Adam Curtis, 1992
5. Black Power
GHANA, WEST AFRICA
Thirty-five years ago, one man set out to turn this country into a modern industrial utopia. He was Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of a newly-independent black African state. His aim was to transform Ghana into a society shaped and driven by the power of science.
[Audio from a recording of a speech given by Kwame Nkrumah]
"And I see and hear springing up [the] cities of Ghana, becoming the metropolis[es?] of science,
learning, scientific agriculture and philosophy.
"Seek ye first the political kingdom; and all other things shall be added unto it."
At the heart of Nkrumah's plan was a giant dam that would produce vast quantities of cheap electricity – enough
power to build a modern industrial state in the heart of Africa within a generation.
But what Nkrumah did not forsee was that with the dam would come other more dangerous forms of power which he could not control; political and economic forces that would tear apart his vision of using science and technology to create a model for the new Africa.
Nkrumah was, [to] my mind, a visionary, not a dreamer. In his mind's eye, he could see... a United
States of Africa, as [in] United States of America – and he could see Africa coming together to form
a viable unit; to become a world power, in the shortest possible time.
[Al Haji Futa]
He needed power; and there was no source from which he could get the amount of power which
he needed. And this was the one source which could provide him with that power; and he was
prepared to go the whole length to get it.
[From ?newsreel dated] 1951
[Voiceover:] "To the people of the Gold Coast, there came, last week, a day that will always be
remembered in their history. For here, in what's been a British colony for more than a century,
nearly a million people went to the polls in their first general election.
"The main issue in the election lay between those who want self-government sometime in the
future and those who want it now, like the Convention People's Party – the CPP. Their leader,
Kwame Nkrumah, spent election day in jail, serving a sentence for incitement and sedition."
Nkrumah's rise had been irresistible. After spending ten years in America as a student, he had returned to the Gold Coast in 1947. Within two years, he had formed a political party. Two years after that, he swept to power. Although the British still controlled trade, defence and foreign policy, he had become the first black African prime minister.
Al Haji Futa
Nkrumah, before coming into power, had, in his election manifesto, made certain promises
about development; about turning the country into a modern industrial country. Nkrumah very
much believed that for development, power was necessary; that you had to have power – that
without power, you couldn't develop.
"Power" meant electricity; and the source was to be the giant Volta river that flowed through the eastern half of the country. Ever since the 1920s, the British had planned to build a dam there. A hydroelectric plant would
produce electricity to make aluminium from the Gold Coast's vast reserves of the mineral bauxite.
In the early fifties, Britain was desperate for a cheap source of aluminium. Nkrumah joined with the British to resuscitate the scheme.
[Clip from] "The Volta River Project" [by the] Gold Coast Film Unit [dated] 1954
The British authorities saw the power from the dam simply as a means to boost the Empire's supply of aluminium. But for Nkrumah, it was much more. He saw it as the key to fulfilling his country's destiny.
Kojo Botsio, Minister of Education 1951–57
The power was originally conceived just for the manufacture of aluminium in this country. But
then, when Kwame came, he gave a new accent, a new importance to that power project: that 
the power was to be used for [the] comprehensive economic development of the country.
Together, Nkrumah and the British organised a travelling exhibition to promote the Volta scheme. Large models of the dam were built and taken round the country amidst a blaze of publicity. The exhibition was seen by nearly two million people.
Sqn. Ldr. Clem Sowu, Assistant Exhibition Officer 1956
Some [..?..] [?folks'] reaction was first: Is it possible? Is it feasible... for this to happen in their
lifetime? And I remember in one particular place there was one farmer who came in in a [..?..] and
did ask the question: what can he do to help, for the project to come on?
The exhibition was a great success and it helped Nkrumah consolidate his political position. But to his opponents, whom he had defeated in the election, the Volta scheme was a dangerous trap; just another cycle in the British exploitation of their country.
Kwesi Lamptey, Opposition MP 1951–1957
The British people were anxious to give us that scheme. And one thing I must make clear: the
scheme was not started by Nkrumah. The Volta River scheme was an old scheme of [the] British
In 1953, Nkrumah's opponents forced a debate in parliament. In a series of speeches, the opposition MPs warned that Nkrumah was in danger of enslaving the country to powerful interests far beyond his control.
