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Ghana’s Presidential Conundrum, Economy and Upcoming Elections

By Chu-Chu Alex Jones

Coronavirus or not, Ghanaians would go to the voting polls this December to elect or reelect the diplomatic but less economic tactful Nana Akufo-Addo, or the charismatic and development-centric John Mohama, whom rapid infrastructure development (2012-2016) came at the high price of massive external borrowing and allegations of public improprieties and corruption. 

Both men admit to the insidious charge of not doing enough on poverty, education, and high youth unemployment in Ghana. Both men are affluent and have dominated Ghana’s two main political parties, The New Patriotic Party (NPP) of former president John Kufuor and the National Democratic Party (NDC) of Ghana’s Revolutionary leader John Jerry Rawlings for over a decade.  

President Nana Akufo Addo and former President John Mahama

They have won narrow elections against each other in preceding elections, and are both eminent members of Ghana’s political aristocracy. In other words, they are not new to Ghana’s politics, and indeed, not new kids on the block. Even when they were teens and pupils during Ghana’s post-independence epoch, their parents held immense political sway and economic influences, comparable to The Bushes of America and members of the royal court of the English Dynasty.

Emmanual Adama Mahama, the father of former Vice President (2009-2012) and President of Ghana (2012-2016), was a wealthy rice farmer and member of Kwame Nkrumah’s Parliament, while Edward Akufo-Addo, father of current President Akufo-Addo was Ghana’s Chief Justice (1966 to 1970), Chairman of Ghana’s Constitutional Commission (1967–1968), non-executive President of Ghana (1970 till 1972), and member of Ghana Big Six, the Six Leading Political Parties during the British Colony called the Gold Coast that is Ghana, and whose portraits engraves Ghana’s ever-depreciating banknote, the Cedi- that has lost half its value under the combined reign of President Mahama and President Akufo-Addo. Yet, these men are still around.

Former President Mahama shakes hands with President Akufo Addo

and rerunning to reoccupy Ghana’s Presidency. Invigorated and campaigning vigorously under the platform to deliver better jobs, education, and higher living standard for Ghanaians, something neither men have previously proven the wit to deliver on or at least the economic savviness to set-in-play the right policies to lay that foundation.    

There is no question that Ghana has incessantly advanced socially and democratically than most African countries including Nigeria, DRC, Guinea, and Liberia- countries comfortably at the bottom of all human development indicators, life expectancy, corruption, eternal conflict, infant mortality deaths, and many other global human statistics. However, Ghana, the first independent African nation and certainly one of Africa’s largest exporters of gold, cocoa, and alumina, is still one of the poorest countries in Africa, as measured by GDP Per Capita (the total income generated by a country divided by its population). Ghana has one of the least Human Development Index Scores or HDI (HDI is arguably one the most accurate ways to measure a country’s progress, i.e., its citizens living standards in terms of income, life expectancy and education attainment vis-à-vis that country’s peers). And Judging by these two key statistics, Ghana, under these two men, has been a remarkable failure.  

Ghana’s current HDI score is .59, with 1 being the best and .0 the worst human development score of a country. Under their combined presidency, Ghana ranked number 16th amongst Africa’s countries, behind The Republic of Congo and Namibia (with rankings of 14th and 12th respectively). The Island Nations of Seychelles and Mauritius that possess no Gold, Diamonds, and Alumina deposit like Ghana and other mineral-rich African countries are ranked first and second place in Africa’s HDI Score respectively, (Seychelles .80) and (Mauritius .79).

Ghana GDP Per Capita (nominal) is an abysmal $2,222 as of 2019, which places Ghana at 18th in Africa and 143rd in the world. Seychelles and Mauritius ranked first and second in Africa with GDP Per Capita of $19,052 and $11,360, giving them a global ranking of 53th and 65th, respectively. Namibia, which recently gained independence in 1998, and was embroiled in a prolonged border war that lasted from 1966 to 1990 has as GDP Per Capita as of 2019 of $3620, and well above Ghana’s $2,222. Over have half a dozen African countries, including Angola, The Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, and war-torn Libya has far better GDP Per Capita than Ghana.    

