The current Covid-19 pandemic has abruptly exposed the weaknesses of public systems all over the world. For obvious reasons, the focus was and still is on the healthcare system, but other systems were also put under significant stress.
After healthcare, the second most affected system was education. Schools were closed, and in the advanced countries they will reopen only partially, to provide a combination of traditional and remote education. For senior years, traditional education will be completely replaced by remote education (e-learning).
Unfortunately, under current conditions, this is impossible in Ghana. Only 8% of primary schools and 20% of secondary schools have access to the internet. (Source: http://www.hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/GHA)
Only 27.6% of Ghanaians own a computer. Although almost 95% of adults own a smartphone, half of them cannot access the internet via their phones. (Source: http://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/Sommaire%20des%20r%C3%A9sultats/gha-r8-sor_2019.pdf)
All in all, less than 40% of Ghanaians have access to internet (World Bank data).
The data clearly show that, right now, remote education is impracticable in Ghana. Neither the children nor their parents or their teachers have access to the internet in a manner that would make remote education a viable option.
Lack of internet access means that neither the children nor their teachers have the digital skills to produce and to participate in remote education programmes.
And this puts an entire generation of Ghanaian children at risk. They can either go back to school and risk being infected with the new virus, or stay at home and risk losing access to education. Either way, they lose.
It is imperative to learn fast from this tragic situation and start changing Ghana. We need internet access in every primary and secondary school. And, first and foremost, we need affordable internet access for all.
Until we have this, Ghana won’t be able to grow into an advanced nation. And the children put at risk today will become tomorrow’s vulnerable adults.
It is our moral duty not to let this happen. And it is the current government’s fault that for four years it did nothing to improve the children’s internet access, thus risking the future of an entire generation.
Free SHS is excellent under normal circumstances, but under the current situation it means virtually nothing. What Ghana needs is free (or at least affordable) access to internet for its children. Simply because this is the future of education.
The current government failed to provide it. Instead, it put an entire generation (our children’s generation) at risk, transforming it into a dispensable generation. No matter what political party we usually favour, this is completely unacceptable.
The largest opposition party in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has out-doored its Running Mate for the December 2020 General Elections, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang at a ceremony in Accra.
This is the first time a major political party in Ghana has selected a female Running Mate, a huge plus for the NDC’s Candidate John Dramani Mahama. Prof. Opoku-Agyemang will become the first female Vice-President in the history of Ghana should her party win the December elections.
This is a clear sign of change. Until now, and despite a number of high-flying female appointments especially by President John Mahama and his predecessor, President John Evans Atta Mills, the Ghanaian society has not particularly pro- women. This is confirmed by all available data.
It all starts from childhood. A Ghanaian child is expected to attend 11.5 years of schooling. However, the expectation for Ghanaian boys is 11.7 years, and 11.4 years for Ghanaian girls.
The average number of years spent in school by young people aged 25 and older is 7.2. For Ghanaian boys, it is 7.9 years, while for Ghanaian girls it is 6.4 years. On average, therefore, men have more access to education than women.
63.1% of Ghanaians aged 25 years and older have at least some secondary education. This is true for 71.1% of males, and for only 55.7% of females. And only 22.5% of graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics programmes in tertiary education are female.
Only 12.7% of the country’s 275 parliamentary seats are held by women. According to the Human Development Index, the score for Ghanaian men is 0.622 and for Ghanaian women, 0.567.
(Source: Check the above data at http://www.hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/GHA)
The labour force participation rate in Ghana is 67.8%. It is 71.9% for men and 63.6% for women. Compared to Ghanaian men, Ghanaian women have less access to the formal or informal labour market, which makes women more vulnerable to poverty. (The data above are taken from the ILOSTAT database.)
All in all, the Ghanaian society is male-centred. Women’s voice, which is the voice of half of the society, is seldom heard. And this is wrong.
The nomination of Prof. Opoku-Agyemang is a sign that all this is about to change. The time has come for Ghanaian women to stand up and let their voice be heard!
To better understand the problem, let’s look at the figures.
