It is sixty-one years now since our nation Ghana won her independence.
At its birth, great things were expected of this nation of ours, and even greater things were expected of those who would have the honour to be called Ghanaians. This is the country, after all, that blazed the trail for independence on the African continent, and, with it, came a grave responsibility to be forever used as a measure of how the continent was doing. Today it is Ghana’s kente that identifies the African continent and its peoples.
In many ways, we rose to the occasion. The many and varied peoples that came together, through happenstance or deliberate actions, to form the modern state of Ghana, have crafted a common identity.
We might be Dagartis, Sissalas, Dagombas, Mamprusis, Gonjas, Konkombas, Frafras, Grusis, Kusasis, Gas, Krobos, Ewes, Fantes, Denkyiras, Gomoas, Guans, Nzemas, Ahantas, Sefwis, Akyems, Akwamus, Akuapems, Kwahus, Brongs or Ashantis; we might sometimes even lapse into ancient rivalry modes; but, as Ghanaians, we are comfortable in our skin.
Apart from the physical, outward things that identify us, there are the more subtle, but important things that define us as Ghanaians. We are a hospitable people, we make strangers and visitors feel at home, it is part of our DNA.
We Ghanaians look out for each other and especially so when we find ourselves outside our country. We still regard the upbringing and training of children as a group responsibility for the public good, and the most sophisticated amongst us is not embarrassed to show respect to the elderly.
We might have become famous or infamous for being great travellers who can be found in all parts of the globe, but I can safely say that, deep inside us. We love our country. We love Ghana. We take seriously the words of our national motto and have a passionate love for freedom and justice.
On a day such as today, our thoughts invariably stray to the past, but we do not intend to live on past memories. To paraphrase Ephraim Amu in Yen araasaaseni, it is now our turn to build upon those past glories. (Adu me ne wonso so, seyebeye bi atoa so). The litmus test is simple: every day must bring some improvement in our lives, today must be an improvement on yesterday and our tomorrow must certainly be better than our yesterday.
Even though underachievement may have been a major part of our history thus far, it should no longer be part of our destiny. The only nation we are destined to become is the one we choose and decide to be. We do not have to accept someone’s definition of Africa or of Ghana. We must define and craft our destiny.
But achieving our destiny requires a deliberate, qualitative change in all aspects of our lives; especially, in the structure of our economy, the state of our infrastructure, the education of our young people and acquisition of skills and above all, in our attitudes and the holding firm to the values that define us.
The change in our fortunes will only happen when our economies improve. Since I became President, I have been advocating for a Ghana, indeed, an Africa Beyond Aid, and I am keen to have the support of all of us in this enterprise.
Nobody needs to spell it out to us that the economic transformation we aspire to will not come through Aid. We have been on this trajectory for sixty years and it has not happened. Aid was never meant to be what would bring us to a developed nation status.
My fellow Ghanaians, ours is a country that is well endowed with many natural resources such as gold, bauxite, diamonds, oil, timber, cocoa, water, fertile land etc. The truth, however, is that the state of our nation does not bear out that we have these natural endowments. Poverty continues to be our lot. We have huge infrastructural deficits. Mismanagement, corruption and high fiscal deficits have become the hallmarks of our economy, which we finance through borrowing and foreign aid.
It is time to pursue a path to prosperity and self-respect for our nation. A Ghana Beyond Aid is a prosperous and self-confident Ghana that is in charge of its economic destiny.
Ghana Beyond Aid is not a pie in the sky notion, other countries, including some of our peers at independence have done exactly that. It is doable and we must believe that what others, with less resources, have done, we can do.
However, we are not going to achieve the transformation in our economy which is necessary for a Ghana Beyond Aid by just talking about it. We have to DO something about it!
As a start, we have to do things differently. Business as usual will not do it. It cannot happen by waving a magic wand. And it cannot be achieved overnight. Indeed, the most rapid cases of economic and social transformation in history, those in South East Asia, generally spanned a period of about 30 years; about a generation. We cannot wait that long; we have wasted enough time already. We have to hurry but we must be realistic.
To get to a Ghana Beyond Aid, we will have to effectively harness our own resources and creatively and efficiently deploy them for rapid economic and social transformation. This will require hard work, enterprise, creativity, and a consistent fight against corruption in public life. It will also require that we break from a mentality of dependency and adopt a confident can-do spirit, fuelled by love for our dear country, Ghana. We cannot subordinate the common good to build a prosperous nation to the selfish interest of a few.
