October 2009 | Commentary | Checking In

A Lesson From Ghana

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"Ghana will not become a middle-income status country without a coherent supply chain strategy." So says leading African academic Dr. Douglas Boateng in an open letter to Ghana's government (http://snipurl.com/ilghana). Dr. Boateng takes the government to task on its lack of supply chain vision, pointing out that despite the abundance of natural resources≠gold, cocoa, diamonds, bauxite, manganese, oil, fertile soil≠the nation still struggles with high unemployment rates and a lack of economic progress.

What puzzles Dr. Boateng is why Ghanese leaders refuse to accept that a healthy transportation/logistics infrastructure, along with government policies or initiatives that add value to raw materials, will raise the standard of living. Throughout history, countries that depended solely on the export of raw materials and commodities have failed to achieve long-term socio-economic growth. This shortsightedness in economic and strategic supply chain vision will continue to impede economic growth in Ghana, just as it has around the world over time, Dr. Boateng notes.

By developing supply chain and value-added initiatives, coupled with a strategic transportation/logistics strategy, Ghana's government would lay a solid foundation for future generations, he adds.

He's right. In the September issue of Inbound Logistics, we referenced a point in American history not unlike where Ghana is today. Celebrating 90 Years of Ship by Truck described the early days of over-the-road transportation, where hard backs and tough minds mastered conditions comparable to those in Ghana today.

But it wasn't just that. Back then, and until just after World War II, we had a national transportation strategy, a national manufacturing vision, and an energy strategy. If our leaders hadn't made those hard choices and investments back then, we wouldn't have achieved the level of supply chain excellence and manufacturing prowess that created the economic prosperity we enjoy today.

Do we currently have national logistics and supply chain leadership, or is it one that bubbles up from the private sector in partnership with state and local governments? Do we have a "value-added" manufacturing strategy, or are we acquiescent as our manufacturing prowess moves to China and elsewhere? Energy policy? Some might say we have an anti-energy policy.

In the past, we learned our lessons the hard way. And we recognized the importance of supply chain and manufacturing in building the dreams of the people who work in those industries.

We made the tough calls and the investments. We had a vision and we acted. Yes, we are prosperous. We have wealth, but nothing is forever. The actions we should be taking today will drive tomorrow's prosperity. Let's learn a lesson from Ghana.

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