The Ghanaian Foreign Minister, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, returned to his father's former Oxford college of St Peter's on Monday February 20 at the invitation of Professor Bernard Silverman, the Master of the College and the Oxford Research Networkon Government in Africa (OReNGA).
Addressing an audience of some 100 students and academics at the University's Politics and International Relations Department, the minister spoke on 'Ghana: the democratic project,' and the unique position of Ghana as a bastion of democracy and stability in the troubled West African sub-region.
He reflected on the turbulent history of Ghana in the decades since it gained independence in 1957, noting the “whole gamut of experience, mostly unpleasant” that Ghana went through before the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1992. However, “today we are living the era of positive change,” he said. Nana Akufo- Addo spoke about the importance of homegrown development strategies and a concept he termed “indigenous capitalism”:
“We have spent our population's strengths for a few hundred years building other economies, both voluntarily and under relentless duress. It's time now to build our own, and we need to go no further than ourselves as a large family to achieve the greatness to which we aspire.”
On Tuesday morning, the Minister also led a two-hour informal discussion group with students and academics on African issues, looking particularly at Ghana and the West African sub-region.
Edward Akufo-Addo, the father of Nana Akufo-Addo and a former president of Ghana, was one of the first students at St Peter's; matriculating in 1930 one year after the college was established. He was later made an Honorary Fellow of the college, and in 1971 was made a Doctor of Civil Law at the University. “It is wonderful to return to Oxford to keep up the family connection,” said Nana Akufo-Addo. Several family members accompanied him on his visit to Oxford. “Oxford is a great institute of learning, and it is important that it continues to develop its focus on African development and politics. There is a tendency to think of Africa in a negative light or as a far-off irrelevancy; but events like this help to bring the African paradigm to the forefront of academic thought.”
Gavin Williams, a Fellow in Politics in St Peter's College said: “Oxford has established itself as a major centre for international study of Africa. There are over 100 research students across the Humanities and the Social, Natural and Medical Sciences carrying out research on African issues in the University. The lecture formed part of an eight-week series of seminars, which began with a public lecture given by John Lonsdale of Trinity College, Cambridge. “He is recognised as the great historian of Kenya,” said Mr Williams. “So it was an exciting privilege to have first a great historian on East Africa, and then a major political figure from West Africa, to address us this term.” Professor Silverman said: “It is a delight to welcome the Foreign Minister back to Oxford, especially since his father, a former President, was one of the first students at the college. It is good to celebrate the years of association between the family and St Peter's College – and we hope that this may be the start of many more years of friendship and working together.”
The full text of the lecture will be available in due course online at www.qeh.ox.ac.uk
Notes to Editors:
1. Mr Justice Edward Akufo-Addo, the father Nana Akufo-Addo, former Chief Justice and President of Ghana, matriculated at St Peter's College in 1930 to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He was one of the 'big six' who fought for independence in Ghana, and then one of the leading figures in the opposition movement against Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president. He served as the president of Ghana from 31 August 1970 until he was deposed in a coup d'etat on 13 January 1972.
2. Nana Akufo-Addo is the current Minister for Foreign Affairs. A lawyer, he was called to the English bar (Middle Temple) in July 1971, and called to the Ghanaian Bar in July 1975. He was one of the founding members of the New Patriotic Party – the current ruling party – in 1992, and was also the founder and first chairperson Ghana Committee on Human and People's Rights. When the NPP was in opposition, he was the Minority Spokesperson on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
3. Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, is a country in West Africa, population c.22 million. It was the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence, in 1957. A long series of coups ended with the ascension to power of Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings in 1981. His changes resulted in the suspension of the constitution in 1981 and the banning of political parties. A new constitution, restoring multiparty politics, was approved in 1992, and Rawlings was elected in free elections of that year and also in 1996. The current president, John Agyekum Kufuor, was elected in 2000 and again in 2004.