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Opinions of Thursday, 22 July 2010

Columnist: Appeadu, Charles E.

Ghana’s Greatest Contribution to Africa

When Ghana attained her independence from the British, it paved the way for several other African countries to attain their independence. Fifty three years later, those African countries are still politically independent from their erstwhile colonial masters. However, illiteracy, disease, and abject poverty are still the terms of choice that several people use to describe Africa.
Maybe the best way to describe our efforts at independence is that we thought we killed the snake but could it be that the snake is really not dead? The only way to make sure the snake is dead is to cut off its head! We have uncompleted business to attend to. We are quick to make reference to the fact that we were the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence and that we led the way for the other African countries to follow suit. We cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of the first born status without bearing the responsibilities that status requires of us. Could it be that one important reason why Black Africa is poor is that its first born child has not led the way in socio-economic development? Our greatest contribution to Africa is yet to come. If we create a more orderly society in which by and large the population adheres to the laws of the land; if we create a society of well educated scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs who will create goods and services for both local consumption and export; if we produce political leaders (of integrity) who will inspire our citizens to advance in all aspects of life; if we improve our per capita GDP to the level of those who were supposed to be our peers (about $10,000 - $15,000 per year), then we would have fulfilled our role as the first born of Sub-Saharan Africa! This will be our greatest contribution to Africa!
Can Ghana make strides in development? Yes, but we have to face the fact that we cannot develop in chaos. Certain things have to be in place to foster socio economic development. First, we need a political administration that is passionate about bringing the nation together. We should turn our tribal differences into an advantage for development. Every ethnic group has been endowed with unique abilities and culture that the other ethnic groups can learn from. A leader who truly believes that no tribe is superior to another will possess the wisdom and the passion to instill that fact into the citizenry. Next, our leaders should demonstrate a very high level of integrity in public life and then wield the moral authority to punish corruption severely and consistently until this menace is reduced to a very low level in our society. Corruption kills motivation, innovation and hard work and we should be serious about fighting it. Why can’t we use hidden cameras to expose leaders and officials who demand bribes before rendering services to citizens who have already paid for these services? Why don’t we punish these culprits severely when they are caught? Ethical standards should be emphasized at every level of our educational system.
Think about the numerous advantages we will enjoy as a nation and the impact we will have on the rest of Africa if we develop a more orderly society where people pay for goods and services and get those goods and services delivered to them promptly and efficiently, and where corruption and tribalism have been reduced to insignificant levels. Ghana would be propelled into a level of development that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. Nations that wish to do business with other Africa countries will establish their African corporate head offices in Ghana and we will attract significant foreign direct investments. Ghana will soon be a major industrial economy. We will be the envy of the rest of Africa. Soon, citizens of other African countries will demand accountability, competence and integrity from their leaders. This is how a first born should behave!
Finally, let me say a few words about the use of oil revenues. A major challenge facing Ghana as we travel the road towards socio-economic development is our weak infrastructural base. In my opinion, we should not use the oil money for the construction of housing units. We should, instead, use the money to develop the necessary infrastructure – sewage and drainage systems, roads, hospitals, gas pipelines to residences and businesses etc. These are things that the individual Ghanaian cannot develop. It is only the government that can adequately put these foundations in place. I strongly believe that if the infrastructural base is developed, Ghanaian investors (sometimes with their foreign partners) can handle the building projects. It is a shame that we have to grant a contract worth billions of dollars to South Koreans to build houses for us.

Charles E. Appeadu, Ph.D., CFA, FRM, CAIA