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Less Than an Empire and More Than British: Foreign Investor Competition in Ghana and Nigeria in the 1960s

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Imagining Britain’s Economic Future, c.1800–1975

Abstract

The post-war British Empire has been described as ‘more than British and less than an imperium’. Once decolonisation began, it was ‘nationalized and internationalized as part of the Anglo-American coalition’. This process continued after independence in Ghana and Nigeria, which experienced economic booms that attracted different international investors, sometimes with political motivation and frequently with home country support in terms of risk guaranties. These investments favoured contracting, turnkey factories and suppliers’ credit, which created a political economy of favouritism and corruption that saddled newly independent countries with significant amounts of debt when economic conditions deteriorated. Substantial competition between Western foreign investors, such as West Germany, the UK and the USA, were the result of a shared economic vision of Western economic dominance around the world.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-colonialism (New York, 1965).

  2. 2.

    W.M. Roger Louis and Ronald Robinson, ‘The imperialism of decolonisation’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 22 (1994), pp. 462–511; John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, ‘The imperialism of free trade’, Economic History Review, 6 (1953), pp. 1–15.

  3. 3.

    Larry J. Butler, ‘Business and British decolonisation: Sir Ronald Prain’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 35 (2007), pp. 459–484; Larry Butler, Copper empire: mining and the colonial state in Northern Rhodesia (Basingstoke, 2007); Sarah Stockwell, The business of decolonization: British business strategies in the Gold Coast (Oxford, 2000); Nicholas J. White, ‘The business and the politics of decolonization’, Economic History Review, 53 (2000), pp. 544–564; Maria Misra, Business, race and politics in British India, c.1850–1960 (Oxford, 1999).

  4. 4.

    Odd Arne Westad, The global Cold War (Cambridge, 2005); Matthew Connelly, ‘Taking off the Cold War lens: visions of north-south conflict during the Algerian War for Independence’, American Historical Review, 105 (2000), pp. 739–769.

  5. 5.

    David Kenneth Fieldhouse, Black Africa 1945–1980: economic decolonization and arrested development (London, 1986); Sayre P. Schatz, ‘Crude private neo-imperialism: a new pattern in Africa’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 7 (1969), pp. 677–688; Nkrumah, Neo-colonialism.

  6. 6.

    David Kenneth Fieldhouse, Merchant capital and economic decolonisation (Oxford, 1994); David Kenneth Fieldhouse, Unilever overseas (London, 1978).

  7. 7.

    Robert I. Fleming to Joseph Palmer II, 7 Dec 1962, College Park, MD, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), General Records of the Department of State, RG59, Records of G. Mennen Williams, 1961–1966, Country files, Box 28.

  8. 8.

    Calhoun to Kaiser, 28 Feb 1963, Berkeley CA, The Bancroft Library (BANC), Edgar Kaiser papers, Ctn. 318, fl. 5b.

  9. 9.

    Schatz, ‘Crude private neo-imperialism’, p. 681.

  10. 10.

    D.L. Cohen and M.A. Tribe, ‘Suppliers’ credits in Ghana and Uganda: an aspect of the imperialist system’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 10 (1972), pp. 525–541 at pp. 530–531.

  11. 11.

    Peter Kilby, Industrialisation in an open economy: Nigeria 1945–1966 (Cambridge, 1969), p. 61.

  12. 12.

    For example, the UAC had joint ventures with Heineken and Guinness to brew Star Beer and Guinness in West Africa.

  13. 13.

    Stockwell, The business of decolonization; Butler, Copper empire; Larry J. Butler, ‘Mining, nationalism, and decolonization in Zambia’, Archiv fur Sozialgeschicte, 48 (2008), pp. 1–17; White, ‘The business and the politics of decolonization’, pp. 544–564.

  14. 14.

    Fleming to Palmer, 7 Dec 1962, NARA RG59, Box 28.

  15. 15.

