Accepted Paper:

The Soviet Union vs. Cadbury's: socialist trade with Ghana in theory and practice  


Alessandro Iandolo (London School of Economic and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will analyse Soviet policy towards Ghana between 1957 and 1964, showing how the USSR competed with the Western private sector for the country's cocoa. Both socialist and capitalist trade proved to be detrimental to Ghana's ambitious of autonomous development.

Paper long abstract:

In 1957, Ghana became the first independent sub-Saharan African country. Kwame Krumah, Ghana's Prime Minister, had ambitious aims. He wanted the country to be not only politically, but also economically independent from Britain. The Soviet Union was ready to help. Nikita Khrushchev was convinced that socialism was a superior economic system compared to capitalism. To prove it, he was ready to flood Ghana with Soviet goods, Soviet technology, and Soviet advisors. Socialist trade was to play a key role. Ghana's main export commodity - cocoa beans - was to be exchanged with Soviet machinery in what was thought to be a mutually advantageous barter agreement. However, Ghana was the main supplier of cocoa beans to British chocolate manufacturers - an industry that employed 5,000 people in Birmingham alone. If Ghana began to exchange its cocoa with Soviet tractors, rather than selling it to British firms through a British marketing company, the consequences on the competitiveness of a then-thriving sector could be dire. British businesses responded by cajoling and threatening the Ghanaian leadership, by lobbying domestic policymakers to defend their interests, and by raising employment fears at home. The Cold War in Ghana was therefore a struggle between Soviet-sponsored state-led modernisation and the Western private sector. Going beyond traditional considerations of ideology and power politics, this paper shows the Cold War in the Third World as a competition between two different visions of economic relations, driven more by the local context and by vested interests than by international politics.

Panel P082
The changing landscape of the global political economy and foreign aid: has the Cold War ended? (Anthropology of International Governance Network)