I am glad to be amongst you today at the opening of the Africa Business Leadership and Kingdom Summit, and to be in the midst of a stellar cast of Eminent Clergy, national and international, and a distinguished array of business leaders from Ghana, the continent and the world over. This cast is led by one of the great figures of the global Christian charismatic movement, Bishop T.D. Jakes. Osofo, Your Eminence, Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams, you have outdone yourself this time. Ayekoo. Rev. Jakes and all those of you who have come from beyond our shores are warmly welcome. You are amongst a people who pride themselves on their sense of hospitality. We are firm believers of the words of Holy Scripture in 1 Peter chapter 4 verse 9, which says “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”. Akwaaba is our word of welcome, and I hope you enjoy your stay with us over the next few days.
I am grateful for the opportunity to address this Summit. The decision to accept the invitation to speak at this event was not a difficult one, especially as it came from the famous Archbishophimself and his wife, my good and valued friend, Rosa, and also as it borders on one of the key sectors of any country’s economy – the private sector.
Chairperson, Eminent Clergy, ladies and gentlemen, the New Patriotic Party and I won, by the Grace of God, last year’s elections with clear marching orders from the Ghanaian people. We were tasked to establish a strong economy, which would generate jobs and improve the living standards for our people. Our success or failure will be judged by the capacity of the economy under our watch to provide opportunities, to inspire people to start new businesses, to encourage businesses to invest, grow and expand, and, above all, to create jobs. We all know in Ghana that widespread unemployment is the greatest threat to our future stability and social coherence.
Our preoccupation, over the last seven months, has been to put in place programmes and policies geared towards building the most business-friendly economy in Africa, to be a magnet for investment. We have begun establishing the relevant policy framework that will help businesses to expand and create jobs, with the view, also, to promoting the growth and development of entrepreneurship. We are doing this, by keeping firmly in our minds, in particular, the needs of our young people.
During the past few decades, the countries that have made rapid economic strides have been the ones that have encouraged high levels of investment in entrepreneur development, which has led to the acceleration of economic growth and the creation of jobs.
We can learn a lot from this global trend and promote a conducive and business-friendly environment in our country. It should not really be a difficult thing for us to do. The wealth of this nation was built on the private sector and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Ghanaian people. Ghanaians are renowned for their sense of enterprise, creativity and innovation, and the moment has come to reinvigorate that culture.
For us in the New Patriotic Party, the party from which my government was borne, the primacy of the private sector in the development of our national economy is fundamental. It is the very basis of our economic philosophy, and has been so for 70 odd years. In the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, Joseph Boakye Danquah, one of the revered founding fathers of our nation, stated, when defining the vision and policy of our party, that: “Our duty is to liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property-owning democracy in this land, with a right to life, and freedom and justice as the principles to which the government and laws of the land should be dedicated to in order specifically to enrich the lives, property and liberty of each and every citizen.” We have never wavered in our belief that, given an enabling environment, the ingenuity and sense of enterprise of the Ghanaian will enable us to build a strong, powerful economy which will deliver a good, dignified standard of living to our people.
In furtherance of this, we have set about putting in place the measures needed to reduce the cost of doing business and improve the business environment. We have begun to act on the fundamentals of our economy. This has resulted in the growing stability of the macro-economy and the cedi, reduction in inflation, and an abolition of nuisance taxes whose aim is to shift the focus of the economy from taxation to production. All these measures are being undertaken to stimulate enterprise activity and growth. Very soon, we shall reap the benefits of more jobs and an expanding economy.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up over 90% of businesses worldwide, and account for the majority of private-sector activity in both advanced and emerging market economies. Ours is predominantly an SME economy, and the economic growth and development of our country depend on how well we nurture and support start-ups and the micro, small and medium-scale enterprises to enhance their contribution to GDP, job creation and exports.
Chairperson, Eminent Clergy, ladies and gentlemen, micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) contribute about 70 percent of Ghana’s GDP, and account for more than 92 percent of enterprises. These are the businesses of our farmers, traders, barbers, tailors, fitters, carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, dressmakers, electricians and other businesses. They are the heartbeat of our economy and are at the core of Ghana’s private sector. In every city, town, village or hamlet in our nation, these enterprises support the livelihoods of our communities. At the national level, they contribute significantly to our gross domestic product and tax revenues, and create jobs for thousands. Indeed, the country’s survival is directly anchored on the success of small and medium scale enterprises. It is obvious, therefore, that we have to focus on the development of start-ups and small businesses by encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit as a national priority.
I am determined that we change the economic conditions in our country for the better, to ensure that young people see it as a place of opportunities, instead of the place from which they flee at the peril of their lives. We need to do all within our power to create an entrepreneurial climate, to enable our young people come up with creative ideas that can be developed into businesses.
For us in Ghana, we know where we want Ghana to be, and we are aware we are not where we want to be or ought to be. We also know of the big dreams of our forefathers to build a self-reliant and self-sustaining country that would take pride of place amongst the comity of nations.
Government has begun putting in place policies that will deliver sustainable growth and cut out corruption. We have begun to build a Ghana that is able to look after its people through intelligent management of the resources with which it has been endowed by the Creator; a Ghana which is governed according to the rule of law, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the principles of democratic accountability. This is our path, and this path offers a new Ghana.
This Ghana will be defined by integrity, sovereignty, common belief, discipline, and shared values. It is one where we aim to be masters of our own destiny, where we mobilise our own resources for the future, breaking the shackles of the “Guggisberg” colonial economy and freeing ourselves from a mind-set of aid, dependence, charity and handouts. It is an economy where we look past commodities to position ourselves in a global marketplace. It is a Ghana Beyond Aid.
In concluding, Chairperson, Eminent Clergy, ladies and gentlemen, we are here also to deliberate on issues of the business of the Kingdom of God. I am not a Bible scholar; neither do I pretend to be one. But, one thing I know is that the Kingdom of God is, indeed, the central theme of the Bible, and must, therefore, be the central theme of our lives. We learn that the Kingdom of God was the passion of David, the inspiration for Paul, and the proclamation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Indeed, the very mission of our host church, Action Chapel International, is focussed on “the end-time harvest.” It should, thus, be our desire that the principles of God’s Kingdom become the driving force in our lives and in our businesses. God rules in the affairs of men, and, in all of our dealings, we must recognise the presence of the Almighty, the Omniscient, the Omnipotent and the Omnipresent.
I am fortified again by Holy Scripture in the Gospel of St. Matthew in chapter 6 verses 31 to 33, which reads: “Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
I wish the Africa Business Leadership and Kingdom Summit great success.
Thank you, and may God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.