One-district-one- factory: A good intention but wrong approach?

Considering some of the actions taken by President Akufo-Addo since he took office on January 7, 2017, I have no doubt that the man has good intentions for our dear country.

The credibility of some of his appointees and his commitment to making basic education free for the underprivileged children in our country gives me some hope for the future ahead of us. My hope is built on the fact that quality education is the key to the doors of every person’s destiny. I have always held the view that as someone who has taken close to two decades to prepare for this position, he has no option than to deliver, in order to vindicate himself and the people who have trusted in him.

Delivering the promises to “make Ghana work again” as he puts it, however, requires a realistic approach so that we can be sure from the word go, that we are on the right path of the transformation we have been yearning for. I am one of several Ghanaians who do not believe in Party Manifesto as the means to developing a country. This is because, once the developmental agenda is tied to the vision and ideology of Parties and not the collective vision and ideology of the country as a whole, then we are bound to see parties leave office with their visions.

This is one of the major reasons we have not made much progress over the years. Visions are always truncated along the way. And whenever there is a change in political power, our development process starts afresh as if we just got independence.

Among the numerous mouth-watering promises the President and his Party provided in their Manifesto, in line with their vision to developing Ghana, which they are committed to, is the building of one factory in every district of the country. As an advocate for patriotism, and the need to produce and consume our own “Made in Ghana” products, I strongly agree with any idea that will make it happen. A policy of this nature has the potential to boost employment for the teeming youth of our country. It can also reduce our level of import dependence, thereby helping to heal our negative balance of payment disease.

In as much as I support this idea a thousand percent, the proposed approach (to establish factories in every district within four years or possibly 8 years) should be reconsidered. This is necessary so that we do not spread structures across the country as factories; which cannot live beyond the current administration. Any such situation will be disappointing and will not help achieve the sustainable development we seek.

Developing a country is a gradual and consistent process and not done in a rush to earn short-term praises, without making significant impact in the long run. It is said that leaders whose main objective is to receive praises from people on their actions today, eventually die with their praises and their names do not live beyond their own generation. However, leaders who take hard decisions in the interest of their people and even thread on their toes while doing it, later receive the admiration of the people and their names live for several generations.

Building factories across the country is possible (because everything is possible) but I doubt if can be a reality given the time frame and whether it makes financial sense. Unless maybe we want this one to follow some of the previous special initiatives, which we bragged about but did not make any significant impact on the people and failed to exist beyond the administrations that created them.

The best approach in my opinion is for us to select some districts or cities with certain unique characteristics and make them industrial hubs, with focus on specific critical aspects of the economy. We can carefully select about five cities (towns) excluding Accra and Kumasi (which are already chocked) and concentrate our attention there within the period. The effect of this is that we would likely see real significant development, increase in urban living and increase in middle class population. We will end up having additional five “Accras” in Ghana and that will be very significant. Our attention should be on developing Ghana and not satisfying every district instantly.

Over the years we have given common fund to every district but that has not brought us the development we want. So the problem is not only about equity but also lack of focus. Ghana is not such a big country and therefore, there will not be a difficulty for people to move from one town or city to work in another. The policy to revamp railway sector will even make it easier. If our people out frustration are able to pass through the Sahara Desert and even the Mediterranean Sea in such of jobs in Europe and elsewhere, how difficult will it be to move from Mampong to Techiman to work on a vibrant factory floor.

The world’s second largest economy, China began its development in the late 1970s through the “opening up policy” spearheaded by their visionary leader Deng Xiaoping. That was the period China began to allow foreign companies to pitch camps in the country. That period also saw Coca Cola establish its presence as the first major international company to start full operation in China. Deng Xiaoping had a great vision to develop the most populous country in the world, but he did it one province/city at a time. He started the development from Shenzhen, a port city in the Guangdong Province, closer to Guangzhou which is now a major city for international trade.

He believed that, in as much as he wanted the whole country to develop and to create employment for his people, he had to start from somewhere. Within a few years of focusing on Shenzhen, the approach begun to yield dividend and he extended it to Shanghai. At that time, the status of Shanghai was far less than a place like Cape coast, but today, it is one of the busiest and beautiful cities in the world and second to New York as the city with highest number of Billionaires.As we speak, the development of China is gradually covering the whole country even though it started from one city. This can be attributed to purposeful concentration and consistency.

So I belief that, in our quest to have a swift transformation of our country, we should be careful not to spread it too wide at the beginning such that the impact becomes insignificant. Wherever we put money, our focus should not only be on the people around today who will vote in the next election, but also on the millions yet unborn.

I don’t belong to the school of thought that think it is impossible to do it. My concern rather is that the resources should be channeled properly so that our attention will not only be on building and naming structures as factories. But rather we should be building factories and cities at the same time, so that in few years to come we would be able to boast of major industrial cities in the country.

