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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Columnist: Reginald Nii Odoi

Community-based economic development: The pathway to a new Ghana!

Reginald Nii Odoi, author Reginald Nii Odoi, author

Ghana being the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa that gained independence from British colonial rule, specifically in the year 1957, has not really advanced in all spheres in order to produce an all-inclusive and all-encompassing developmental structure upon which the country could steadily grow.

In recent times, there have been several references to the “economic miracle” that occurred in East Asia with specific reference to the “Asian Tigers”.

These countries, who in times past were on similar levels as Ghana, were able to build and maintain exceptionally high economic growth rates. The dramatic growth in the economies of these East Asian countries resulted in an increase in per capita twice as much as was the case in any other region of the world. Notwithstanding these laudable achievements in other countries of the world who were not in any way better than Ghana, Ghana cannot boast of a sustainable development agenda yet.

Deep rooted partisan politics of winner takes all & unhealthy blame game

Of course, Ghana has made some strides in certain areas of its development agenda and thus would be totally unfair to claim that the country has not progressed in any way. However, the point I address is that “much is expected from whom much has been made available to”.

Ghana, unlike many other countries in Africa and the world at large, is blessed with many opportunities, resources which places her in a more advantageous position for success than many other countries of the world. Ghana however has been saddled with certain bottlenecks which get worse at an ever-increasing pace as compared to its rate of growth and development.

There has been an ever heightening deep rooted partisan politics of winner takes all which is crippling the fortunes and potential growth of Ghana. The Constitution of Ghana made by the people of Ghana, of the people of Ghana and for the people of Ghana stresses that the nation Ghana is not for one person but for the entirety of the population who “in the exercise of our natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government which shall secure for ourselves and posterity the blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity”.

However, the political party system which the constitution of Ghana provided for as a vehicle that would drive a holistic development agenda is rather becoming an evil than a blessing. Political parties who are to serve the useful purpose of democratically capturing power and/or keeping ruling governments on their toes to tow a development agenda that would be beneficial to all have rather become a major setback to Ghana’s development.

Negative partisan politics has changed the narrative from good governance to a politics of entitlement and ownership. Rather than being motivated to do what is expected of a reasonable government of the day in order to change the life of all and sundry for good, political parties are rather content to play the “blame game card” and only seek to do a little above what their competitor party did or could not do. This creates the issue of short-termism, myopic and stunted development.

Of course, money driven politics is also to blame as political parties and their related politicians generally see governance as a means of amassing wealth, rewarding loyalists and reserving development only for the “vocal majority” who owe allegiance to their political party system. This accounts for the unsustainable development and inconsistent policies prevalent in Ghana that adversely affects every sector including the health and education sectors which are vital for growth and development.

A tribalistic driven system of governance

Of course, no two finger prints are the same neither are all the fingers of the hand of the same length and size. There is beauty in diversity and variety and that is the nature of every country. As a result, every country is made up of people from different backgrounds and ethnic affiliations.

Unfortunately, the system of governance is deeply rooted in tribalism which continues to cripple Ghana’s development. Certain opportunities are denied persons who ordinarily are qualified and competent for same simply because of their ethnic affiliation. The issue of tribalism is a never-ending draw back to the sustainable development agenda of Ghana. Good governance is sacrificed for tribal politics.

In recent times, the problem in Africa is not necessarily the issue of autocratic and dictatorial leadership but rather the phenomenon whereby democracy and good governance is hijacked by tribal politics. This has led to several civil unrests and violence in many communities.

The regular use of identity politics as a means to satisfy and promote one’s tribal interests is very unfortunate and unable to foster inclusive growth and development. Politics in Ghana is increasingly being built around tribal identities rather than ideas. In the absence of a true politics of ideas, Ghana’s political foundation is hinged on tribal identities and unhealthy political competition.

The constant practice of exploiting tribal loyalty for ones personal or parochial interests has to stop as they are grossly inimical to Ghana’s sustainable development. In a country where competition for power is largely based on tribal alliances rather than on ideas and a developmental platform, danger looms ahead!

The way forward: Community Economic Development as Progressive Politics

Ghana needs a new community based driven economy. A new approach to its development agenda that is devoid of tribalism and deep-rooted partisan politics which acts in a negative sense. We need a new economy that puts the people and even the environment before profit and personal gain.

The selfish act of privatization of collective resources has to end as a matter of necessity and urgency if a holistic development agenda is going to take place. There is a need to integrate the “whole community” to build neighborhood coalitions that promote broad based economic reform. This would produce more benefits than tribal and negative partisan politics.

We must identify competitive advantages of conducting our governance and political processes whilst structuring the proper incentives to lure reluctant persons into neglected areas for an all-inclusive growth.

From the upper level, governments must ensure that local assets in impoverished communities are identified and properly packaged for outside investors and the private sector who would channel private sector capital to poor neighborhoods through innovative financial tools bringing with it a stable stream of jobs and needs services.

Everything must be subordinated to the dictates of a broader vision of economic justice rather than tribalism and negative partisan politics. As a result, regional, national and transnational structures would be created to combat the economic deterioration of marginalized populations. This would serve as the true forum and foundation for practicing democratic decision making and all-inclusive political engagement.

All political actors, spearheaded by the government of the day, must work together to dismantle and radically restructure the current systems of law and power that negatively affect true growth and development. Overtime, this would produce a social justice movement that seeks to transform political and economic systems into a world rooted in democracy, justice and sustainability.

The State must be used to expand the vision of what is possible in order to inspire dreams of what the nation ought to be. The overarching goal of the government should be to democratically control and govern the political and economic resources to sustain all people for whom the government was elected to serve.

The government of the day must create economic alternatives and prototypes for producing, exchanging and investing in ways that are more just, sustainable and democratic. The economy and whole democratic system of governance must be modeled based on collective care and putting all people above personal gain.

The individual and the community as a whole also have a part to play. They are responsible for resisting and reforming the current system in ways that also create space for alternatives. We must use community, grassroot and civil service organizing to achieve a broad-based reform in order to ensure that growth is redistributed to low income constituencies.

Innovation and unconventional approaches to development must be embraced with solidarity and collective care for each other as the driving force in order to overcome the winner takes all mindset including the skepticism that alternatives are possible. We need to find ways to use the strengths of togetherness and selflessness in order to build vehicles for transformation.


It is clear that Ghana can make more progress if it takes the new path to development founded on a community economic development model. Ghana must be prepared to fail forward whilst taking an ecosystem approach to building and scaling up. We must inspire and connect initiatives so that we can learn from one another and scale up.

Building a solidarity system where all persons see themselves as a part of and not apart from the movement would go a long way to transform Ghana. This can be achieved through transformative leadership that would challenge and change the very nature of our political institutions in terms of who controls them and towards what ends.

We must develop community, we must raise and engage all persons into a multi-stakeholder constituency system. We must build solidarity across the entire spectrum of political perspectives and sectors. A country that employs a community economic development strategy whilst encouraging the use of local resources in a way that enhances economic opportunities is bound to succeed and would present a strong response to tenacious poverty, inequality and greed.