[Reading] "As a long-term scheme, it is excellent. But as a short-term scheme, Mr Speaker, it is
"I would say that no nation which is beginning to free itself puts its neck in a position in which it
will find itself in economic slavery."
At the end of the debate, Nkrumah defended his partnership with the British. "We are not boys", he said. "Do you think I am a fool to enter into a project like this blindly? I am not so damn silly as to put my nose into something that is detrimental to this country."
[From TV footage of] Anthony Eden, Prime Minister [of Britain 1955–1957, making an address regarding the Suez Crisis]
"All my life, I've been a man of peace; working for peace, striving for peace, negotiating for peace.
But I'm utterly convinced that the action we have taken is right."
In 1956, Britain [with France and Israel] invaded Egypt to prevent President Nasser from nationalising the Suez
Canal. Within ten days, the United Nations and the Americans forced them to retreat.
Suez symbolised the decline of Britain's colonial power. Vast projects like the Volta dam began to look increasingly insecure in the face of confident new African leaders – and Britain was running out of money. That same year, Nkrumah's government was told [that] the Volta scheme was shelved.
Kojo Botsio, Minister of Education 1951–57
Nkrumah had received the news that the British government intended to pull out of the scheme
because the finances were getting too large for them to handle.
James Moxon, public relations spokesman, Volta River Project
He was almost in despair. Everybody was depressed; all of those of us who were involved in it in
any way were shattered when we discovered that the project was on the shelf. And Nkrumah...
But Nkrumah was not a man to allow depression to take over.
On 6 March 1957, the Gold Coast became Ghana: the first black African country to be free.
The promise of independence was not  going to be just [of] freedom but that people will see it in
their lives... the promise that we're going to industrialise the country as a means of generating
growth, economic growth; and industrialisation means that we must have power. And, therefore,
the first thing was that all of us should harness all our resources to[ward] getting the power
It was a glorious moment for Ghana; and for Nkrumah. But, in private, he knew that many of the promises on which he had been swept to power might prove dangerously hollow if the dam were not built. It was the key to
his vision of leading Africa into a shining tomorrow.
But then, four-thousand miles away, a simple twist of fate brought the Volta scheme back to life.
AMERICA, LATER THAT YEAR...
At the end of 1957, Nkrumah's finance minister Komla Gbedemah went to America on a private visit.
Komla Gbedemah, Minister of Finance 1957–1961
I was invited to Maryland State College to give a talk on the newly-independent Ghana; and, as I
was driving there from New York, I felt like having a drink of orange juice or  water at a roadside
restaurant – [a] Howard Johnson's restuarant – in Delaware. My secretary, who was American –
a black American – told me: "Minister, I think this is one of the states where they are very "sticky"
about colour." I said: "What..?"
I asked for two glasses of orange juice. The girl looked at us [and] said: "No, sir, you can't." [I said:]
"What..?" "You can't." Then she turned away, went in and told the manager to come and speak
to us. So, the manager came and said: "Gentlemen, I'm sorry; because of your colour, you can't
drink in here." I said to him: "Look, there are people here who are [of] lower social status than I
am, but they can drink – and I can't..? Okay, you can keep the orange juice and the change, but
you haven't heard the last of this..!"
Next morning, it was  news all over the world.
[Gbedemah was then invited to breakfast with the then US President, Eisenhower] During breakfast, he
[Eisenhower] asked me what [I was] doing in the United States. I said: "I've come here to talk about
the Volta project." "How is that project?" he asked. [I said:] "Well, we've put it in cold storage
because we can't find the money immediately." "Have you talked to the State Department?" he
said. "No, we haven't." "Dick... Richard [Nixon, Eisenhower's vice-president], will you take care of
that..?" And that was how the Volta project came back to life so soon.
Nkrumah seized the opportunity. He wrote to Eisenhower asking for help in building the dam. Eisenhower
invited him to visit America. At their meeting in March 1958, he told Nkrumah that the best way to get the
scheme started again would be to involve American industry.
Eisenhower contacted Edgar Kaiser. He was head of one of the largest aluminium corporations in the world. Kaiser was based in Oakland, California. It had mines and smelting plants throughout the world. It promoted
aluminium as the shining lightweight metal of the future.