Only 28.6% of Ghana’s labour force is comprised of skilled workers. This clearly shows an educational problem. Access to primary education is now universal in Ghana. Access to secondary education is still limited – only 72% of the secondary school-age population is enrolled in secondary school. This means that more than a quarter of the children who attain primary education do not have further access to secondary education. Free SHS will partially solve this problem, but this is not enough.
Because the real problem comes with tertiary education. Only 16% of the tertiary school-age population is enrolled in tertiary education. In advanced countries, the percentage ranges from 60% to 100%. (The data above are taken from here: http://www.hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/GHA) Without significant access to tertiary education, no country can grow.
Ghana’s research and development expenditure as a percentage of GDP is 0.37%. The world’s expenditure is 2.27% (World Bank data).
Only 39% of Ghanaians have access to internet, when almost half of the world population is using the internet. In advanced countries, the percentage is at least 80% (World Bank data). In 2019, Ghana had only 1,369 secure internet servers (compared to 2,761 in 2016). Ghana’s ICT goods exports represented only 0.024% of total goods exports in 2019 (a decline from 0.09 in 2016). Only 13 Ghanaians made a patent application in 2019 – in advanced countries the number is much higher. (All the data above is provided by the World Bank.)
When it comes to internet, ICT goods and patent applications, Ghana not only lags far behind the advanced nations, it also moves backwards (see the number of secure internet servers or the percentage of ICT goods exports, for instance).
Now, imagine a different Ghana. A Ghana where 50% of the labour force is comprised of skilled people. A Ghana where 60% of the tertiary school-age population is enrolled in tertiary education. A Ghana spending at least 1% of its GDP on research and development. A Ghana where at least 1,000 patent applications are made each year. A Ghana with 100,000 secure internet servers. A Ghana where ICT goods exports represent at least 5% of total goods exports.
This would be a thriving Ghana, a vibrant Ghana, a Ghana where every Ghanaian business and every Ghanaian individual is connected to the entire world. A smart Ghana, with an economy based on the production and distribution of high value-added goods and services – not like today’s Ghana, where the economy is based on the mere exploitation of natural resources, on labour-intensive activities and cheap labour.
If we want to live in this different Ghana, we understand easily why today’s Ghana needs change – and, first and foremost, a change in vision.
During his State of the Nation Address in February 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo stated that “we are creating conditions for young people to have hope again, and we are determined to do more”. (Source: https://www.pulse.com.gh/news/politics/full-text-of-nana-addos-2020-state-of-the-nation-address/npftybn)
Is this statement true or false?
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 2016 Ghana had 1,560,200 young people not in employment, education or training. In 2019, there were 1,819,200 young people in that situation – an increase by almost 260,000.
Young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) are people, aged between 15 and 24, who are not enrolled in an educational or vocational programme and who also cannot find a job. They are the forgotten ones, the ones left behind – and their number increased from 2016 to 2019.
Even worse, ILO projects that the number of youth NEET will increase in 2020 too, reaching 1,858,300.
(Source: ILO Database, https://ilostat.ilo.org/data/country-profiles/)
Given these data, the only conclusion is that Nana Akufo-Addo’s statement is false.
President Nana Akufo-Addo made this statement during his 10th Address to the nation on updates to Ghana’s enhanced response to the coronavirus pandemic, on 31 May 2020. (Source: https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/national/full-text-of-akufo-addos-10th-address-to-the-nation-on-coronavirus-crisis/)
Has Ghana become a reference point for others in combating Covid-19? Here are the facts.
Ghana ranks fourth in Africa by the number of total cases of Covid-19, after South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria.
Ghana ranks 15th in Africa (out of 57 countries and territories) by the number of total cases per million of population.
Ghana ranks 13th in Africa by the number of tests per million of population, outperformed by Mauritius, Cape Verde, Djibouti, South Africa, Morocco, Botswana, Gabon, Rwanda or Ecuatorial Guinea. On this indicator, Ghana does not belong to the top 20% performing African countries.
Ghana ranks 122nd out of 213 countries and territories in the world by the number of tests per million of population. Mauritius, on the other hand, ranks 16th in the world on this indicator. Cape Verde is 40th in the world, outperforming Austria or Germany. Djibouti is 57th, better positioned than Finland or the Netherlands.
Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Guinea, Mauritius, Niger, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and, to a lesser extent, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Sudan are the African nations that managed to decrease the number of active cases (although the total number of cases is increasing), which means they managed to cure people at a faster pace than the increase of Covid-19, and thus to control the disease. Ghana is not on this select list: here, the number of active cases is continuously increasing.
(Source: Worldometers.info, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/)
Based on the data, there is one conclusion: Nana Akufo-Addo’s claim that Ghana has become “a reference point for others in combating Covid-19” is false. According to the indicators, Ghana does not belong to the group of best-performing countries, and therefore it cannot be a reference point for others.
On 31 May 2020, President Nana Akufo-Addo has reviewed the ban on social gatherings which were imposed as part of measures to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Ghana. The easing of bans on religious and other social gatherings, including a limited school reopening, came into effect between 1 and 15 June.
In his Address to the nation, President Akufo-Addo expressed his worries about a possible surge in infections because of the ease of restrictions. “Yes, there exists the possibility of a potential surge in infections”, he said. (Source: https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/ban-on-social-gatherings-reviewed-100-people-can-now-attend-church-services.html).
Was he right to be worried? Here are the facts.
From 15 June to 30 June, the total number of deaths caused by Covid-19 doubled – from 54 total deaths on 15 June, to 112 total deaths on 30 June.
Before that, it took a month to double the number of total deaths – from 28 total deaths on 15 May to 54 total deaths on 15 June.
The increase in the number of deaths significantly accelerated from 15 June.
Also, the number of total cases increased from 8,070 on 1 June to 17,741 on 30 June.
On average, the number of daily cases decreased from early May until 1 June, and then it started to increase. (Source: Worldometers.info, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/ghana/).
After studying the data, there is only one conclusion: President Nana Akufo-Addo was right to be worried. We do see a surge in infections after he ordered an ease on restrictions. This surge is directly attributable to his decision.
Riva Levinson’s KRL International led Nana Akufo-Addo’s 2016 presidential campaign. Riva Levinson has a long and sordid history of smear campaigns against Ghana. In 2009-2010, KRL run a major mudslinging campaign against Mills Government, using fake news and propaganda, to undermine Ghana’s interest in the Jubilee deal. In 2003, Riva Levinson conducted a vicious negative campaign against Kufuor Government’s intention to terminate a loss-making power supply contract.
Nana’s foreign election consultants
In June 2016, Nana Akufo-Addo hired KRL International, an American PR firm, as a communications and general political consultant for his presidential campaign. The purpose of the contract was to “unseat the incumbent in Ghana’s presidential election”.
Presentation of Nana campaign on KRL’s website
The foreign consultants played a key role in Nana’s campaign. KRL integrated into operational units of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), spending an “extensive period on the campaign trail”. KRL worked directly with Nana, preparing him for speaking events, coordinating the campaign team, crafting the communication strategy, managing local media, arranging interviews.
KRL consultants also deployed the shady tactics of Cambridge Analytica, combining data mining and data analysis with strategic communication to influence the 2016 presidential election. According to the company’s website, “KRL consultants helped craft a communications strategy using polling results and other forms of local data”.
KRL’s Riva Levinson and Chris Beatty
KRL International’s top executives, Riva Levinson and Chris Beatty, directly conducted Nana’s presidential campaign.
Nana Akufo Addo with Riva Levinson and Chris Beatty in December 2016
A former associate of highly controversial Paul Manafort (the convicted former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump), Riva Levinson founded KRL International in 2007, and serves as the firm’s President and CEO. Chris Beatty was managing director of KRL International for almost eleven years, from May 2007 to March 2018.
In December 2016, Levinson posted on social media pictures of herself and Beatty celebrating with members of Nana’s campaign team
The Ghana-Kosmos dispute
The same company (KRL International) and the same consultants (Riva Levinson and Chris Beatty) that handled Nana’s 2016 campaign conducted a smear campaign against Ghana in 2009-2010.
