Negotiating Agency and Dependency in Africa’s International Relations: How Ideologies have Shaped Ghana’s Foreign Policy since Independence

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


International relations literature on Africa has tended to overlook the importance of ideologies in foreign policy-making, either because the rhetoric and actions of policy-makers do not conform to dominant ideologies, or because external influences appear to override the ideological objectives of African governments. However, previous studies relied heavily on dominant Western frameworks that barely capture how ideas influence foreign policy in African contexts, thus leaving much unexplained regarding Africa’s international relations. In this thesis, I propose a contextual approach that captures how well-established ideologies operate within context to shape foreign policy, capturing what has been missed in much of the African-centred literature.
Ghana makes a good case study. It was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence and has, therefore, a long track record of foreign policy-making to explore. I examine three central and interrelated themes of Ghana’s foreign policy – neighbour-relations, regional integration and economic diplomacy – which between them represent Africa’s attempts at development and activism in international relations. Further, Ghana presents a classic, yet underexplored case of a series of governments whose leaders have not shied from expressing ideas. I look at foreign policy-making under the Nkrumah, Rawlings and Kufuor administrations, which represent significant epochs of Ghana and Africa’s international political and economic diplomacy. My analysis builds on empirical material drawn from twenty-two elite interviews with members of the administrations and archives covering parliamentary policy debates, government correspondence, speeches and news about foreign policy events to provide information on ideological debates, political, economic and international contexts, and reflections on decisions taken.
I find that Ghana’s ideologies and foreign policies have been exemplified by an interplay of four context-driven components – good neighbourliness, African consciousness/Pan-Africanism, economic independence and anti-colonialism – each of which were interpreted variedly by the three governments to describe and pursue variations of a nationalist project. These varieties of Ghanaian nationalism can be traced back to the post-independence Nkrumaist and Danquah-Busia-Dombo ideological tension, highlighting an ideological debate that has continued since independence.
Finally, the thesis uses findings on the importance of ideology to demonstrate how African agency goes beyond the show of influence or resistance. It argues that paying attention to actors’ ideas is a way to understand agency amidst the diversity of preferences, strategies, and outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Jones, William, Supervisor
  • Gallagher, Julia, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jun 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 10 May 2022


  • Ghana
  • Ghana's Foreign Policy
  • Kwame Nkrumah
  • Jerry John Rawlings
  • Ideology
  • Pan-Africanism
  • Ideological Contextualisation
  • African Socialism
  • African Personality
  • John Agyekum Kufuor
  • African Ideology
  • African Agency
  • Dependency
  • Nkrumaism
  • Economic Diplomacy
  • Neighbour Relations
  • Regional Integration
  • Africa's International Relations

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