According to figures recently compiled by the US-based think tank, Heritage Foundation, from 1980 to 2004, Ghana received a total of $16.175 billion (in constant 2003 dollars) in official development aid.
Yet, for the same 24-year period, Ghanaians saw less than one percent real compound growth in their individual economic situation.
In light of this, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has urged Ghanaians "to throw away the Obroni wawu of Dependency Culture and pick up the tools of the culture of enterprise.”
In an address delivered at the weekend to university students, Nana Akufo-Addo stated that President John Agyekum Kufuor has provided the country with a solid foundation for the state, communities and individuals to wean the nation from the old culture of dependency to a new culture of enterprise.
But this will require a collective hands-on approach inspired by the revival of the can-do spirit of the African.
“We only become victims of circumstances when we fail to take full advantage of our circumstances.”
The Foreign Minister admitted that certain situations call for dependency. “But no nation, nor any individual of potential and ability, wants to depend on donations without any expiry date. There has to be a cut-off point to a Dependency Culture. I call it reaching the point of Socio-Economic Adulthood. Nobody remains an infant forever.”
He challenged Ghanaians, to exploit the extrinsic benefits of liberal democracy: “Liberal democracy should not be seen in itself as an end. It is a credible environment for the well-being of society. But genuine well being of a society, my fellow compatriots, when all is said and done, must be measured by the quality of our living standards.”
Still on the subject, Nana Akufo-Addo called for a fuller appreciation of freedoms by Ghanaians.
“We may be competing quite well, in areas such as political transformation, the growth of democracy, freedom of the press, etc. But, we remain enamoured with the myth that everything is so much better outside.”
He warned that Ghanaians cannot live off the one-sided advertisements of our democratic dispensation, with the talk about endless freedoms.
“Freedoms, my fellow compatriots, come with duty, as well: duty to self, duty to community, and duty to nation.”
He continued, “Let us be steadfast in our exercise of what some may consider as a task, but I prefer to call, 'productive freedom'. With this I mean, the freedom to be enterprising. The freedom to wean ourselves of dependency.
“The freedom to be independent enough to put up a better bargain in this world of interdependency. The freedom to improve oneself. The freedom to strive for greater heights. The freedom to challenge oneself. The freedom to believe in yourself and act accordingly to that self-belief.”
Though, Government will continue to make the economy attractive to foreign investors, the greatest focus must be on cultivating a radical local culture of enterprise, to greatly enhance the purchasing power of the Ghanaian consumer. “Even for the foreign investor, there must be something happening locally to attract that investor,” he underlined.
The solution, according to Nana Akufo-Addo, “is to foster in our local economies the naked enterprising culture.”
Asking for an economic success that should be more internally orientated than externally orientated, he said, “We must aim to mobilise unused local resources - especially unemployed people - to meet unmet local needs.”
He is calling for a weaning approach which must be informed by the global structure, the national economic policy, and, ultimately, local entrepreneurial initiatives.
He observed that, in spite of our dependency culture, Ghanaians are “a proud, dignified and hardworking people.”
Nana Akufo-Addo, who is a leading contender to succeed President Kufuor, stressed, “Nobody can call the average Ghanaian out there unwilling to work hard, unable to fend for himself or herself. We are a nation of survivors, of hard working long suffering work ethic fanatics. We have managed to get through the worst of economic penalties as a nation, each community, because we know how to pull together with dignity,” he said to loud cheers from the Nyankpala Campus audience of the University for Development Studies.
Lending his voice, once again, to the debate for more policy emphasis on science and technology, the Cabinet Minister poignantly warned, “Our future competitiveness as a nation and our quest for advanced status as a nation are fated for a crash-landing without the major impact of science and technology.”
But, the way to encourage a radical culture of enterprise is to acknowledge the vital role that Small & Medium Scale Enterprises play in every economy, particularly a developing one, like ours, he said.
“The rise of the SME sector is a global phenomenon and not one confined to Ghana and other developing countries,” Nana Akufo-Addo said, pointing out that in China SMEs control 99 percent of economic activity, and employs up to 70 percent of the workforce in OECD countries, as well.
“It is estimated that Ghana has a 8.3 million economically active population. The public sector, my fellow compatriots, only employs close to 800,000, about 9 percent.”
He said, Government"s acknowledgement of SMEs' vitality has been evidenced by the $50 million micro-financing fund recently launched.
But, “In an environment of free market, we may risk killing the very enterprise culture we seek to nurture if we leave our SMEs vulnerable to better quality overseas competition.”
Explaining his message against dependency, Nana Akufo-Addo accepted that “in all human society, people are dependent on each other. There is nothing wrong with dependency in itself. Except it works well if it takes the form of mutual dependency.”
He added, “Indeed, interdependency is the key to what makes our societies function so well, even under the stiffest, brutal eventualities.”
Referring to the welfare system elsewhere, Nana Akufo-Addo said, “dependency is an established part of economic affluent states. But it is not championed as a permanent solution, unless of course for those who are egregiously debilitated—through age or congenital disease or warfare, and will simply never be able to help themselves.”
With his usual air of optimism about the fate of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo said, “The news is that we are suffering from dependency fatigue. At the national, local and individual level, the signs are clear that we are pursuing viable moves to wean ourselves of the dependency culture.”
He, however, warned that the major task is to reduce the knowledge gap between the industrialised world and Africa, which he sees as getting ever wider, “partly because we depend so heavily upon foreign experts for all our information and analysis, even about what is going on under our noses, on our own farms.”
Calling for greater economic diversification, Nana Akufo-Addo said that the “time is long overdue for Ghana to cure herself of this Dutch Disease. But, the task ahead is more than just creating jobs; it is building a competitive economy with a competitive work force, while maintaining and enhancing the very virtues that make us uniquely Ghanaian.”
The foundation, he noted, “has been re-laid, and the sustainable nationwide reconstruction project is on. But the true drivers of this change must be the people.”
The task now, he said, “is to encourage that collective hands-on approach. The task now is to get the country to ignore the forces of negative resistance so that we can exploit the diverse beauty of democracy to achieve progress and prosperity for our people.”