After vowing he wouldn’t turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Ghanaian dictator, Jerry John Rawlings, was forced eventually in 1983 to inflict this hardship on his people. Apart from inducing the collapse of large sectors of Ghana’s businesses and throwing thousands of people out of work, the new policies imposed on the government produced a marketplace supplying the public with almost no choice. People were compelled to buy whatever it satisfied the traders to import. Long cherished products disappeared to be replaced by cheap copies of dubious quality.
Tom, an English engineer seeing Tamale in northern Ghana in 1987, was advised that the northerners greatly valued the British products which they had come to know and trust in colonial times. The Lister diesel engine has been much used for corn milling, water pumping and generating electricity and there were many old installations scattered throughout the Northern and Upper Regions. Likewise the northerners adored the Raleigh bicycle and the original Land Rover four-wheel-drive vehicle. They called these goods’original’ and always asked for them. But these days they could not be purchased new because almost all present imports were from China and India. These countries produced copies of the Lister engine as well as the Raleigh bicycles but the northerners had soon came to detect the difference in quality. That was how the demand for the’first’ began.
Tom said he feared that if the British goods were imported these times the rural folks would not have the ability to afford them, and in any case, the grade was not as good as before. On the other hand, the quality of the Asian products could be expected to improve. He was told in reply that the regional people would attempt to pay more for better quality. The Cotton Development Company had recently imported bicycles to market to their employees on easy-payment terms. Most of the bicycles were from China but a few Raleighs were included. Although the cost was higher, it was the Raleighs that were spoken for first.
Tom’s Ghanaian interlocutor said he was puzzled by what had occurred. He thought that the free market recommended by the IMF was supposed to be controlled by the law of supply and demand. However, this market didn’t supply what the people demanded, it provided what it suited the traders to import. The people could just buy what was locally available. It was not a free market, it was a slaves’ market.