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The Ashanti Kingdom’s Constraints on Gold Trading and Private Wealth

Ghana has been a gold-impregnated country for centuries. Gold made Ghana, then Gold Coast popular in Europe and led to a continuous trade in Gold for brass, salts, weapons (irons) and clothes. The huge nuggets of gold are located in Obuasi (Part of the Ashanti Kingdom) and in other towns including Tarkwa and Assin. As a precious mineral, gold was an important commodity to the kings and Queens of Ghana with complex symbols, used for political (traditional) ranks and order.

Gold was a measure of wealth and position in the Akan society.

In the Ashanti Kingdom, one of the largest empire in West Africa of the Gold Coast, gold for centuries had been an expensive trading commodity including used for currency exchange. The Ashanti Kingdom as a government (state) developed green eyes against wealth created by free men and conjugal families who were becoming prosperous within months in the mining and trading of gold.

The state decided to also engage in mining and trading because it was too lucrative to be left to private individuals.

However and prior to the civil war in 1875-1885, the socially disorganized Ashanti Kingdom led to the mismanagement of the political economy and in effect put an end to the direct state engagement in gold mining and trading.

After the state failed in the business of gold venture, it established for itself a tax system to help sustain the activities of the kingdom. It had recourse to some taxes and levies from private gold businesses.

The tax laws of 50% on mined gold, 20% on each 100 ounces of gold for ornaments and also entitled to one third of caches of gold found in the bush were a few of the many taxes which contributed to the fiscal muscle of the Kingdom.

The King’s right to the 50% on mined gold was due to the paramount title to lands of the kingdom. This is because it is the king that offers the land for the gold mining business. Besides, gold mining “slaves” had to pay war-tax and annual taxes to the King and smaller chiefs also collected various sums to buy goat and sheep for stool purification and ritual cleansing of gods and goddesses so the spirit of the earth would offer more gold for mining.

These taxes collected were used to support the military of the Kingdom and in effect confiscated gold from defaulters. The wealth in gold of the Ashanti Kingdom became the lever for military and political control. The state became powerfully wealthy through taxes and levies on private gold businesses.

However, mining and gold did not have much developmental effect on the economy of the Ashanti Kingdom. This is because the wealth of the state was used in building state power, big government and fighting wars. The state deepened its social and political dominance; restricting private access to gold, local investment and opportunities.

Private individuals in the Ashanti Kingdom experienced fiscal constraints on the accumulation of private wealth. This obviously reduced and limited individual potentials to wealth creation, property ownership and investment in the gold business as a way to individual socio-economic development.

Today, the Ashanti kingdom is still under developed with huge infrastructural deficits and high unemployment in the midst of abundant gold reserves which could have ushered the people of the kingdom out of poverty some centuries ago.

These restrictions on private acquisition of wealth between the sixteenth – nineteenth centuries have had a huge toll on the underdevelopment and prosperity of the Ashanti Kingdom and the country as a whole. The people of the "golden city" are currently crying for basic developments such us, roads, water, bridges, schools and sewage systems. If you want to see Kumasi never developed, fly a drone and watch the roofs of the buildings.




Peter Bismark





Photo Credit: Researchgate

2020-08-26 22:49:13

Source: ILAPI