I am delighted to be here again at the Konrad Adenaeur Foundation’s Academy, with the opportunity to speak, once more, about my beloved country of Ghana, in my new capacity, by the generosity of the Ghanaian people and the blessings of Almighty God, as President of the Republic. As the managers of the Foundation know well, I am no stranger to these premises, which carry with them fond memories of fruitful collaboration between the Foundation and my party, the New Patriotic Party of Ghana. More poignantly than the recall of past memories, this occasion allows me to express the great gratitude of our party to the Foundation for the principled assistance it has given us over the years, which has helped bring us to where we are today, as the ruling party in Ghana.
We did not receive any money from the Foundation – indeed, Ghanaian law prohibits any such transaction. What we received was more precious than money. It was intellectual property, which offered us valuable insights into the techniques of political mobilisation and modern methods of marketing the political ideas and values of our common ideological affinity. We are grateful to successive country managers of the Foundation in Ghana – Mr. Martin Wilder, Mr. Klaus Loetzer, Dr. Gregor Ryssel and Mr. Burkhard Hellemann – who remained resolute in their conviction of the ultimate validity of our cause, the entrenchment in the hearts of the majority of Ghanaians of the concept of development in freedom. They were given unstinting support by their leaders and associates here in Berlin – Dr. Gerhard Pottering, Dr. Gerhard Whalers, Ms. Andrea Ostheimer, Dr. Klaus Schüler, Mr. Markus Brauckmann, Mr. Christian Echle, Hon. Hartwig Fischer and Hon. Volkman Klien. To all of you, and to all the others whose names I have not mentioned, but who are part of the Ghana desk, the New Patriotic Party says danke schoen, yɛ da moa se paa.
The upshot of our collaboration was the dramatic, emphatic victory the Ghanaian people conferred on the party and my modest person on 7th December, 2016. In a Parliament of 275 seats, we moved from 122 seats in 2012 to 169, a net increase of 47 seats, giving us some 62% of the House, and in the presidential vote, the difference between me and the then incumbent President, John Dramani Mahama, was approximately one million votes, reflecting a difference of 10 percentage points between 44% of the popular vote for him and 54% for me, in a poll of 10.6 million votes, representing 67% of the registered electorate. In the process, for the first time in the history of Ghana’s 4th Republic, an opposition leader won the presidential ballot outright in the first round, unlike the situations in 2000 and 2008, when the then opposition leaders, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Evans Atta-Mills, needed two rounds to secure victory.
7th December, 2016 was, indeed, a good day for all those Ghanaians who believe in Ghana’s democratic engagement, and in the potential of an efficient Ghanaian private sector to drive, in conditions of social justice and solidarity, the rapid economic development of our country. We now have our work ahead of us to maintain the fidelity of the Ghanaian people to these beliefs.
Coming to this magnificent city of Berlin always invokes contradictory feelings in freedom-loving Africans. It was here, in the latter part of the 19th century, in 1884 to be precise, that the representatives of the imperialist powers of Europe, led by the great European statesmen of the day, the German Kaiser Wilhelm’s Chancellor, Count Otto von Bismarck, and the British Queen Victoria’s Tory Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, met to put a formal seal on imperialist annexation and division of Africa in the Treaty of Berlin. It paved the way for imperialist exploitation and colonisation of the continent until 1957, when Ghana, under the dynamic leadership of her historic first President, Kwame Nkrumah, broke the chain, asserted her freedom and set in train the process of rapid decolonisation of Africa that ended with the liberation of South Africa from the racist ideology of apartheid in 1992.
Berlin was also the capital, in the early part of the 20th century, of the Nazi Hitlerite regime that spawned one of the most monstrous tyrannies known to human history. However, it ended the 20th century triumphantly, and has become, for the 21st century, the global symbol and beacon of freedom, democracy and prosperity, under the guidance of the great German conservative statesmen, Konrad Adenaeur, founder of modern, democratic Germany, whose name the Foundation appropriately bears, Helmut Kohl, architect of Germany’s reunification, and, currently, the redoubtable Chancellor, Frau Angela Merkel, the outstanding European leader of our time. As such, it is an inspiration for all those of us who want to help build successful nations on the basis of free, democratic values. So, in the different circumstances of today’s world, we can say with John Fitzgerald Kennedy: “Icht bin ein Berliner.”
