Monday, March 08, 2010

After celebrating 53 Years of Independence, What's The Way Forward for Ghana

Both David and Marian have left comments saying that Ghana has not achieved much after 53 years of independence. My thinking is that we have achieved something. We've gone to the polls 6 times without incident. We're within schedule of meeting the millenium development goals. Just the other day when we reflected on how our lives changed in the past decade, we mentioned the rule of law, and press freedom as well. We now have a national insurance scheme.So we have achieved something.

Whether we've achieved as much as we could have is another issue all together. But it's one we can't really comment on without knowing what our goals were in 1957. I'm sure you've all heard the speech by Nkrumah in which he said the African would show the world that we can manage our own affairs. What we don't know is if we had a long term national plan. It doesn't look like we ever went through the exercise of developing a National vision. Nkrumah had his own vision and plans.Whilst he realised some of his plans successive governments did not continue on the same path nor did they focus their attention on advancing the same goals. 

In recent years, we've had such visions as Vision 2020. Any of you can tell me if you know what exactly this vision 20-20 is because I don't know. Neither do many of us who would be
considered the cream of the crop and the next generation of Ghana's leaders. And if even we do not know then how can the nation hold the NDC government accountable to this vision? 

The problem with every party that comes into government having their own vision for the country is that there is lack of focus and continuity. Take the national health insurance scheme instituted by ex President Kuffour's administration. When NDC came into power, there was actually talk of reviewing and scrapping it. Anyway, we probably all know the problems to let me move on discussing my proposed solutions.

1. First, Prez. Mills' government, ought to assemble a team of people who actually run this country and who know intimately what our problems are to come up with a list of our most pressing problems. This should be an all inclusive team of leaders from NPP, NDC, CPP, Independents and all other parties 

2. Once we know what our problems are, the same team can decide which of these problems we can and should tackle within a certain timeline...say 20 years. Our goals for all categories from education to healthcare to agriculture and so on need to be specific, measurable, and time bound. E.g. we want to enroll 50% of all high school students into tertiary institutions by 2020. We want 80% of all Ghanaians to be covered under the national health insurance scheme by 2020. This way, we move away from vague terms like "better" Ghana and "improving healthcare" as we're currently doing.

3. In all likelihood, this will be a big document but the highlights of this national development agenda can be summarized into a 20 paged document which every Ghanaian can read and understand. As this will be a national agenda and not a NDC or NPP manifesto, like we currently have, it can actually be translated into local languages and taught in school so that every Ghanaian comes to understand in simple terms

Why do I think this is the way to go? 

First, it gives us a benchmark against which to assess every government which comes into power and equips us to make them accountable. Ghanaians are always talking about how president Kuffour built roads when he was in power. But how many kilometres of roads was he supposed to build? And why roads? I'm sure it was part of a larger development goal but what was it? We take it for granted that a government should build roads and hospitals and schools but this should not be so. A national agenda will keep us all in the know about the goals so that we can measure when a particular government advances us towards those goals. Right now as things stand, if Kuffour build roads and Mills builds houses, how can we measure which moved us closer to a better Ghana? But if we all know that we're trying to build 20 houses and 20 roads but Kuffour builds 10 roads but no houses and Mills builds 10 houses and no roads, at least we'll know that both took us closer to our target. And we now have 10 roads and 10 houses!

Secondly it gives us a way to judge before we vote. Currently majority of us are not voting based on issues. Even our campaign slogans like Nana diE ye nim to fri tete...and adze pa wo fia oye...what does this mean? Utterly meaningless! But once we know where we want to go, then we can judge and say...maybe Atta Mills is a man of integrity and he's from my hometown but given how he has proposed to accomplished the goals of the national agenda in the NDC manifesto, he may not be the best candidate to lead us forward. At that point it doesn't matter that i've known Nana from tete. If I'm not convinced he can accomplish the goals of the national agenda, i don't vote for him.

Thirdly, whenever the president has town hall meetings, people ask questions like why are you travelling so much or why did you renovate your house (in the case of ex prez kuffour)
But when we have a national development agenda, we can then ask them how the travels and the renovations advanced the national devt agenda. Also, when Mrs. Mills attends the speech and prize giving day at Benso Secondary School in 2019, because everyone including the students have been taught the national agenda, they'll ask her...Mrs. Mills, what is your husband doing to ensure that i'll be one of the 50% who'll go on to tertiary institutions next year? It will equip us all to focus on the issues instead of things like Nana deE, yenim no fri tete!

