133. Telegram From the Embassy in Ghana to the Department of State 1

206. Reference: Department’s telegram 162.2 I have been asked to transmit letter of November 123 from Prime Minister Nkrumah to President Eisenhower reading as follows:

Begin text.

“My Dear President, After very careful consideration I am writing to you about a matter which must affect profoundly the future political and economic development of my country.

“As you know, we achieved political independence on the 6th March 1957, and we were delighted to have your Vice-President with us on that historical occasion.

“I am convinced, however, against the broad background of Africa, that our political independence will mean little unless Ghana can continue to develop both politically and economically. Today our economy (which exercises such a direct effect on our political development) depends basically on a single crop—cocoa. We naturally view the current drop in prices of practically all commodities with great concern. The price of cocoa is, at the moment, quite good; but our position is fundamentally precarious and vulnerable, and we can base no real political and economic development on such an uncertain foundation.

“We have naturally considered most carefully other possibilities of broadening and strengthening the economy—and in sufficient time and on a broad enough scale—to preserve the present political momentum, and to satisfy the reasonable aspirations of our people who have now emerged into complete political independence after more than one hundred years of colonial government.

“We have launched a big programme to make the fullest use of our agricultural resources—by way of research, agricultural extension, farm-to-market roads, rural water supplies, and so on; but agricultural change takes time. Meanwhile, all our studies show that the most promising hope of a really big immediate economic advance lies in developing our great deposits of bauxite, which can be used to produce aluminium by developing also the hydro-electric possibilities of the Volta River, with its capacity of 633,000 Kilowatts. When my Minister of Finance took breakfast with you last month you were good enough to express an interest in the Project, and a fortnight ago I sent you a copy of Volume I of a report on the scheme, made by experts of international reputation after most [Page 385] careful and exhaustive studies.4

“By any standards this a great project, and if possible we would naturally wish to tackle it in stages. However, the river can be effectively dammed only at one place and this dictates the scale of the entire scheme. It is planned therefore that the first stage of the project would produce 120,000 tons of aluminium ingot and the final stage of the project would produce about 210,000 tons. Government funds would be required to build the railways and hydro-electric sections of the scheme (we already are quite well advanced in building a new port) and the bauxite mining and aluminium smelting would be carried out by private companies (with probably Aluminum Limited of Canada playing the leading part). Some $225 millions of government funds would be required for the first stage and approximately $160 millions of private investment. At the final stage a further $15 millions and $100 millions respectively would be needed.

“I must emphasize, however, that the best British and North American engineering advice we have received indicates that seven years would be required to build the scheme so that the first stage of the project would require an annual investment from government funds of only $32 millions.

“Originally we hoped that the Governments of Ghana and the United Kingdom might provide the necessary governmental investment, and that the private sector would be covered by Aluminum Limited of Canada and British Aluminum Company. In the last 18 months, however, the picture has changed considerably. It has become apparent that the British Government, while still directly interested in the project, would now wish (because of its own economic difficulties) to invest less than had originally been contemplated. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been consulted in general terms, but the many claims on that international organisation from all over the world (and other factors) have understandably made it reluctant to commit itself until it becomes clearer where the rest of the money would come from.

“The Prime Minister of Canada5 has shown sympathy with the project (both for Commonwealth reasons and because of the position of Aluminum Limited), and in the private sector the Reynolds Aluminum Company has shown a direct interest in addition to the original companies—Aluminum Limited of Canada and the British Aluminum Company. Other American companies have kept themselves informed about the project generally.

“It is now apparent, however, that the scheme cannot be brought to life unless it receives a new and powerful stimulus. When the demand for aluminum was strong we were told that the scheme—though fundamentally an excellent one—would take too long to construct. Now that the demand for aluminum has slackened temporarily we are told that this is not the appropriate time to be starting big projects.

“I share your own strong confidence in the future expansion of the economies of the Western world, and if our government had all [Page 386] the necessary financial resources I would now unhesitatingly commit my country to the project in the belief that the world demand for aluminum from 1965 onwards would certainly absorb whatever we could produce in this country. By ourselves, however, it is impossible for us to give the scheme the stimulus which is essential to get it started.

“A failure to develop the project would mean our acceptance of economic stagnation and a demonstration that we are incapable of consolidating the political independence which we have just won.

“It is apparent that our failure in this respect would have profound effect on the rest of Africa.

“I therefore write to put these problems before you, which as I have said, can well have a decisive effect, for good or otherwise, on the future of Ghana. If you feel that you can help us, we feel that what would help us most would be for your Government to indicate its willingness to consider the possibility of participating in this great scheme, bearing in mind its vital importance to our political future. As a first step, perhaps consideration could be given to sending representatives of your Government to Ghana as soon as possible to discuss with us how best the project might be undertaken.

“Finally I should like to emphasize one basic factor. We are not asking for any gifts. At most we wish to borrow substantial sums of money at a reasonable rate of interest. The economic viability of the project is such that the loans and interest would be paid off on time. In this connection, we have studied with great interest the establishment by Congress of the Development Loan Fund and we wonder whether this might be one possible source of finance which would be suitable for the scheme.

“To my mind, this great project, vital as it is to us in the economic sense, has even more profound political implications for Ghana and the continent of Africa. Its successful implementation would, I am sure, do most to preserve and strengthen the political independence of this country; and if the Government of the United States could provide the stimulus and drive which could bring the scheme to life, I venture to suggest that such actions would demonstrate to the world most convincingly and dramatically the general policies towards this continent which both you and the Vice-President have expressed so clearly in your public statements.

“With warmest personal regards, I am, Mr. President, Yours sincerely, Kwame Nkrumah.”

Letter pouched, due Department about November 22.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 711.11–EI/11–1557. Secret; Priority; Presidential Handling.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., 711.11–EI/11–1457)
  3. Adu and Jackson brought the letter to Flake because Nkrumah wanted to assure prompt delivery and proper attention. To forestall pressure for closer ties with the East, Nkrumah used the letter as justification to his Cabinet for doing nothing to “rock boat”, pending a reply. (Telegram 201 from Accra, November 13; ibid., 845J.2614/11–1357)
  4. See footnote 6, supra .
  5. John G. Diefenbaker.
  6. The President acknowledged the letter, received on November 15, in a brief message of November 21, promising to give the matter “prompt and careful consideration.” (Memorandum from Howe to Goodpaster, November 20; Department of State, Central Files, 711.11–EI/11–2057) A full response was sent to Nkrumah on January 3, 1958. The Acting Secretary sent the text of the suggested reply to the President as an enclosure to a memorandum dated December 30. (Ibid., 845J.2614/12–3057)