At Eisenhower's request, Edgar Kaiser flew from California to meet Nkrumah in New York.
We were staying at the Waldorf Towers; and Edgar came in and he and Nkrumah stood and
looked at each other... and some kind of magnetic quality passed between them. It was quite
remarkable; they took to each other at once. And I doubt if that... electricity ever evaporated
throughout their experience – although they had many "set-to"s in one way or another.
At the end of 1958, a team of Kaiser executives and engineers flew to Accra [Ghana's capital] to look at the plans for the scheme. Nkrumah offered the Kaiser team a deal. If they agreed to build an aluminium smelter in Ghana, then his government woudl be able to raise the money for the dam. In return, the dam would supply the large
quantities of electricity needed by the plant. The rest would go to power the future industries of the new Ghana.
To the Kaiser team, Ghana seemed an attractive prospect.
Ron Sullivan, Kasier lawyer on Volta Project 1959–1979
It was wealthy – I think they had four hundred million dollars in the bank – [and] very highly
educated; every driver was reading the newspaper... I mean, they were very literate people
and... it was as good a place to try in Africa as you could go to.
Kwame Kwateng, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Finance 1960–1964
They were aggressive. There was one young lawyer who impressed me – we became great
friends – Ron Sullivan. He was very aggressive... and they were... a little [..?..] to understand
what they were doing; that was their nature. Unlike the British, who were very... gentlemanly,
the Americans were straight to the point and... no frills or wrapping-up; they called a spade a
spade and a shovel a shovel.
They wanted the dam. And we were the means to get it, because we were the way that the dam
was being financed.
It had always been assumed by the Ghanaians that, as with the British scheme, the smelter would use the vast reserves of their own bauxite and so create an important new industry. But in the middle of the negotiations, the Kaiser team made it clear they had no intention of using Ghana's bauxite for the time being. Instead, they would import the raw materials needed by the smelter from America. The decision shocked the Ghanaian negotiating team.
Ron Sullivan, Kasier lawyer on Volta Project
They might've been disappointed, but you have to realise that wasn't that high a grade of
bauxite. It was high-thirties or a low-forties [percentage of retrievable aluminium]; and the bauxite,
for example, over in Guinea was fifty-five percent. Makes a lot of difference in costs. We just...
It just wasn't possible at that time.
This seemed to be totally wrong to Nkrumah. He was intensely upset. He could never believe that
Ghana's bauxite couldn't be converted by a series of processes into pots and pans and roofing
What the Kaiser executives didn't tell the Ghanaians was that there was another reason why they didn't want to use the local bauxite.
Lloyd Cutler, Kasier lawyer on Volta Project
We were greatly concerned that if we located within Ghana all of the bauxite and power necessary
to have an integrated aluminum operation,  someday our project – if it were profitable – might
be nationalised by the government and taken away from us.
The Kaiser team refused to change their minds. They knew, as well as Nkrumah did, that without them, there would be no dam. At the end of 1959, Nkrumah told his team to agree to Kaiser's terms. Millions of dollars' worth of Ghanaian bauxite would remain in the ground. But, with Kaiser's letter of intent in his pocket, Nkrumah knew he could now set about raising the money to build the dam.
He approached the World Bank. It had been set up at the end of the [Second World W]ar to provide loans to rebuild Europe, but now it had turned its attention to the Third World. He asked the Bank for thirty million pounds; it was the largest loan ever requested. Yet the Bank's economists believed, as Nkrumah did, that electricity was the key to industrial development in the Third World.
J. Burke Knapp, Senior Vice-President, World Bank 1956–1978
We envisaged the development of this power resource as fundamental to Ghanaian economic
development. The provision of power, electric power, to Ghana was an immense economic benefit
to the country – was a sine qua non [for] economic development in the country. So, let's accept
that the economic benefits of power to Ghana were tremendous.
The belief that science and technology applied on a grand scale would somehow inevitably propel a Third-World country into the industrial age was the prevailing wisdom of the time. It was called the "theory of takeoff". It
gripped the imagination of politicians and economists both in the West and in the Third World.
