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3 January 2009 | Feature Article

GHANA – Marching into Sustained and Progressive Development

GHANA – Marching into Sustained and Progressive Development

With the 2008 elections peacefully behind us, Ghana deserves to be commended for setting yet another trend in the annals of the history of Africa, against the backdrop of the recent elections in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya which were marred by violence and fraud.  What happened, the accusations and counter accusations, most of them unfounded, but designed to foment instability, and the unwarranted pre-declaration press conferences conducted by both parties tested our resolve and we came out triumphant. Had the drawn-out tension occurred elsewhere in Africa, the tinderbox would have been ignited.  Let's hope that the last minute peevishness displayed by both parties, more so by the NPP, before the pronouncement of the winner by the electoral commissioner, putting the security of the country at stake, would not happen again in future elections.  We must all feel proud as Ghanaians and in everything we do, we should put Ghana first.  Ghanaians have shown that we are politically maturing for displaying such magnanimity in our political conduct.  Say it loud:  I am Ghanaian and proud.”  Now is the time, despite our political affiliations, we should all put our differences aside, and as Ghanaians, come together and rally behind the President and the government to push Ghana forward.  Let's get together and put Ghana to work for a better Ghana. 

Ghana, as a country, is destined for greatness but hitherto, the country's development leaves much to be desired.  Ghana's underdevelopment has been the fault of our policy makers and political leadership. The country's infancy in its democratic dispensation has given birth to politics of envy and contempt among our political parties where exclusion is practiced through a policy of winner takes all.  In the past, sitting governments have claimed sole ownership of economic policies and strategies, which, more often than not, results in successive governments wanting nothing to do with policies and projects started by previous governments. Cases in point in the history of the nation were what became of CPP's projects under Kwame Nkrumah. Most of them, including the construction of the Bui Dam, were halted or destroyed during the days of political upheavals and adventurisms of some young, restless, very hungry, and misguided military personnel. Another is when the NPP discarded “Vision 2020” because it saw it solely as an NDC program. Now, the NPP has come out with its own development vision of making Ghana a middle-income economy by 2015.  If our political behavior continues in this pattern, it is very likely that the NDC administration will set aside NPP's 2015 objective and revisit its Vision 2020. 

Ghana's unique geographical position in the world is something we must not take for granted.  On the surface of the Earth, the center of the Earth is marked by the intersection of the Equator, which divides the Earth into north and south, and the Prime Meridian, which divides the Earth into East and West.  Of all the countries on Earth, Ghana is the country closest to the center of the world.  In addition to that, the map of Ghana is shaped like a door, which authenticates Ghana as the “Gateway to Africa.”  The author is of the conviction that God placed Ghana where it is located for a purpose.  It is indeed a unique location within the universe.  The author believes that the purpose is for Ghana to be a source of enlightenment to the world, especially so for Africa:  Ghana was the first country, south of the Sahara, to attain its independence from our colonial masters for all others in Africa to follow.  In 2000, Ghana became the first country on the continent where the reign of government was handed over to a civilian government by another civilian government.  Ghana Black Stars of old was also a pioneer in the development of soccer on the continent.  Unfortunately, however, Ghana has also led the continent in some adverse ways:  Ghana's 1966 military putsch, which overthrew Africa's Pan-Africanist visionary leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana to independence, rippled into several dozens of military coups across the continent for decades.  Thank God, Ghana saw the evil in coups and decided to go multiparty and democratic, even though imperfect in some ways, instead of continuing with the lawlessness and wantonness of military coups and upheavals.

Ghana has once again grabbed the mantle to lead the continent out of its doldrums by the civility with which we conducted the 2008 elections devoid of violence and fraud.  It is by no accident that Ghana's oil reserves were discovered late after so many countries on the continent had made unprecedented mistakes in the management of their resources.  As a hind-sight, let us revisit what diamond and oil did to Sierra Leone and Nigeria respectively in devastating their economies through wars and massive corruption.  Ghana just discovered its oil after these and many other countries on the continent mismanaged their oil resources to the point where they believe oil is a curse. God has granted Ghana the opportunity to learn from these mistakes and now Ghana is in a better position to use its oil find to benefit its citizens by eschewing the mistakes of others.  Ghana has the chance to make its oil find impact the country positively rather than as a curse.   The author has a vision that Ghana will develop to the point where it will become AN OASIS OF DEVELOPMENT IN A VAST DESERT OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT.  Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had the vision of transforming the whole of Africa with Ghana's resources, which inadvertently, was a mistake.  Nevertheless, this time around, Ghana will concentrate its resources solely on the development of the country into a middle income economy in the short-term and thence into a first world economy in the long-term.  Ghana will become the Japan, the Singapore, the Malaysia, the Dubai (United Arab Emirates), all rolled into one, of Africa.  Once we reach this destination, Ghana will become the Beacon of Hope for the rest of Africa to follow and begin the renaissance or rebirth of Africa's giant economy.  How do we achieve this?  This can be achieved through selfless and visionary leadership dedicated to the development and transformation of Ghana's economy, coupled with prudent planning, as well as, through the demonstrated patriotism of its citizenry barring apathy. 

