Ghana has a rich history in gold, the traditions in mining and trading it are woven into the cultural, political and economic fabric of Ghanaian society. The country was and is quite literally built on it. Formerly called the Gold Coast under British colonial rule, gold has formed the backbone of the economy for the better part of a century. Today the precious metal still makes up over 80% of mineral export earnings and contributes nearly 40% to GDP. The consequence of this is that Ghana is particularly sensitive to movements in its price and the repercussions run far deeper than mere fluctuations in portfolios or changes in the price of a necklace.
Ghana’s relationship with gold is complex and paradoxical. The industry is on the one hand crucial to the health of the country’s formal economy, but on the other, production of the precious metal has devastating and long-term effects on the environment. This in turn has both direct and indirect adverse socio-economic repercussions since an estimated 70-80% of the population rely on the land for their livelihoods in one form or another.
As such Ghana’s health and success as a country and as a population is inextricably linked to the environment and the people and so the relentless pursuit of gold is destroying the things that are actually most precious to Ghana. As long as price of gold remains at the mercy of the emotional whims of the investment community it is important that the government focuses on implementing measures that limit damage and ensure that those who are reaping the rewards are sharing the spoils.
© Heidi Woodman