    “Macdona’s visit to Sierra Leone and Ghana”, Feb–Apr 1958, Manchester, Barclays Group Archives (BGA), 38/382 (4), pp. 24, 35.

  16. 16.

    Summ to Freiherrn von der Goltz, 31 Dec 1963, Cologne, Rheinisch-Westfaelisches Wirtschaftsarchiv [Rhenish-Westphalian Economic Archive] (RWWA), Otto Wolff papers.

  17. 17.

    Stephanie Decker, ‘Corporate political activity’, Business History, 53 (2011), pp. 993–1017.

  18. 18.

    Theodore O. Asare to Kwame Nkrumah, 18 Jan 1960, Accra, Public Records Administration and Archival Department (PRAAD), SC/BAA138.

  19. 19.

    Dr Boltze, Memo, 1 Apr 1960, Berlin, Politisches Archiv des Auswaertigen Amtes [Political Archive of the Foreign Office] (PAAA), B68-189B.

  20. 20.

    Unilever directors’ committee minutes, 15 Dec 1961, Liverpool, Unilever Historical Archive (UHA), 984. Ghana.

  21. 21.

    Decker, ‘Corporate political activity’.

  22. 22.

    ‘Ghana after Nkrumah’, The Economist (1966), p. 563.

  23. 23.

    Decker, ‘Corporate political activity’.

  24. 24.

    Fleming to Palmer, 7 Dec 1962, NARA RG59, Box 28.

  25. 25.

    Palmer to Fleming, 5 Mar 1962, NARA RG59, Box 28.

  26. 26.

    J.D. Esseks, ‘Political independence and economic decolonization: the case of Ghana under Nkrumah’, Western Political Quarterly, 24 (1971), pp. 59–64; Schatz, ‘Crude private neo-imperialism’, p. 679.

  27. 27.

    Ninety percent of Hermes obligations (Buergschaften, i.e. the guarantee type for private commercial parties) were to developing countries. Mr. Westrick [Economic ministry], to the Federal Ministry of Finance, 11 May 1959, PAAA B55.2-287.

  28. 28.

    Calhoun to Edgar Kaiser, 17 Apr 1961, BANC MSS 87/35c, Ctn 42, fl 1.

  29. 29.

    Calhoun to Kaiser, 6 Mar 1961, BANC MSS 87/35c, Ctn. 41, fl. 39.

  30. 30.

    Ibid; “Memorandum: Valco Financing”, 7 Mar 1961; “Memorandum on Valco file”, 8 Mar 1961; Calhoun to Kaiser, 13 Mar 1961, BANC MSS 87/35c, Ctn. 42, fl.1.

  31. 31.

    Dr Boden [chairman of AG Aussenhandel], to state secretary Dr L. Westrick, 20 Mar 1959, PAAA B55.2-287.

  32. 32.

    Dr Henckel [Economic Ministry] to the AG Aussenhandel, 23 Nov 1959, PAAA B55.2-287.

  33. 33.

    J.P. Summerscale to R.H. Owen CMG, 30 Sep 1957, London, The National Archives (TNA), FO371/126262; E.B. Bennet, Memo: Export credits, 21 Jul 1960, London, Bank of England Archives (BoE) OV172/4.

  34. 34.

    “Draft of Working Group on Trade Policy paper”, 23 May 1966, TNA, FO371/184604 (A1156/39); C. Gandy to H.G. Lynch, 24 Oct. 1966, FO371/184685 (AB1151/29); J.P. Summerscale to R.H. Owen, FO371/126262; E.B. Bennet Memo: Export credits, 21 Jul 1960, BoE OV172/4.

  35. 35.

    E.B. Bennet memo.

  36. 36.

    Nicholas J. White, British business in post-colonial Malaysia (London, 2004), pp. 113–114, 186; Andrew Cohen, ‘Britain and the breakdown of the colonial environment: the struggle over the Tanzam Oil Pipeline in Zambia’, Business History Review, 88 (2014), pp. 737–759.

