The pandemic (COVID-19) affected all segments of the Ghanaian population with the youth (18-30 years) and vulnerable groups among the core of those hardest hit. In April 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, the Government of Ghana announced a package of economic stimulus measures called the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP). Under this initiative, the government initiated the GH¢100 billion Ghana CARES “Obaatanpa” Initiative, a three-and-a-half-year holistic programme.
The Emergency Response Plan was meant to control, contain, test and treat, and create awareness on COVID 19, as well as reversed the economic impact of COVID-19 on citizens.
As part of this initiative, the government allocated GH¢54 million for the distribution of hot meals and food packages; GH¢ 323 million for frontline health workers' relief (e.g., PPEs, tax waivers, allowances, transportation, and COVID insurance); and GH¢600 million for Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) through the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme - Business Support Scheme (CAPBuSS), which is expected to benefit 20,000 MSMEs (Ministry of Finance, Ghana, 2021).
Despite this swift intervention, a section of the Ghanaian population, particularly the youth and the vulnerable groups were partly left out or completely. It is against this backdrop that, partners on youth-led COVID 19 response accountability in Ghana; YEFL Ghana, FOSDA and Oxfam conducted a study to ascertain the impact of the utilization of the Covid 19 alleviation fund on the youth (18-30) and vulnerable in the Ghanaian society.
The study was conducted between April and May, 2021 and administered in 15 Metropolitan, Municipal and Districts in Northern and Greater Accra Regions namely; Accra Metropolis (Agblobloshie, Chorkor, Mamprobi), Adentan Municipal, Ledzorkuku, krowor, Korley Klottey, La-Nkwantanang, Ga East, Ningo Prampram, Tamale Metropolis, Yendi Municipal, Sagnerigu, Savelugu, Saboba and Nanumba North (Bimbilla).
The findings revealed, 3 out of 5 Youth and vulnerable groups who did not have access to basic amenities such as electricity, water systems and mobile handsets in both rural and urban areas missed out on the government’s response initiative on water, electricity and communication services taxes.
Also, the socio-economic initiatives had mixed and short-lived and targeting disproportionately for the youth and vulnerable groups partly due to inadequate targeting of beneficiaries. Most of those who benefited from the CAPBUSS programme managed to sustain their businesses with less of the funds they requested received. Most applications from youth and vulnerable were not successful and were mostly due to their inability to meet the requirement of the programme.
Though, 2 out 5 of the youth took advantage of the reduction incommunication services taxes from 9% to 5% to do e-commerce in the wake of government’s restrictions and partial lockdowns, the discontinuity of the interventions and sudden increment in taxes and service charges reversed the immediate impacts of its COVID 19 response interventions and made the government unpopular among the youth and vulnerable.
Way forward/ Recommendations
Based on the research findings, it is recommended that the Government of Ghana and development stakeholders should among other things; apply a youth and intergenerational lens in crisis response and recovery measures, monitor youth unemployment and underemployment, take targeted measures during the recovery to promote youth employment and decent work.
In addition, there should be a government directive requiring tertiary education and professional development programs to include sign language in curricular or training programs for essential service providers such as national ambulance, medical doctors, nurses, pharmacist or trainees to enable them to provide needed services for differently-abled persons at all times and everywhere.
Also, there should be a deliberate initiative by the Government of Ghana that gives preference to sanitizers and Personal Protective Equipment or supplies produced by disability groups or youth-led businesses to enable them to employ differently-abled persons or youth.
Let’s Make Ghana Work Again
Based on the above, the Northern Regional Youth Network (NRYN), youth-led advocacy organisation based in the Northern Region of Ghana is embarking on a one-month advocacy campaign dubbed “Let’s Make Ghana Work”.
The campaign seeks to hold government accountable by highlighting the gaps in the implementation of the COVID-19 alleviation fund and by so doing, get government and stakeholders to design an intervention to close the gaps identified in the COVID-19 response.
According to the youth, this will significantly help in containing the second wave of the covid 19 infection, protect citizenry, as well as improve the living conditions of the youth and the vulnerable population in Ghana and of course, make the government popular among the youth again.