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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Columnist: Azongo, Nyaaba – Aweeba

Ghana Does Not Need A Development Plan

By Nyaaba-Aweeba Azongo

Development is the basic preoccupation of governance and leadership, and has become more compelling in our part of the world where we are still struggling to discover the right equation between Leadership and Development to provide "a safe and happy life" for our people. Our independence and democracy is meaningless to the overwhelming population of Ghanaians who have become perpetual Drop-Outs in a regime supposed to guarantee and secure a reasonable living conditions and dignity for all Ghanaians.

What is gravely worrisome is the fact that the next thirty years will bring almost a doubling of Ghana’s population. Another Ghana on top of this, equal in numbers, demands and hopes. The first point to be underlined is that the failure of our nation to provide "a safe and happy life" for our people is not caused by any present lack of resources, but a carbon-copy of a parochial and elitist protective economic Regime begging for a home-grown popular responsive development model.

Ghana has a three-pronged leadership constituency: provide leadership to Ghana, a torchbearer of African Leadership, and a symbol of black communal pride: The Black Star.

It is against this background that Ghana’s pursuit of development must carry a sense of urgency to provide not only a "a safe and happy life" for our people, but to equally springboard with pride a development model for the entire African region.

It is within this context that we really need a scholarly examination of the incessant calls and what appeared to be a settled public consensus that Ghana needs a National Development Plan. The basic condition required for a meaningful Development planning is to have an established Development path or philosophy. This is a far more difficult and complex intellectual exercise requiring originality of thinking as a people from context to culture. I am afraid the average Ghanaian scholar has been so much compromised to accept the comfort of Western Intellectual Retailing than the intellectual drudgery of evolving a development system that has relevance within our context and Culture as a nation.

Ghana needs a Development Path and not a Development Plan

Ghana needs a Development Path to serve as the building block for national Development Planning and not a National Development Plan as has been overly touted. Ghana has not evolved a development philosophy appropriate to its cultural and social-economic settings from which a meaningful development planning and governance could be properly anchored.

There is the Washington consensus, Beijing and the Mumbai models and these are the basic development paths that drive development planning in these jurisdictions. Ghana and the larger African continent continue to remain orphans of the Washington consensus, a borrowed robe of a development ideology not design to fit the African development context and culture.

Ghana does not need the Short-Termist Metropolitan-Informed academic exercise of blueprints incapable of stirring any revolutionary path towards development. It is important to do a reflection of the district in Ghana as planning agencies. All the Districts in Ghana have Medium Term Development plans. These plans put together constitute a National Development Plan, but the worrying scenario is that, even members of the Assemblies barely notice the existence of these plans, how much more the wider citizenry within district jurisdictions. These plans have remain desk-blueprints to satisfy official demands for a plan, and not a quest for development .The very content and texture of these plans have more academic value than development.

World Bank ‘Wik-leaks’ expose’: crisis Lessons that African’s have ignored.

The World Bank admitted categorically in September 2010 in a post-conference meeting on the global financial crisis and development economics that the Record of Development shows that one size won’t fit all. World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick made scathing critique and revelation of the very development philosophy they are seen as frontline protagonist. I reproduce part of his speech for the benefit of interested readers: “The record of development has shown that one size won’t fit all. There is a need to gather more evidence to assess the effectiveness of development efforts, including aid. Development knowledge should become “multi-polar” to recognize the rising importance of developing countries as new poles of growth and experience. Even before the financial crisis there was a questioning of prevailing paradigms and a sense that development economics needed rethinking, the crisis has only made that more compelling. We need to democratize and demystify development economics, recognizing that we do not have a monopoly on the answers. We need to throw open the doors, recognizing that others can find and create their own solutions. We need to recognize that development knowledge is no longer the sole province of the researcher, the scholar, or the ivory tower.” This horses-own-mouth revelation has sought to expose the frailties and depravities of the existing development order. This is a clarion call for Ghana to wake-up to a new African challenge at constructing an inward-oriented development paradigm relevant to the development needs and aspirations’ of her people.

The Millennium Development Themes

The current much-touted Millennium Development Goals reflects the United Nations perspective for the rest of the world in a one-size- fits –all Development Goals. The UN did not come out with the Millennium Development Themes to direct interventions toward the attainment of these goals. In the view of this paper, the Millennium Development Themes were espoused by Prof. Dani Rodrik, Harvard University, in a presentation on Development Strategies For The 21st Century During The Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics, 2000 held in Japan to set the development agenda for the Millennium. Prof-Dani Rodrik did not mince words when he said, “What is true of today’s advanced countries is also true of developing countries. Economic Development ultimately derives from a home-grown strategy, not from the world market. Policymakers’ in developing countries should avoid fads, put globalization in perspective, and focus on Domestic Institution Building. They should have more confidence in themselves and Domestic Institution Building, and place less faith in the global economy and the blueprints that emanate from it”. This exceptionally brilliant piece and forewarning, from Prof.Dani Rodrick, reinforces the theme of this paper and represents the best policy option for Ghana and African development.