We can do this by forming banking syndicates or establishing Ghana Development Bank (GDB) or National Development Bank (NDB) to solely focus on mobilizing funds within the country and across the world, and to woo investors into the country. These banks can also serve as avenues for young Ghanaians with brilliant entrepreneurial ideas to raise the needed funds to make their ideas reality, since the transformation cannot only be achieved by government.

I believe that with the right approach, we can do it.

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The writer, Abraham Gyekye is a Chartered Accountant and Member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants’, Ghana.

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The Bull is Better Handled by the Horn

Since the independence of Ghana, corruption has been a serious national issue and continues to be a matter of national importance.

Corruption of public official was one of the major reasons for the numerous coup d’etat the country experienced in the early stages of its formation. The very last coup d’etat in the country spearheaded by Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings was basically on the wings of championing anti-corruption, with its motto as “Probity and Accountability”.

Despite the motto of the government which was borne out of this coup d’etat, the administration experienced countless levels of corruption by public officials and many ordinary individuals. Since then, every election in Ghana has been fought on the grounds of corruption and the 2016 one was not an exception. I remember then candidate J.A. Kuffour in the year 2000 campaigning vigorously on his mantra “zero tolerance for corruption”, yet not much was achieved in the fight against corruption for the 8 years of that administration.

Acts such as the Financial Administration Act, the Procurement Act, etc were passed but the strict implementation of provisions of those Acts are yet to be seen. In as similar manner, the immediate past administration which was led by Prof. J.E.A. Mills and subsequently J.D. Mahama campaigned on the increased levels of corruption in the year 2008 and won. Just like the previous experiences, the 8 years of that administration had nothing to write home about in the fight against corruption. As has been the trend, the current NPP government led by N. A. Akufo Addo has used the same ‘political tool’ as a marketing strategy to win the hearts of Ghanaians again.

I believe the reason why these problems continue to be a pain in our neck is that the right approach has not been adopted yet and besides our perception on the issue of corruption is wrong.

The average Ghanaian see corruption as been perpetrated by only politicians. Indeed, such is the notion in Ghana, whenever a mention is made of corruption everyone’s attention turns to the politicians. Though I agree that this notion holds to some extent, I believe the politician is groomed and nurtured in the Ghanaian society that is almost entirely corrupt. We have accepted certain acts of corruption as part our national norms. It will, therefore, be impossible to expect something different from the few politicians while every corner of our country including the church is faced with the same problem. Everyone in the country knows that when you go to almost every organisation in Ghana for a service, you need to ‘dash’ the people otherwise, something which could have been done for you in a day can take more than a month.

My worry on this matter is the fire-fighting approach used by our leaders in tackling the menace. They should see corruption as a national problem and attack it from the ground not only from the top. Before people are elected to positions they would have already been caught in the corruption net due to certain problems in the society which have remained unsolved for a long time. Those are the very problems our leaders should look for and address rather than waiting for the end product of the problem. People don’t become corrupt just by becoming politicians because there are several examples of politicians whose hands are clean. So the problem is not the politician per se but all of us a people.  In my opinion, the means to solving corruption is not only about arresting and prosecuting perpetrators but also about arresting the social hardships which plunge people into it.

Though a lot of people indulge in corrupt practices out of greed. For instance the head of a public institution, who upon the huge salary, free vehicle and fuel, accommodation etc, goes ahead to use the funds of the institution for his or her personal gains. Moreover, a worker who receives decent pay for his or her service but dips his or her hand in the public coffers or extorts money from people is indulging in act of greed.

Notwithstanding the examples above, a lot more others also indulge in it as a means of meeting certain social necessities. I do not mean to justify people’s wrongdoing, but what I believe is this adage in Akan which says, “dua a ebe wo wani no yetu asie na yensensen so”. Thus, it is better to tackle a problem from its root.

If you have a society where governments do not care about where people will lay their heads and leave a lot of people on the street; and young people whose salary cannot even buy their own clothes to struggle to build their own houses as a result of incessant pressure from individual landlords, then you should not be surprised if they begin to find their own way of making life comfortable for themselves.

Transportation system in our country is nowhere near the word good. Going to work every morning is as difficult as getting the work itself. Passengers have been left into the hands of individual transport operators who exploit them for no reason. A journey which one could have spent Ghc1 can be rescheduled involuntarily for them by Trotro drivers to ensure that they pay about four times the normal fare before getting to their destination. People who cannot withstand this, and yet do not have the means to buy their own cars have no option but resort to dubious means (if available to them) to save themselves from this helpless situation. It is true that suffering is not a justification for wrongdoing, but it is also true that the snake bites when it feels pressured.

As I stated earlier, I agree that a lot of these people are motivated by greed, but to some, the pressure outside is beyond what they can contain, hence the need to bite. So the best way to stop the snake from biting is to stop pressuring it. Policies for solving the corruption canker should not be so sophisticated but rather focus mostly on solving the basic social problems of the people such as the provision of affordable housing, reliable health care,  and efficient public transport system in the form of effectively run public Buses and Trains.

