Ghana: “The government is quite egalitarian,” says Gabby Otchere-Darko

By Nicholas Norbrook, in Accra
Posted on Thursday, 7 July 2022 11:41

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo - President Of Ghana attends a meeting with British Prime Minister Johnson in Downing Street, London, England, UK President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo visit to London, UK - 05 Apr 2022/shutterstock_editorial

A former speechwriter for President Nana Akufo-Addo, Gabby Otchere-Darko is a key adviser for the governing New Patriotic Party, helping shape political strategy.

He is also the founder of Asaase Radio. He draws on the rich political tradition of his grandfather, J.B. Danquah, one of the founding fathers of the country, who was keen for Ghana to reach back into its pre-colonial traditions to rebuild the nation. Otchere-Darko’s law firm, Africa Legal Associates, works with the government on contracts in the energy and mining sector.

TAR: What is the difference between what this administration is doing and the 1960s industrialisation drive?

Gabby Otchere-Darko: When Ghana talks about industrialisation, it’s the Kwame Nkrumah model that they refer to: setting up so many factories, etc. But Nkrumah set up fewer than 40 factories. Over the past five years, 160 or so factories have been set up on the ‘One District, One Factory’ (1D1F) model. The only difference is that this time they are not state-owned. But they are funded with soft credit from the state. And you are encouraged to identify the opportunity, particularly in areas where raw materials are from.

There do seem to be similarities with Nkrumah in the sense of a push for more social spending.

This government will never admit it, but they’re quite egalitarian. I mean, we are running now in Ghana perhaps the most expensive social welfare system in the whole of Africa. Take our free senior high school (SHS) [programme]: in America, free education is about tuition; here it’s about accommodation. It’s about three free meals a day for boarders to make it more egalitarian.

Bretton Woods institutions are concerned about investments, debt sustainability and transparency, while political campaigners demand to ‘Fix the Country’. How is the government responding?

The picture will be clearer in the next few years. Look, more roads are being built now than ever before. There’s a digitalisation drive. There’s the railway. There’s the Integrated Aluminium Development Corporation. There’s a minerals income investment fund, reinvesting in the mining sector to drive Ghanaian ownership. We’ve been doing gold for how many years, and is there a single Ghanaian gold major?

So it’s expensive. But you are creating a platform for opportunities. Of course, it’s quite sad that tax revenue contributes to only 13% or 14% of the GDP. That’s why we have launched the electronic levy. So this noise about fixing the country. Yes. Got to fix the country. But what do you fix the country with? More loans, that sort of thing?

Then on the corruption front. Me, I sit here, I’m very close to the system. And people think: ‘Oh, I have this contract, can you help me?’

These are the same people who probably sit there and say that the system is corrupt. So there’s a culture which runs through the system.

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