotiations involved.
I have on a previous occasion told the story of my meeting with Edgar
Kaiser in New York in 1958, which proved to be an important watershed
in the story of this scheme. I cannot minimize the part played by Chad
Calhoun as an intermediary between me and Edgar. My meeting with Edgar
Kaiser illustrates the way in which individuals of faith and goodwill
can contribute to close relations between peoples and nations, between
governments and governments.
With Edgar's characteristic way of "getting down to brass tacks"-to use
an American slang-he took me straight along to see President Eisenhower
who happened to be in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York where I was
also staying. Eisenhower expressed surprise that the United Stales
Government had delayed consideration of this scheme for so long.
Thereupon he turned to one of the principal aides in his party, who I
believe was one of the key men in The White House at the time. He
turned to him and asked: "Then why don't you get on with the damned
thing?" It was then that "The damn thing" - this giant hydroelectric
scheme-was triggered back to life.
Even Then, years of further negotiations followed. Throughout we had to
demonstrate by resolute action and practical decisions our
determination to go ahead with the project by all means. In 1959, when
the financial arrangements were still incomplete, I decided that,
whether we succeeded in raising loans or not, we would go ahead with
the scheme from our resources.
I therefore gave orders for the preliminary works to be constructed:
the Tema-Akosombo highway, the necessary access roads to the site, and
the building of a new township in Akosombo. By this lime, we were
nearing completion of the construction of the Tema harbor and township,
which were also essential parts of the preliminary works. And so we
commissioned Kaiser Engineers to undertake the preparation of the
necessary plans and tender documents. These decisions, risky as they
then appeared, gained for us at least a year in construction time and
its equivalent in money. It was (his calculated risk which really gave
the impetus to the scheme. In all this, Edgar Kaiser shared our
optimism and gave us full support and encouragement.
I wish I had time here to discuss in detail the magnitude of Edgar's
contribution. However, I will mention only one example. The Kaiser
Company's re-examination of the project enabled us to lower
substantially the cost of the entire project, a reduction which was a
critical factor making construction of this vast project economically
It was not until December 16, 1961, after three years of negotiations,
that the legal documents providing for the financing of the project,
said (to be the most complicated of their kind, were signed.
The financing of the project on such a scale involved many governments
and international agencies. Its achievement was largely due to the
sympathy and understanding of the late President Kennedy. He had a
positive belief in this Volta River Project. I was the first President
to meet him after his inauguration. And from that very moment I knew
that I was in the presence of a sincere and honest man. Between us a
real bond of friendship was established and we knew that whatever
differences of opinion we might have, they could be discussed
It was characteristic of Kennedy that, despite the opposition of forces
both in his Cabinet and Congress, he put his full personal weight
behind the scheme. Indeed, at one time he stood alone in his Cabinet on
We live in a world of contradictions. These contradictions, somehow,
keep the world going. Let me explain what I mean. Ghana is a small but
very dynamic independent African state. We are trying to reconstruct
our economy and to build a new, free, and equal society.
To do this, we must attain control of our own economic and political
destinies. Only thus can we create higher living standards for our
people and free them from the legacies and hazards of a colonial past
and from the encroachments of neocolonialism.
In such a world we certainly need great friends. The United States is a
capitalist country. In fact, it is the leading capitalist power in the
world today. Like Britain in the heyday of its imperial power, the
United States is, and rightly so, adopting a conception of dual mandate
in its relations with the developing world. This dual mandate, if
properly applied, could enable the United States to increase its own
prosperity and at the same time assist in increasing the prosperity of
the developing countries.
Edgar Kaiser, President Eisenhower, and President Kennedy were
genuinely interested in this project because they saw, behind the cold
figures and the rigid calculations, that the Volta River Project was
not only an economically viable project, but also an opportunity for
the United States of America to make a purposeful capital investment in
a developing country. In other words, they saw in the Volta River
Project a scheme with new dimensions of growth and development which
they felt could benefit both Ghana and the United States.
