President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

The Ghanaian government has so far followed a step-by-step model and been on the front foot, starting with early screening at airports from mid-January onward, initiating travel restrictions and in collaboration with other countries, applying restrictions on events and on places of social gathering including churches, restaurants, theatres and gyms and now currently just lifted a 21-day partial locked down in two of the affected regions in Ghana.

Such early response ensured that there was no panic among the citizens and avoided inconvenience to the extent possible. With close to 400,000 people infected and more than 16,000 deaths around the world as well as a global economic slowdown, Covid-19 is creating a challenging test for humanity.

Ghana has seen over 1000 cases and 9 deaths so far, as it comes out from a 21-day lockdown imposed by the Government. How will a country of 30 million people with a high density of population, millions of habitants in urban slums avoid a large-scale community spread of coronavirus?

Tackling this unprecedented challenge requires a systems approach and the mobilization of all stakeholders to respond. Here’s how the Ghanaian government, the private sector and common people in their individual capacity can learn some leadership issues to improve on the combat of convid-19 in the country.

Successful leaders learn from previous events and curb current incident. The events and decisions of yesteryears are the bedrock of leaders’ experience and aid in providing informed business and political directions if adequately considered with the current realities. Here are five of the many leadership lessons from Covid-19.

  1. Political Leaders are decisive decision-makers

Making vital decisions are a key characteristics of an effective leader. The first covid-19 was announced in China last year December, some world leaders did not see the need to lock down and close their borders to prevent the import of the virus.

The economic activities and the registration of the National Identity cards was the concern of the Ghanaian political leaders. The impact of shutting down the economy on his re-election bid overtook his fears for the health of the citizens. Ghana would have done better if we had closed our borders on time. It was never too late to do the right thing.

However, if all the passengers who arrived after February in any of the flight and through our borders have been isolated and quarantined, the spread of the virus by those who later tested positive would have been contained. Leaders must be decisive. Being decisive is the stronghold of leadership. Leaders who are not decisive are the one without the full understanding of their role or lack the knowledge of the situation or are afraid of failure from the required decisions.

The decision of President Akuffo Addo to lift the lockdown in Greater Accra and Ashanti Region after the 21-day locked down is decisive. The president in his speech was caught between saving the lives of over 20 million Ghanaians and going for his concerns for the over 2million small businesses that need to operate daily to bring the economy back on its feet.

Going against the experts’ opinion for the lockdown to curtail the spread of the virus was not an option for President Akuffo Addo. He was decisive in his decision to uplift the lockdown due to the enhanced contact tracing and testing efforts by the government and also after consultation with various experts.

When leaders are faced with an awkward situation, their ability to quickly weigh the available information and take an absolute position is the strength of their leadership character and effectiveness. Being decisive is the stronghold of leadership. Leaders who are not decisive are the one without the full understanding of their role or lack the knowledge of the situation or are afraid of failure from the required decisions.

  • Leaders needs to think outside the Box

The abundance of the fund and all other resources needed to deal with the global pandemic. Leaders must think and believe there are resources for them to be able to make impacts. The private sector covid fund has cut sod to build disease testing centres, and other private organization have offered their facilities as isolation centres across the countries.

More laboratories are being upgraded to provide testing centres. Hospitals built by the previous government are also being opened to the general public to serve as covid hospital centres. Government is also encouraging the pharmaceutical organizations to produce more hand sanitizers and drugs to combat the virus. Other local companies have also embarked on producing more PPEs under the government flagship programme “1D1F”.

This shows that resources are available before the crisis and what was missing was the innovation that would have tapped into the supplies ahead of the pandemic. Imagine a leader who understood the implications of the low capacity and ratio of health facility per average Ghanaian decides to act a few years earlier in partnership with the private sector. The country could have been in a better position to curb the pandemic.

Perhaps the donations coming as the covid fund would have been raised and facilities that are hitherto lacking would have been available even if not to the number and magnitude required to curb the Covid-19. Thinking outside the box will help willing leaders to see no restriction if they desire to change the world and make it a better place.

Thinking abundance of desire, resources and capacity allow leaders to take ownership for change, become intuitive and regularly reflect, enhance in-depth and comprehensive collaboration with other stakeholders. Most if not all the business leaders who made sumptuous donations are abundance thinkers in their businesses and private lives. Abundance thinking is a reliable cornerstone of leadership effectiveness.

  • Leaders needs to respond in a timely manner

The link between decisiveness and thinking outside the box is timely responsiveness. Leaders must be leading from the frontline in the time of crisis. It was said that the fastest way to gain leadership is to solve problems. Both the current political leaders and the private sector leaders have responded in a timely manner in addressing the pandemic.

The government for example have provided financial stimulus packages to help citizenry and the health sector to manage the covid-19 uncomfortable situation. What a timely manner to offer free water supply and electricity for three months when the economy is down. This timely package have enhance livelihood conditions in the country.

Again the 600 million cedis loan facility is also timely response to the current pandemic situation. We can also mention the timely interventions of various institutions including the churches in addressing the economic condition in the country.

