The era of Africa is coming. According to the Washington Post article, Africa’s population will grow by a factor of 5.18 between 2000 and 2100. Population explosion in Asia after WWII is often compared with the future of Africa, but the African one in the future will be much bigger, with a greater impact on the international community. The more important part of the African population growth is the lower ‘dependency rate,’ which means that the proportion of worker-age people will also increase in coming decades. The population of Ghana, my focus this semester, would also increase with this trend.
However, the population growth itself is a double-edged sword; it can be extremely positive or very negative (e.g. civil wars in 5.18 times bigger scale). Max Fisher, in his post, argues that ‘good governance’ and ‘careful resource management’ are two important key points for the era of Africa.
Taking Professor Nelson’s course, I believe that those two key factors are also applicable and significant for Ghana. Although the Ghanaian economy has been struggling recently, Ghana must regain its international status as a ‘model country’ for African development in the near future. This does not mean that Ghana should be an African version of China or India – the most populous states in Asia. Rather, Ghana can be an African version of Singapore – small but developed and a ‘model’ for many other Asian countries.
Here, I would like to discuss three advices for Ghanaian leaders to achieve this goal.
Advice 1: Processing raw materials within Ghana
The Ghanaian economy and society are highly dependent on agriculture and mineral resources, such as gold and petroleum. However, a processing capacity of those resources in Ghana is very limited, thus Ghana has to export raw materials and import end products. For example, recently Ghana has exported a fair amount of crude petroleum to the United States, and has imported the same amount of refined petroleum. The lack of processing facilities is also severe in Ghana’s world-biggest cocoa industry.
Building the processing facilities within the country has two main advantages for Ghana. First, exporting end products (or more complicated products) brings more profit than exporting raw materials. In addition, those facilities will create more employment within the country. Considering the population will explode in coming 50 years, building more facilities and creating more employment is crucial for the stable society.
Therefore, for Ghana right now, this is where it should use foreign aid. Ghana must use it to be more independent from other states, not to be more dependent on, or addicted to, other states. Since this is a long-term development plan, strong leadership is a key factor to realize this step.
Advice 2: Establishment of a government fund
Establishment of a government fund would be another step to be a ‘model country’ for other African states. This idea came to me when I was writing my news post and analyzing how Norway had successfully managed to utilize its natural resource. But why is the government fund important? There are three reasons.
First, by gathering earnings from Ghana’s leading industries (i.e. cocoa, gold and oil) to one centralized fund, the Ghanaian government will be able to invest on other promising and/or growing industries in Ghana. This is very crucial, since Ghana is currently depending its economy on a few main industries, which cause a great instability of the economy. In order to enhance the stability of the society, which will be more and more important as the population grows, investing on various industries through the government fund is necessary for Ghana.
Second, having one government fund will increase the accountability and transparency of the Ghanaian government. Since Ghanaian citizens will know that a substantial amount of their earnings will go to the fund, the government will be more responsible to explain how they use their money than it is right now. This will (hopefully) reduce corruption within the government, breaking resource and aid curses that Ghana currently struggle.
Third, since the government fund will increase the accountability and transparency of the government, Ghana will be able to save more money in a planned manner. This will break the current “unhealthy addiction to the IMF” of Ghana.
The combination of my advice 1 and 2 will bring Ghana a ‘positive spiral’ that leads to the sustainable and stable development of the state.
Advice 3: Prevention of a neighborhood effect
If the two policies above succeed while the population of Ghana increases, that would attract a lot of attention (positive one) from the international community and also attract the foreign investment. Yet, a ‘neighborhood effect’ can still affect Ghana’s international status negatively. Even if the Ghanaian politics and society are stable, it its neighboring states remain unstable, the world would not prefer Ghana as the investment destination.
In order to prevent the neighborhood effect from intensifying in the future, Ghana must play an active role at the regional level (i.e. ECOWAS). Not only a militaristic cooperation, but also a political unification to some extent will be crucial for West Africa to rise peacefully and to be looked attractive for the rest of the world.
Throughout this course, I have learned various problems that Africa faces in detail – not only their causes, but also some possible solutions for the future. In this sense, this class has made me more ‘Afro-optimistic’ than ‘Afro-pessimistic.’ At the same time, I have learned how difficult and complicated it is to ‘actually’ implement those solutions. In fact, I do not think that my advices above will just bring positive effects on Ghana – there will be a lot of difficulties. Yet, this course made me believe that the era of Africa is coming in the future.