In December last year, we went to the polls in Ghana. Before voting day, almost all the commentaries by international news outlets, and even diplomats, expressed anxiety about the outcome.
In true African style, it was suggested, the incumbent would win the elections, or there might be violence and unrest. On 7th December, 2016, Ghanaians came out in their numbers, and, in all serenity and with calm dignity, they voted and made a clear choice of the government they wanted to conduct their affairs.
For the third time during the 25 years of our Fourth Republic, Ghanaians voted to change an incumbent government. We have done it without any fuss and without expecting it to be seen as a big deal, to borrow a manner of speaking. This is the clearest manifestation of the attachment of the Ghanaian people to democracy, and proof that democratic principles have become ingrained in our collective psyche.
Indeed, the rest of the world might have been surprised by the conduct and outcome of our elections, but the people of Ghana were certainly not surprised. I believe we can safely claim, therefore, that the foundations are now in place for a durable system of government in our country.
Of course, much depends on the performance of the actors that we have put in place to conduct our affairs. We know from painful experience that delivery is the key, and not just the promise of success. We know from painful experience how often we have flattered only to deceive, and how many false dawns there have been in our sixty years of existence as an independent country.
Indeed, at sixty, humans and institutions are expected to be fully matured, and it is hardly flattering for Ghana, at sixty, to be called a rising star.
We are keenly aware that it is time to move on, and make sure that the hopes and aspirations of the Ghanaian people are translated into reality.
Sixty years ago, Ghana was the rising star: as the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence, we were expected to set the pace for the rest of the continent.
Unhappily, our adventures turned out to be fleeting and without substance. We went through a lot of experimentation, and tried every computation of governance system imagined by humans. Every once in a while, there were flickers of excitement, as Ghana appeared to come out of the woods, but, more often than not, we flattered only to deceive.
The latest flirtation we had with seeming success was ten years ago. Ladies and gentlemen, you would remember that Ghana was the poster child of the Africa Rising phenomenon. It looked to all intents and purposes as though we had finally made it. This was during the era of the Kufuor administration, of which I was a part. President John Kufuor, the great Ghanaian statesman, who led that government, is a good friend of the Foundation, and well-known to many of you here.
The circumstances, then, were eerily similar to what we have today. The people of Ghana had voted to change a ruling government, the economy was in desperate straits, and you would remember that we had to go HIPIC. We took difficult decisions, and, within four years, conditions had improved, and we were being noticed around the world for good reasons.
Sadly, we regressed again, and, by 2013, we were back to a collapsing economy and having to seek bailouts from the IMF.
Throughout our ups and downs, the people of Ghana have shown remarkable resilience. For a while, it could be said that the main problem that bedevilled our country was our politics. We did not seem to be able to get our politics right, as we veered from one experiment to the other.
A consensus finally emerged, with the onset of the 4th Republic and the agreement on a multi-party constitutional form of government. With an accepted constitution in place, our institutions are functioning by and large.
The Legislature, which has been the arm to have suffered the most from the years of political instability, is gradually coming into its own. The competition to get elected into the Ghanaian Parliament is one of the keenest in the world. You can take my word for it, and I should know, because I have been a three time elected Member of Parliament.
Our Parliament has, however, one big handicap in its ability to exercise effective oversight over the Executive arm of government. I admit there is, so far, not yet a consensus on this, but I belong to the group that feels strongly that our Parliament should be able to exercise full authority over our public finances, and we should accordingly amend our Constitution to make this possible. If this were done, it would enhance significantly Parliament’s oversight capacity.
If you know anything about Ghana, you would know that this is not something that would be easily done. We take our politics very seriously, and we are passionate about our beliefs, and it would not be easy to make such a change or any change, for that matter, to the Constitution.