In June 1960, the World Bank approved the scheme in principle. But its report had important reservations. The most serious concerned the price Kaiser paid Ghana for electricity. The World Bank made it clear that if Nkrumah was to get the benefits he expected from the dam, he must negotiate a certain minimum rate for the power. If he didn't, Ghana might find it difficult to "takeoff".
[J. Burke Knapp]
Our report essentially was saying to Ghana: this project will succeed and we're prepared to make
a loan on it – and the load can be paid off if the power price is right. This was absolutely the key
to the negotiations.
But Kaiser needed a low rate if the smelter was to be profitable. A second round of negotiations began.
Nkrumah faced a terrible dilemma. His advisers – and the World Bank – told him that if he accepted the price Kaiser was offering, the high expectations he had of the dam might not be realised. But if he refused, Nkrumah knew that Kaiser would pull out and the dam would never be built.
Al Haji Futa, Ghanaian negotiating team
Nkrumah was a man beseiged. He had to do something – as you know, he had raised up hopes
of the development of the country; that the Volta River project would turn Ghana into a modern
He had no other programme. Insofar as he saw it as providing this minimum of the power which
he sought, he was prepared to go along [with Kaiser].
The negotiations dragged on through the autumn of 1960. Neither side would give way on the electricity price. Finally, one hot afternoon in December, Edgar Kaiser decided to confront Nkrumah and force the issue.
Kwame Kwateng, Ghanaian negotiating team
Kaiser asked for the meeting to be adjourned and went straight to Nkrumah and explained that
perhaps his shareholders would not go along with the project if we asked for a higher power rate
than Kaiser was asking for.
A message came back after lunch from Nkrumah that we were to go ahead and accept the [Kaiser]
rate. He wanted the project, at all costs.
Kwame Nkrumah and Edgar Kaiser, on 22 January 1962, signed the Master Agreement, which
enfolded every provision that was necessary between Edgar Kaiser's company and the Ghana[ian]
government. When they had signed it, they stood up and clasped each other in a very, very genuine
embrace. I was there, together with a large number of other distinguished guests; and I don't think
any of us will ever forget it. The following day, we all went to Akosombo [the dam's site] and Nkrumah
let off a vast charge – and the scheme started.
Professor Akilagpa Sawyerr, Vice-Chancellor, Ghana University 1985–92
Yes, I suppose you can say Kaiser used Nkrumah, but, if that makes Nkrumah passive, that'd be
inaccurate, because Nkrumah  used Kaiser. The question is: Whose end of the bargain came out
Nkrumah was seen to have been going into an area with so many unknowns. One can say that
while he was pursuing power, power slipped through his fingers.
But even as Nkrumah and Edgar Kaiser celebrated, other forces were becoming involved in the scheme. The dam
was now a hostage in the vicious confrontations of the Cold War.
The year before, the Congo had been torn apart by a brutal civil war. America and the Soviet Union backed opposite sides. The policy of the new Kennedy administration was to fight the spread of communism in Africa. In 1960, Brezhnev, the President of the Soviet Union, had visited Ghana. It frightened America's leaders. They were determined that Nkrumah, despite his brand of African socialism, would be their man.
Bill Mahoney, US Ambassador to Ghana 1962–1965
Nkrumah was everything. He was everything – politically, economically... psychologically, culturally
and so on. He just absolutely dominated the scene.
Nkrumah, though, wanted to keep Ghana – and Africa – out of the Cold War.
[From footage of Kwame Nkrumah speaking at the] UNITED NATIONS [in] 1960
"... It is quite clear that a desperate attempt is being made to create confusion in the Congo;
extend the Cold War to Africa; and involve Africa in the suicidal quarrels of foreign powers.
The United Nations must not allow this to happen ..."
But there was the dam. The American government realised that it was a powerful weapon with which to ensnare Nkrumah. Like the World Bank, the Kennedy administration had agreed to lend millions of dollars to the scheme. In an internal memorandum, the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, made it quite clear what this money was for. "By maintaining this leverage on Nkrumah", he wrote, "the US will be in a better position to influence his policies." In public, though, it was called "foreign aid".