  37. 37.

    Dr Henckel to AG Aussenhandel, 23 Nov 1959, PAAA B55.2-287.

  38. 38.

    Internal Memo on export credit guarantee excess, 19 Jun 1959, p. 5, PAAA B55.2-287.

  39. 39.

    Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Deutschen Exporteurvereine [Consortium of German Export Associations] to the Federal Ministries of the Economy and of Finance, 8 Mar 1958, PAAA 55.2-288.

  40. 40.

    “Changes in export credit terms”, 30 Apr 1960, BoE OV172/4.

  41. 41.

    Memo 26 Jan 1959, PAAA B55.2-287.

  42. 42.

    P. Danylow and Ulrich S. Soenius, Otto Wolff: ein unternehmen zwischen wirtschaft und politik (Berlin, 2005), pp. 316–320.

  43. 43.

    Dr Effenberg, Memo, 20 Dec 1961, PAAA B55.2-247. T.J. Noer, ‘The new frontier and African neutralism—Kennedy, Nkrumah, and the Volta River Project’, Diplomatic History, 8 (1984), pp. 61–79.

  44. 44.

    Memo 413, 5 Oct 1961; Stein to Foreign Office Bonn, 24 Jan 1960, PAAA B55.2-247.

  45. 45.

    Memo on conversation with Brettschneider, 27 Oct 1954, PAAA B55.2-88.

  46. 46.

    Consulate Lagos to Foreign Office Bonn, 19 Nov 1956, PAAA B55.2-88.

  47. 47.

    Kilby, Industrialisation in an open economy.

  48. 48.

    Danylow and Soenius, Otto Wolff.

  49. 49.

    Confidential memo: Nigeria, Midwest Textile Mill Ltd, Asaba, 6 Jul 1964, and Confidential memo: New CCC textile factory project in northern region, 17 Apr 1964, RWWA, OW 72-453-5.

  50. 50.

    S.B. Agode [Secretary of Federal Military Government] to Permanent Secretary Finance and Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Industries, 20 Mar 1972, PAAA B58-IIIB1-1339.

  51. 51.

    T. Jones, Ghana’s first Republic, 1960–1966: the pursuit of the political kingdom (London, 1976), pp. 167–168.

  52. 52.

    Robert L. Tignor, ‘Political corruption in Nigeria before independence’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 31 (1993), pp. 175–202.

  53. 53.

    Calhoun to W. Averell Harriman [Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs], 25 Sep 1964, BANC MSS 85/61c Edgar Kaiser papers, Ctn. 321, fl 1d.

  54. 54.

    Calhoun to E.F. Kaiser, 19 Dec 1963, BANC MSS 87/35 c, Trefethen papers, Ctn. 42, fl 11.

  55. 55.

    ‘Ghana after Nkrumah’, pp. 554–555.

  56. 56.

    Embassy Accra to Foreign Office Bonn, 28 Feb 1972, PAAA B59-IIIB1-1333.

  57. 57.

    Lueders to Foreign Office Bonn, 17 Dec 1962, PAAA B55/2-247; R.E. Knight to Edgar F. Kaiser, 8 Feb 1968, BANC MSS 85/61c.

  58. 58.

    Dmitri van den Bersselaar and Stephanie Decker, ‘“No longer at ease”: corruption as an institution’, International Journal of Public Administration, 34 (2011), pp. 741–752.

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank Rory Miller (University of Liverpool) and Kairn Klieman (University of Houston) for sharing some of their archival research on the ECGD and the Rockefeller Foundation, respectively, with me. Nicholas White and Hanaan Marwah kindly read a draft of this chapter and provided constructive comments.

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Decker, S. (2018). Less Than an Empire and More Than British: Foreign Investor Competition in Ghana and Nigeria in the 1960s. In: Thackeray, D., Thompson, A., Toye, R. (eds) Imagining Britain’s Economic Future, c.1800–1975. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71297-0_9

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