Sir Gordon Guggisberg
… Architect of development of the Gold Coast
By: Mabel Addo
A trip down the memory lane of Ghana’s developmental history reveals that historians have minced no words in placing the beginning of Ghana’s development at the doorstep of Sir Gordon Guggisberg, who was described as the greatest of the Governor’s of the Gold Coast.
Born in 1868 of Jewish German ancestry, his enlightenment, energy, foresight and administrative ability placed him on the pedestal of the task of developing the Gold Coast.
Prior to the period of colonialism, tribalism, which followed a peculiar pattern of thinking, was the main cause of social, economic predicament of the Gold Coast. The Colonialist tried to make a nation-state out of a hotch-potch of antagonistic and apparently “uncivilized” African people.
Colonialism, whether of the British, Belgian, French of German variant was mean to be a benign enterprise unfolding in a pattern of social and economic investment.
Interestingly, the period of Guggisberg’s administration in the Gold Coast was of unprecedented socio-economic development. Historians attributed much of the development to his personal foresight and devotion as he familiarized himself with the problem of the Gold Coast colony when he was appointed Governor in 1919.
At the inception of his administration of the Gold Coast, the Second World War had hindered much development and had also stirred up unrest among the people of the Gold Coast. In spite of all these set-ups, Guggisberg was of the view that all was not lost and that given the opportunity the people could attain intellectual development.
The remarkable feat he achieved in his eight years service in the colony could not be over-emphasized. His ten year development working plan with a budget of 25 million pound sterling was to provide the colony with the facilities that would promote economic growth and improve livelihoods of the people of the Gold Coast by reforming the existing educational system.
Conversant with the fact that “National interest connotes an endeavour for the paramount goodness and well-being of a country and its people”, as stated by Samuel Johnson, there was no doubt that Governor Guggisberg had the interest of Gold Coast at heart.
He began developing the Gold Coast by using part of his budget and taxes collected from the local people in 1921, work started on the Takoradi harbor and completed in 1928. Today, the Tarkoradi Harbour plays an important role in the import and export trade in Ghana.
He built new railway lines and extended the already existing ones. He regarded the line from Sekondi to Kumasi and extended the Accra – Tafo rail line to Kumasi. A new line from Kade to Huni valley was constructed to serve the Cocoa and timber areas of the Central Province, and by the time of his departure, 128 Kilometers of rail lines had been completed. Guggisberg added 168 Kilometers of rail line to the 430 which existed before he took over. Indeed, the Railway net work of the Gold Coast was improved tremendously, by Guggisberg.
During his time, there was substantial increase in mining activities, and the Gold Coast started industrial mining.
It was during Guggisberg’s administration as Governor that the Gold Coast embarked upon developmental strategies in the agricultural sector. He extended his efforts to the development of the cocoa industry and by the early 1920s, agriculture became the most important commercial entity. His extension of roads to vital crop cultivation areas contributed immensely to the growth of agriculture.
Realizing that the human resource development was key to socio-economic development, Guggisberg was convinced that there was the need to reform education in the colony. He built the Achimota School in 1927 as a model to put this idea into practice.
Aside that, he built technical schools across the country to train surveyors and engineers.
He made tremendous improvement in the area of health. The Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, the premier health service delivery centre in the gold Coast colony, was completed in 1923 under the tutelage of Governor Guggisberg. It provided medical healthcare facilities to the people of Accra and surrounding villages. Today, it is still the leading teaching and referral hospital in the country.
Governor Guggisberg old not only concentrate on the social and economic development of the Gold Coast, he also made enormous contributions in the country’s political reforms.
He set the tone for the political advancement of the gold Coast by appointing Africans to Senior Posts in government service, in the technical departments in diverse fields like medicine, the judiciary, agriculture, forestry and education.
In 1925, he introduced a new constitution which allowed the local people a greater measure of political say than before.
He was also one governor who put great emphasis on the preservation of native institutions” and the administration of the colony through the chiefs. He was of the belief that only a gradual advancement and progress of the colony. African chiefs were empowered to exercise some level of authority administratively at the local level.
Undoubtedly, the eight years of Guggisberg administration was dubbed the most revolutionary in Ghana’s colonial history as far as social and economic development were concerned.
Ghana’s independence merely delivered us from the yoke of political control of the British. It did not mean we were absolutely free.
Today, as Ghana celebrates 54 years of independence, what the nation needs is a well formulated national development plan that crystallizes our vision as one people.
It is gratifying for the current generation to note that the years of Guggisberg’s administration of the Gold Coast were an era of significant progress in social, economic and educational development.
Undoubtedly, he boosted job training, education and infrastructural development which created job opportunities and also increased the standard of living of the people. Economic development in the Gold Coast also grew rapidly in terms of agriculture, health, industrial production and expansion.
His tenure encouraged foreign investment since the natural resources such as gold cocoa and timber were exported to other countries. The revenue generated were channeled into developmental projects as well as the distribution and allocation of resources across the Gold Coast.
· The writer is an Officer of the Information Services Department
Saturday, February 26, 2011, Spectator, Page 37