George Ball, Under-Secretary of State, Kennedy administration
The problem was that we foresaw the progress that the Soviets were making in extending their
communist ideology, particularly in Africa and, to some extent, in South America; [and] certainly
in the Middle East.  Therefore, we had to counter that [in] some way; and we countered it with
foreign aid as a defence against the [?spite] of communism.
Bit by bit, Nkrumah's utopian vision was slipping away. The Volta scheme had become something very different from what he had originally intended. At every stage, the project had been shaped not by his idealism, but by powerful political and economic pressures. But Nkrumah still believed it was worthwhile, because once the dam was built, it could not be taken away. In time, it would become the engine of his country's future.
Everyone was hopeful. Those absolutely were optimistic times for hope. Ghana was singular in
the sense that it had everything: it had educated people, it had considerable infrastructure, three
universities, schools, lawyers, doctors – it had everything going for it.
The construction of the dam was to take four years. Throughout Ghana, factories and roads began to be built: the foundations of the industrial revolution that would be powered by the dam. But with these trappings of the modern world came other forces that took Ghana's fragile economy even further from Nkrumah's control.
[From footage of Kwame Nkrumah]
"Corruption... is not a problem peculiar to any country. I personally feel that the only way in
which you can stop corruption in any country is to build up a strong public opinion against it."
J. Burke Knapp, Senior Vice-President, World Bank 1956–78
Elements entered into the equation that had not been adequately foreseen; and perhaps the
greatest of them was corruption. Corruption of government and of government people; and
corruption – I call it corruption – on the part of foreign suppliers who tried to sell Ghana – in fact,
did sell Ghana – on investment in substantial industrial enterprises which did not... were not
properly designed for the country and did not, in fact, achieve success.
In the early sixties, Ghana became a mecca for European industrialists eager to win large contracts from Nkrumah's government. They began to discover that the easiest way was to offer officials from Nkrumah's party
a bribe. This soon became the accepted way of doing business in Accra.
What resulted was a rush to sell Ghana anything, no matter how inappropriate for an emerging African nation.
Vast sums of Ghana's precious foreign currency were spent on these projects.
Then, in 1964, Nkrumah's industrial experiment received another body-blow. The world price of cocoa, which had been falling for four years, finally crashed. It was Ghana's main source of foreign exchange. The millions of pounds needed to pay for the new factories began to dry up. Ghana, once one of the richest countries in Africa,
began to slide into debt.
Nkrumah was an increasingly isolated figure on the world stage. What had once been seen as visionary ideas were now perceived as dangerous megalomania – and his country was sinking ever deeper into debt.
Dr. Jonathan Frimpong-Ansah, Deputy Governor, Ghana Central Bank 1965–8
By 1965, [?we] had become very desperate; and I remember we decided to write a memorandum
to Nkrumah to tell him the true state of affairs [..?..] the economy. I had written that the reserves
were only five-hundred thousand pounds. He looked at me and said: "Ah, you didn't check the
typing; you left a few zeroes [off]." So, I said: "No, sir; there are no zeroes left [off]. It is five-hundred
thousand; that's all we have in the banks overseas." And he sat back. Then, what he did was that
he went round the table,  to everyone who was seated there at the meeting and asked them:
"Frimpong says we have five-hundred thousand. Is he right? Do you agree with him?" And
everybody said "Yes."
That was the first time the whole Cabinet acknowledged to the President that Ghana was
[From footage of Kwame Nkrumah making an announcement]
"Our objective is: African Union now. There is no time to waste. We must unite, or we perish. I am
confident that by our concerted effort and determination ..."
Bill Mahoney, US Ambassador to Ghana 1962–1965
Kwame Nrumah was losing both domestically and internationally in his posture; he was practically
alone in Flagstaff House [the presidential palace in Accra]. He was really a little bit paranoid; it was
really awfully sad. He was even afraid to... I remember they opened their parliament one day and
Nkrumah didn't want to take the chance to drive from Flagstaff House to the parliament building...
He was a prisoner, in a sense. You know, there had been a couple of attempts on his life while we
were there, so he had reason to be a little bit apprehensive; but, toward the end, he was a different
On 22 January 1966, the dam was finally finished. Nkrumah organised a massive celebration. He invited the whole country to attend.
