WE CAN DO declares Nana Akufo-Addo, as he calls for Ghana to develop 'indigenous capitalists'
Ghana must adopt a 'can do, will do' attitude towards economic growth, the Foreign Minister has said, urging optimism, idealism, patriotism, progress and unity of purpose in Ghana's development efforts.
“Nations are built by people,” Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo declared to a packed Great Hall at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science in Technology in Kumasi Wednesday night.
Over 2,000 people had crammed the KNUST venue to hear him speak, including Vice Chancellor Kwasi Andam who chaired the event and Pro Vice Chancellor Kwasi Kwako Adarkwa.
Nana Akufo-Addo addressed the crowd for well over 90 minutes, after which there was an energetic question and answer session; the Minister's message really seemed to have struck a cord with his audience.
“For an epitaph, let us write upon the gravestone of Ghana's repressive and impoverished past, with absolute confidence in its fulfilment, these words: 'We are determined to succeed. We are on course to revive that can-do, will-do spirit. And, God willing, we shall triumph,'” he said.
The Foreign Minister proposed the concept of what he dubbed 'indigenous capitalism' as the answer to more effective development in our country. “It is a programme we need to look nowhere beyond our own heritage and our recent progress in order to envision and understand.
“By indigenous capitalism I am talking about the kind of wealth accumulation that ensures no one has to go hungry, that ensures the greatest number of the population actively participates and benefits from economic growth. The kind of capitalism that is protective of the vulnerable, and generous in its calculation of the bottom line.”
Once democracy has been established and taken root, it will quickly flounder if the wealth is not spread, was the basic premise of Nana Akufo-Addo's proposal. “There is only one way to ensure effectively the success of multiparty democracy in the midst of poverty: that way is to grant respectfully a cut of the cake to those who traditionally bear the burden of economic development – but that slice can't be a handout; it has to be a genuine invitation to a place at the table.”
He said that distributive justice could not be realised if people lived in fear of having their wealth or their portion taken away from them; but stressed that the equipment and resources for Ghana's effective development and governance lie firmly within Ghana itself.
“We shouldn't need to hear from Transparency International what is good governance. The very tools of economic empowerment have to be made available to everyone; so no one needs to stand in a public queue for a handout, but is instead entitled to what it takes to take care of his and her own patch.” In a speech that had strong tones of nationalism and self-motivation of the Ghanaian's capacity to endure and ability to deliver, the Foreign Minister explained further his concept, “An indigenous capitalist believes in broadening the marketplace; it trusts in our human resource and initiative and develops that initiative. We cheat ourselves if we buy the lie that we need outsiders to teach us regional cooperation and entrepreneurial initiative. Even under the disincentives of colonial administration, our farmers moved this nation from a country that never saw a cocoa pod to the world's leading exporter of cocoa inside of 22 years. ”
Keeping it inspirational, he continued, “And yet we listen with folded hands to those who would tell us that Africans lack the power of long term commitment to hard work, that we lack the innate technical ingenuity and entrepreneurial initiatives to build a strong economy. We have spent our population's strengths for a few hundred years building other great economies, both voluntarily and under relentless duress. It's time now to build our own, and we need go no further than ourselves as a large family to achieve the greatness to which we aspire.”
The speech was very strong on Nana Akufo-Addo's own philosophy and that of his party, the New Patriotic Party.
“The Danquah-Busia philosophy defines prosperity broadly and horizontally,” he told his audience, who sat attentively all throughout the 26-page lecture. “We see good health, universal quality education, vocational skills training which capitalises on local needs and interests, as among the necessary tools of economic empowerment.”
Nana Akufo-Addo found it unacceptable that Ghana gets 5% of the value of gold exports, as reported by UNCTAD last September.
“We need to develop our own particular form of economic empowerment of the Ghanaian,” he told the strong gathering of intellectuals and the nation's future leaders.
In pushing for Ghana to chart the path of building indigenous capitalists, the MP for Abuakwa South said Ghana's future paradigm must be charted by marrying the concept of Economic Nationalism (the French call it Economic Patriotism) and Globalisation.
“We are committed to being a fairplay partner of WTO, but that does not stop us from looking after our own, first and foremost.” He cited diverse countries such as the United States, Zimbabwe, Japan, France and Malaysia as examples of how a nation can design economic policies predominantly to suit the growth of indigenous entrepreneurship. “Economic Patriotism need not be xenophobic,” Nana Akufo-Addo remarked, “Its strength, however, is determined by the capacity of the local economy to mobilise capital.” The Foreign Minister called for a conscious social effort for Ghana to define its modernity and civilization. “Ghana is a nation with a rich history and strong sense of identity. Our successful fusion of the traditional and contemporary in many aspects of daily life makes it possible for us to develop our own unique civilization, which will make its own positive contribution to the growth of world civilisation.”
Referring to the role of KNUST to Ghana's future perspective, Nana Akufo-Addo stated, “History teaches us that the greatest resource a society can possess is its people,” adding, “Ghana's future depends on the accelerated growth of the economy, which is best fed by knowledge, particularly in the fields of science and technology.”
While admitting that the Ministry for Private Sector Development is supporting the transformation of the informal sector, estimated to control at least 80 percent of the work force, he called for a more specific policy devoted to that transformation, aggressively implemented through the decentralised system of government.
Highlighting the threat of a huge informal sector to Ghana's social and economic development, Nana Akufo-Addo stated that egalitarian societies are not, in fact, built by the state. “They are built by usually a state-run system that provides a safety net of welfarism. But, fundamentally, that welfare system is provided by the people themselves – through taxation and national insurance contributions. Thus, when you consider that out of a population of over 20 million, less than one million Ghanaians are SSNIT contributors, then you begin to have a clear picture about the size of the informal sector and how necessary it is to bring that dominant sector of our economy into our “formal” arrangements. The solution may not be simple, but it requires a clear cut policy implemented upon the political principle of subsidiarity at the district level, where decisions are taken closer to the target.”
It remains to be seen how far this ideology of indigenous capitalism may be pushed in Ghana.
“Indigenous capitalism encourages more and more of our citizens to become active players in the formal economy. Indigenous capitalism believes in transforming the majority of our people into middle-income earners in the shortest possible time.”
He continued, “An indigenous capitalist does not believe in keeping a pliable, manipulable mass of discontented grass roots supporters, forever perceiving themselves as underdogs and marginalised, whose only integrity lies in the camaraderie of an underclass free to raise a wahala or in the streets because it has nothing to lose. Ghana's economic development can only survive if it is inclusive.”
Elaborating further on the concept, “That inclusiveness is an instinctive feature of our own political culture, it is a defining feature of our indigenous leaders. No one needs to show us how to make one yam go around to every plate in the compound. Nor does anyone need to teach us how indigenous capitalism should work for the people. We know how; our ancestors have taught us; they continue to teach us. And what they teach us, no one can take away.” The rush towards the president of KNUST GRASAG for copies of the Cabinet Minister's lecture was an obvious indication of how well it was received by the audience.