János Fekete in Ghana

Photo: Zsolt Demecs, Népszava, 1994

After President Nkrumah’s visit to Ghana in 1961, the president requested a wide range of expertise and investment projects from Hungary. Among them was the secret mission of János Fekete as a financial adviser in the summer of 1962 to work out currency management solutions for Ghana, which was heavily dependent on world market prices and loans from Western countries (USA, UK).

János Fekete has been much written about in Hungary, but his foreign policy activities, especially his advisory work in the post-colonial countries, have hardly been investigated. From 1946 to 1948, he worked at the Hungarian National Bank, in 1950 he was head of the Foreign Exchange Department of the Ministry of Finance, and later of the Finance Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1950, he represented Hungary in the postwar reparations negotiations in Paris. In 1953, he returned to the Hungarian National Bank, where he held increasingly higher positions until his retirement in 1988: Head of the Foreign Exchange Department (1953–1968), Deputy Chairman (1968–1980) and Governor of the International Monetary Fund in Hungary (1982–1988). After 1989, he represented Eastern Europe on the 15-member World Economic Advisory Council chaired by Helmut Schmidt. Attila Mong’s book “Kádár’s Loan” (2012) reveals the role of Fekete’s manoeuvres in postponing the credit crisis of the 1980s and how our Western credit policy led to regime change.

If we look at the activities of Hungarian experts not only from a Westcentric perspective, but also from the perspective of the South and (post)colonial countries, Hungary’s global history shows a very different view. We played an important role in both socialist globalization and Afro-Asian decolonization. However, these chapters are missing from our national history books. Among other things, I will be talking about this in my lecture on 16 May in Pécs on the first day of Africa Week!

Photo: Hungarian National Archives