Contracts, Credit, and Crime: International Investors in Ghana 1960s-70s

This paper situates Ghana’s post-independence era within a broader history of international business, investment, and finance. Unlike settler colonies in East and North Africa, where the end of Empire led to a withdrawal of funds, decolonization in Ghana initiated an influx of capital in the form of credit, contracts, and massive loans. While such transactions were crucial to funding development projects throughout the country, I argue that they were also entangled in notorious cases of international scandal and fraud. For this paper, I focus specifically on one of the most controversial foreign investors to arrive on the post-independence scene—Noe Drevici. Originally representing a group of West German and Swiss companies, Drevici rose to become President Kwame Nkrumah’s “biggest confidence man” and the country’s second largest creditor after the U.K. By the 1970s, Drevici would disappear with millions of dollars in advance payments for factories and projects that were never completed. Drawing on research in corporate, government, and financial archives, as well as local and international media, this paper investigates the extent to which financial relationships forged after independence, and the fraud and scandal that accompanied them, destabilized Ghana’s economic autonomy. By examining the Drevici affair, or the people and processes behind such international negotiations, my research brings to life a dynamic post-independence economic history that is all too often reduced to national narratives of failure, disappointment, and decline.