We are a people who argue endlessly, and many of our arguments end up in the courts, and it makes for a busy and challenging time for us all. When I speak about the Judiciary, the third arm of the state, I should probably disclose an interest. Having made my living as a lawyer, you would not be surprised to hear that my interest is rather keen.
Two years ago, one of Ghana’s famous investigative journalists made a dramatic exposé of corruption in our Judiciary. We have not yet lived down the trauma of the excruciating shock and embarrassment of seeing officers of our courts in such compromising situations. But, I am glad to be able to say that our Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, Ghana’s first female Chief Justice, quickly rose to the occasion and introduced reforms to restore some dignity to the Judiciary.
Chief Justice Georgina Wood went on retirement last week after a distinguished and honourable career, having been the longest serving Chief Justice of our history. I have nominated another woman, Justice Sophia Akuffo, the second most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, to be our new Chief Justice, and Parliament is due to start her confirmation hearings anytime now. I am confident the future Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo will be an effective leader of the Judiciary, and guard jealously its independence. She will bring honour to the Judiciary and to our country.
The Ghanaian story cannot be told without mention of those whose business it is to tell our story, the media. We probably have one of the most vibrant media on the African continent, if not in the world. Like many of the other institutions of state, the media in Ghana came into its own in the Fourth Republic, where the national Constitution guarantees freedom of the media.
It is a loud and crowded media that we now have, and some feel that many journalists err on the side of recklessness. There is a lot to teach and to train those who practice journalism in our country, but, I must say, I would much rather have the loud and reckless media than the meek and praise singing one that used to characterize our newspapers, radio and television.
This is one of the sectors in which the Konrad Adenauer Foundation has been active in Ghana, with funding for the continuous training of our journalists, and it is one of the many things for which we owe the Foundation a debt of gratitude.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken about not getting our politics right and the consequences that come with it. Whereas that is certainly a disaster to which we can testify, it is probably an even greater disaster when you are unable to get your economy right, and our country and its people are a living, walking testimony to what happens when you get your economy wrong.
I will spare you, or maybe, if the truth be told, I will spare myself the pain of going over Ghana’s long and tortuous road to economic development.
Our first President, Kwame Nkrumah, believed and told us to seek first political independence and all other things will be added to it. In reality, economic development has proved to be rather more of a mirage and difficult to grasp, let alone achieve.
However, the last twenty-five years of democratic governance have generally seen the period of the most systematic economic growth in our history. Unfortunately, it has not been consistent, and, with our country at age sixty, we are all agreed that it is time to get it right and in a sustainable manner.
A few days ago, I addressed a World Bank Development Finance Forum meeting in Accra, and I would like to state here some of the things I said in that conversation. I said my government, which has been in office barely five months, inherited a very difficult economic situation. We have, thus, set for ourselves a long-term agenda, which we have dubbed “Ghana Beyond Aid”, requiring far-reaching reforms in:
- economic governance: involving fiscal responsibility and discipline
- political governance: addressing corruption and unresponsive bureaucracies
- focus on productive sectors: addressing agriculture and industry, and
- improving the business environment: addressing bottlenecks and formalising the economy
Ghana is a land of opportunity for private capital. More importantly, Ghana is “Open for Business”, and has taken it upon herself to build a business-friendly economy that will enable her get to the stage where the opportunities that are available will help her build an optimistic, self-confident and prosperous nation. Beyond Aid.
Fundamental to attracting private sector investment is maintaining a stable macroeconomic environment in the context of a growing economy. This is why, since assuming office, my government has established a macroeconomic framework with policies that seek to restore fiscal discipline and macroeconomic stability.
We will enhance accountability in our public life. Corruption has become the bane of our nation’s progress. We will establish this year, by Act of Parliament, an Office of Special Prosecutor, who, independently of the Executive and with a statutorily provided security of tenure, will have the responsibility to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption, free from predictable claims of witch-hunting. Words can no longer defeat the canker of corruption. Concrete actions must. Public service is just that, public service, not an avenue for personal enrichment.
There are certain tangible changes we aim to have in place by the end of our first year in office. You will discover that Ghana will be an easier place to conduct business: all transactions at our ports will be paperless, and we shall remove all internal custom barriers by the beginning of September.