Al Haji Futa, Volta River Project 1960–1986
The mood of the people at the celebration, the mood of the country, was euphoric. There was
this vast project which had come in; and they understood [that] it would have a tremendous
impact and effect on the country.
I felt euphoric. I was quite enthusiastic. I felt a new dawn had come for Ghana.
But all that was happening against a background of a country that already had no money; it
[..?..] controls and [..?..] controls... So it was just like a big "emperor's new clothes". Nobody could
say that Ghana was broke, but Ghana – it was broke.
[From footage of Kwame Nkrumah's address at (presumably) the opening of the dam]
"President Eisenhower... and President Kennedy... were genuinely interested in this project
because... they saw, behind the cold figures and the rigid calculations, that the Volta River
Project was not only an economically viable project, but also an opportunity for the United
States of America to make a purposeful capital investment in a developing country.
"You see before you, in all its majesty, strength and power, the Akosombo Dam, which has
tamed the turbulent waters of the Volta ..."
Louis Casley-Hayford, dam engineer 1966
A lot of us  did not take our seats at the official seating place [but instead] watched the ceremony
from further uphill. [There were m]any, many reasons for that: one of them was that there was talk
of a possible coup at the time.
[Broadcast on] RADIO GHANA, ONE MONTH LATER
[Unidentified voice:] "Citizens of Ghana and fellow countrymen: Good evening. The Ghana Armed
Forces took over the reins of government of this country after a successful overthrow of the
regime of Kwame Nkrumah, in what may be truly described as one of the boldest ventures in
the history of this country ..."
The military coup won enormous popular support. Nkrumah had failed to deliver the modern Ghana he had
promised. The dam had come too late to save him.
But there were other forces involved in planning the coup. America, too, had finally lost patience with Nkrumah.
John Stockwell, CIA officer in West Africa at time of coup
Well, Howard Bain, who was the CIA station chief in Accra, engineered the overthrow of Kwame
Nkrumah. Now, obviously, you can look at it different ways; a Ghanaian might say "I thought we
did it..?" Inside the CIA, though, it was quite clear: Howard Bain got a double promotion and the
Intelligence Star for having overthrown Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.
The magic of it – what made it so exciting to the CIA – was that Howard Bain had had enough
imagination and drive to run the operation without ever documenting what he was doing [but] to
sweep along his bosses in such a way [as] they knew what he was doing. Tacitly, they approved,
but there wasn't one shred of paper that he generated that would nail the CIA hierarchy as being
Nkrumah fled to Guinea and never returned to Ghana. He died in 1972.
In the 1950s, in the eyes of the West, his country had been a radiant model for what Africa was to become. But by the time he fell, that image had been replaced by a picture of a continent wracked by military coups and corruption. In the late sixties, Western journalists travelled to Ghana to pick over the bones of his industrial experiment. Their contemptuous reports seemed to confirm to the West a new myth of Africa: a continent unable to handle the complex pressures of industrialisation.
[Unidentified voiceover (the reporter in the next clip from 24 Hours..?)]
"Kwame Nkrumah, the communist messiah of Africa, came home in 1947 with the clothes he stood
up in and a cardboard suitcase. He left, nineteen years later, a multi-millionaire."
[From an episode of] "TWENTY-FOUR HOURS", BBCTV 1969
[Reporter:] "He turned a two-hundred-and-fifty-million-pound credit at independence to a
six-hundred-million-pound debt; and he left Accra studded with expensive white elephants, such
as this massive saluting base here, in Black Star Square."
[From an episode of] "HORIZON", BBCTV 1972
[Voiceover:] "Today, Black Star Square, built by Nkrumah for mass parades to demonstrate
enthusiasm for his rule, remains as a bleak reminder of his conceit."
[Back to the unidentified voiceover]
"Overlooking the Square was [is?] "Job 600", [a modernist state venue] built by Nkrumah specially for
the OAU [Organisation of African Unity] conference in 1965. It's never been used since."
[Back to the 1972 Horizon episode]
[Voiceover:] "This luxury block was to house the Pan-African Congress. [It] never came."
[Back to the unidentified voiceover]
"There was the Accra–Tema motorway. Cost: six million pounds – to duplicate a fast, good road
already in existence.
[with reverberation added:] "They say the Russians actually managed to sell snow-ploughs to this
state in equatorial Africa..."