It was on this common ground of our mutual respect and common advantage
that our two countries-Ghana and the United States of America-made the
contact from which grew this project. The result of this contact is
living proof that nations and people can cooperate and coexist
peacefully with mutual advantage to themselves despite differences of
economic and political opinions.
Four years ago today, in January 1962, I set off the blast which marked
the beginning of construction of this scheme. Since then, we have
witnessed a marvel of construction, organizational efficiency, and
You see before you-in all its majesty, strength and power-the Akosombo
Dam, 463 feet from the lowest foundations, and 2,200 feet long, which
has tamed the turbulent waters of the Volta, turning them into the
beautiful vast lake which will ultimately cover over three percent of
the surface area of our country. Due to the fact that the River Volta
is very deep at this very point, over two-thirds of the dam lies hidden
beneath the surface of the water.
The result of this is that this huge structure blends harmoniously and
imperceptibly into the natural landscape, giving the impression that
this dam and its vast lake are not man-made but a creation-a creation
of nature. To the east are the two spillways with their 12 gigantic
gates. Further east is the Saddle Dam, closing a gap in the hills, a
large dam in its own rights.
To the west of the main dam is the powerhouse wherein are installed the
large turbines fed by water tumbling down the huge penstocks, and
generators which will provide the country with electric power, nearly
10 times the present power production in the country from all sources.
We have enough power for our immediate needs from the Volta Dam and for
the aluminum smelter which VALCO is now constructing at Tema. But we
are ready and prepared to supply power to our neighbors in Togo,
Dahomey, the Ivory Coast, and Upper Volta. As far as I am concerned,
this project is not for Ghana alone. Indeed, I have already offered to
share our power resources with our sister African states.
The story of the Volta River Project will not be complete without
reference to the 80,000 people who had to be moved from their villages,
and resettled in other areas, because of the formation of the Volta
Lake. The story of this resettlement scheme is an epic in itself.
I would like to pay tribute to the thousands of families who were
called upon to move from their traditional homes in the interest of the
nation. Today, as we inaugurate Volta power, they can share in the joys
of the country, in our sense of achievement, and in our gratitude for
the sacrifices which have made this project possible.
I must also record with pride the important role which thousands of
Ghanaians have played at all levels and in all aspects of the scheme.
As we move into the new phase of our development, we have every
confidence that all Ghanaians who have worked on this scheme will bring
to bear on the problems of our nation and continent the experience they
have acquired in the implementation of this scheme.
And here I would like to pay tribute to the work of Sir Robert Jackson
and the staff of the Preparatory Commission who prepared much of the
detailed overall planning on which this scheme is' based. I must also
say a special word of thanks to Frank Dobson, Chief Executive of the
Volta River Authority, and all the members and executives of the
Authority. They have done a grand job. In this connection, I must
congratulate the contractor, Impregilo and Company. This consortium of
giant Italian construction organizations combined their strength and
skill to build the Volta Dam. It was a magnificent and challenging job,
and they have done it magnificently.
The Volta River Project is a concrete symbol of the type of
international cooperation which can, to quote my friend Edgar Kaiser,
help to "forge world peace." It is perhaps the greatest tragedy of
today's world that billions of dollars, rubles, and pounds should be
spent every year on military armaments and on wars. If the money wasted
on wars and war preparations were invested in projects like the one
spread out before us, these enormous capital funds could revolutionize
the economies not only of the developing world, but also of the
It would in fact eliminate what is the major threat to world peace,
namely the ever-widening gap between the developed and the developing
nations. Unless this gap is closed, no peace effort of any kind can
save mankind from ruin and ultimate destruction.
It is in this spirit of fruitful collaboration for a better world for
all that I welcome you here to inaugurate the Volta River Project. Let
us dedicate it to Africa's progress and prosperity. When, in a few
moments, I turn the switch to shed the full radiance of Volta power on
this scene, may it symbolize not only a great achievement of Ghana, but
let it also be a light leading us on to our destined and cherished
goal-a union government for Africa. Only in this way will Africa play
its full part in the achievement of world peace and for the advancement
of the happiness of mankind.
See also: The Winter