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Ghana’s Akosombo Dam, Technopolitics, and Pan-Africanism

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Abstract:

In January 1966, President Kwame Nkrumah inaugurated the Akosombo Dam, Ghana’s largest development project that had a profound environmental impact. The Volta River Project, designed in the 1920s, was reshaped with the advent of self-rule in the 1950s to include a hydroelectric dam, a 250-mile long lake, an aluminum smelter, and other infrastructure. Rallying support, Nkrumah emphasized Akosombo’s Pan-African potential. Yet plans to extend Akosombo power to “African sister states” remained unresolved. Instead, Akosombo was to provide electricity to the foreign-owned aluminum smelter and to the towns and industrial centers of southern Ghana. The paper explores the conflicting interests between local and transnational technocrats who saw the project as the engine for Ghana’s modernization and industrialization, the U.S. government that financed Akosombo within the Cold War context, Kaiser Aluminum that was to benefit from cheap power, and Ghanaian politicians like Nkrumah who promoted the project’s significance for nation building and for the West African sub-region. The 1966 coup against Nkrumah silenced his Pan-Africanist vision. In 1972, when Ghana began exporting electricity to Togo and Benin in exchange for hard currency, the Pan-African rhetoric resurfaced. Some Ghanaians critiqued the export of Akosombo power at the expense of rural electrification. In the 1970s and 1980s, when Ghana developed water transport on Volta Lake, planners again highlighted that this inland water-highway would facilitate connections with neighboring countries. This paper, based on newspapers accounts, archival documents, and oral research, unpacks the tensions between Pan-African discourses, national politics, and citizen demands for electricity and mitigation of the dam’s environmental impact. Akosombo’s Pan-African dimension, I argue, remained controversial as a rhetorical aspiration in the name of African unity. For many Ghanaians, the buoyancy of a Pan-African discourse deferred the benefits of national citizenship. They challenged a Pan-African agenda that hindered the promise of national development.
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Name: ASEH Annual Conference
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170589_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Miescher, Stephan. "Ghana’s Akosombo Dam, Technopolitics, and Pan-Africanism" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170589_index.html>

APA Citation:

Miescher, S. "Ghana’s Akosombo Dam, Technopolitics, and Pan-Africanism" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170589_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: In January 1966, President Kwame Nkrumah inaugurated the Akosombo Dam, Ghana’s largest development project that had a profound environmental impact. The Volta River Project, designed in the 1920s, was reshaped with the advent of self-rule in the 1950s to include a hydroelectric dam, a 250-mile long lake, an aluminum smelter, and other infrastructure. Rallying support, Nkrumah emphasized Akosombo’s Pan-African potential. Yet plans to extend Akosombo power to “African sister states” remained unresolved. Instead, Akosombo was to provide electricity to the foreign-owned aluminum smelter and to the towns and industrial centers of southern Ghana. The paper explores the conflicting interests between local and transnational technocrats who saw the project as the engine for Ghana’s modernization and industrialization, the U.S. government that financed Akosombo within the Cold War context, Kaiser Aluminum that was to benefit from cheap power, and Ghanaian politicians like Nkrumah who promoted the project’s significance for nation building and for the West African sub-region. The 1966 coup against Nkrumah silenced his Pan-Africanist vision. In 1972, when Ghana began exporting electricity to Togo and Benin in exchange for hard currency, the Pan-African rhetoric resurfaced. Some Ghanaians critiqued the export of Akosombo power at the expense of rural electrification. In the 1970s and 1980s, when Ghana developed water transport on Volta Lake, planners again highlighted that this inland water-highway would facilitate connections with neighboring countries. This paper, based on newspapers accounts, archival documents, and oral research, unpacks the tensions between Pan-African discourses, national politics, and citizen demands for electricity and mitigation of the dam’s environmental impact. Akosombo’s Pan-African dimension, I argue, remained controversial as a rhetorical aspiration in the name of African unity. For many Ghanaians, the buoyancy of a Pan-African discourse deferred the benefits of national citizenship. They challenged a Pan-African agenda that hindered the promise of national development.


Similar Titles:
African-Centered Institutions as vehicles to promote Pan-Africanism: A case study of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, print media and the Ghana Young Pioneer Movement

The Pan African Historical Theatre Festival: Diasporic Racial Identity, Festival Life, and Tourism in Ghana

Warring Ideals in Four Dark Bodies: Ghana, Pan-Africanism and Black Political Leadership


 
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