 
Our leaders have to employ a Systems Thinking approach to governance and develop a shared vision for the country for all to buy into.  This must be done through cooperative development and the employment of politics of inclusion as against that of divisiveness, hatred, envy, and exclusion.  Ghanaians must put Ghana first and ask what we should and can do for the country rather than what our country should do for us.  Ghanaians must invest themselves in the economy for it to grow. This done, the consequent quantum development will lead to higher productivity, increased incomes, and improved standard of living for all.  To borrow a line from President-elect Barack Obama of the United States of America, we must do away with all tribal sentiments:  There is no Ashanti Ghana, no Ewe Ghana, no Brong Ghana, and no Mamprusi Ghana.  There is only one Ghana:  The United Regions of Ghana.  We are all Ghanaians first and everything else is subordinate. Ghana is a UNITED NATION.

This is the time to draw up bold and ambitious plans for concrete, accelerated, progressive, and sustained development.  We must put on paper what we intend to achieve with the oil money within a certain time frame and pursue these bold development plans for all to see, at the end of which time frame, all Ghanaians will be witnesses to whatever projects we have executed based on these economic development projections.  This will bring about transparency, accountability, and responsibility in our development processes.  Such development must impact every part of the country and lead to some uplifting in the life of the ordinary Ghanaian. 

For an improvement in the quality of life, we need to monitor and match the country's natural growth by concurrently increasing infrastructure to keep pace with our population growth. We will need to build more schools and hospitals as our population grows, we will need to build more and better roads as the number of automobiles in the country increases. Damn it, our growth must not stagnate or become static.  The government must set the stage for an accelerated and sustained development by making sure that all our developmental infrastructures are in place and of top quality and futuristic in nature.  Gone should be the days when we built shoddy or substandard roads, weak/insufficient energy structures, despicable health facilities, redundant education, unreliable, sporadic, and inferior communication networks, corrupt judicial and weak political infrastructures, just to mention a few.   As an example, we need to build a complex network of first class roads and inter-regional highways.  It is time to link the north of the country to the south by rail, develop a first class water transportation system along the length of the Volta Lake, all to facilitate the movement of goods and people and open up the country for massive industrialization and development.  Power outages must be a thing of the past.    We need to embark on proactive development rather than waiting for things to catch us by surprise. We must also ensure constant and adequate supply of water by managing our water resources in an efficient manner for consumption and industrial purposes. Our ICT systems must be upgraded to match the best around the world if we are to join the communication and the cyber age and compete effectively in the global village.  Our development efforts will also need support of a robust banking system.  Our health sector must be improved across the board to benefit the citizenry.  A successful economy will depend on the excellent health of its people.  Our homeland security system must also be top-notch to absorb all internal and external shocks.  Our judiciary must be completely devoid of corruption and government influence.  Our education system must be reformed to make it developmentally appropriate to support the civil service and private industry, as has been planned for the oil industry at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.  Our ports and harbors need to be revamped with the 22nd century in mind and expanded to handle not only Ghana's needs, but also those of our neighboring land-locked countries.   When all these are in place, it is only natural that the private sector, both local and foreign, will have the confidence in the country and invest heavily in the economy, creating jobs in abundance to absorb our youth, thereby nipping brain drain in the bud and even reversing it. 

With the above infrastructure in place and the resultant massive investment by the private sector (both local and foreign), all that the government would need to do is to make sure that it has sound regulatory policies in place to monitor the activities of businesses to ensure compliance and the promotion of business social responsibility.  The government should streamline its tax structure with appropriate policies that promote investment, job creation by the private sector within the confines of a prudent tax revenue collection system for the maximization of corporate tax revenue.  

