129. Memorandum of a Conversation, Accra, March 4, 19571


  • Visit of Vice President Richard M. Nixon
[Page 375]


  • Ghanian:
    • His Excellency Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of Ghana
    • His Excellency A.L. Adu, Secretary for External Affairs
  • American:
    • Vice President of the United States Richard M. Nixon
    • Joseph Palmer 2nd, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    • Donald W. Lamm, American Consul General

After welcoming the Vice President, the Prime Minister inquired about the President’s health. The Vice President replied that the President happily had recovered fully and was basically in excellent health although he had recently been bothered by a cold.

The Vice President expressed his pleasure that he was able to be present at the Ghana independence ceremonies and congratulated the Prime Minister on his country’s joining the family of nations. He said that he had been greatly impressed by the ovation which the Prime Minister had received when he arrived at the religious ceremonies yesterday and added smilingly that he thought the Prime Minister should have no difficulty getting himself elected to office in this country. He then asked if the Prime Minister would like to expound on the current problems which Ghana faces.

The Prime Minister thanked the Vice President for his remarks about his political popularity. He confessed to some weariness at the heavy political burdens he was carrying and said that at times he was tempted to throw it all over. Recovering his enthusiasm, he said that his main preoccupation, now that Ghana is about to attain political independence, is to assure the country’s economic independence. History has shown that political and economic independence must proceed pari passu and that the former cannot be effective without the latter. He pointed out that Ghana’s economy is primarily agricultural and heavily dependent on cocoa. This means that the health of its economy is directly related to the price of cocoa which has fluctuated widely. Only a year ago cocoa brought £500 per ton. Currently the price has dropped to £1.80. The Prime Minister said that he was concerned about the unhealthy situation created by such heavy reliance on one crop and was therefore anxious to diversify the economy both by general agricultural development and by exploiting the country’s mineral resources—particularly bauxite. There were other possibilities as well. For example, a contract has recently been signed with an American company for petroleum exploration.

The Vice President said that he had encountered similar situations elsewhere in the world where countries’ economies were heavily dependent on one crop. He mentioned as cases in point the heavy reliance of Cuba on sugar exports and San Salvador on coffee. He [Page 376] went on to express agreement with the Prime Minister’s assessment of the importance of economic independence, stating that the experience of the United States has made us acutely aware of this fact. He pointed out that 180 years ago when we obtained our independence, we had about half the population of Ghana and were also primarily an agricultural nation. We had seen the necessity for diversification and had thus laid the foundations for the great expansion of our economy which subsequently took place. He felt that Ghana also had the natural wealth and human resources for a great development, but cautioned against excessive expectations from such uncertainties as oil. This should be regarded as a bonus if it materializes but should not form a basis for planning.

The Vice President’s analogy about the early history of the United States seemed to catch the Prime Minister’s imagination. He spoke with pleasure of his ten years in the United States and his admiration for that country. He remarked somewhat parenthetically that he would very much like to travel again but that his local political preoccupations would probably make this impossible for some time.

Reverting to the Volta River Project, he said that the Preparatory Commission’s report had shown the project to be eminently sound from an engineering point of view. Unfortunately, however, there is the matter of financing. Ghana had managed to set aside about £60 millions for development. These funds are presently uncommitted and his hope was to use them as a contribution to the Volta project if the other financing problems could be solved. The Prime Minister went on to say that British and Canadian aluminum interests were also sympathetic and might participate. Finally the IBRD had surveyed the Ghana economy and the feasibility of the project and he was now awaiting their report. This project, he felt, would go far towards realizing Ghana’s goal of economic independence.

The Vice President listened sympathetically to the Prime Minister’s exposition. He said that this was obviously a matter for exploration with the interested British, Canadian and IBRD interests but assured the Prime Minister that the United States would continue to watch the situation carefully. The Vice President then went on to refer to the great contribution which private enterprise could make to the economic strengthening of underdeveloped countries. He explained the techniques which Puerto Rico has so successfully employed in “Operation Bootstrap”.

The Prime Minister indicated awareness of the Puerto Rican experiment and said that although he had never met Governor Munoz,2 [Page 377] he has been in correspondence with him.

Dr. Nkrumah went on to say that Ghana has been aware of the desirability of attracting private investment. While the Government believes that certain economic facilities should properly be state-owned, it nevertheless has taken steps to encourage private investment through measures for tax relief, land tenure, etc. The Vice President said that he was glad to hear this.

There followed a brief discussion of U.S. plans for technical assistance (agriculture, veterinary and community development). The Vice President said that while the programs which the United States contemplate this year are modest, they can be of great assistance in training Ghanians for specific tasks. He spoke particularly of the value of pilot projects and of teaching by example, referring to the success of the village method in India. The Prime Minister indicated agreement with these statements.

The Vice President said that he had heard about some of the internal constitutional difficulties which Ghana is facing. He added that he would not presume to comment on Ghana’s internal affairs but, drawing again from United States experience, he thought that he might point out that we had similarly been forced to face up to the issues of centralism versus localism in the first years of the Republic.3 We had eventually resolved the problem in favor of the advantages of a large degree of centralism. All such basic problems have to be worked out in a spirit of compromise and he had no doubt that Ghana would resolve the matter in this same way. The Prime Minister indicated his agreement and referred in this connection to the recent constitutional discussions which would vest considerable power in the regional assemblies. He said Ghana would have to see how these compromises work out during the next few years.

The Vice President said that he had read and heard much about the foreign policy which Ghana would follow after independence. He asked whether he would be correct in describing Ghana’s policy as “nationalist”. He said he disliked the term “neutralist” which he did not find really descriptive of the policies of nations in Ghana’s position. He thought that “nationalist” more accurately described the fact that such nations are determined to secure and defend their independence. He felt this distinction was important. The United States had shown by words and actions its devotion to the principle of independence. We believe that the best assurance we can have of [Page 378] our own independence is the independence of others. Unfortunately, other countries are not so motivated.

The Prime Minister said that the Vice President had accurately expressed Ghana’s position. Ghana’s policy, he said, will be one of non-involvement and non-alignment in the East-West struggle. “But”, he said, “Ghana can never be neutral”. It will jealously safeguard its independence and resist all efforts at domination. Mr. Adu intervened at this point to say that although no final decisions had yet been taken, Ghana might find it necessary to establish some kind of representation with the Soviet bloc. Dr. Nkrumah confirmed this, adding that the only firm decisions which had been taken were with respect to opening diplomatic missions in Washington, London, Paris and Monrovia.

The Vice President said that he presumed that Ghana would vigorously support freedom of speech, press, religion, and the other democratic traditions. Dr. Nkrumah was emphatic in his concurrence indicating that Ghana was firmly committed to parliamentary democracy and the democratic way of life.

The Vice President reiterated his pleasure at being present at this historic occasion. He emphasized the importance of the events which are taking place in Ghana to the whole future development of this part of Africa. The Prime Minister said that he agreed completely with the Vice President and similarly looked forward to a great future for this part of Africa.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, North Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, NSC 5614, 5614/1). Confidential. No drafting information is given on the source text. Attached as Tab B to Document 19.
  2. Luis Munoz Marin.
  3. The Asante and the peoples of the Northern Territories were disposed to favor a federal solution.