In 2009, Ghana accused Kosmos Energy of violating the agreement governing the Jubilee Field partnership. Kosmos was trying to sell its stake in the Jubilee field, one of the world’s biggest deep water oilfields, to ExxonMobil for $4.2-$4.3 billion without the Ghanaian government approval. Kosmos illegally shared confidential geological oil exploration data with potential bidders without consulting the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).
While President Mills was willing to change the contract with Kosmos (negotiated, agreed and signed by the government of former President Kufuor) to better suit Ghana, both U.S. and Ghanaian authorities were investigating corruption allegations involving Kosmos.
“The Jubilee agreement is one of the worst agreements I have ever seen” – former GNPC CEO Alex Mould, Nov 2019
KRL’s 2009 mudslinging campaign against Ghana
On 8 September 2009, Kosmos hired Riva Levinson’s KRL International to whitewash its image, hide the abuses and smear Ghana’s Government. Kosmos paid KRL hundreds of thousands of dollars for a major mudslinging campaign against Ghana. KRL lobbied White House, US government agencies and Congress to bring pressure on Ghana’s government. (https://projects.propublica.org/Kosmos-KRL)
KRL used fake news and propaganda to undermine Ghana’s interest. KRL published PR articles in the U.S. press criticising the Ghanaian Government’s opposition to the Kosmos-Exxon Mobil deal and falsely claiming that the Ghanaian Government was trying to force Kosmos to sell its rights to the GNPC at a sub-market price and subverting the sanctity of business contract. Other negative characterizations of the Ghanaian Government’s interactions with foreign investors were also advanced by the PR firm.
In June 2010, Forbes, a magazine that features Riva Levinson’s articles, ranked Ghana ninth on a “list of the world’s worst economies”
KRL’s misinformation about Ghanaian financial data and policy contributed to an August 2010 downgrading of Ghana’s sovereign credit ratings by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. Ghana’s energy minister was denied a visa to the US when trying to meet with Kosmos’s investors. GNPC chairman was also denied a visa to the US.
The $4bn deal between Kosmos and ExxonMobil collapsed because of opposition from Ghana’s Government. However, in December 2010, Ghana was forced to sign a truce agreement, granting Kosmos immunity from criminal or judicial actions for past events. The US Department of Justice also dropped, without explanation, the corruption probe into Kosmos.
Riva Levinson’s 2003 smear campaign against Ghana
In 2003, while working as a managing director of BKSH (another US lobbying firm with questionable reputation), Riva Levinson ran a vicious negative campaign against the Kufuor Government. Levinson’s client was US-based Kaiser Aluminum. (https://allafrica.com/)
The Kufuor Government was trying to replace an existing power supply contract, arguing that Valco, the Ghanaian subsidiary of Kaiser Aluminum, was paying 1.1 US cents per kilowatt-hour, while the cost of producing electricity in the country had risen to 6.5 cents.
Levinson was hired by Kaiser as their representative in Washington, where she lobbied the US Government against the Ghanaian Government led by Kufuor. She also orchestrated a negative media campaign against Ghana, seeking to destroy the country’s international reputation by fake news and negative report.
As a result of Riva Levinson’s smear campaign, all lending to Ghana by the US Government agencies were suspended. A US Agency accused Ghana of “not acting in a commercially reasonable manner that would ensure investor confidence”. The Kufuor Government was forced to back off.
In our daily lives we’re vulnerable to crimes and abuses of all sorts. Our goods may be stolen, someone in a position of power may force us to sell our property at an unfairly low price, our physical integrity may be threatened by malevolent individuals – and so on.
To cope with such vulnerabilities, we rely on courts of law and on police. The independence, accessibility and reliance of these institutions are of paramount importance for our ability to live in a safe environment.
So how safely do we live in Ghana?
To find out, we looked at the relevant data produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) via expert surveys and published each year in WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report. We explored the data from 2016 and 2019 because 2016 was an election year and 2019 the most recent year for which data are available.
Here are the data.
In 2016, Ghana scored 4.6 (out of a maximum of 7) for judicial independence. Ghana’s ranking for this indicator was 46 (out of 136 surveyed countries). In 2019, Ghana’s score for judicial independence was 4.1. We were ranked 57 out of 141 surveyed countries.