To develop evenly and affect every Ghanaian community, Ghana needs to take decentralization very seriously.  The national government must be prepared to shed some of its powers by delegating some of its economic and political powers to the regions bordering some form of quasi-federation.  The regional ministers must be empowered to source their own investments to supplement those initiated by the national government for the regions.  The regional administrations must be empowered to initiate bold and futuristic development projects and processes with support from the national government and our development partners to uplift the economic, social, and political conditions in their respective regions. They should be free to negotiate the terms of their developmental agreements and contracts that are congruent with their regional planning objectives and goals. Thus, the government should push control out of Accra and delegate full responsibility and accountability to the regional capitals regarding regional development.  The author is of the view that the Northern region is too expansive or humongous to be managed effectively from Tamale and needs to be broken up into two manageable regions: North-west region and North-East region.  For equitable development, the author suggests that the distribution of development funding must be skewed in favor of the “four” northern regions to accelerate their development to par that of the south.  There must be representation of all government agencies and regional offices for all government ministries in all regional capitals with parasatal offices at the district levels from passport issuing processes the health ministry. 

For manageability and equitable development, the regional governments must also work in tandem with the district governments by encouraging them to initiate their economic development activities in line with regional and national objectives and goals. Working from the district levels, the district administrators must also liaise with each town and village within their districts and effect, at least, one development project/goal/agenda in each town or village every year...it could be the building of a school, the building of a community center or a clinic, provision of portable water, electrification, construction of a feeder road or a market, the construction of a rural or agro-based industry, etc.  Lastly, healthy competition among the regions in terms of development must be encouraged to accelerate their development. 

In order to avoid relying solely on the oil revenue and be able to employ the youth, the country needs to broad-base its economy by aggressively encouraging entrepreneurship through the private sector to create massive job opportunities across all regions. We need to embark on a massive industrialization of the economy and target the export market, especially, the developing economies.  Days when the economy depended on a handful of commodities must be a thing of the past.  However, diversification is not enough if it does not include a vertical integration mode of production where value is added to our raw material resources through an extensive manufacturing paradigm.  One thing is clear, every time we export our raw materials abroad to the Americas, Europe, China, etc. it is jobs that could be created in Ghana that are being exported.  By continuing to do this, we inadvertently and effectively create jobs in America, Europe, and China which pushes their economies to almost full employment, while our unemployment figures hover around an unhealthy 20%. This is what is happening to our economy every time we ship raw materials such as cocoa, pineapples, timber, gold, diamonds, bauxite, etc. in their raw forms.  This is the fundamental cause of our economic woes and the prevalence of “Street Children”.  For how much longer will we continue to be the producers of raw materials to feed factories in the West and around the world except in our own country?  Interestingly, because we have failed to develop our own economies, our youth are forced to emigrate in search of greener pastures outside our shores ... literally, we have, in addition to exporting our raw materials, become exporters of labor including our intellectual capitalfor the development of other countries to the detriment of our economy:

A recent World Bank survey shows that African universities are exporting a large percentage of their graduating manpower to the United States. In a given year, the World Bank estimates that 70,000 skilled Africans immigrate to Europe and the United States. The Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana recently declared that while these 70,000 skilled Africans are fleeing the continent in search of employment and decent wages in developed countries, Africa spends an estimated US4 billion annually to recruit about 100,000 skilled expatriates, who are paid wages higher than the prevailing rate in Europe, to replace them.

The Prime Minister of Jamaica observed that during the 1977-80 period, over 8,000 top professionals comprising about 50% of the country's most highly trained citizens left the country primarily for the United States. He estimated that it cost his country about $168.5 million or $20,000 per head to educate these people. During the same period he observed that U.S. aid to Jamaica amounted to a total of $116.3 million.

There are figures to support the fact that the industrialized nations of the world are getting the benefits of the trained personnel from Third World countries around the world without contributing a dime towards their training: each year 6,000 Taiwanese come to the United States to study but only 20% return home. A few years ago, Zambia had 1,600 medical doctors. Today, Zambia has only 400 medical doctors. Kenya retains only 10% of the nurses and doctors trained there.

For a coherent development of the economy, the author is advocating for a new economic planning paradigm based on Systems Thinking Synchronization to be researched and used in place of the current Ghana National Planning Commission (GNPC). The new approach must comprise of think-tank drawn from government (including reaching across the political divide), private industry, and Higher Education. “Systems Thinking” is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static snapshots… it is also a set of specific tools and techniques originating in two threads: in “feedback” concepts of cybernetics and in “servo-mechanism” engineering theory. Additionally, globalization is making the formulation of a country's development policies more and more complex. Formulating national economic policies means facing a never-ending procession of hard choices among conflicting objectives. Economic policy involves much more than finding the best path to a clear objective. Some of the many important objectives of policy may be full employment, stable prices, increase in national productivity, and greater equity in distribution of income. These diverse and equally important objectives are related to one another by a complicated system of trade-offs, in that the advancement of one may lead to the sacrificing progress towards others.