I believe that social problems in Ghana which have remained unsolved over the years have provided the breeding ground for the growth of corruption coupled with an inadequate system to detect, arrest and prosecute perpetrators. But to me, even before thinking of how to detect, arrest and prosecute, the attention of leaders should be on how to destroy the breeding grounds to reduce the reported cases and that is to solve the basic social problems.

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Th writer, Abraham Gyekye is a Chartered Accountant and Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Ghana.

This Article was first published by Myjoyonline.com and Ghanaweb.com  on    17/01/2017

The Trump Era And The Ghanaian Dream

After over seven decades of American hegemony which begun from the aftermath of World War II, the pendulum of world leadership seem to be swinging, and a new world order appears to be in the making. A wind of change is blowing around Europe and America, with evidences from Brexit and actions of the newly inaugurated President of United States. There is a huge clamour for protectionism and abandonment of globalization. The powerful countries upon whom the least countries depended over the years, seem to have lost the battle of globalization to a certain ‘Asian Power’, hence a call for retreat and surrender. There are calls for countries to reduce the intake of immigrants in order to focus on their own citizens; an addition to the reduction in aids and grants given to poor countries.

In the midst of this uncertainty surrounding the future of our world, the question many people are asking is “where lie the fate of Africa?” Well, the answer to this puzzle is simple, the fate of Africa lies in the hands of Africans. After years of fight for freedom from slavery and subsequent liberation from colonization, Africans have not done enough to match the words of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah “the black man is capable of managing his own affairs”. Most Africans appear to still embrace the order that existed during those dark days, owing to lack of self believe and poor leadership.

We seem to have come to some bizarre consensus not to allow the white man to buy us into slavery anymore but rather, we offer ourselves free of charge into the slavery. What is even heart-breaking is the amount of dollars we pay annually to their embassies in order to offer ourselves into this slavery again, and the number of people who die in the Mediterranean Sea and on the Sahara desert on the same mission.

Unfortunately, the White man now says he doesn’t need us anymore, they want to concentrate on their own. It gives indications of difficult days ahead of us, due to threat of deportation of illegal immigrants by the current US administration and other European countries. However, I believe this is not a time of sorrow and sobbing, but an opportune time to be the people God intended us to be. In this piece, I will focus on my country, Ghana and not Africa as a whole, and talk about how we can face this wind that is blowing towards us.

To my fellow Ghanaians, my humble plea is that, it is time to learn how to love our country and not how to leave our country, for every country develops with its own dedicated and patriotic citizens. Our old thinking that the only way one can make a fortune is to travel abroad must be revised. This notion has cost our dear country most of her geniuses. The number of brilliant young Ghanaians who leave the country in the name of going to study abroad but do not return is countless, not to mention the incalculable numbers who leave to seek greener pastures. We say America is a land of opportunities, yes it is true, but those opportunities did not descend from heaven but were created by the people themselves.

The sad thing is that some shallow minded ‘men of God’ have capitalized on the mindset of our people and are using it to extort money from them in the name of praying for them to get Visas. ‘Wo beko abrokyire’ (you will travel abroad) has become a common prophesy than you will go to Heaven. Some have even made the acquisition of Visas their calling; God has called them to give Visas to people. The irony of the matter is that, the Bible these people hold in their hands tells us that, God created us in his own image. Therefore God being the Creator, we his images also have the potential to be creators of even greater things no matter where we find ourselves; if only we believe in ourselves. As the Lord Jesus said in Mark 9:23 “everything is possible for those who believe”.

So, now that populist ideologies are rising around the world, with the advance countries retreating to look within to solve their own problems, it is time for the Ghanaian to wake up from his old dream. The ‘dream of manna falling from Heaven’, and begin to look for their thinking cups. Our fate is in our own hands not in the hands of any other country. President Akufo Addo in his inaugural address said “it is time to dream again”. Yes, he is right, but not the old dream. It is time to have a new dream, ‘the Ghanaian dream’. A dream in which every Ghanaian will feel proud to stay home and contribute their quota towards building our country.

A dream in which we will no longer be consumers of everything but producers of nothing. A dream in which every Ghanaian will consider Made-in-Ghana product as first option, and help create employment for ourselves rather than promote products from other countries and make them rich at the expense of our own people. A dream in which we will appreciate every good thing done by our fellow Ghanaians and not be saboteurs. A dream in which the Ghanaian child will be taught how to think deep and critically to promote innovation. It is time to believe in ourselves. It is time to nurture talents. It is time to make God proud, that we have begun to appreciate the great gifts he gave us and that we do not necessarily have to become slaves to other countries before we can be who He wants us to be.

When we are able to do this, a threat of dealing harshly with immigrants by some countries will not be our headache anymore.

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The writer, Abraham Gyekye is a chartered Accountant and Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Ghana.