When Africans are united, even powerful multinationals have no choice but to toe the line

“Justice with courage is a thousand men,” was the quote that summed up President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s words at the African Investment Forum in Sandton last week. Taken from a Handel oratorio titled Judas Maccabaeus, it describes what it takes to reverse centuries of colonial exploitation.

Handel’s heroic character, Judas Maccabaeus, uses the rallying cry to get his fellow countrymen to fight off foreign onslaught on their faith. Ghana and neighbouring Ivory Coast displayed the combination, setting the tone for African leaders to emulate.

The two west African countries’ combined cocoa production is 65% of the world’s output. If we add Nigeria’s contribution, 65% could easily be 75%. The two have, for decades, contributed the key ingredient to chocolate without commensurate benefits to their farmers, who toiled for a pittance.

The global chocolate industry, dominated by Switzerland, France, the US and others, is worth more than $100 billion (R1.6 trillion), said President Akufo-Addo. Sadly, he added, the farmers responsible for growing the cocoa received a measly $6bn. Such is the injustice of the global commodity markets.

There is nothing wrong with buying commodities and adding value to them for profit. However, the unfairness of the chocolate industry – as with jewellery, auto-catalytic converters or cobalt in electronic appliances – is that the buyers have not taken much interest in the producers’ welfare.

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