…A tranquil surface concealing hidden challenges
Ghana’s socio-political climate often presents itself as calm and picturesque, akin to a beautiful and serene sea. However, a closer examination reveals the presence of sharks and turbulence beneath the surface. This analysis will delve deeper into the growing intolerance of citizens toward the political class, the increasing apathy of the youth toward developmental issues, high rates of unemployment, and the shrinking space for civil society. Additionally, it will highlight the positive aspects, including the rise of community-based organising and organisations, young women entrepreneurs, and the vibrant social media space.
- Growing intolerance of citizens towards the political class
Beneath the seemingly calm surface of Ghana’s socio-political climate lies a growing sentiment of intolerance toward the political class. Citizens are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the behaviour of politicians, who often engage in confrontational rhetoric, character assassination, and even resort to violence. This trend erodes public trust, undermines democratic principles, and impedes constructive dialogue necessary for societal progress. Over the past few years, numerous cases of alleged corruption involving high-ranking politicians have come to light, sparking outrage among the general public.
One such case involved a prominent government official who was accused of embezzling public funds meant for development projects. The allegations, supported by substantial evidence, highlighted the stark contrast between the lavish lifestyles of politicians and the deteriorating living conditions faced by ordinary citizens. This blatant display of greed and misuse of power fuelled a sense of anger and frustration among the people.
- Growing apathy of the youth toward developmental issues
Ghana’s socio-political climate faces the challenge of the youth’s mounting apathy toward development issues. Many young people feel disconnected and disengaged from the political process, which can be attributed to a lack of effective youth engagement platforms and limited opportunities for meaningful participation. Consequently, the untapped potential of the youth as agents of positive change remains a missed opportunity, ultimately weakening the social fabric of the nation. One of the factors contributing to this apathy is the perception that their voices and concerns are not adequately represented by the political class. Many young people feel marginalised and excluded from decision-making processes, as they perceive a lack of genuine interest from politicians in addressing their specific needs and aspirations. This disconnect between the youth and the political establishment leads to disillusionment and a sense of powerlessness among young voters.
Additionally, the absence of effective youth engagement platforms further exacerbates the issue. Traditional political structures often fail to provide spaces for meaningful participation and dialogue for the youth. This lack of avenues to express their ideas, concerns and aspirations leaves young people feeling alienated and disinterested in the development issues that affect their lives directly.
III. High rates of unemployment
One of the pressing challenges in Ghana’s socio-political climate is the persistently high rates of unemployment, particularly among the youth. Limited job opportunities and inadequate access to quality education contribute to a sense of frustration and hopelessness. The youth, comprising a significant portion of the population, face an uncertain future, making them susceptible to social unrest and exploitation. Despite investing time and resources in obtaining a higher education, many graduates find themselves unemployed or underemployed, working in jobs that do not match their qualifications and aspirations.
Upon graduation, these young individuals face the harsh reality of a competitive job market with limited job openings. The demand for skilled and professional positions often falls short of the supply of qualified graduates, leading to a surplus of educated young people unable to secure employment in their respective fields.
Moreover, the quality of education and skills training provided may not align with the needs of the job market, resulting in a mismatch between graduates’ qualifications and the available job opportunities. This further compounds the issue of unemployment as individuals struggle to find suitable positions that utilise their skills and knowledge effectively.
- Shrinking space for civil society
The space for civil society to operate freely and contribute to national development is diminishing in Ghana. Restrictive regulations, harassment and intimidation from both state and non-state actors hamper the ability of civil society organisations (CSOs) to advocate for citizen rights, monitor governance, and provide essential services. This erosion of space threatens the democratic fabric and undermines the checks and balances necessary for a thriving society. For instance, new laws might require CSOs to go through lengthy and complex registration processes, creating barriers to entry and discouraging the formation of new organisations. The criteria for registration may also be subjective and open to interpretation, giving authorities the power to deny registration based on arbitrary reasons or political biases.
Furthermore, there have been instances of harassment, intimidation and stigmatisation of CSOs and their members by state and non-state actors. Civil society activists advocating for human rights, good governance and social justice often face threats, surveillance, and legal actions, aimed at silencing their voices and impeding their work. Such actions create a climate of fear and discourage CSOs from engaging in activities that could challenge the status quo or hold those in power accountable.
Additionally, funding restrictions imposed by the government or external actors can severely limit the financial resources available to CSOs. These restrictions may target organisations working on sensitive issues or critical of government policies, leaving them financially vulnerable and dependent on limited funding sources. Such financial constraints impede the ability of civil society to effectively carry out their programmes and initiatives, diminishing their impact on social development and citizen empowerment.
The shrinking space for civil society not only undermines democratic principles, but also weakens the checks and balances necessary for a thriving society. CSOs play a crucial role in advocating for citizen rights, monitoring governance, and providing essential services to marginalised communities. Their work often complements the efforts of the government and contributes to a more inclusive and equitable society.
- Bright spots:
Notwithstanding the challenges, several bright spots illuminate Ghana’s socio-political landscape, offering hope for progress and resilience.
- Rise of community-based organising and organisations
Community-based organising and organisations have emerged as powerful catalysts for change. These grassroots initiatives focus on addressing local challenges, mobilising resources, and promoting community development. By harnessing the collective agency of citizens, these organisations have the potential to bring about sustainable change from the ground up. The rise of community-based organising and organisations reflects a growing recognition that local communities possess valuable knowledge, resources, and agency to address their own challenges. These initiatives foster a sense of community ownership, participation and accountability, promoting social cohesion and resilience.