Ghana’s democracy and economy today might be the envy to some African Countries: its democratic apotheosis, sprawling infrastructure development, burgeoning domestic industries, highspeed internet connectivity, and near-consistent power-grid electricity supply to Accra and over half dozen leeward cities and districts. Nonetheless, Ghana is way behind in any meaningful human or economic development as compared to Botswana, Gabon, Angola, Rwanda, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, to name a few. Ghana’s rapidly expanding multilane thoroughfares and newly-built modern public hospitals and schools are impressive, to say the least; and, the mare assurances of peace and security enjoyed by Ghanaian, tourists and anyone wishing to do business in one of its ten regions, sixteen administrative districts and two hundred and seventy-five sub-regions or counties is equally remarkable. Still, Ghana faces more social and economic problems and challenges today than almost any time in its recent 60-year post-colonial history.

Ghana today has significantly more foreign and domestic debt than most Countries in Africa. Its national external debt burden is about $20 billion or $750 for every Ghanaian citizen, one of the highest in Africa and much higher compared to Nigeria $50, Rwanda $200, and Kenya $370 external debt per person.

A close up of a map

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According to a current US Nonpartisan Congressional Research Report published in the summer of 2019 (CRSreport.com), “Ghana multi-year slide in the exchange currency value which began under Mahama has continued under Akufo-Addo, hurting the trade balance and hindering economic activity, due to a heavy reliance on imported goods. Despite the NPP’s strong criticism of the Mahama government’s deficit spending and other aspects of its economic policy record, including its high deficit spending, the Akufo-Addo administration has continued to borrow heavily to fund its policy agenda. It sold $2 billion worth of Eurobonds in May 2018 and another $3 billion in March 2019, after issuing roughly $1.2 billion in state-backed bonds to finance state-owned enterprise energy sector,” the report concluded. To make matters worse, most of Ghana’s local Administrative districts lack basic sanitation, good drinking water, hospitals, and adequate schools; and, many more have little or no grid-electrical power supply, despite boasting one of the largest hydro-electric dams in Africa, The Akosombo Dam. Moreover, about a quarter of Ghana’s residents still use dangerous kerosene lamps, which exhale poisonous carbon monoxide flames, something unimaginable in the 21st century. Ghana today is still a net importer of tomatoes, onion, chicken, and fish. 

Conclusion

It is without a shred of doubt one of these two conventionally educated, internationally iconic, and domestically influential men would become Ghana’s next president on January 8th, 2021. And, despite the advent of the recent Novo Coronavirus pandemic, Ghana would remain democratic and peaceful. Nonetheless, Ghana’s IMF and bilateral debt burdens, which have ballooned from 34 percent of GDP in 2009 to 58 percent in 2019, still post the most eminent obstacle to Ghana’s social and economic progress and human development. Its other social woes: teen-adult traditional marriages, illiteracy, political and capital cronyism- unaddressed by both administrations (Afuko-Addo and Mahama), make it less likely for Ghana to achieve any substantial human development top ranking over the next four years, no matter who wins the 2020 December Elections. If Ghana is to grow its Per Capita and HDI, which are the correct measures of social and economic progress, what is known for sure is that neither Nana Afuko-Addo nor John Mahama has proven capable in accomplishing that task.

Ghana would have to look beyond the retirement of these two political legends and move toward a more vibrant and more savvy economic mind to accomplish that which Ghana voters so desperately seek: Jobs and Better Economic Living Standard, paid for with economic growth and surpluses and not arduous foreign debt.  

About the author:

Chu-Chu Alex Jones

Chu-Chu Alex Jones is the business and economic editor of Globe Afrique. He has worked as a finance and technology (FinTech) Analyst and consulted for leading banks and global financial institutions, including JP Morgan, Bank of New York Mellon, and Citibank. Alex is also a social and economic activist and an independent derivative and equity trader and analyst. He lives in Florida and enjoys tennis, golf, chess, reading, and writing Western Literature, Religion, and Global Economic History.   

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