Fellow Ghanaians, we have started on the right path with the concrete steps we are taking to restore macro-economic stability and economic growth. After a year of disciplined and innovative economic management, the results have been remarkable. Fiscal discipline has been restored and fiscal consolidation has taken hold. For the first time since 2006, the government of Ghana has been able to meet its fiscal deficit target. We will continue to manage the economy in a disciplined and sound framework so that we maintain fiscal and debt sustainability. This in the long run is fundamental to moving Beyond Aid.
Fellow Ghanaians, corruption, or, more specifically, the stealing of public funds, continues to hold back the development of our nation. Corruption is not a partisan matter and we must all act to protect the public purse. With the office of the Special Prosecutor now in place we can expect more prosecutions for corruption in the coming months and public officials, present and past, should be on notice that they would be held accountable for their actions.
There is, however, one piece of the anti-corruption framework that is yet to be put in place; The Right to Information Act. It would increase transparency and add another critical weapon to the armoury in the fight against corruption. After many years of hesitation, we intend to bring a Bill again to Parliament and work to get it passed into law before Parliament rises.
The protection of the public purse is a social common good, and it depends on all of us. It is in all our interest that corruption does not thrive, and we police each other’s behaviour. Going Beyond Aid means Ghanaians should not serve as fronts for foreign companies to defraud our country. It will mean we all pay our taxes, and it will mean we all help to take care of government property as though it were our own.
Adding value to our raw materials is also key to industrialization, prosperity and jobs. It is unacceptable that, even though we produce in West Africa 65% of cocoa beans in the world, we earn only between 3.5% and 6% of the final price of a chocolate bar. Value addition is, therefore, imperative if we are to maximize the potential to pursue resource-based industrialization.
Fellow Ghanaians, we now live in a digital world and to be competitive, we have to be a part of and take advantage of digitization. Since assuming office last year, we have undertaken deliberate policy reforms to digitize Ghana to formalize our economy. The national identification and address system, the drivers licence and vehicle registration, the paperless operation at the ports, inter-operability of payment system in the financial sector are all geared towards modernizing our economy and we should begin to feel the difference when all these measures become operational later this year. I am looking forward particularly to the digitization of the land registration process to help the mortgage market, and help release hundreds of billions of cedis to finance our development.
Fellow Ghanaians, at its core, the poverty gap is a technology gap. The mastery of technology is what at the end of the day separates developed from developing countries, or rich from poor countries. This is a gap we have to bridge. We are laying a strong foundation for an educated and skilled workforce of the future through the free Senior High School (SHS) program, which this academic year enabled 90,000 additional young Ghanaians to enroll in SHS. These are our future scientists, engineers, modern farmers, innovators, entrepreneurs, and transformation agents!
Fellow Ghanaians, as government committed to the growth of the private sector, we believe that the private sector should be the critical partner in moving Ghana Beyond Aid. In truth, part of our problem has been that government tries to do too much, tries to take on far too much beyond its capacity. There are many projects in roads, railways, water transport, agriculture, etc. which, if properly structured, will attract private sector financing. Key to attracting private sector investment is a conducive business friendly and peaceful environment.
My dear fellow Ghanaians, all these plans and big dreams I have outlined will come to naught if we do not have peace in our country. The primary requirement for prosperity is peace. The first obligation on any government is to ensure the safety of the citizens.
As your president, this is an obligation I accept, and I am determined to discharge faithfully. The recent spate of armed robbery incidents is totally unacceptable. I will work to ensure that citizens are able to go about their daily duties in the confidence that they are safe. I want to make this clear: no miscreant will have the space to terrorize citizens and generate a sense of insecurity in our country. The police have the primary responsibility of maintaining peace and keeping law and order in our society, and, in exceptional cases, with the backing of the armed forces. The government is doing, and will do whatever it takes to enable the police discharge their duties effectively. We are providing the means for them to modernize their equipment and learn modern methods of policing, and the numbers will be rapidly increased to match our growing population, and sophistication and audacity of the criminals.
We should not forget that the police need the help and support of the community to be able to do their work. We dare not lose our reputation as a haven of peace and security. I urge you all to join in making sure there is no hiding place in our midst for those who would disturb our peace. For my part, I will do whatever is necessary, within the confines of the Constitution and the laws of the land, to ensure the peace of our country.
Fellow Ghanaians, Ghana Beyond Aid is meant to be more than a slogan. It is meant to propel us into the frame of mind that would quicken our pace of development. It is meant to change our mindset from one of dependency to one of achieving our destiny. It is meant to put us in charge of our own affairs and make us truly independent. Above all, Ghana Beyond Aid will give us the respect and dignity we deserve.
Let us believe in ourselves.
Let us believe in Ghana and in Africa.
God bless us all, God bless Mother Africa, and God bless our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
Thank you for your attention.