SPEECH BY NANA AKUFO-ADDO, 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OF THE NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY OF GHANA, TO THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IN HOUSTON, TEXAS ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2012.
2/6/2012 8:07:26 PM -
Thank you all for coming today to meet me. I welcome the opportunity to share some of my party's vision for Ghana with those of you that are already actively engaged in investments on the continent and those of you who are hoping to do so. I am grateful to the Texas wing of the USA branch of our party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), for bringing this meeting about. I am particularly happy to be here in Houston, a city that all of us here know would have been playing the Giants on Sunday had it not been the injury to quarterback Matt Schaub.
This is an interesting time to be in America, ladies and gentlemen. The market economy is under attack from many directions today - from the left, centre and, even the right. Not only is the Occupy Movement exposing class conflict in America, but today, we even have candidates for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party, attacking the financial power of a fellow contender.
I'm sure America will overcome the current economic crisis. The market economy will demonstrate its strength again. But, most importantly, the current global economic crisis has taught us, especially emerging economies like Ghana, two important lessons: one, a strong recognition that the state is an indispensable agent of social and economic development and; two, the market economy is worth saving. The problem, which was identified generations ago, by great thinkers like Dr J B Danquah, the founder of the liberal democratic tradition of Ghana from which the NPP emerged, is not the market economy, per se. In my opinion, what we must focus on is the creation of a society of aspirations and opportunities. In the words of the great Ghanaian nationalist, Danquah, uttered at the height of the Cold War in 1961, the policy of government should be to 'liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property owning democracy in this land, with right, freedom and justice as the principles to which the Government and the laws of the land should be dedicated in order specifically to enrich the life, property and liberty of each and every citizen.'
In our quest to build a freer, fairer democratic state in Ghana we draw inspiration from both east and west. We are witnessing today how China's aggressive development of the market economy, on the wheels of industrialization, has lifted some half a billion people out of poverty over the past three decades, creating the world's largest middle class in the process.
We are also looking to Houston, to Texas, for lessons and partnership in transforming our economy. The successful management of the oil and gas industry here led to the diversification and industrialization of a state that used to be dependent on cotton. It is this model of the integrated petrochemical industry that we seek to build in Ghana, servicing the entire oil-rich West African region - now called the 'New Gulf'. We believe that the development of the new oil and gas industry of Ghana, indeed of the entire 'New Gulf', will be significantly enhanced by the involvement of American technology, know-how and practices, and, for our part, my party and I welcome wholeheartedly that involvement and investment.
Earlier someone commented to me that it is a relatively rare thing to find an opposition political candidate promoting investment in his country. You may be right - but the tag line for my campaign for the presidency continues to be I BELIEVE IN GHANA, because I believe deeply in the potential of my country and its people.
I also believe that Ghana, as one of Africa's most vibrant democracies, has a duty to redefine the role of the 'loyal opposition' in the African political context. And this means that whether you are preparing for victory or defeat, our national interest should always take priority over our political ones. Democracy is strengthened by the presence of a strong opposition. A voice that challenges the status quo, demands transparency and good governance, creates a vibrant public debate, and checks the power of elected leaders contributes enormously to sound democratic governance.
35 years ago, some of us chose to fight against the jackboot and AK47 to see Ghana governed by the principles we are now happily taking for granted: rule of law, human rights, democratic accountability, individual liberty, individual responsibility and a culture of enterprise and initiatives. The 2011 Global Peace Index now has listed Ghana as being among the world's most stable societies. Ghana sets the pace for political stability and economic progress in Africa. The prospect of high returns and the freedom to repatriate profits have made Ghana one of the most exciting investment destinations in the world.
Ghanaians have accepted both the challenge and responsibility to lead Africa in achieving its 21st century goals of democracy, freedom, and transformation. Ghana is the only African country so far visited by President Obama, and he came in recognition of the commitment the Ghanaian people have shown in protecting and promoting democracy and freedom. Some of you may not know this, but I was the candidate of the ruling party who accepted defeat, without demanding a recount and without spilling a single drop of blood, in an election which I lost by the narrowest of margins in the history of elections in Africa.
