Feature Article of Friday, 3 February 2012
Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Asare
Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko
I have been tracking Akufo-Addo’s leadership path over the last 35 years and from a proximate vantage point over the last 10 years. What jumps at any such observer is his unwavering, principled patriotism and an incurable conviction that Ghana can and must achieve much more than what it hitherto has managed.
Fortunately, he is a practical visionary and believer in the market economy who is committed to a world where access to the tools of wealth is not determined by the circumstances of one’s birth.
That is why he has made his platform, the programme of building a society of opportunities and aspirations for all. That is why he sees the priorities to be about providing universal access to quality education and health, employable, modern skills and decent jobs in an economy retooled for industrialisation and value-addition.
Nana’s personal commitment to the country, evident over decades, is what defines his personal vision for the future. His belief in Ghana has proven true for 35 years. Whether in fighting against dictatorship, or defending the rights of the Ghanaian in court, or organising his party or promoting Ghana’s interest abroad, what you find is an unbreakable running thread of a patriot who is driven by a commitment to see his people and country succeed.
Nana Addo stands out as one African leader who, soaked in the full sense of our history and driven by a strong vision of what we are capable of, has his finger on the pause of the situation and solution. His hunger for transformation is inspiringly phenomenal.
A speech he delivered at the 12th Windhoek Dialogue Parliamentary Conference on November 24, 2011, captures his full understanding of both the challenges and opportunities facing and available to the African and why they require transformational leadership, right here, right now, to make it happen:
“We have no excuse to deny this generation a new society of opportunities and aspirations. We have no option but to offer this generation a new kind of leadership dedicated to realising the twin goals of guaranteeing the liberties and freedoms of the African peoples and of eradicating mass poverty in Africa. The new internet generation of African youths, regardless of geography, education and religion, are all demanding the same things: greater political freedom, deeper democratic accountability, a society of aspirations and opportunities, and a departure from a culture of corruption and failed leadership,” Nana Addo said.
“The most pressing issue which African leaders must be seen to be addressing forcefully is unemployment,” he emphasised, with a strong warning, “What the youth of Africa want are job-centred economic policies. We ignore this serious issue at the peril of our social and political stability.”
After saying this, he immediately brought out the structural impediment to addressing the issue: “Unfortunately, Mr Chairman, the structure of our economies is just not built for jobs. An economy driven by exports in raw materials just cannot create the necessary large pool of decent jobs with decent pay. If it had, our people would have enjoyed prosperity a long time ago.”
He offers a pointer to the solution: “What is required this time is the requisite leadership to inspire the transformation of the structure of the Ghanaian economy. My party’s economic vision, which will be launched [later this] year, will focus on building an integrated industrialisation programme, with a clear bias towards supporting our small and medium scale enterprises with access to science and technology, incentives and markets to make them more productive and competitive.”
For a man, whose whole adult life has been committed to the cause of democracy, freedom and justice, Nana can be trusted, as president, to protect the freedoms of the Ghanaian and the place of every Ghanaian within the society he seeks to transform.
In spite of all the phenomenal achievements of J A Kufuor, the usual lamentation has been that since Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana has not had a leader, who has shown such a deliberate and enduring passion and commitment to transforming the structure of the Ghanaian economy into an industrialised one.
My response to that is this: look, listen and steady Nana Addo’s track record and his future track for Ghana. Also, importantly, he has the innate can-do spirit to make it happen. He possesses the kind of confidence often lacking in an African leader.
Fortunately, through the foundational work done by two previous leaders, namely Messrs Rawlings and Kufuor, Ghana now is set for that all-important lift-off. What is required now is a competent pilot --- a transformational leader.
Nana Addo is the TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADER that Ghana needs not because Gabby says so. Nope! It is because of three things: (1) the clarity and strength of his vision; (2) he is a proven transformational leader and (3) timing – Ghana is ripe for transformation.
Nana understands the economic potential of Ghana in ways other political leaders do not.
Many of you may not have observed it, but Nana Addo is the pioneer behind the greatest social and economic transformation that has taken place in Ghana (and, indeed, Africa) over the last two decades – the introduction of the mobile telephone. Yes!
He brought the first ever mobile telephony company to Ghana, Mobiltel (now TiGO), at a time when it was not even popular in the west. He did this when he was an opposition politician.
This led the way for the growth of the telecom industry, which has created 1.5 million jobs in Ghana. An industry that contributed $5 billion to the economy last year, paying 40% of that in taxes.
A 2005 London Business School study found that for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a developing country, GDP rises by 0.5%.
Nana had the foresight to see the potential of this future and led Ghana into that future by understanding the potential of the mobile phone to transform Ghanaian society. You may see it was bound to happen. So was Ghana’s independence; but some patriots had to take the initiative.
Today, Africa is only second to Asia in being the biggest user of mobile phones in the world. Half of Africa's one billion population has a mobile phone – and, in the words of the Observer’s Killian Fox, not just for talking. As Fox points out in a recent article, the power of telephony is forging a new enterprise culture in Africa, from agriculture to healthcare to banking.
According to California-based mobile-banking innovator Carol Realini, executive chairman of Obopay: “Africa is the Silicon Valley of banking. The future of banking is being defined here… It's going to change the world.”
If we can associate a 2012 presidential candidate of one of the two main political parties in Ghana with the single most transformational instrument in Africa’s history over the last decade then why can’t we trust such a leader with the structural transformation of our economy over the next decade?
Nana Addo is the candidate we can believe in. He believes in Ghana and the potential of the Ghanaian and wants God and country to grant him the opportunity to deliver.
Let us give him the chance to harness that latent but potent human capital we have, at both home and abroad, to capitalise on our rich natural resources, primarily, for the greatest benefit of the greatest number of our people.
Given the chance, Nana will lead Ghana to build an educated workforce and transform Ghana into an industrialised, value-added economy that serves all Ghanaians, as well as West Africa’s growing population and beyond.
He will make the right choices with our money and provide free education from kindergarten to secondary school for all Ghanaian children in every region of Ghana.
Nana will apply his personal ethics to strengthen the fight against corruption in Ghana.
The biggest problem facing Ghanaians is unemployment. I am convinced that Nana Addo will lead Ghanaians to build an economy that will provide a far larger pool of good jobs with good pay.
This is because he believes that 100 years of exporting raw materials --gold, cocoa and timber, and now oil-- have left Ghanaians poor. However, Ghana can follow the path of China today and America a century ago.
As he has brought innovative companies to Ghana in the past, Nana will draw manufacturers to Ghana and build up Ghanaian industrialists to move Ghana from the export of raw materials to manufactured goods.
Ghana can lead Africa’s industrial revolution. The question is, of all the real options available on the 2012 presidential ballot, who can you trust to lead Ghana to lead Africa’s economic transformation?
To me the answer is obvious and deep inside you know it to be true, as well. Let’s give him a chance...
The author is the Executive Director of the Libertarian-Conservative think tank, the Danquah Institute. firstname.lastname@example.org