Sixty-five years ago, our nation was born. It was born out of indomitable courage in the face of colonialism and imperialism. It was born through shared struggle, bloodshed and tears. And it was born on the backs and hopes of ordinary Ghanaians.
I was 13 years old at the time of independence. I grew up with Ghana, and I have lived through our post-colonial journey – the ups and downs, the successes and the setbacks.
Ghana has so many reasons to be proud. We have been at the forefront of Africa’s movement not only to independence but also to democracy and citizen-empowerment. We are known as Africa’s ‘Black Star’, but we are also its North star. We have led and others have followed.
However, we have not yet attained the heights that our forebears fought and bled for. We have not yet realised the Ghana we want – for ourselves, but most importantly for future generations.
Despite occasional periods of economic growth, Ghana continues to grapple with critical social and economic challenges which hold us back from achieving our full potential.
Our young people are disenchanted and distrustful of our leaders and institutions as they deal with unemployment. The growing polarisation of our politics is drawing us further and further apart when we should be working together for our common good. We struggle to translate our abundant natural and human resources into economic and social well-being. At the same time, we must confront and adapt to the challenges – such as climate change, population growth, financial instabilit, and public health – that pose direct threats to our survival.
We have reached a tipping-point and cannot continue along this path if we are to survive as a nation. As we approach the second-half of the 21st century, it is imperative that we stop, adjust our sails and change course to build the Ghana we want.
We have a window of opportunity over the next twelve months, before the 2024 election campaigns go into full drive, to build a national consensus around Ghana’s biggest opportunities and challenges and to put those issues squarely on the agenda for debate during the next election.
It is not enough for Ghana to experience spurts of ‘economic growth’ with increasing poverty. Ghana needs a sustained and resilient economic transformation that ensures the lives our people continue to improve.
Faster progress on transformation not only will strengthen our economy but also help us better survive shocks like inflation, rising energy costs and rapid depreciation of the cedi, and more quickly lift our most vulnerable brothers and sisters out of destitution.
Many countries around the world have successfully travelled the road to transformation. Each country is different, but there are lessons and best practices to follow on our journey. And it all starts with having a plan.
To build the Ghana we want, we need to focus our energies – a national consensus on what to do to turn the tide and address the challenges facing us.
This means, among other things, that we need to diversify our industries to be more competitive in global markets; increase productivity, especially of our human resources; and advance technology and innovation – all to improve the well-being of our citizens. For instance, we can increase the capacity of local SMEs so they become investment-ready and are able to utilise technology for increased productivity and competitiveness on global markets.
This vision will require the agreement and collaboration of all citizens – especially the youth, political, traditional and religious leaders, prominent community organisations, and technical policy experts. It will be the North Star for our transformation agenda and for our democracy. We need to act as citizens and not spectators – citizens with a vested interest in building a Ghana we can all be proud of.
Kwame Nkrumah told us: “We have a duty to prove to the world that Africans can conduct their own affairs with efficiency and tolerance, and through the exercise of democracy. We must set an example to all Africa”.
During these challenging times in Ghana and around the world, it is past time for us to live up to this duty and set that example once more. The good news is that work has already begun. A few months ago, a group of Ghanaians representing a cross-section of our society came together at Peduase to define what we can do together to chart a path for Ghana’s future.
The youngest person in the group was only 13 years old, and the oldest was older than I am. The group included leaders from policy institutes, media, civil society and business, and brought viewpoints from every angle to enrich and improve our approach. Most importantly, their political affiliations spanned most of the parties in Ghana.
Together, we are collaborating to develop what we call a Compact for Political and Economic Transformation in Ghana. The Compact will be an agreement between citizens and government – regardless of who is in power – on the direction of travel for our country, and on the vision and values that underpin our democracy and pave the way toward the Ghana we want. It will also be a Compact between all of us as citizens on the values we want to uphold as a nation while we embark on this new agenda.
Agreeing on a common vision and a roadmap for Ghana will help make our elections more about the issues and less about the politics. It will help our governments focus on national interest over party interest. And, importantly, it will help us as citizens hold our elected officials accountable and take more responsibility for driving the agenda of our country.
What we are starting now will need the commitment of all Ghanaians regardless of background, religion, political party affiliation, age or gender. We have an opportunity today to begin a journey toward a better future, and I hope you will all join us.
My journey will one day come to an end, and the future belongs to my children and grandchildren. And your children and grandchildren, what kind of future will they have? What legacy will we leave them?
We all appreciate the challenges that still exist. Let us now work together to turn our fortunes around and strive for the aspirations that nearly all of us have for the Ghana we want – for ourselves and future generations.
>>>For the past fifty years, Dr. K.Y. Amoako – Founder and President, African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) – has spearheaded many of the issues and policies central to Africa’s development. A pioneer and passionate advocate for African transformation, he has worked alongside African leaders and some of the world’s most prominent development specialists to tackle many of the most pressing African and global development issues. Previously, Amoako served as Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa at the rank of UN Undersecretary-General. Before then, he was a senior official at the World Bank.