That margin, ladies and gentlemen, was 0.46%, some 40,000 votes in a poll of some 9 million voters. I did so because the peace, stability, freedom and democracy of Ghana are more important to me than my own personal political ambition. Democracy should not be subject to individual interpretation. It should not be a negotiation between stakeholders. Democracy is best established when institutions are trusted, the rules of the game clear and political actors are prepared to win and lose. Recent efforts to undermine the electoral process in Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal are very troubling. Attempts to remove term limits and failure to recognize results of legitimate elections bode ill for the development of democracy in Africa. It is time we heard African leaders and institutions speak strongly and clearly with one voice on these matters. As far as Ghana is concerned, there is little doubt that the peaceful transfers of power in 2001 and 2009 from ruling parties to their opposition have helped considerably in the process of democratic consolidation. Win or lose, we should put Ghana, our beloved country first.
Now, less than 11 months to another crucial election - well, as we say in Ghana, the people have tasted both water and alcohol and they now know the difference between the two.
I believe the majority of the Ghanaian people are convinced that the NPP vision for Ghana is the most formidable proposition to develop our country. This is particularly so for economic and regulatory policies. The last few years have seen new hurdles thrown up in front of eager investors and preferential treatment given to ones that may not have our national interest at heart. We must reverse this course and return to one of transparent deals where all investors compete on a level playing field.
When the environment is fair and transparent, US companies do well. US companies will help transfer valuable skills and a good business culture to Ghana, and I want to encourage more of you to take a serious look by enhancing the investment framework and removing obstacles to business. We recognize that you have options - at least 54 of them in Africa alone. We cannot take your investments for granted.
I can promise you that as president:
my government will continue with my party's tradition as a friend of business;
I will build an environment in which the tax regime and regulatory policies enhance rather than inhibit or frustrate trade, commerce, and investments;
all investment contracts with the Government of Ghana would be fair and will go through the same legal approval process no matter which administration or minister signed them;
the rule of law will always prevail, even on high-ticket commercial disputes;
I will improve relations with partners already in Ghana as well as those contemplating investments there.
I will work to enhance prospects of a win-win environment for both investor and country; an environment where your companies cannot just survive but thrive. Let me outline how to do that.
I believe in economic policies that promote a better business environment rather than creating new red tape. In Ghana now, there is great discussion of investments that ensure that Ghana's interests come first - but when Ghana is led by a government that is genuinely looking out for the interests of its people, instead of rolling back meaningful social investments and investments in education that would strengthen our future, it will understand better that growing the economy the right way, with a level playing field, is best for our future.
Ghana has a warm and cooperative relationship with the United States. I use this occasion to thank the American people and its government for the generosity of the initial Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) award of $547 million negotiated with the Kufuor government and the second award recently agreed to with the Mills government for another $400 million. The Ghanaian people continue to be grateful for this and for American assistance to our country generally.
American companies have always been welcome investors in our country, especially when my party has been in charge. The NPP believes in market principles and welcomes investors who work to promote the same and help build our economy.
My plan for Ghana will focus on:
building an educated workforce that can compete for the better jobs we want to attract to Ghana;
strengthening social services like our schools and national health system to ensure we are investing in our human capital;
developing the nation's infrastructure to lessen the burden of doing business in the country and across the region;
enhancing public safety;
protecting the environment;
protecting our borders;
maintaining a sensible regulatory oversight that allows for healthy private sector growth;
promoting Ghanaian entrepreneurs as critical partners in our growing economy;
promoting Ghana as the service and industrial centre of West Africa and;
strengthening the economic integration agenda in West Africa and Africa.
The central vision of my campaign is to transform the economy with an educated workforce. Ghana has tremendous human capital, and Ghana's economy has massive potential for economic growth and job creation, not in small part because so many foreign investors are looking at Ghana. But we need to be sure Ghanaian workers and professionals can fill those jobs. This will help Ghana grow its middle class; it will help foreign companies develop their businesses quicker; and it will allow much greater local content, in which I know your shareholders and corporate responsibility officers are increasingly interested.
We need a more confident, educated workforce, so the NPP will focus on education as our access to a global economy that is more receptive to our entry than ever before. Ghana's human potential has not yet been developed to match its resource potential, and until we bridge this gap, we are squandering opportunity that could move us forever away from a culture of handouts to a culture of hand-ups.