Ato Kwamena Dadzie disagrees with me. He doesn't think it's a good idea to have a national devt agenda. His proposal is that each govt have their own vision and agenda and then if we see they're not working, we vote them out. Or if NDC institutes health insurance and NDC comes and scraps it, then during the next elections, we vote NDC out again.This is what we're doing now and it's not working because that method prevents us from focussing and combining our efforts to solve the most pertinent problems and we also lose time when govts don't continue with good initiatives from past govts. My question to Ato is, what exactly is your argument against having a National agenda?

To everybody else, do you agree or disagree with me. Do you have anything to add? A correction to make? An idea that will move us forward? If so, please share.

Credits: Mad love to K.K.Yankson for allowing me to drink from his fountain of knowledge:)


  1. Ah nice one Esi Bonsam. I will unleash after work.

  2. All the manifestos of the different parties should have a local content policy. We need policies that look out for the best interest of Ghanaians. 85% of govt contracts should be given to competent Ghanaians. How can we have koreans build our houses(10 billion contract), chinese build our stadiums and indians build our presidential palace. This is unacceptable! What are our engineers and architects suppose to do? Foreigners own our mines. How can you give a contract to a foreigner out of sympathy? Where is the sympathy for your fellow Ghanaian? This is a shame! We have to look out for ourselves! We need a national agenda.

  3. I have been reading your articles which are very humurous and exciting which really allows people to know cool stuff about ghana. I will advice you to keep that trend.
    After 53 years Independece what has ghana achieved is very subjective and each and every one can argue which ever way seems fit to him.But there are certain basic facts we cannot run away after 53 years of Independece. Ghana started on the same path as south korea and singapore after independece ghana GDP was even higher than that of ghana after 53 years where are they in terms growth and development and where is GHANA.
    After 53 years of independence people have to queue before the go to toilet in the morning,pe ople have to pay unirate when they at transport yards.After 53 years of independence people capital city of accra have to carry pans on their heads looking for water every day. If this happening in accra whats happening in the rest of the nation. After 53 years of independece somebody have carry the toilet of others in a pan on his head. I can go on and on.
    The vision 2020 is a blue print where they want to get ghana to in terms of socio economic development. So each party comes with its manifesto and based on whats in the manifesto we vote for them.So, by implementing what is the manifesto that should lead us to VISION THEY HAVE SET FOR THEMSELVES.
    Kuffour can build roads Atta mills can build house they all go long way to in our national development and we can easily access them who is doing a good job. How much money did they get for the road did they use the money for road. Is the road a good road or just road . These are the things our journalist should be able to expose so that the public can make informed decisions about the parties. Are they following laid down procedures or each and every one is short circuiting the system to be rich in time.We do have a national agenda and each party has its own way getting there. One party thinks going hipc and the president trotting the world will get us to vision 2020 the other thinks a better ghana will get us there.

  4. Haba! Does it make sense that after 53 years, we can't provide ourselves good drinking water, electricity, food, shelter and justice?

    And, predictably, our children are still "studying" under trees?

    And, our hospitals are without simple, basic medical equipments like BP machines, beds etc!

    And, our folks still dying prematurely of curable diseases!

    And, mosquitoes have become our deadly "friends"!

    And, our cocoa, diamond, bauxite, timber and gold and now oil have become the personal properties of a few!

    And, of course, our courts have become oasis of injustice!

    And, we have reason to celebrate our so-called independence?

    The occasion called for sober reflection but as usual we were behaving as if we are Malayasians, South Koreans etc!

    We are not a serious minded people!

    God save us all.

  5. I agree with you when you state that, though Ghana may not have fulfilled its potential, we must give credit where due and acknowledge the strides that have been made. i'm not one for comparisons, but looking at the socio-political climate of sub-Saharan Africa, we are ahead of the curve.

    I'm with Ato Kwamena Dadzie when it comes to assessing governments based on their achievements though. The only way a national development policy (of the kind you suggest) would work is if we had a "president for life" - now, we all know how that has played out elsewhere in the world. I value the right to suffrage too much.

