Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the 2012 presidential elections says Ghana is threading on a dangerous path in not dealing with the issue of unemployment.
“We are conscripting, year after year, a future army of unemployable adults. This is dangerous!” he warned.
Nana Akufo-Addo was speaking at a symposium organized by the Royal African Society and the Centre of African Studies, at the Brunei Suit, SOAS in London under the theme, “Ghana, 57 years after 1957: Recalibrating the course of progress.”
He said Ghana deserved a leadership “that thinks of the next generation, not the next election,” adding “this is the reason behind the priority proposal to redefine basic education and make it free and compulsory from Kindergarten to Senior High School.”
According to Nana Akufo-Addo, “no child must be denied access to quality education,” saying “for this generation, in the context of mass poverty, the responsibility for ensuring that lies on the state.”
He said he was convinced that “we should dedicate revenues from our new oil wealth to investing in our youth,” and said education and skills training were the most important means of empowering and providing opportunities to the youth.
“Currently, at every stage of Ghana’s education, our children are falling out of the system. Over 60% of those who make it to primary school do not make it to secondary school.”
Nana Akufo-Addo said Ghana had witnessed, under the 4th Republic, the longest period of stable, constitutional rule and the last 21 years had also brought about significant progress in Ghana’s economic growth and human development.
He said however, that “we cannot take public confidence in our democracy for granted.
“Leadership carries the burden of strengthening public confidence in the capacity of our young democracy to deliver where it matters most: improving the lives of the people,” he said.
Nana Akufo-Addo said the prospects for Ghana’s future were directly tied to the country’s ability to overcome three basic challenges and identified them as institutional challenge, transformation of the Ghanaian economy as well as cultural and intellectual issues.
“A paramount concern of our time has to be the consolidation of Ghanaian democracy, requiring the strengthening of our institutions of state, particularly, in their capacity to deliver results and to be accountable to the people,” adding “the most direct way of so doing is for all Ghanaians to accept to play by the rules we have set for ourselves in our national constitution and in our laws.”
He said “playing by the rules also means enforcing those very rules. By this, we can deal with corruption and abuse and theft of public funds,” adding “we must have a public sector that is efficient in delivering universal access to good quality education, health care, legal remedies, personal security and basic infrastructure.”
Nana Akufo-Addo said in the current digital revolution and the fierce pace of technology meant that knowledge, skills, technology, creativity and capital had become mobile, making them more important in determining where production took place rather than the location of natural resources.
“As one travels across the villages, towns and cities of Ghana, one cannot help but notice the large numbers of able-bodied young persons who are idle. This is a consequence of a failed educational system that does not provide them with the requisite skills and a structurally rigid economy that simply cannot generate the large pool of good jobs with good pay.
“It will be suicidal on the part of policy makers if they do not act with urgency to address this crucial matter.”
Cultural & intellectual challenge
He said individual and collective commitment is key to Ghana’s wellbeing, adding, “We must garner the courage to elevate the operative principles and standards of our society.”
“We can succeed if we build a stronger sense of national pride, a greater sense of unity, a stricter sense of responsibility, and a richer sense of genuine ownership among Ghanaians.
He said Ghana’s dependency on raw materials had grown even more than the continental average and added that the cedi had been competing with David Moyes, the Manchester United coach, in being the butt of many jokes.
He said in spite of measures put in place by the Central Bank to arrest the cedi fall, “having an economy managed by a competent team, the structural weakness of that economy must be fixed to keep the currency predictably stable.”
Nana Addo said the philosophy for the future of Ghana’s economy should be a focus on value addition: “Whether it is in agriculture, tourism, the arts, banking or manufacturing, the goal is to add value to what we do.”
“The good news is that Ghana, since oil production began in December 2010, has consistently registered some of the highest economic growth rates in the world. The bad news: it has not been accompanied by a rapid increase of jobs,” Nana Akufo-Addo said.
“The signals are bad enough to wake us up, change course, and travel the road of structural transformation,” he explained.
In attendance at the lecture were Lord Paul Boateng of Akyem & Wembley, Foreign Minister Hannah Tetteh, Ghana’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Prof Danso-Boafo, Research Associate of the Centre for African Studies, SOAS, Dr Michael Amoah and Vice President of Teneo Holdings, Manji Cheto.