Given the complexity of economic policy formulation, and to ensure the efficient use of our material and human resources thus developed through the increased provision of tertiary education in the country, a systems thinking approach which leads to a shared vision to economic development must be initiated by the government. This approach will call for ongoing formal dialogue among the three constituencies (government, higher education, and private industry). It is only through such formal process of dialoguing that the constituencies will be able to complement each other's efforts. Dialogue is a way of helping people “see the representative and participatory nature of thought”. In dialogue, a group accesses a larger pool of common good. In this regard, government, private industry and higher education should meet at the policy-formulation level as well as the operational level and encourage more fixed dialogue rather than ad hoc good-will sessions. Officials who participate in dialogue must be trained in dialogue procedures for it to be effective. They should be encouraged to make their thinking explicit to be explored by each other through reciprocal enquiry, without personally attacking each other. The participants must view each other as colleagues. They must also avoid leaps of abstraction, which occur when people jump to hasty conclusions and generalizations without effective analysis.

The 21st century will undoubtedly call for greater collaboration among government, private industry, and higher education for complex research and development projects in the fields of technology, agriculture, health, the sciences and engineering. This collaboration, however, must begin with formal networking among individuals in the universities/polytechnics, private industry, and the government, which may eventually create the necessary basis for cooperation between the industrial and academic worlds on specific projects and lead to formal, broader, and continuing collaboration once they are established. These formal initiatives, however, may require an environment, which encourages relations between the three sectors as well as high levels of institutional flexibility and openness to allow the pursuit of different approaches and modes of cooperation.

By including higher education and private industry in the formulation and implementation of economic development policies, the nation will be able to forge a focused “Shared Vision” approach to economic development, sustained growth, and stability. An ongoing bilateral and reciprocal collaboration between government and higher education, between government and private industry, between higher education and private industry to find lasting solutions to Ghana's economic development and growth problems would enable the three constituencies to develop a common front/shared vision approach in tackling national development objectives. The Universities/polytechnics must also take a more direct initiative through research and other means, to identify and anticipate national needs, and bring their influence to bear on government in setting goals and objectives. Through continued dialogue between the three constituents, higher education will be in a better position to respond to economic and market trends through timely changes in enrollment by field and discipline as well as adapt its curricula to current and projected business and national manpower needs. Most African countries lack the necessary national machineries to ensure that educational objectives, such as manpower training and development, as well as research, are adequately assessed and effectively coordinated and harmonized with overall national economic development objectives. This thinking together (systems thinking) may be the beginning of a formal recognition of higher education and private industry as partners in economic development planning.

The government should, therefore, use the opportunity thus provided and replace the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) with a Permanent Tripartite National Planning Commission (PTNPC) made up of think-tank representatives from government, private industry, and higher education to advise the government on economic development policies and their implementation. Members from private industry and Higher education may serve a term of, say, ten years minimum, after which they may be replaced with new replacements from their departments. The author believes that the shared vision approach will foster commitment to the objectives of national development goals and eventually lead to sustained economic growth. The collaborative approach will ensure continuity of economic development policies and ongoing development projects regardless of changes in the country's political leadership: when a change in government occurs (through the ballot box), only the incumbent government representatives will be withdrawn and replaced by members of the incoming administration. The new members will thus get a briefing as to the state of affairs from the permanent members. This approach to policy formulation will thus lead to multilateral acceptance of policies, hence commitment by successive governments to continue uncompleted prior economic development projects.

We should plan beyond when Ghana's oil reserves run out. What type of economy would we want to be in place then, and what the national economic mainstay would be? Let's plan to make Ghana an OASIS OF DEVELOPMENT IN A DESERT OF UNDERDEVELOPMENTby replacing selfishness with selflessness in our governance, by replacing apathy with patriotism, by replacing complacency with a can-do and willing attitude and by replacing a cycle of poverty with a cycle of investments, job creation, individual and national prosperity.  Let's keep the peace and stability to further our onward development.  Let's work hard to make Ghana the industrial hub of Africa.  YES WE CAN.

Dr. Gabriel A. Ayisi, New York City
Honorary Chairman: Business Advisory Council for Economic Stimulus – USA
Author: Higher Education Centered Economic Development and Growth – Ghana as Case Study, ISBN: 1-4392-1351-8
[email protected]

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