Ghana and by extension African economies have been major drop-outs in the existing economic development philosophy espoused by the West and loyally retailed in Africa by her ‘scholars’. The constant reference and fetishism of shallow economic indicators and western applied economic theories as development finalities has only served to expose our unquestioned intellectual subservience to questionable external development standards. This has been a sore point in our quest to spring forth a mass-based Development trajectory.

What is more startling is the fact that, the scathing revelations by the protagonist of these models have never awakened Africa up to recreate her own development philosophy. The only reason that comes closer to explaining this phenomenon perhaps could be because, anything ‘international’ in Africa is a religion to be desperately observed and not to be questioned, even in the face of mounting ills and obvious shortcomings. Changes can only be accepted in Africa, when parachuted from the international front; but what is ‘international’ is outside Africa. But the nature and scope of our development challenge is uniquely ours to be addressed, and not theirs to be solved and concerned about.

Development in Ghana: Drama of Political Activism and NGO Mediation

In the absence of a Ghanaian Development ideology or the Ghanaian consensus, the development landscape has been reduced to a drama of political activism and NGO Mediation to capture the fancy of the international community for funding, and not the down-trodden masses whose plight is the basic determinant of the development challenge. Development is now what political parties define, and what the international community Prescribes and/or endorses. It is a travesty of Development for the development enterprise to become accidental to short-term regime goodwill and sympathetic external agencies. Development is a right and not an option to be determined by the pendulum of regime changes and sympathetic external goodwill and noble impulses. The overly foreignization of Development has made Poverty an attractive industry to secure middle-class interest and not a canker to be gotten-rid off.

Our development philosophy at best must resolve a popular and broad-based agreeable template for development assessment self-evident to the average population, so that Development evaluation does not become a political tool for elitist exposition, regime and partisan development branding and external imperialist ornamentation.

Afro-centric Creative intellectualism or Western Intellectual Retailing: The Challenge

A development path presents intellectually-intensive creative models which by our position within the international division of scholarship we are not cut for this enterprise. Within the international division of scholarship, the best of an African scholar is only the best western intellectual retailer. According to the philosophy of international Division of scholarship, the west produces knowledge for development, and Africa’s responsibility is to retail and consume these knowledge products. Knowledge products are largely produced and legitimated in the Developed Countries. The role of the African scholar is then consigned to retailing the knowledge products from the west as Western Intellectual Retailers. There are numerous think ‘thank bodies’ in Africa, but not a single course of study from Africa has been introduced in African Universities, nor any knowledge models in Africa have an African definition and perspective. Moreover, there is reason to believe that the knowledge products which gain prominence are not necessarily the ‘best’ but that gazetted by external institutions-‘laboratories for testing knowledge products for Africa’.

Given that we have largely been groomed to be retailers of western intellectual thoughts there is very limited premium for creative scholarship, since western intellectual retailing in Africa is a very comfortable industry. The English language which is even a medium of expressing thought is a surrogate of knowledge in Africa. It is an irony of civilization that in the 21st century Africa, a medium of expressing thought is a symbol of knowledge, and not the substance of the thought.

Against the foregoing, one would appreciate the enormity of the challenge for a home-grown development model. African leadership in its entire endeavour does not place premium on African creative talent. It is virtually a taboo to be in Africa and challenge western intellectual thoughts or attempt to create a home-grown model. In fact the very institution of education is oriented towards retailing of external intellectual thoughts. This intellectual culture renders African intellectual class and economies as producers and exporters of raw data, and importers of external processed data knowledge products. Our educational system requires fundamental re-orientation that should not only be designed to meet the current employment regime, but to cultivate an African intellectual appetite for creative home-grown solutions. This is a fundamental prerequisite to arrest the canker of being perpetual retailers and sales managers of western intellectual thoughts, and unnecessary foreignization of every aspect of our development.

The times are too grave and the challenge is quite urgent for Ghana to assume a mantle of intellectual leadership to build a globally competitive Ghanaian development Model for the rest of Africa.

The author is a development Planner and practitioner in Ghana. He pioneered the SMIDO project at Suame Magazine. email: