President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said the structural transformation of Ghana’s economy has been challenging as vested interested forces want to ensure that the country remains a producer and exporter of raw materials.
Charting a new path, a value-addition-driven economy for Ghana, according to President Akufo-Addo, has been difficult as powerful economic forces out there would not accommodate a policy for greater independence and self-sufficiency.
“The vested interest of the world is interested at maintaining that structure which is a raw material driven economy,” the President maintained.
President Akufo-Addo was responding to a question posed by a Harvard Business School Student about the root causes of Ghana’s “backward” economic challenges and the steps to address them.
Led by Prof Belo-Osagie, the Harvard Business School Students, who are in Ghana on a learning course, paid a courtesy call on President Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House on Wednesday.
The root causes of Ghana’s economic challenges, President Akufo-Addo explained, began from an economy that the country inherited after independence—an agricultural raw material-driven economy.
At the time of independence, Ghana was the leading producer and exporter of Cocoa, followed by Gold and other commodities that brought in the country’s foreign exchange receipts.
That economy, the President explained, was essentially structured around the production and exportation of primary products, adding: “Within the global value chain, raw materials occupy the lowest rank of the value chain.
“You want to live in an economy and be dependent on an economy where the products that you deal with are at the higher level of the value chain but in the case of Ghana, the structure of the economy inherited at independence—changing it, transforming it and trying to bring higher value added activity to the system had been a great challenge facing all the governments of Ghana, including my own…”
On how the economic transformation would take place, the President explained that many economic models have been pursued but encountered different challenges… “the economic model pursued after independence by Dr Kwame Nkrumah was the Soviet model—nationalisation of the means of production,” which in his view was a mistake and had taken Ghana a longer time to recover.
He said encouraging private sector participation in the economy from the onset would have been better for Ghana than the socialist economic model.
President Akufo-Addo said Ghana has no choice but to continue and pursue value addition activities that would transform the country’s economy for the betterment of the people.
Asked how Ghana would create more access to education, especially access to higher learning, President Akufo-Addo said education has been the key preoccupation of his government, particularly at the lower level of education since he took office in 2017.
He said the social pressing issue that confronted his government in 2017 was that many young people, who because of money, had their education truncated or fell out of the educational ladder.
At a relatively younger age, these people were unable to transition from Junior High School to Senior High School because their parents could not afford to pay for their education.
Every year, over a hundred thousand young persons fall out of the education system because of financial difficulties.
In 2017 the government, introduced the Free Senior High School programme, which has more than doubled the population of students which stood at about 800,000 before the Free SHS Policy.
He also said Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programmes introduced in the lower level of education are being vigorously pursued by his government to enable Ghanaians to participate in the technological and digital revolution.
At the tertiary level or higher learning, the President explained that these high numbers at the lower level certainly would increase the number of university intake.
Universities in Ghana are expanding and are building more infrastructure such as Ashesi University which has developed a very strong reputation internationally and absorbing many of the brilliant and quality students from the lower levels.
Last year, the President hosted some Harvard Business School Students who had come to Ghana on a similar mission of educating and developing leaders who would go out into the world and make a substantial difference to the world.
In the last couple of decades, Harvard professor, Belo-Osagie, said it has been the school’s focus, given how internationally the world has become, that it is important “our students experience leadership in several continents of the world and that they do not see leadership only within the context of the United States.
He said as a result, several causes had been developed to allow these students to visit Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia, take courses in those subjects, visit those countries, work with the indigenes in those countries and through experiential learning, they become better leaders.
In the selections of visiting countries in the five continents, Prof Belo-Osagie, a Nigerian, said, “To feel a little bit jealous, Ghana was selected ahead of Nigeria as the country for Africa.”
Ghana has been the beacon of hope for Africa and in the last 31 years, it has seen the longest period of uninterrupted constitutional and democratic governance.
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD