Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuufo-Addo is certainly redefining Africa’s new vision for development, by declaring that Ghana’s ‘economic development beyond aid’ is the cornerstone of his government’s economic policy.
I have lost count of the number of times President Akufo-Addo has repeated his favourite slogan of “Developing Ghana beyond aid”, since assuming office in January 2017. Perhaps, President Akufo-Addo’s adoption of the economic slogan “Development beyond aid” comes against the backdrop of the previous government’s resorting to the IMF for policy credibility. In fact, President Akufo-Addo is fast endearing himself not only to Ghanaians but also other Africans for his patriotic and pan-Africanist stance. Certainly, the ‘Black Star’ of Africa is rediscovering its glitter.
In addressing the UN Security Council earlier in 2017, President Akufo-Addo challenged the composition and dominance of the Security Council by a group of powerful countries. He boldly called for fairness in the Security Council’s future composition to reflect the current global realities.
“It has been talked about for a long time, but somehow we have never found the courage and will to reform the United Nations. Ghana supports the process of UN Reform – especially of the UN Security Council – as set out in Africa’s Common Position on UN Reform, based on the Ezulwini Consensus. The time is long overdue to correct this longstanding injustice that the UN Security Council’s current structure and composition represents for the nations of Africa,” he said.
He told his UN audience that it is time Africa came of age and held its rightful place on the world stage. According to him, the Africa he is envisioning would neither be a victim nor a pawn. “This Africa will be honest to itself and to the world, and this Africa will shed its cloak of poverty and become prosperous.
“We are not under any illusions about the hard work that it will take to achieve our stated goals, but we are not afraid of hard work. We know that a critical ingredient in making sustainable economic progress is to ensure a stable democratic system of governance,” he pointed out.
Turning to Ghana, President Akufo-Addo said he was never in doubt that Ghana under his leadership would make progress, after years of political turmoil and the accompanying economic chaos.
Africa beyond aid
Since the so-called independence from colonial rule and economic domination, African leaders have insisted on economic and political autonomy – actually, from as far back as when Europeans occupied and exploited the continent. Thus, President Akufo-Addo’s quest to see Africa move beyond aid was once again on full display when he hosted the French President, Mr. Emmanuel Macron. In a speech, he sent a strong message to the western world that Ghana and Africa no longer need aid to develop. In my view, what we need is trade, investments and a global justice system – otherwise called a ‘New World Economic order’ and a ‘New World Information Order’. This was the clarion call by a group of developing countries led by the G20 countries for a paradigm shift in the manner global political and economic issues are conducted, and obviously dominated, by the group of powerful countries led by the G7 and Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.
There have been several interpretations of President Akufo-Addo’s speech, with some critics describing it as radical. Far from being radical, I think he was simply reiterating the need for Ghana and Africa to chart a new path that leads us to taking commanding heights in developing our countries and our continent.
Honestly, it is so embarrassing and disingenuous for a people created in God’s image to be reduced to eternal beggars. Since expulsion from Europe – having dominated it for 800 years – in the late 15th century, Africans have been the face of poverty, war, degradation, underachievement, slavery, neglect and inhuman treatment: not only from foreign powers, but by the hands of our own self-seeking leaders. Africa is always last on all development indicators published by the World Bank and western donors – perhaps to justify our continuous and dire need for financial bailouts and food aid.
As indicated earlier, we are mostly to blame for the pathetic social, political and economic condition of our continent. What else could explain why Africa is a beggar continent when it is endowed with the world’s richest mineral and water resources? Somewhere along the line this begging mentality has to be replaced, with prudent economic management whose fruits will be enjoyed by everyone. This is the surest way of curbing African youth migration to Europe and avoid derogatory remarks/descriptions like ‘Shithole’. Of course, if you go begging all the time your benefactor can only treat you with contempt.
No more dependency
As President Akufo-Addo pointed out, “We can no longer continue to make policies for ourselves…… on the basis of whatever support that the western world or France, or the European Union can give us. It will not work. It has not worked and it will never work,” he stressed.
“We have to get away from this mindset of dependency. This mindset of ‘what can France do for us?’ France will do whatever it wants to do for its own sake, and when those coincide with ours, ‘tant mieux’ [so much better] as the French people say…Our concern should be what do we need to do in this 21st century to move Africa away from going cup in hand begging for aid, for charity, for handouts. The African continent, when you look at its resources, should be giving monies to other places. We need to have a mindset that says “we can do it”, and once we have that mindset we’ll see there’s a liberating factor for ourselves,” says President Akufo-Addo.
