Africa Beyond Aid

By Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/31 21:33:40

The President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo Photo: Courtesy of Ghanaian Embassy to China

Throughout the years, Africa has been called many names: Dark, beleaguered, hapless and hopeless are but some of the more frequent and colorful ones that can be repeated in decent company, and being labelled a scar on the conscience of the world sounded quite charitable.

It is obvious that Africa has not made much progress. Sometimes, to borrow a Ghanaian mode of speaking, it seems we take two steps forward and three steps backward. We had a brief period of Africa Rising, and I am proud to say my country, Ghana, led that good news story as our economy made strides, and we appeared to be getting out of the quagmire of poverty.

Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain her independence, and we have celebrated the 61st anniversary of that happy event this year. We are painfully aware that we are nowhere near where we should be.

As the saying goes, if you have been doing something for a long time and not getting the desired results, you have to find a different way of doing it. After 60 years, it is obvious that the aid path will not take Africa to where it has to be.    

We do not want to be a scar on anybody's conscience. We do not want to be pitied; we do not want to be either pawns or victims; and we certainly do not want headline writers to continue to compete to find the most lurid adjectives to describe our continent and its peoples. Africa no longer wants to be the default place to go to find the footage to illustrate famine stories. We no longer want to offer the justification for those who want to be rude and abusive about Africa and her peoples.

It is time to build our economies that are not dependent on charity and handouts. We understand the "aid fatigue" phenomenon. We understand that donor populations want their governments to spend their aid budgets in their own countries. We have learnt from long and bitter experience that, no matter how generous the charity, we would, and, indeed, we have remained poor.

Africa is a rich continent, and has the world's second fastest economic growth rates, the world's fastest-growing region for foreign direct investment, and in possession of nearly 30 percent of the earth's remaining mineral resources, and yet the masses of the African peoples remain poor.

Ghana, my own country, might not be quite as generously endowed as some of the countries on the continent, but we are not poor either. We can, and we should be able to build a Ghana which looks to the use of her own resources and their proper management as the way to engineer social and economic growth in our country. We want to build an economy that looks past commodities to position our country in the global marketplace. Let me refer specifically to two commodities that are identified with Ghana - gold and cocoa.

Ghana used to be called the Gold Coast, and it was for good reason; we are endowed with lots of gold. The richest gold mine in the world is said to be in Ghana, Obuasi, and gold has been mined there officially for about a century and a half. There is something not right when Obuasi makes a few people very rich, and remains poor itself.

There is a set of statistics that I have been pulling out recently in almost every speech I make: between Ghana and our neighbour, Cote d'Ivoire, we produce 65% of the world's output of cocoa. The chocolate industry is a $100 billion industry, and we, who produce 65% of cocoa, make less than $6 billion from the toil of our farmers, i.e. barely 6% of the entire value chain of cocoa. This is not right. We need to change the statistics.

If we simply ground and sold the cocoa in paste form, instead of selling the cocoa beans, we double our earnings. In much the same way as we would double our earnings from gold, if we sold it refined, than in its raw state. We are determined to process these products.

I do understand that there are nations, who have built their industrial complex around the value chain of our raw commodities. It is time to transform that setup. It is time we were responsible for processing our own resources. It is time that we, in Africa, manage our resources well, to generate wealth for our populations.

During the past 20 years, those countries that have made rapid economic strides have been the ones that have encouraged high levels of investment in entrepreneur development. The growth of a more entrepreneurial economy in Africa will provide the basis for undertaking the urgent task of the structural transformation of African economies, which are largely dependent on the production and export of raw materials, to value-added, industrial ones, and stimulate agricultural productivity. This will accelerate economic growth, enable us feed ourselves, and create jobs for our youth. Joblessness amongst our youth, who constitute the greatest segment of the African populations, poses the greatest threat to the stability of our continent.

I have stated before that "strong democracies are built by strengthening the institutions of democracy, rather than the power of men", and that "the gains we have made in our democracy due to the sacrifices of great individuals must be protected by great institutions." In order for us to build a continent that meets the aspirations of the African peoples and opens up opportunities for all, we must prioritise our budgetary arrangements to ensure that funds are available to strengthen key institutions of state, such as the Legislature, Judiciary, fiscal institutions, amongst others. It is important that we promote and develop a culture of accountable governance, free of corruption, whereby these bodies see themselves as independent public entities serving the wider public interest, not the temporary conveniences of the governments of the day.

We have a responsibility to make our countries attractive to our young generation. They should feel they have a worthwhile future, if they stay and build their nations. We should be, and are shamed by the desperation that drives a young person to attempt to cross the Sahara on foot, and the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats, in the hope of finding a better future in Europe. 

Education and skills training are what we need the most, to make the dreams of independence and self-reliance a reality.

In Ghana, we have embarked upon a policy to ensure that every child has secondary school as the basic education. The Free SHS, as we call it, will take a sizeable chunk of the budget, but we believe it is money well spent, and is the best investment a nation can make to assure a prosperous future. In 2017, the first year of the implementation of the policy, 90,000 more students entered senior high school than in 2016. This year, the number is doubling to some 180,000 students. Access to education is the only way to make sure we are able to build a Ghana and an Africa Beyond Aid.       

The geographic space covered by Africa makes it the second largest of the seven continents. It has some of the most breath-taking scenes on our planet. It has plants and animals that are wonders of the world, and critical for the survival of the planet. Our continent stands to gain the most from the implementation of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to fight inequality on all fronts, wipe out extreme poverty, tackle the issues of climate change, and reverse the degradation and unsustainable use of our environmental resources, including our oceans. It is a global agenda that seeks to leave no one behind.

Based on the latest United Nations estimates, as of Monday, 13th August, 2018, the current population of Africa is 1.29 billion. That means Africa's population is equivalent to some 16% of the total world population.

The vast majority of this population is young. It is in the interest of the whole world that Africa works. Even if the developed world had the means today, and were, indeed, minded to do so, it could not provide the aid that would keep Africa a sustainable part of the world. We do not want to remain the beggars of the world, we do not want to be dependent on charity.

An Africa Beyond Aid means that we do everything whatsoever we can to strengthen the African Union (AU). Research has shown that countries or groups of countries with the largest share of world trade are located within regions with the highest share of intra-regional trade. Trade between African regions remains low compared to other parts of the world. In 2000, intra-regional trade accounted for 10% of Africa's total trade, and increased marginally to 11% in 2015. Trading amongst members of the European Union, for example, amounted to 70% in 2015. I believe it is extremely important for the welfare of the 1.2 billion people of the continent that we, the leaders, demonstrate strong political will to make the AU an economic and political success, and to make the project of integration real. With Africa's population set to reach some 2 billion people in 20 years time, an African Common Market presents immense opportunities to bring prosperity to our continent with hard work, enterprise, innovation and creativity. It is evident that the time for African integration should be now. Hence, the importance of the success of the Continental Free Trade Area.

A new paradigm of leadership is called for - leaders who are committed to governing their peoples according to the rule of law, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the principles of democratic accountability; leaders who are looking past commodities to position their countries in the global marketplace; leaders who are determined to free their peoples from a mindset of dependence, aid, charity and hand-outs; leaders who are bent on mobilizing Africa's own immeasurable resources to resolve Africa's problems; leaders who recognise the connectedness of their peoples and economies to those of their neighbors. This new generation of African leaders should help bring dignity and prosperity to our continent and its long suffering peoples.

We do want to, and we shall work to take Africa to where it deserves to be, as a prosperous and dynamic member of the world community. We need to, and we shall move Africa Beyond Aid.

Thank you.


blog comments powered by Disqus