Ghana’s judicial independence decreased both in value and in rank. In 2019, Ghana’s value for judicial independence declined at the 2012 level, which means all the advancements made during John Mahama’s Presidency were lost.
In 2016, Ghana scored 4.6 for organized crime, being ranked 82nd out of 136 countries. In 2019, Ghana’s score for the same indicator was 4.3, and we were ranked 92nd out of 141 countries.
This means that Ghana is more permeable to organized crime in 2019 than in 2016. Nana Akufo-Addo’s Presidency and the NPP Government helped, willingly or not, the organized crime to flourish.
Again, in 2016 Ghana’s score for the reliability of police services was 4.7. Our country was ranked 58th out of 136. In 2019, Ghana scored 4.1 for the same indicator, being ranked 89th out of 141 countries.
The reliability of police services collapsed during Nana Akufo-Addo’s Presidency and the NPP Government, which means ordinary Ghanaians are far less secure today than in 2016 – while, at the same time, organized crime gained more immunity (see the scores for organized crime and judicial independence above).
All in all, the data are pointing towards only one conclusion: Ghanaians are living significantly less safer lives today, because the judiciary is less independent, the police less reliable and the organized crime on the rise.
These developments make us more vulnerable to abuse than we were in 2016.
The 2016 Global Competitiveness Report is available here: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-competitiveness-report-2016-2017-1.
The 2019 Global Competitiveness Report is available here: https://www.weforum.org/reports/how-to-end-a-decade-of-lost-productivity-growth.
NPP’s 2016 Manifesto had a simple and powerful title: “Change. An Agenda for Jobs”. In it, the party’s goal was eloquently stated: “On the economy, our goal is simple: to build the most business-friendly and people-friendly economy in Africa, which will create jobs and prosperity for all Ghanaians”.
One of the major means to achieve this goal was the “One District, One Factory” initiative – NPP’s flagship programme, and also one of its flagship promises. According to Wikipedia, the programme “is aimed at creating jobs for Ghanaians through the setting up of factories and industries which will in turn move the country towards greater industrialization”.
Was “One District, One Factory” successful in creating jobs? And, in general terms, was NPP successful in its stated goal of creating jobs?
To find out, let’s look at the data.
In 2016, the unemployment rate in Ghana was 6.77%. In 2019, it was 6.78% (source: statista.com, https://www.statista.com/statistics/808481/unemployment-rate-in-ghana/). Basically, no change occurred.
In 2016, 18.6% of Ghanaian employees were active in the industrial sector. In 2019, the percentage was almost identical: 18.62% (source: statista.com, https://www.statista.com/statistics/447530/employment-by-economic-sector-in-ghana/). Again, no change occurred.
In 2016, the labor force participation rate for ages 15-24 (the proportion of the population ages 15-24 that is economically active) was 42.18%. In 2019, it was 41.67%. (Source: International Labor Organization, ILOSTAT Database.)
In 2016, the labor force participation rate for ages 15-64 (the proportion of the population ages 15-64 that is economically active) was 68.97%. In 2019, it was 68.95%. (Source: International Labor Organization, ILOSTAT Database.)
In 2016, the labor force participation rate for ages 15 and older (the proportion of the population ages 15 and older that is economically active) was 67.47%. In 2019, it was 67.42%. (Source: International Labor Organization, ILOSTAT Database.)
Apart from a very modest decline in labor force participation in the population ages 15-24, nothing really changed from 2016. (The data for labor force participation in Ghana can be studied here: https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/ghana/labor-force-participation-rate)
No matter whether we look at the unemployment rate, at the employment rate in the industrial sector, or at the labor force participation rate for various population ages, the result is the same: no changes occurred from 2016 until 2019.
And this can mean only one thing: NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo were unsuccessful in creating new jobs. In particular, the “One District, One Factory” programme had absolutely no relevance for job creation, given that the employment rate in the industrial sector remained unchanged since 2016.
Whether NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo were unsuccessful in this endeavour because they are incompetent, or because they weren’t really interested in job creation, it’s not for us to decide. We only analyse the data. And the data tell one thing only: namely, that NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo failed to fulfil their promise to create jobs for Ghanaians.