For Ghana, the years following Nkrumah's fall were ones of economic failure. The dam worked well, but the industrial world that was to have sprung up around it failed to materialise. Those Ghanaians who had been moved to make way for the dam found themselves stranded in the wreckage of Nkrumah's dream.
Divine Tetteh, school teacher [at a] resettlement village
I become quite disgusted because were are, directly, about three miles from the Volta dam, but
we don't have power. No electricity, no water. So, my feeling is that when we have [..?..], we can
do so much to help the nation.
Valco, the Volta Aluminium Company, owned and run by the Kaiser Corporation, flourished. It employed over fifteen hundred Ghanaians and brought precious foreign exchange into the country. It used most of the dam's electricity and so allowed the Work Bank loan to be paid off without interruption. The smelter became an integral part of Kaiser's worldwide production of aluminium.
Ron Sullivan, Kasier lawyer on Volta Project 1959–1979
In a way, we looked at this as a gigantic dry-cleaning plant. What we did was we sent alumina
[aluminium oxide] from the United States to the smelter; the smelter put electricity through it and
took out the oxygen; and that made [aluminium] metal.
In the 1970s, electricity prices soared throughout the world. Although the Ghanaians periodically renegotiated
the price Kaiser paid, it remained one of the lowest rates anywhere. This caused increasing resentment.
Then, in 1979, there was another military coup – the seventh since Nkrumah fell. It was led by a flight lieutenant in the air force. He was determined to put Ghana back on its feet.
[From footage of address given by] Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings
"I must share this fact with you: that Ghana has no money. We cannot build a bridge or make
a road – or give our people water or medicines – without borrowing from other countries. We
have borrowed so much that for every one hundred pounds we earn by selling our cocoa and
other exports, we use a sizeable  percentage to pay for some of our debts. We cannot continue
to borrow and be in debt all the time."
Rawlings became a popular figure, on a par with Nkrumah. His main aim was to lift the burden of debt – and one
of the most obvious solutions was to get more money from the smelter.
In 1983, his government put together a team. Its task was to persuade Kaiser to renegotiate the agreements signed with Nkrumah.
Prof. Akilagpa Sawyerr, Chairman, Ghana negotiating team
The new government decided to take the bull by the horns and confront Kaiser directly. A number
of things made them sit up and listen. I think they were aware at all times that the new government
in power was quite prepared to take drastic measures – if necessary – to achieve the objective of
a new agreement.
They must have thought us... a bit of a joke. I recall the first day  we met, when we had a lecture
from Kaiser about [..?..] team, [?who were too many in the room, for instance;] and I said "Well, you
choose your team; we will choose our team." We were young, green and inexperienced; and I
think they underrated us.
Valco's management agreed to meet the Ghanaians. But the talks soon became bogged down in disagreement. The Ghanaian team decided to raise the stakes.
J. G. A. Renner, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources 1982–1986
Then we started to... play our master plan. We decided that we were going to nationalise – we
knew that we wouldn't do it, but we wanted to put it strongly and send up a paper to government
for permission to do that. We knew that it would leak out and Kaiser would get the message.
Of course, we had another advantage; that was [that] the dam was shut down because of the low
level [of water, presumably] and we had to decide when to [reopen it] – and we wouldn't [reopen it]
until we got a good deal.
[Interviewer, off-camera:] So Kaiser would be left – [Renner:] ...with a smelter that was sitting there
doing nothing – and they would be losing money.
Although Kaiser deny that the ploy worked, a completely new agreement was negotiated and signed in January 1985. As part of it, the price Kaiser paid for electricity from the dam was increased by nearly three times. The Ghanaian people saw it as a victory for their country.
[...glitch...] for the country, experience has shown that it requires a good deal more than that.
It requires a political environment; it requires a whole range of international... understandings
to make it possible to transform the potential which science presents into actual achievement.
And, regrettably, Ghana was not able to draw upon these other elements to make its vision of
"science and technology in the driving seat" realisable.
Sqn. Ldr. Clem Sowu, Rawlings' government 1982–1985
So, it is true that one needs political power; one needs knowledge – that is also power – and then
one has to combine that with the energy – the electrical power – for us to get to that paradise...