Lusaka -- ZAMBIA can reap a lot of benefits if it remains focused under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, Ghanaian foreign minister, Nana Akufo-Ado, has said.
And Akufo-Ado said Ghana will become a model of economic development in Africa in the next decade.
In an interview on Monday, Akufo-Ado said the HIPC programme has been very useful for Ghana and that Zambia could learn from that country's experiences, especially in terms of the benefits it has derived under the programme.
Akufo-Ado, who was in the country for two days to have discussions with President Mwanawasa and to solicit support for compatriot African Development Bank presidential aspirant, Dr Kingsley Amoako, said the success for Zambia under the HIPC programme depended on how the country saw its future.
He said that before Ghana attained the HIPC completion point, its external debt was around US$6.8 billion.
"Within 21 months we have been under this programme, over US$2 billion of that debt has been waived," he said.
"This means the money that would have been otherwise available to service the debt is now being used for social and economic activities. So, as a result of the HIPC programme, we have been able to derive benefits that we would otherwise not have seen."
Akufo-Ado said Ghana was using that money to expand economic and social systems such as education and health.
"The monies that we have been able to realise under the HIPC programme are the funds we are using to give a big boost to those areas we consider crucial for our future. It's been a very useful programme," Akufo-Ado said.
"It is a question of how Zambia sees its future. Some of us believe we are capable of developing ourselves as long as one or two conditions are met."
Akufo-Ado said Ghana would leverage its gradually emerging economic position to become a model for economic and democratic development on the African continent.
"Many things that we have been arguing about in Ghana since independence and that have brought turbulence in our lives are over now," he said.
Akufo-Ado said the vast majority of Ghanaians are in agreement with developing the country as a democracy, an open society where the people could express themselves and where individual initiative is the way to develop human and national resources.
"We want to use this framework to transform the social and economic lives of our people," he said.
"Within the next decade, we will move our country from a per capita income of US$400 to a middle-income level of US$1,000 per capita. That is the big challenge for us in the next decade," he said.
"Today our main preoccupation is to turn the economy, to make sure the kinds of growth rates that have been associated with economies of Asia, of up to 12 per cent, are repeated in Ghana. We believe we can do it in Ghana.
"We have the human resources and material resources and an accountable government to be able to put all this together."
Meanwhile, Akufo-Ado said 15 African foreign ministers had prepared a report for the African Union (AU) regarding the common African position on the UN Peace and Security Council following a meeting held in Swaziland last week.
The AU heads of state summit that took place in Abuja in January decided to establish a committee of 15 foreign ministers of the UN to sit down and prepare the common African position prior to the reform of the UN.
And speaking on Amoako's candidature for ADB presidency, Akufo-Ado said his track record was very good and that the bank now needed a person with Amoako's reputation to move forward.
Seven candidates will be running for the office of president of the ADB Group.
They are Kingsley Amoako (Ghana), Ismael Hassan (Egypt), Donald Kaberuka (Rwanda), Simba Makoni (Zimbabwe), Theodore Nkodo (Cameroon), Olabisi Ogunjobi (Nigeria) and Casimir Oye-Mba of Gabon.
The elections will be held during the group annual meeting, scheduled to take place in Abuja, Nigeria on May 18 to 19, 2005.
The elected candidate, who will be the eighth president of the ADB, will be sworn in on September 1.
Current president, Morocco's Omar Kabbaj, is stepping down after heading the institution since 1995.