Interview with His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana
1. H.E. Akufo-Addo, you have been President of Ghana since 2017 and re-elected as President last December. Angela Merkel will also leave the political stage after 16 years in the Chancellery. A step that you can understand?
By common consent, Angela Merkel has been the outstanding European statesman of her generation. Her strong personality and exemplary, pragmatic style of leadership have, no doubt, culminated into building a buoyant German economy, and implementing transformational reforms and policies in energy, migration and climate change with positive outcomes. Under her tenure, Africa, and particularly Ghana, have witnessed an enhanced focus on Germany-Africa partnership for development. Her mandate has been renewed on four consecutive occasions, which is indicative of her track record and achievements in office. So, I can understand her decision to want to leave the political stage after 16 arduous years in the Chancellery. I think she is doing so because she wants to give an opportunity to others to continue with the responsibility of building a strong Germany. We wish her well, and, we, in Ghana, will miss her dearly.
2. Ghana and Germany are linked by a long-standing partnership. Ghana is a member of the Compact with Africa initiative and has signed a reform partnership with Germany. What do you hope for from Merkel's political successors?
Ghana’s membership of the German Compact with Africa (CwA) policy has been very positive and fruitful. It has resulted in private-sector driven partnerships between the two countries, for example, with automobile giant, Volkswagen, setting up a vehicle assembly plant in Ghana, and FairAfric, a German-Ghanaian company, also establishing a chocolate production company in Ghana.
I can only hope that these significant strides chalked under the partnership will continue under her political successors. Trade and investment co-operation, and not aid, is the path we are charting, and this is what should continue under her successors.
3. You have declared that you want to make Ghana the most business-friendly country in Africa. What are the chances of implementing this ambitious plan, also in view of the Corona crisis?
I spent my first term in office working to correct the fundamentals of the economy, which were all pointing in the wrong direction. We have, over the period, put in place measures needed to reduce the cost of doing business, improve the business environment, and made the Ghanaian economy not only one of the most business-friendly economies in Africa, but also one of the fastest growing economies in the world between 2017 and 2020.
COVID-19 has ensured that many countries around the world are in recession. However, Ghana’s economy was one of the very few that still managed to record a positive GDP growth, that is 1.9% in 2020, albeit significantly reduced from the average levels of seven percent (7%) per annum that we had become accustomed to from 2017 to 2020.
In spite of the ravages of the pandemic, we are working to grow the economy at a much faster rate this year, our target being a five percent (5%) GDP growth rate. We are reeling from the effects of COVID19, but I am confident that, with the progress of the vaccination programme, we will recover quickly, and work towards putting our nation back onto the path of progress and prosperity. Our nation remains very attractive to investors, and the recent decision of Twitter to base its African headquarters in Ghana, a year after Google established its first artificial intelligence centre in Africa in Ghana, bear testament to this fact.
4. Speaking of Corona, at the end of February Ghana became the first country in the world to receive vaccine through the international Covax programme. You received your vaccination against COVID-19 at the beginning of March. How is Ghana doing during the pandemic?
On 24th February, the Government of Ghana secured the first batch of vaccine doses from the COVAX Facility. The vaccination campaign is currently ongoing, and, as at Tuesday, 20th April, nearly a million people have been vaccinated. The target is to vaccinate twenty million Ghanaians out of a population of thirty million by the end of the year, and Government is working hard towards realising this goal. We are working towards receiving more vaccine doses, and, together with the strict compliance with the safety protocols, it will allow us to open up our country again, and embark on the quest to restore normalcy to our lives and livelihoods.
We, in Ghana, have experienced a relatively favourable situation, contrary to fears many had about the impact of the pandemic in Africa. Our active cases in Ghana are declining, and, as at Friday, 16th April, stood at some one thousand, three hundred and fifty (1,350) cases, and we have recorded some seven hundred and seventy-two (772) deaths. The ultimate goal is zero active cases, and we will work until we achieve it.
5. The AfCFTA came into force on 1 January, the AfCFTA Secretariat was already opened last year in Accra. What do you hope for from the Pan-African Free Trade Area?
The AfCFTA will link all the 54 markets, covering 1.2 billion people, into a single market. It is the world’s largest free trade area outside of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) itself. By 2050, it will cover an estimated 2.5 billion people, and have over a quarter of the world’s working age population.
Imagine the investment and business opportunities offered by the infrastructure required to link these markets more effectively. And imagine the business opportunities that this huge market would offer for manufacturing and services firms from European countries that could establish production facilities in Africa to serve the African markets. And with the accelerated growth that would result from all these, the market opportunities for exporters from Germany and European countries could be truly amazing!
Ghana is fully committed to the implementation of the AfCFTA. With the collective desire for shared prosperity, we are confident that the AfCFTA will succeed, and generate a new impetus and dynamism for the rapid growth of Africa’s economies, and deepen the process of integration in Africa.