Red Bull and other energy drinks

I was recently sitting with a friend at one of Accra’s landmark spots enjoying a cold beer and catching up on recent events in our lives. One of the illuminated signs over the bar stuck in my mind and set me to thinking the following day. The sign was promoting the well-known Red Bull energy drink, enjoyed by many, I am told, who wish to “enhance” the effects of the alcoholic beverage that they are consuming. My interest was not so much in the drink but rather of the aluminum can in which the drink is contained.

The popularity of the drink, and the very can itself, are a mockery of this country – a country, rich in bauxite but one that relies on outside sources for its aluminum requirements. Even now, Ghanaian bauxite that could be so easily turned into cans to contain the “energy drink” consumed by countless Ghanaians is shipped from Takoradi to be refined somewhere else in the world, in one of those bitter ironies of this modern capitalist age. At one time, Ghana provided cheap electricity to refine someone else’s bauxite, and now when the country could benefit significantly from refining its own resources, the economic “masters” of the world have found a cheaper source of electricity than ours to do that job. Once again, the economic interests of Ghana and Ghanaians have been sacrificed for the economic benefit of foreign corporations.

How many know the story? A tale of the economic colonizer convincing a newly “independent” country to construct a dam, a dam that flooded a vast area of agricultural land and destroyed forests which contained valuable timber resources and once provided the ingredients for traditional medicines to keep the nearby inhabitants healthy. The story of promises that the rich bauxite resources of the country would be refined here, and thus create an industrial base for the further economic development of the country.

Instead, what happened? Well, the dam was constructed, with loans from willing “donor” nations thus putting the county into debt and subjecting it’s government to outside financial controls. Contracts were signed to guarantee that cheap electricity would be used to refine bauxite but instead of extracting the ore from Ghana, it was brought in from the mines of some other hungry country, leaving Ghanaian bauxite in the ground for many more years.

The initial contracts guaranteed cheap electricity rates for just long enough for the economic colonizer to maximize its profits, and then, with turbines worn out and silted up and in need of expensive refurbishment, they abandoned the ship and moved on to other greener pastures.

Meanwhile other economic colonizers have stepped up to the plate, more than willing to continue the plunder of the country. The bauxite resources were still an attraction, and so they were brought out of the ground and sent outside to be refined. The country continued to aid in its own exploitation. The rail system which was built by the political colonizer was for a time used to transport the ore to the harbour but it soon fell into disrepair. So the ore is now transported by a large fleet of multi-axle truck trailers using the road system, further contributing to environmental global warming and also adding substantial wear and tear on an already overstressed highway system – a system which in turn the “independent” government borrows money to rebuild, once again, placing itself in debt and under the control of outside financial sources.

And the cycle repeats itself…. How addictive an “energy” drink becomes. The energy of a people and their resources – addicted to continued and continual control by outside economic colonizers.