Ghana @ 61 - A Tale Of Two Countries Crying For A Resolution
In his now historic speech to the governors of the United States on February 25, 2018, Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo presented a picture of a macro economically improved Ghana in just one year. An economy growing at 7.9% compared to less than half that in just one year is certainly something to crow about since it would be the highest in the world! Ghana’s economy is so “resilient and robust” that our president could boldly declare a new development policy- Ghana Beyond Aid…Wow! If the statistics and policy declaration sounded familiar, they are. On February 8, 2018 we heard the numbers at the State of the Nation Address to Ghana’s parliament.
On December 5, 2017 President Akufo-Addo lectured the young President Emmanuel Macron of France on why Africa, and certainly Ghana, should forego aid and use its resources to harness its development, including providing jobs for its large numbers of youth. Yes these words feel good to say, hear, and pass along to all in WhatsApp lists…and they have. They portray a tale of a shining and radiant black star in a “Wakandian” prideful ethos that would channel James Brown grooving: “Say it loud, I am black and proud!” May be we have actually proven Nkrumah’s prediction on March 6th, 1957 that the then new Ghana will show that “the Black man is capable of managing his own affairs.”
While our new African presidential star was parading the podia in Accra, the USA, Germany, and other places his country was under assault by youthful armed robbers with some unfortunate victims shot dead and large sums of money taken in daylight. This rife of innocent people being victimized has brought a sense of helplessness, insecurity, and fear of stepping out of the house being as unsafe as riding in a vehicle on poorly constructed roads that take their own heavy toll on lives in Ghana. There was a clamor for the president to return home to be fully in charge of ensuring security…the first responsibility of an elected government. President Akufo-Addo is reported to have cancelled a planned trip to India to return home, conceding a goal to the tale of the unadorned Ghana with a dulled black star that has a long way to go after 61 years of political independence.
If honest admission is the beginning of rebirth, then let us use this moment to wipe our country’s slate of 61 years clean. Let us start with a serious commitment to speak less until we have done something of real substance - move Ghana from third to first world within 9 years! Let us deliver this glorious gift to ourselves and progeny with this all-encompassing national goal on the anniversary of Ghana’s 70th on 6th March, 2027. Certainly our president can, and should lead the effort. He has said all the right words. The world is listening. We have heard. Now let us rally and pull together to push Ghana from third to first world in nine years- all of us – Ghanaians living in Ghana and Ghanaians living abroad. Ghana loves to be the first this and that. But in this transformation, others have led the way, and we should learn from them in humility.
One of the worst holocausts in the history of mankind took place on the African soil - in Rwanda to be exact. The Hutu-Tutsi ethnic massacre took the lives of 800,000 people in a spate of nine months in 1994 continuing subsequently into the Congo to claim more than 3million more lives. Rwanda was a no- go land forsaken to machete wielding bloodshed. Today, its capital, Kigali, is hailed as the most beautiful, cleanest, and greenest city in Africa on par with most others in the first world. If Ghanaians are a “determined lot” as President Akufo-Addo described at his award ceremony in Washington DC on March 2nd, then let us start to define and cultivate what determination means. In this we should hold the self-dulling accolades until we have delivered. The Spanish expression is: Si, Se Puede! (Yes, it can be done! Or Yes We Can!). In 1961 U.S. President John F. Kennedy set a national goal to put an American on the moon in ten years. In 1969 (eight years) Neil Armstrong raised the American flag on the moon. Si, Se Puede!
President Akufo-Addo attempted to disabuse the U.S. governors of the notion that only Asian countries, so called tigers, can dramatically change their countries around economically. But how did the Asian countries do it? What can we learn for our nine-year goal?
Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of the city-nation of Singapore has bequeathed all serious-minded third world leaders with the big HOW TO book: “From Third World to First World- The Singapore Story:1965-2000”. We should devour this 691-page book. It should be a required reading for everyone in the administration from the president to the town executive; ruling party, to opposition party; all university students, etc. Nothing is more important for a national primer to development. There is no time to debate differences in circumstances. Simply do not reinvent the wheel. Time is not on our side. Our people are jobless, hungry, and dying unnecessarily; and charlatans are feasting on their hopelessness with unscientific prophesies and superstition.
According to the World Bank, in 1965 the gross national income (GNI) per capita of Ghana was $US 230 and Singapore’s was $US 540 (2.35X). In the same year, Ghana’s total exports was $US351.6 million versus Singapore’s $US 1.2 billion (3.42X). Fast forward and in 2016 Ghana’s GNI per capita was $US 1,380 (lower middle income, and we boast). Singapore’s GNI per capita was $US 51, 880 (high income- 37.6X – holy cow!). The comparison gets more dramatic. In 2016 Ghana’s value of total exports of goods and services was $US 17.4 billion, not bad, but Singapore’s was $US 511 billion (29X). These, for a land with no resources except its people.
Lee Kuan Yew set a national goal, studied the differences between first and third worlds, and judiciously set about to execute the plan with talented and committed people drawn from all over the world and Singapore. The purposeful objectives are not secrets. For example first world countries have good and safe roads everywhere; open spaces are green, not dusty; corruption is not taken as a fact of life, it is punished without fear or favor; talent is always nurtured and given room to demonstrate; workers are paid well and encouraged to save massively to underwrite investment; youth employment is a national obsession; public employees are paid to be able to purchase their own cars and homes and not expect the state to pile benefits on them; industrialization and the need to be constantly reinventing and investing is the norm; infrastructure is built and maintained; one’s own culture is appreciated and used as a source of pride and motivation; etc.
Here is something to blow your mind. In 1965 the now great China’s GNI per capita was 100, 2.3 times below our own Ghana’s. Today China exports $US 2 trillion to the whole world and has removed more than 500 million people off poverty. Do you want to know how they did it? Their then septuagenarian leader standing barely 5 feet in the person of Den Xiaoping visited Singapore in 1979, was totally impressed, sent teams to study every aspect of the transformation, and the rest, as they say, is history. What are waiting for? Si Se Puede! YƐn ara asaase ni. Join in.
The author is the Chairman of Progressive Alliance Movement, an advocacy group that filed and won the suit for the implementation of ROPAA. He is also the Chairman of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce, USA, Inc. and of the 2018 Ghana National Parade and Festival Committee all based in New York City.