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 “Just as Ghana was the trailblazer for ending

colonial rule, Ghana could also become the next success story in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Cup and was the last African team standing in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. In spite of the chaos of civil wars and

debilitating political conflicts around it (in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone to the west and with noticeable instability in Togo to the east), Ghana has held five peaceful multiparty elections since 1992, and will hold another one next year.

Oil wealth At various meetings and town-hall style interactions during our visit, two questions always came up from ordinary people: “How will the new oil wealth benefit ordinary Ghanaians? And “How can the oil wealth propel the country to attain the status of a middle income country by 2020?” I was impressed to see Ghanaians debate these matters openly. We discussed the issues with the

vice-president, John Mahama. In personal conversations I had with the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Hannah Tetteh, and the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Kwesi Awhoi, I was impressed by their determination to work together to promote structural change, economic diversification and agribusiness development in Ghana. When we met with the King of the

great Asante people, the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, he outlined his plans for expanding health care services and ensuring universal energy access to all his people. We participated in the launch of

44 | March 2011 New African

the 2010 social mobilisation for measles immunisation. Interestingly, in 1994 about 35,000 suspected measles cases were reported in Ghana compared to 686 suspected cases in 2009, out of which only 101 were confirmed, but there have been no deaths reported. As I listened to the Ghanaians, I could

not help but reflect on their source of concern about whether oil was a curse or a blessing. Will oil make them turn their backs on agriculture? Ghana is among the leading producers of cocoa, coffee and oil palm. Will oil create a kleptocracy and reverse 30 years of achievements in good governance? How do they deal with the youth bulge now that the population under 14 years of age is about 42% and is rapidly approaching the 50% mark due to high fertility rates of 3.7 children per woman? How do they reform their educational system so that young people have the right skills to power the country’s economic growth?

Value addition At the town-hall meeting in the University of Ghana at Legon – the oldest university in Ghana – Dr Peter Quartey, Head of the Sociology Department, put the crucial question: “Will the new oil wealth help us reduce poverty and hunger by more than half by 2015 and at the same time spur value-addition in the productive sectors and mining”? In the same way that Ghana was the

Special Report

President John Atta Mills’ tenure has coincided with commercial oil production in Ghana

trailblazer for ending colonial rule, Ghana could also become the next success story in sub-Saharan Africa. But it must be ready to make some hard choices. For example, the country must consider payment of fees by students in tertiary education in order to ensure higher quality education in fields such as basic sciences, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, ICT, business and finance. Ghana’s destiny is in its own hands

and the choices are clear; it could become the Niger Delta or transform itself into another Dubai in 20 years or less given the right conditions. As the rest of the world grapples with austerity measures and is faced with making tough choices about savings and rebalancing their economies, I can say that countries such as Ghana should be considering restoration strategies and how to permanently wean themselves off aid from donors. The choices that Africans make today

will determine whether we remain poor, evolve through diversified economies into Dubai-like environments, or follow the successful Malaysian agriculture-led industrialisation model (in spite of oil and gas discoveries). Better still, African countries could

choose the Norwegian model, which established the principles that natural wealth belongs to all citizens, including the unborn, and all mining deals should be completely transparent to the people. This also ensures that mineral discoveries and the wealth resulting from these resources do not cause the “Dutch disease”, thus stalling structural transformation of their economies and national investment in the future of our children. As we flew into Takoradi in the southern

tip of Ghana, I saw two oil rigs. Just a few miles away lie the forts where the mercantilists once housed African slaves. I had the opportunity to view the dungeons of the notorious Elmina Castle, the nerve centre of the West African slave trade of the 15th-18th centuries. These symbols serve to emphasise the contrast between what took place in the past and what the future might hold. And Ghana’s future is bright, given the right conditions.

*Dr Kandeh K. Yumkella is the

Sierra Leonean director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO.

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