As part of the process of formalising the economy, we will implement a digital property addressing system for Ghana this year, and also issue biometric national identification cards to residents this year, so that every resident will have a unique identification number.
We intend to remove some of those quaint peculiarities of Ghanaian life that have been a source of frustration in conducting business. Those of you who have been to Ghana might discover that you might be able to take a taxi and simply give an address, instead of our traditional the second left after the big tree and right where the woman roasts plantain.
We will not take away the joie de vivre that is the essence of Ghana. There are millions of Ghanaian youth who, given the opportunity, always excel. We intend to create the space for the private sector to grow the jobs that our young people need. Our industrial regeneration, through our policy of 1-District-1-Factory, our agricultural revival, through the programme for Planting for Food and Jobs, targeted infrastructural development, especially of our roads and railways, and promoting access to digital technology are going to be the main avenues for job creation.
We will fulfil the most basic elements of social justice, by broadening access to quality education and quality healthcare. We shall, in September, begin to redeem our pledge of providing free Senior High School Education in our public schools. It is an important tool for the development of our country. We have begun to clear the arrears of debt that were strangling the National Health Insurance Scheme, Kufuor’s great legacy to our nation, so that we will have, again, a buoyant health delivery system to which even the poorest in our society can have ready access.
Germany is a great footballing nation and current world champions, and, accordingly, it might be worthwhile for me to tell the story of how football tells the Ghana story.
Throughout the years, it was known that there was a lot of football talent in Ghana. Our Sammy Kuffour played his football here with Bayern Munich, and delighted German fans. It was not until 2006 that Ghana finally qualified for the World Cup. Some of you might remember that our national team, the Black Stars, was the surprise of that tournament, and German fans warmed up to them.
It is probably not a mere coincidence that, in the year 2006, Ghana was doing well politically and economically. That carried us into the next World Cup in 2010 in South Africa, and our national team again did well and won many plaudits. By 2014, when we got to Brazil, not only did the team not perform well, we got into the headlines for all the wrong reasons: we were the team that chartered a plane to carry cash from Ghana to Brazil. It showed what was going on in the country on the political and economic fronts.
Regrettably, it appears that qualifying for the next World Cup in 2018 may be difficult. 2016 was not a good year politically and economically, and it showed in our football. Nevertheless, I am sure that the Black Stars will give it their best shot.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to bring laughter back into the lives of our people. Good governance and a thriving economy are the surest way, and my government is working hard to make this a reality. We might win a few football matches along the way.
We are in full favour of the project of regional integration under ECOWAS. We believe it is in our national interest to do whatever we can to assist in the creation of a genuine regional market in West Africa. Today, the region has a population of some 350 million people, set to attain some 500 million in 2035, in twenty years time. This market presents immense opportunities for Ghanaian enterprise and creativity, and, with hard work, we trust its emergence will help deliver prosperity to the long suffering masses of our people.
We must wean ourselves off aid, and use what assistance we get to build the self-sufficient and prosperous nation we know Ghana can be. We can certainly learn a few things from you here in Germany, especially in the field of skills training and the development of small and medium scale enterprises. We have a glaring hole in our technical and vocational education system, and we need urgent lessons in the setup of your apprenticeship scheme.
There is a palpable can do spirit now in Ghana. People want to make a success of their lives, and hard work is coming back into fashion. There is a government in place that will provide the leadership needed to inspire.
We are committed to governing according to the rule of law, respect for individual liberties, human rights and the principles of democratic accountability; we are ensuring the realisation of fundamental requirements of social justice and solidarity; we are looking past commodities to position our country in the global marketplace; we are determined to free our people from a mindset of dependence, aid, charity and hand-outs; we are bent on mobilising Ghana’s own considerable resources to resolve Ghana’s problems; and we recognise the connectedness of our people and economy to those of our neighbours.
Ghana is doing its part in leading this march for the development of Africa. It is an exciting time for us, and we welcome you to join us to achieve this goal.
Thank you very much for your attention, and may God bless Germany and Ghana.