The impact of community-based organising and organisations extends beyond addressing specific challenges. They serve as platforms for citizens to actively engage in decision-making processes, voice their concerns, and shape the development agenda. By promoting inclusivity, grassroots initiatives contribute to more democratic and participatory governance structures.
The success of community-based organising and organisations lies in their ability to mobilise community members, leverage local knowledge, and establish partnerships with external stakeholders. They create a bottom-up approach to development that is responsive to the unique needs and aspirations of specific communities.
- Young women entrepreneurs
Ghana has witnessed a remarkable surge in young women entrepreneurs who defy societal barriers and create innovative solutions to pressing issues. These individuals not only contribute to economic growth, but also challenge gender stereotypes, empowering other women in the process. Their success stories serve as beacons of hope, inspiring a new generation of leaders. One example that exemplifies the rise of young women entrepreneurs in Ghana is the story of Ama Serwaa, a 26-year-old social entrepreneur who founded a tech start-up aimed at addressing menstrual health challenges in underserved communities. Recognising the stigma and limited access to menstrual hygiene products, Ama developed an affordable and eco-friendly sanitary pad made from locally sourced materials.
Through her entrepreneurial journey, Ama overcame various obstacles and broke gender barriers prevalent in Ghana’s business landscape. She secured seed funding, collaborated with local NGOs to build a network of suppliers and distributors. Ama’s innovation not only provided a sustainable solution to a pressing issue but also created employment opportunities for women in her community who are involved in the production and distribution of the sanitary pads.
Ama’s success story not only demonstrates her entrepreneurial skills and determination, but also challenges societal stereotypes and gender norms. By defying the notion that entrepreneurship is predominantly a male domain, she inspires other young women to pursue their dreams and break free from traditional roles. Her story serves as a powerful example of how young women entrepreneurs can create positive social impact and contribute to economic growth while empowering other women along the way.
Ama’s success is not an isolated incident. Ghana has witnessed a growing number of young women entrepreneurs across various sectors, including technology, agriculture, fashion and hospitality. These entrepreneurs leverage their skills, creativity and resilience to establish successful businesses and contribute to the country’s economic development.
Moreover, the rise of young women entrepreneurs in Ghana has led to the emergence of support networks and mentorship programmes tailored specifically for aspiring female businessowners. These initiatives provide guidance, training and access to funding opportunities, helping to bridge the gender gap in entrepreneurship and create an enabling environment for young women to thrive.
The impact of young women entrepreneurs extends beyond economic growth. Their ventures challenge societal norms, promote gender equality, and inspire other women to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations. They serve as role models and change agents, breaking down barriers and paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse business ecosystem in Ghana.
- Vibrant social media space
The proliferation of social media platforms has revolutionised public discourse and activism in Ghana. Social media provides a space for citizens to express their opinions, hold authorities accountable, and mobilise for collective action. This virtual landscape has played a pivotal role in raising awareness, fostering solidarity, and facilitating dialogue on critical socio-political issues. One example that demonstrates the vibrancy of the social media space in Ghana is the #FixTheCountry movement. Originating on social media platforms, this grassroots movement gained momentum as citizens utilised hashtags and online platforms to voice their concerns about socio-economic challenges, governance issues, and the need for systemic reforms.
Through the power of social media, Ghanaians – particularly the youth, came together to highlight various issues such as high unemployment rates, inadequate infrastructure, corruption and inequality. They shared personal stories, experiences, and demands, amplifying their voices and drawing attention to the urgent need for change.
Social media platforms allowed the #FixTheCountry movement to reach a broader audience beyond traditional media channels. It facilitated the rapid dissemination of information, enabling citizens to stay informed and engaged. Videos, images and testimonies shared on social media created a visual narrative that resonated with people across the country, sparking conversations and mobilising support.
Furthermore, social media played a crucial role in organising peaceful demonstrations and rallies, providing a virtual space to coordinate logistics, share updates, and ensure the safety of participants. Hashtags such as #FixTheCountry and #FixItNow trended widely on platforms like Twitter, attracting national and international attention, and putting pressure on authorities to address the issues raised.
The vibrant social media space in Ghana has also facilitated discussions on sensitive topics such as gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and environmental sustainability. Activists and advocates have utilised social media platforms to challenge societal norms, share stories of marginalised communities, and engage in debates that were previously considered taboo.
Additionally, social media has enabled citizens to hold authorities accountable by documenting incidents of abuse of power, corruption and human rights violations. Videos and images captured on mobile phones have served as evidence, sparking investigations and initiating legal action against perpetrators.
The vibrant social media space in Ghana has transformed the dynamics of public discourse and activism. It has provided a platform for citizens to express their opinions, engage in constructive dialogue, and hold those in power accountable. By fostering a culture of civic engagement and empowering marginalised voices, social media has become a powerful tool for social change in the country.
Ghana’s socio-political climate may appear serene on the surface, but beneath lies a complex tapestry of challenges. The growing intolerance of citizens toward the political class, the youth’s apathy towards development issues, high rates of unemployment, and the shrinking space for civil society demand urgent attention. Nevertheless, amid these challenges, the rise of community-based organising, young women entrepreneurs, and the vibrant social media space offer glimpses of resilience and progress. By addressing the underlying issues and leveraging the potential of these positive trends, Ghana can navigate its socio-political challenges and forge a path toward a more inclusive and prosperous future.
About the author
Charles is a social justice activist and thought leader with expertise in strengthening civil society resilience, sustainability and leadership, and a Development Practitioner