We will also be actively pursuing investments in health care, including the revival, expansion and improvement of the National Insurance Health Scheme (NHIS), the great social legacy of the Kufuor era. Ghana is already making an important contribution to the growth of Africa's pharmaceutical industry, a development we hope to intensify. Accra has relatively some of the best medical facilities in sub-Saharan Africa and growing as a destination medical city. There is great demand for high-quality treatment options in the region, and exploiting this will benefit both Ghana and our investors.
I want to work to encourage mutually beneficial relationships between the government and all companies working in Ghana, as I did as Ghana's Minister for Justice and Attorney General when I championed the establishment of our commercial courts and other measures, such as the mechanization of judicial proceedings that helped protect investments. We also all have a part to play in strengthening the local communities we touch by being responsible local actors, and I will work to incentivize effective Corporate Social Responsibility programmes so they make sense for everyone involved. When done well, such initiatives strengthen your security and your position in our economy, and help you be more effective partners for Ghana, while enhancing your bottom line.
Another vital aspect of our economic development is not just capacity building, but encouraging the repatriation and retention of Ghanaian talent from overseas. Companies like yours can play a vital role in this process.
As far as the new oil and gas industry is concerned, if I have anything to do about it, I assure you that Ghana will be a small but responsible oil-producing nation, and I will actively pursue partners who want to help us develop this vision.
Ghana's contribution to African output will be relatively small. But we bring something to the table that means more than an output number. Ghana enjoys political stability. It is estimated that oil services account for up to 90% of the total cost of producing one barrel of oil - and we are trying to build a skilled workforce that is competitively priced. Ghana has a strong legal system and contracts are well protected. To remain competitive, we must maintain this environment, so you know that your investment will be safe and be profitable.
We will compete harder for investment dollars. We will promote onshore investment in Ghana's oil and gas potential, which past surveys have shown could be very significant. We will also encourage more downstream investments, including the building of refineries and petrochemical plants.
My administration would also tap into the full energy potential that our natural gas represents. Had certain mistakes not been made, First Oil would have been accompanied by First Gas, and I can assure you that an NPP government would work with investors with a longer-term vision for the country and would not make those mistakes again. Decisions like this are costing Ghana more than our current government will admit, about which you will hear more anon.
I also want Ghana not only to avoid the oil curse, but also to pursue a diverse energy portfolio that evaluates renewable energy technologies and bio fuels in the Ghanaian context. Meeting our national development agenda will require substantial quantities of energy of all forms. Sustaining 10-12% growth annually translates into an annual growth of energy consumption of about the same rate. Our focus as a government will be to provide the nation with sufficient, efficient and cost-effective energy for national development.
But there is a wider range of investment options as well. We intend to facilitate the establishment of a multi-billion dollar gas feedstock industrial estate, exploit Ghana's multi-billion dollar iron ore resources and Ghana's bauxite deposits, which carry a potential value of $350billion - far in excess of what we expect to reap from crude oil. An integrated aluminum and steel industry, supported by a petrochemical industry, can transform our economy within a decade, and fuel a similar transformation drive in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the population of which could be as high as 500 million by 2040. We intend to modernize agriculture to grow more and process more to make our nation the bread basket of our region. Further, Ghana is also well-positioned to be the centre of light manufacturing industry in West Africa. Our manifesto will outline such a plan, which I urge you to support so we can become partners in Ghana's bold steps to reach the status of an advanced economy.
Finally, I want to address a concern I have heard from many in America, which is the sense that, under President Mills, Ghana has been looking eastward to China for investments and neglecting the West. We welcome the readiness of the world's fastest growing large economy to provide Ghana with the needed credit and technology to accelerate our development. The NPP position is that it is the constant duty of government to get the most competitive deal for Ghana. I just want to emphasize that my administration will give equal access to all investors and ensure that American companies, which have to adhere to strict anti-corruption laws, are able to compete freely and fairly.
Thank you for your time today. I hope we will all work together to build a stronger Ghana to the benefit of our respective shareholders. I have a strong belief that this is the century for the continent most-blessed with natural resources to become a major league player in the global economy. This can be Africa's century. And, Ghana, the first black African nation to break free from colonial rule, has once again taken its leadership role in the new struggle for economic emancipation for Africa's one billion people. Our nation is open for business. Join us. Be part of this new, exciting and profitable world.
God Bless America
God Bless Africa
God Bless Ghana