NewsWest AfricaGhana's next president faces tough demands on jobs and corruption


Posted on Monday, 12 December 2016 15:53

Ghana's next president faces tough demands on jobs and corruption

By Patrick Smith in Accra

Ghana's president-elect Nana Akufo-Addo after casting his vote in Kibi, eastern Ghana. Photo: Sunday Alamba/AP/SIPAAs people in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi were celebrating Nana Addo Akufo-Addo’s win in the 7 December presidential elections with 53.9% of the vote — the first time that an opposition candidate has defeated incumbent President at the ballot box in Ghana — bankers and businesspeople were asking how the new government will fund its ambitious plans.

"Stability and pluralism is a plus for Ghana,” said one British businessman in Accra. "But international economic conditions are currently somewhere between neutral to hostile so the new president will have to be very nimble, maybe call in some favours.”

In an interview with The Africa Report before the elections, Akufo-Addo said he was determined to modernise Ghana’s economy. “That means big investments in viable industries and boosting our agriculture productivity,” he said, adding that he was also committed to delivering on a pledge, made five years ago, to ensure that all Ghanaians would have access to free secondary education.

During the campaign, Akufo-Addo promised that, as president, he would transfer $1m in development funds to each of the country’s 275 parliamentary constituencies and organise the building of a factory in every district and a dam in each village. These pledges are now being measured against economic realities.

With a substantial presidential mandate, together with his New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) more than 70-seat majority in parliament, Akufo-Addo will have the political authority to push through his promised policies. Although the NPP strongly favours market economics, Akufo-Addo has repeatedly said the state should take a more muscular role in boosting agro-allied processing and manufacturing.

Economic growth has slowed to around 3.3% this year and the country’s debts are running at over 70% of gross domestic product (GDP). Tied to an austerity programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the new government faces a strict target of pushing the budget deficit under 5%.

After the election results, Franklin Cudjoe, the director of the Imani Centre, an Accra-based think tank, has been suggesting that recent pay awards to the country’s more than 300,000 civil servants should be revised in light of financial pressures.

As supporters of Akufo-Addo and his New Patriotic Party went on a celebratory spree in Accra and Kumasi after the results were announced, revellers said they were sure the new government would create jobs. Akufo-Addo told The Africa Report before election that the issue would get top priority as rising youth unemployment was a “betrayal of future generations and would create problems down the road.”

Ahead of his inauguration as president on 7 January, Akufo-Addo is heading his party’s transition team which is to coordinate the details of the administrative and financial handover from the outgoing government of President John Mahama. The two men met to launch their teams to manage the political transition at the International Conference Centre in Accra in the afternoon of 11 December after they had both attended thanksgiving services in different churches.

Mahama’s chief of staff Julius Debrah will manage the detailed work for the incumbent’s transition team and Yaw Osafo Maafo, a former finance minister, will represent Akufo Addo as the team gets down to practical matters such as auditing the state assets, terminating officials’ contracts and appointing their successors.

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