    I think the current system could work. We all just need to critically assess performance and (for want of a better word) punish mediocre governments the next time we get to the polls.

    So, Kuffour built roads - great. We know we still need roads, but we need housing, clean water and hospitals more. If Mills builds homes, that's great too. It would be better if he built homes, hospitals and addressed unemployment. They were both moving us towards something better. Personally, I would love it if they had a clear vision that I could get on board with. If a government fails to assess the country's needs properly and covers old ground, we should not entrust our country to them for another term.

  6. As frustrated as some people are, I think Ghanaians who think "woe is us" need to travel within the sub-region, and "see levels".

    Which doesn't mean we should be complacent. I'm all for a national plan on the scale Esi and co. are talking about; at the risk of chakking someone on here, the group organizing it would have to be close-knit, and can't be TOO democratic, or what's going to happen (and is the unmentioned story behind all our plans to be honest) is that people end up taking the least risky denominator: the path of least resistance and doing nothing.

    What comes to mind is the MITI phenomenon in sounds quite similar to what you're all thinking about, at least conceptually...but then you need a Ministry or Government body which is autonomous, (our Electoral Commission seems to be almost there, so we know it's feasible in Ghana at some point: changes in governments don't seem to affect the Electoral Commission, so I'm not certain we necessarily need a president for life to run this)with A LOT of selfless individuals, who care a lot about getting the job done, than praise--history never remembers such architects, I think-and they are the type who made peace with that a long time before signing up.

    To this day, all the books on MITI praising it are written by foreigners: the MITI personnel themselves all consistently say the results are exaggerated by half. In modern Japan, no less. Yet somehow with Japan the way it is now, you have to wonder how exaggerated they really are.

    Sure, their narrative shows them to be as flawed as everyone else contrary to popular opinion about South East Asia (which tends to be selective, mind you), and we are in a different context in Ghana, surely, but it's always useful to consider different experiences, although I grant our own isn't the same thing.

    We're not the first (or going to be the last) people to build a country into development, and all that nice stuff.

    I guess we all know what the situation is, but the real question is what we are going to do about it....

    Away bus and God bless,

    MITI and the Japanese Miracle by Chambers

  7. Haha. I have heard A LOT of people say exactly what you said. My theory is similar with a modification: What we need is a national intent. You can call it a goal or a vision, if you want. We then need to set targets (milestones) that will help us achieve the big, final target (the WHAT). Now, where the political parties come in is HOW they help us achieve the targets when it comes to their time to be in power. If party A spends their 4/8 years in office fumbling and miss a milestone then you boot them out and give someone else a chance.
    This allows for different solutions to the same problem. If, for example, a target is to have any point in Accra be within 30 minutes of another point, then one government could decide to invest in a rail network, while someone else could introduce a ring road/beltway type highway system. At the end of the process, the whole nation benefits and we start keeping the parties honest.
    I tried reading a manifesto once...full of fluff. Quite sad, really.
    Oh, umm...we do some but it lef chao. We will get there.

  8. I agree with you, Esi. We need a selfless party that will do what you outlined above. I am all for a national development plan that every party, present and future, will subscribe to. The plan should give a broad outline of what should be achieved, but be not so restrained that the parties cannot work within its confines. From this plan, every party can formulate their manifesto with the ultimate goal being the attainment of the plan. A roadmap to Ghana's development; economically, socially, educationally and all the 'ly's', is exactly what our country needs.

  9. BTW, liking the new look Maameous...

    53 years of independence, we should have much more to show for it in my opinion. But I think we are heading in the right direction. A truly free press is one of the big checkpoints I believe we have successfully crossed. The masses are more aware of broad issues.

    And assuming that people are not completely tactless, a non-performing government is easier to spot and hold accountable.

    Next we need a hungry and passionate middle class to tackle social issues and lapses in development. Young people need to become self-starting enough to e.g. see a gap in electricity generation/supply and find way to make solar energy available to take advantage of the situation and get VRA/ECG to sit up and pay attention. Or realize the onslaught sanitation problems and found a Zoomlion to get the AMA up and doing.

    We need more empowerment of a nationalistic and energetic Ghanaian middle class who refuses to put up with the status quo any longer. R2Bees have the right idea in Refusing To Be Broke. We need more of us, thinking like this.