Anyone who was born in Ghana or has lived in Ghana in or around the 70s will have some story to tell about Goil. Previouslyknown as Agip and later Goil, it was the nation’s only fuel retailing company that supplied fuel and other services to industries, and the nation relied on its existence to survive at difficult times.
Even though the emergence of some multinational companies such as BP and Shell providing similar services brought some challenges to the company, it was the false belief proposed and pushed by the West, using its agencies such as the IMF and World Bank that all companies owned by the state cannot expect to do well or survive and, therefore, the entire idea must not be encouraged that finally brought Goil to its knees and ending up on the divestiture list.
Although the putative fact remains that almost all major large multinational companies, both in Europe and North America, had one way or the other been set up, initiated or supported by the state, the West does everything possible to discourage once colonial dependent countries to follow such path since they are likely to lift their people out of poverty, making them less dependent on the former colonial occupiers.
I am sure most Ghanaians are now familiar with the two-faced Western hypocritic strategy which Kwame Nkrumah called “neocolonialism”. While Nkrumah was being heavily criticized by the West for using state monies to set up industries and developing our transport system, the British and French governments after the war, had practically set up and revived industries and subsequently handed them over to private hands, while reconstructing their destroyed rail network systems which were exactly what Nkrumah had sought to do.
For over ten years, I have been an advocate of state-led industrialisation since I have not witnessed one major industry on this planet that was left solely in the hands of the private businessman. The challenge, however, has always been the individual who runs these strategic state-owned institutions.
In Ghana for example, over 80 per cent of failed state owned institutions has been caused by its management or leadership and the remaining 20 per cent due to lack of political will to sustain it.
Therefore, if governments will focus on identifying individuals who have the vision and understanding as exhibited by the current Goil management, no state-owned establishment will fail.
Should we slip into memory lane and recollect the state of Goil from the 90s to 2008, none of us will escape the national disgrace for watching a national pride fall. The current state of Goil is a typical example of what Nkrumah meant when he said the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.
Of course, he didn’t mean that even when the country or an institution is run by just anybody, but if we are able to identify competence and commitment coupled with a can-do spirit, the STC, the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the State Construction Company (SCC), including Bonsa Tyre and Aboso Glass Factory would work again to provide jobs and better lives for our people.
Goil, despite its challenges including having to compete with foreign multinational brands in the 21st century Ghana, even though such companies are not supposed to be allowed to operate in the downstream market like fuel retailing on our streets, has managed to climb to become the number one retailer.
Now, from my own perspective, looking at where Goil was just about seven years ago is self-evident that state institutions fail not because it is economically or ideologically wrong, but purely and rather simply, because they lack committed management. Therefore, a change or replacement of failing management in a state-owned institution could be the solution.
The general lackadaisical attitude of Ghanaians towards state-owned institutions, even though this phenomenon first emerged during Nkrumah’s era, is now fully established in the Ghanaian culture and daily practices. It is, perhaps, the greatest and the most effectively executed false unexamined mindset instilled in Ghanaians, or Africans for that matter, through systematic Western agenda to destabilize any meaningfully planned strategy that is home grown and based on deep thoughts.
Nevertheless the incredible success of Goil, especially graduating from a traditional Oil Marketing Company (OMC) to now establishing a subsidiary company known as Go Energy, which operates as Bulk Distribution Company (BDC), is a confirmation that, indeed, the causes or failures of other parastatal institutions are absolutely not ideological but competence and leadership founded on one’s readiness to serve.
It may even surprise some readers that the most lucrative aspect of trading petroleum products is actually in the mining sector, which is entirely dominated by foreign multinational companies, including Total and Shell. Shockingly, some of such contracts to supply fuel products to the mining companies are actually signed abroad, including the recent one signed in Johannesburg (South Africa) between Total Ghana Limited and Anglogold Tarkwa, leaving Goil helpless and frustrated in its attempts to enter into the mining sector which is naturally supposed to be reserved entirely for Goil and other local OMCs.
The danger, however, is the current lack of understanding by some politicians who sadly think that opening up all parts of the economy for foreign domination will somehow solve some problems or perhaps help develop this country.
The truth is, none of these politicians can point to one developed so-called first-world countries that opened up every part of their economy, including retailing, to be dominated by foreign companies during their time of transition and yet survived.
The question here is, how do we as a nation expect to be respected both home and abroad when the entire mining industry is controlled by foreign companies and yet even the most simple aspect of supplying diesel to these foreign mining companies is still controlled by the same foreign multinational companies.
I am sure Kwame Nkrumah will be turning in his grave by now. I, therefore, plead with the Government of Ghana to develop and fully enforce local content policy for the mining sector which will at least provide some support for local OMCs including Goil who are struggling to enter the mining sector.
The imminent reality here is, the larger chunks of profits made by the foreign multinationals are repatriated abroad and all profit made by Goil stays here with us in Ghana to help build our dear nation. We must never also forget that the primary objective for investors anywhere is to go to countries to invest for profit and nothing else.
Therefore, investors who come to Ghana to invest do not come here because they love Ghanaians too much. Rather it is the potential to make profit that brings them here and often they seize to continue their stay when the profit stops.
It also does not make sense to allow people to do for you even the things you are able to do for yourself, else you lose respect and relevance.
I, therefore, appeal to the President to immediately use the example of Goil to strengthen the remaining strategic state institutions because, ultimately, these institutions serve as shock absorbers. Capitalism in any form has limited period of applicability, hence the need for Scientific Socialism (examined socialism) like what France, Britain and all Scandinavian countries practice, which is also what we call Nkrumaism in Ghanaian terms.
After the recent flood tragedy at the Kwame Nkrumah circle, I have heard many people making a lot of comments about the positioning or locations of fuel stations, forgetting that the Goil was established in 1963 and that all development around that Goil at Circle came to meet it and that it is the usual planning failures that should be blamed.
In countries like United States and in Europe, one can find fuel stations everywhere and even under over hundred metres sky scrapers. In Upper Clapton Road where I lived in London, my window overlooked a shell fuel station. It is the safety aspects of the entire country that should be looked at.
Ultimately, I wish to congratulate the Board, Management and staff of Goil for holding on to the company well, and making Ghanaians proud.
By Kofi Annor