Economics statistics indicate that sub-Saharan African countries are the recipients of 25% of global official development assistance, according to the OECD. This aid, year-on-year has hovered around 0.035 % and has hardly reached 0.1 percent of their Gross National Product that OECD countries are expected to donate to poor countries. One conservative estimate is that if Africa only had at least a 3 percent increase in direct and unfettered trade with western donors, the continent could reap three times the amount of aid collectively given by OECDs in any given year.
Rather than providing equal opportunities for trading, western countries prefer lending to African countries. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Africa’s crippling debt burden became unsustainable – to the point of shackling and weakening our already-poor economies.
Many countries, including Ghana, spent more money paying interest on loans than they spent on all development budgets. Sadly, the loans were given to undemocratic, dictatorial and unelected military governments, which pandered mostly to the economic prescriptions of the lending countries. Unfortunately, the burden of repaying the loans is always borne by the poor taxpayer.
This ushered in the Structural Adjustment Programmes, under which poor countries were asked to disinvestment from agriculture and manufacturing, while opening their markets to the ‘dumping’ of foreign goods onto the local market. Over time, we built our tastes on foreign goods – resulting in year-on-year trade deficits (that is, imports far outstripping exports).
Ghana has been spending valuable foreign exchange on importing rice, tinned tomatoes, frozen chicken, and virtually everything – including toothpicks. You only have to go to our markets and streets to examine the extent of foreign goods’ dominance of our market. How can any country develop beyond aid when it does not produce the basic necessities of life? In any case, as ‘sovereign’ and so-called independent countries, don’t we have the right to make economic decisions aimed at truly emancipating us from foreign domination?
For African countries to succeed in developing beyond aid, our leaders must declare war on corruption. Several studies have found that corruption is the reason poverty and underdevelopment exist in Africa.
The notion is that corruption and poverty are closely related to developing countries. Corruption has been a constant obstacle for countries trying to bring out the political, economic and social changes desired for their development. In fact, across different country contexts, corruption has been a cause and consequence of poverty.
The World Bank Group considers corruption a major challenge to its institutional goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030. In addition, corruption discourages poor people from accessing health services and negatively impacts health outcomes, such as infant mortality. Corruption is also a major obstacle to investment and growth, judging from the high cost of projects, and the shoddy outcomes of development interventions (World Bank, 2006).
Prudent economic management
Flowing from the above argument, I urge President Akufo-Addo to start the process of developing Ghana beyond aid through implementing prudent economic policies, as well as waging an unrelenting war against corruption. Anyone, in both the public and private sectors, found guilty of stealing state resources should face the full rigours of the law. There is so much wealth in this country: but, sadly, a large chunk of our national wealth is channeled into private accounts.
If our government can prudently manage its fiscal policy well, Ghana should be on the road to economic recovery – and hopefully and gradually weaning ourselves off aid. In a lecture on the economy at the University of Ghana last week, Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia highlighted some key economic successes of the Akufo-Addo administration. Chief among the successes is fiscal disciple, which he indicated has been restored within one year of taking office. He said for the first time since 2006, the government of Ghana has been able to meet its fiscal target. The original policy was to reduce the target from 9.3% in 2006 to 6.3% of GDP for 2017, but government achieved an impressive 5.6% target in the end.
According to the Vice President, the target was achieved despite government reducing taxes, bringing down inflation and interest rates, paying almost half of arrears inherited, and as well as honouring all its statutory obligations. As stated above, fiscal discipline is the starting point to economic recovery and development beyond aid.
Certainly, not many western countries will take Akufo-Addo’s stance kindly. In fact, most western countries gained their current economic status through the exploitation of Africa’s human and natural resources. And many western countries will continue to thrive purely based on Africa’s dependence on their economies, as a primary supplier of raw materials to oil their industries; while using Africa as a destination for their loans and aid with unsustainable interest rates and strings.
This is why I suggest that henceforth, the President must take his personal security seriously. If the legendary Bob Marley’s harmless reggae songs could constitute a threat to western hegemony, as the dying CIA hitman recently confessed, then President Akufo-Addo and other African leaders planning to chart a similar course should be alert.
Admittedly, it will be a herculean political and economic task for President Akufo-Addo to completely wean Ghana off foreign influence and support and put it on a new path to economic emancipation. But as the President told the UN Security Council, it will take a lot of hard work and sacrifices to move Africa out of the aid trap. We all need to pray for protection, wisdom, knowledge and insight the for President and his team to lead Ghana (and by extension, Africa) to the Promised Land. God bless our homeland.
- World Bank (2016) Anti-Corruption. World Bank.
(***The writer is a Development and Communications Management Specialist, and a Social Justice Advocate. All views expressed in this article are my personal views and do not represent those of any organisation(s). Email: [email protected]. Mobiles: 0202642504/ 0243327586/0264327586