The former President Mahama needs to be also commended for an excellent example of leadership responsiveness in this time of Coronavirus in Ghana. He has been actively involved in making various donations to the fight against the virus to the frontline works and Institutions. Key lesson is, there is always resistance to every positive upliftment.

When his opponents was opposing him, I knew with the problem he will have no choice than to justify why he was once a President (2012 – 2016). Problems are the platforms for leaders to show their effectiveness and gain the trust of the people they lead and am sure former President wants to illustrate his leadership skills to the Ghanaian people that he is still relevant especially in this pandemic era. So we could say the President and the former President have all demonstrated timely response to the pandemic with their various activities devoid of partisan politics. The problem has to do with their followers who always do politics with every activity.

If you do not know Hon. Kojo Nkrumah, the pandemic has made him more visible because he was responsive to the crisis at hand. He did not delegate his duties but worked as a team member with the health professionals and the Minister of Health. So far, he has been leading from the frontline showing himself as a leader that is available in time of need and leading by example. He is always at the office leading is by example not by an exemption. Responsiveness gives meaning to decisiveness, abundance thinking and communication.

  • Effective Communication

Leaders who fail to communicate regularly and effectively cannot provide efficient and visible leadership in crisis. President Nana Akuffo is leading and communicating with the Ghanaian citizenry. Leaders must be accountable to the people. The platform for accountability is communication.

Purposeful, positive, and effective communication is required to balance the equation of leadership. There is no time to communicate effectively and positively than in a time of crisis. The positive response from the private and public organizations through their donations clearly illustrate their understanding of the communication from the Presidency.

In most cases, the communication role should not be done aloof or delegated. The masses have given leadership to the leader and rule of “delegata potestas non potest delegari” should be applied as much as possible. The Ghana Covid-19 team has shown itself as a capable team in communicating their decisiveness, abundance mindset to win the fight against the virus and responsiveness to the Ghanaians.

The Presidential Task Force team on Covid-19 score high with share responsibility for communication among the team members- The President, and the relevant ministers. Without adequate and positive communication, leaders’ responsiveness, abundance, and decisiveness will not have any meaning and give hope to the people. With the interaction of the team in Kumasi and Accra, Ghanaians can understand the need for the lockdown and the fact that we will win the race against Covid-19. There is future after coronavirus if we all work together as one big team devoid of partisanship.

  • See beyond the crisis

The world has reset itself. There is life after Covid-19. World leaders are rolling out economic stimulus plans to avoid long term recession as a result of the lockdown. What does that tell you? The world is not over yet. Leaders see beyond the present crisis and make plans simultaneously.

While leaders give hope in their communications, they cannot afford not to see and know the road ahead. The world is now on the same page with every power-be it super or ordinary power fighting one common enemy. Unfortunately, it is an unseen enemy called the coronavirus.

The Covid-19 will be gone just like the Influenza of 1918. What will stay after the event is how far our leaders have seen and acted during the crisis. While some people will see doom during the crisis, leaders should be seeing what can be adjusted to make life better, what can be changed in the way we work or do things, what legislation is necessary and what foreign relationship is required to rebuild the economy and make life more bearable for the citizens. Covid-19 is a leadership call and journey with its lessons. The lessons are invaluable inputs for leaders and countries that can turn the tides in their favour.

I expect the Presidency to make good use of the $1 billion facility from the World Bank in boosting the economy back to recovery. We need to also make more investment to immediate development of a National Infectious Diseases Response Centre in both the Southern sector and Northern sector that clearly sets out the specific steps that must be taken to prevent the entry of such diseases, quickly arrest them even if they do enter our shores at the very early stage to reduce its impacts on the barest form on our population. Establish another medical research centre with capacity like the Noguchi Medical Research Institute in the northern part of Ghana to serve the Northern sector.

There is also a pressing need for economic measures to stabilize and stimulate the economy and protect people’s jobs and livelihoods. According to the International Labour Organization, Covid-19 could render 25 million people unemployed and many more underemployed by virtue of reduced wages and working hours.

This is especially critical in Ghana where a large part of the population is either self-employed or dependent on daily wages for their subsistence. Thus the need for the government to do more investment in the private sector to create the needed business environment that will also create jobs for the citizenry. This unique situation also presents a case for stronger alignment between Ghana’s monetary and fiscal policy.

In conclusion, as has been the case with other G-20 economies such as United State of America, the Ghanaian government can use this opportunity to work closely with the Bank of Ghana to ensure that the necessary fiscal stimulus is supported by further loosening of monetary policy. This can provide necessary bandwidth to both corporate Ghana as well as retail borrowers.

The government must also continue to ensure constant, consistent and credible communication to provide necessary public health guidance and to allay any fears and panic among the populace. A good example of such a communication is what the Minister of Health and the Minister of Information is currently doing to successfully manage the education of the virus which other African countries can emulate its successful ways.

The Author, Paul Rex Danquah, currently is a Senior Consultant atGIMPA Consultancy and Innovation Directorate (GCID), the consulting outfit of Ghana Institute of Management & Public Administration (GIMPA). He also lectures Business Research Methods, Public Policy and Strategic Management & Leadership as an adjunct Lecturer at Greenhill College and Centre for Management Development, respectively.