It is with considerable pleasure that I welcome you formally to Accra, and to the seat the Ghanaian Presidency. I recall fondly my participation in the 2011 London and 2014 Seoul Party Leaders’ meetings of the International Democratic Union. On both occasions, I attended in my capacity as leader of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the then main opposition party in Ghana. Nearly three years down the line, by the generosity of the Ghanaian people and the grace of Almighty God, I am hosting you to lunch in a different capacity, as President of the Republic of Ghana. Akwaaba, as you know by now, is our word of welcome to all of you, old and new friends. I hope you enjoy your stay amongst us, a people who pride themselves on their sense of hospitality.
I applaud the IDU for the decision taken to hold its Executive Meeting and IDU Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Meeting in Ghana. This is the first time such a meeting is being held in the country of a member party south of the Sahara, and, dare I say, it is right that you chose Ghana for this meeting. After all, we were the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence in 1957, which led rapidly to the liberation of our continent from colonial rule, and we are, today, in all humility and modesty, the beacon and symbol of democracy in Africa. We are, indeed, privileged to host such a gathering in our country.
When the members of the United Gold Coast Convention, UGCC of blessed memory, the first nationalist party of Ghana, the party which gave birth to the NPP, gathered in the historic town of Saltpond, some 150 kilometres west of Accra, in 1947, to lay the foundation for a democratic and prosperous Ghana, free of colonial rule, they did so against the backdrop of the emerging Cold War. The promise that freedom would lead to a significant improvement in the quality of life of the African peoples was, however, cruelly subverted by decades of authoritarian rule in post-colonial Africa.
Yet, through it all, democratic forces in Africa, like my party, the NPP, continued to believe that the application of democratic principles and the operation of strong, private sector dominated market economies, with good, honest management of public finances, provided the most effective platform for Africa’s development. Hence, the NPP’s motto: Development in Freedom. These beliefs, in our view, have been vindicated by today’s paradigm.
In West Africa, we have made significant progress in our regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). For the first time in the 42 year history of ECOWAS, all 15 member states have democratically elected leaders. This is an indication that democracy, equality of opportunity and respect for human rights, ideals which have stood the test of time, have now found firm anchor in our collective body politic. Indeed, this evolution inspired the decision by ECOWAS to intervene, earlier this year, in the electoral impasse in the Gambia, which ensured the enforcement of the rule of law and the assumption of the reins of government by the rightfully elected leader.
It is now generally accepted that we, who are gathered here and other like-minded people, have won the ideological battle that raged for much of the twentieth century. But, the war to build a better world, by strengthening freedom and democracy and improving the living standards of the citizenry, is far from over.
It is for this reason that the Ghanaian people, dissatisfied with their living conditions, and unhappy with the direction in which the country and, indeed, the economy was headed, voted decisively for change on 7th December, 2016, by the overwhelming victory they conferred on the NPP and my modest person. That is why I am here, today, as President. They voted for us to fix the economy and put our country on the path of progress and prosperity.
To deliver on the wishes and aspirations of the Ghanaian people, I have put before them the most ambitious programme of social and economic transformation of any government in the history of Ghana’s 4th Republic, if not in our entire history.
This programme is hinged on restructuring the institutions of our governance, modernising our agriculture to enhance its productivity, a clear industrial policy, and rationalising the financial sector so that it supports growth in agriculture, and growth in manufacturing and industry. To this end, my government has, in our first budget in March, introduced measures to stimulate the private sector. A monetary policy that will stabilise the currency and reduce significantly the cost of borrowing, in addition to a raft of tax cuts, has been put in place to bring relief to and encourage businesses. These interventions are already lowering the cost of doing business, and shifting the focus of our economy from taxation to production. We aim also to enhance further the business atmosphere and make Ghana an easier place to conduct business through paperless transactions at our ports, and the removal of all internal customs barriers by the beginning of September. Our flagship programmes, “One District, One Factory”, and “Planting for Food and Jobs”, have been launched. We aim to reach our target – to make Ghana’s economy the most business friendly on the continent of Africa, and, why not, in the world.
This process of economic and industrial transformation is going along with ensuring that the most basic elements of social justice are met – making quality basic education and healthcare accessible to all – to promote a culture of incentives and opportunities.
We have been in office barely five months, but we are taking concrete action to fulfil our manifesto pledges and commitments.
We are determined to build a new Ghanaian civilisation, a Ghana beyond Aid. It is a Ghana where we aim to be masters of our own destiny, where we marshal our own resources for the future, breaking the shackles of the “Guggisberg” colonial economy of a producer of raw materials, and a mind-set of dependency, bailouts and extraction. It is an economy where we look past commodities to position ourselves in the global marketplace at the high end of the value chain. It is a country where we focus on trade, not aid, a hand-up, not a hand-out. It is a country with a strong private sector. It is a country that recognises the connectedness of its people and economy to those of its neighbours. It is a country that is governed according to the rule of law, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the principles of democratic accountability.
Our global village is being buffeted by some stormy, adverse winds – vicious terrorism; religious extremism; resurgent populism in the Western democracies; potentially devastating climatic and environmental changes; and growing inequality between the North and the South. In my view, never has the necessity to organise, mobilise and articulate clearly our values and message been greater. I have no doubt that, in doing so, we shall prevail here on this continent and around the world, and create harmony, serenity and progress for our common planet and our common humanity, and, thereby, banish global poverty and hunger.
My expectation, at the end of this meeting, is that we share best practices in governance, marketing strategies for winning elections, and refining the tools needed to ensure that we continuously gain and maintain the support of our electorates with each other. Our political parties are at the helm of some of the biggest and most successful economies and emerging markets in the world, and are having a positive impact on this generation. We must ensure that, with the aid of science and technology, the promotion of enterprise, innovation and creativity, and the spread of democratic values, we offer the prospects of a constructing a new era of prosperity in freedom for all the peoples of the world. I am confident that we can work together to achieve this noble goal.
Thank you, welcome to Ghana, and may God bless the IDU and us all.