[Full] John Mahama's speech at Harvard University during the 24th African Business Conference

[Full] John Mahama's speech at Harvard University during the 24th African Business Conference

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thank you very much kindly take your seats so i was very impressed when you rolled out the organizers of this conference and it was predominantly female and there was a rare meal you know amongst them it reminded me of when i was a member of the pan african parliament the protocol that govern membership was that each country however big or small was entitled to five members at least one of which must be a woman you can bet nigeria ghana and all the other countries had four men and one woman the only exception was lesotho and i've always spoken proudly of this lesotho had four women and one man and i'm very glad to come and see that this beautiful conference that has been organized has predominantly been steered by our women female counterparts it's truly a testimony that whatever a man can do women can do even better it's a pleasure to be back here at harvard and to have the opportunity to share some perspectives at this well-organized conference and it's gratifying to note that the conversation on africa's future and development continues to be broadened and it's occupying the thoughts of some of its most brilliant minds within and outside the continent and has found prominence in a prestigious institution such as this i've been asked by the organizers to speak to how africa can shake off the effects of the coveted 19 pandemic and one finding find new ways to bring value chains inside africa's borders and to change the mindset of dependence on external parties redefine africa's position in a changing geopolitical environment and ensure that africa is creating sustainable institutions that will lead to growth pride and prosperity for all its people i intend to be quite specific in my approach to this subject but permit me to take a brief historical detour in order to set a clear context for this discussion i'm a historian and i studied history for my first degree and i often find that many of the complex developmental problems the african continent grapples with have historical undertones an appreciation of that history often lends itself to deeper insights into the matters that we're dealing with today i also happen to come from ghana a country that was somewhat of a pioneer in the efforts to emancipate the continent and set it on a path of sustainable development i'm sure most of you know that ghana was the first country south of sahara sub-saharan african country to emerge from colonial domination [Music] but when i say we are pioneers we're pioneers in gaining independence and then we're pioneers again in dispatching our first president through a coup d'etat unlike other parts of the world our route to development has been a check at an adult's quest littered with many setbacks we've suffered colonial exploitation and domination under which we were viewed as little more than suppliers of raw materials and cheap labor to catalyze the industrialization of the west a desire to break this yoke of domination lit a fire in our forebears like kwame nkrumah julius nireira kenneth kawunder secretary among many others to launch a sustained campaign for independence after which they hoped economic development would surely follow postcolonial africa was buzzing with the hope for a new vibrant industrialized continent then came the debate and tussle about ideological alignments which development model best suited newly independent states there were those of the socialist stock who modeled their national affairs around the state controlled economy anchored on an industrial drive and my country gunner was one of them we had the electricity company of ghana indeed in every sector at the state transport company if you want to travel wanted to travel across the length and breadth of the country we had a state housing corporation if you wanted to buy a house we had a gihok shoe factory if you wanted to buy shoes we had the ghost brick and tile factory if you wanted to build a house indeed every sector was dominated by the states most of the private sector could be found in commerce and trading but even then the state gave them a run for the money for their money with the ghana national trading corporation that's controlled most of the department stores all across the country the other african countries that adopted a more western developmental model and set about building their nation's principally on a capitalist private sector-led model before any of these experiments could turn out tangible outcomes disruptions of the political and government system soon emerged with military interventions becoming the order of the day there are few african countries that will spare the turbulence and attendant economic and social decline that this brought several decades of military dictatorship led to the inevitable conclusion that a return to constitutional and democratic governance with regular elections was the most viable path to development with democratic reforms came renewed efforts to resolve the economic fallouts of bad governance on the continent many african countries turned to the bretton woods institutions and adopted various structural adjustments and economic reform programs with varying outcomes again ghana is a pioneer in this one of the first to go into a structural adjustment to the imf and i think in the life of our country we've had almost 15 to 16 programs with the imf compared to where we've come from incremental progress has been made there are many success stories where many african countries are well run on the basis of democratic principles and sound governance in the last decade many of the fastest growing economies in the world have been in africa these games notwithstanding we still lag behind other continents in several metrics and developmental indices our economies remain largely underdeveloped with mainly still operating the colonial economic model of raw material export and little manufacturing and industrialization weak governance institutions and corruption are major obstacles on our continent africa is demographically the youngest continent where it has come a youth bulge that in turn has spawned a growing unemployment crisis which constitutes a major threat to the security of many african countries as the arab spring demonstrated insecurity terrorism and insurgency play quite a number of countries and have become protracted problems which continue to defy efforts at resolution i've laid this historical foundation to drive from the point that africa has significant fragilities that make us particularly vulnerable to the effects of global disruptions such as the pandemic we're just coming out of we were always going to be the hardest hit by a phenomenon of that magnitude the covet 19 pandemic was therefore a most unwelcome and unpleasant eventuality that impacted the continent severely data from the economic commission of africa eca shows that kobe 19 created the continent's worst recession in 50 years with real gdp shrinking by 3 percent in averagely by 3 in 2020 before the pandemic poverty reduction was already a major challenge the pandemic is estimated to have dragged about 55 million more people into poverty in africa and exposed another 46 million more to the risk of hunger and malnourishment indeed 70 percent of hunger in africa which have already been on the rise since 2014 is directly attributable to this pandemic like governments all over the world it became necessary for african governments to take action to shield their populations from the effects of their epidemic this meant in many cases an increase in deficits due to unbudgeted expenditures this has devastated many african economies and sunk them deeper into unsustainable debt and economic downturn the pandemic has had a generally deleterious effect on the economy of african nations but some countries have ridden the wave more successfully than others based on the resilience of the economies discipline and prudent use of their resource envelopes in the period of this crisis in my country ghana our economy has emerged in extremely poor shape from the covered experience a ballooning deficit double digit inflation a nose diving currency increasing dead distress are some of the symptoms of a very aerial economy ghana's case was easy to predict with the cavalier handling of the economy by the current administration and brittle borrowing from the capital markets creative misstatements of budget deficits and other critical physical figures were starting to come to a head eventually ghana went into the pandemic without adequate buffers and has emerged with a terribly battered economy to make matters worse a pandemic win for of in excess of 33 billion ghana cities which could have cushioned the economy remains unaudited and is believed to have been used largely in the quest to win election 2020 at all costs the pandemic has laid bare once again the inherent weakness in our public health delivery systems and our social welfare systems take for instance the testing of covered 19 globally a report compiled by mckinsey and companies show that by may 2020 only 11 people per thousand had been tested in mauritius which had africa's best record in that regard and had a population of 1.3 million as compared to 166 per thousand people in iceland with a population of about 300 000 people in ghana we could manage testing for 5.5 people per thousand for a population of 31 million people africa is still worth worse off and covered 19 vaccine rollouts out of 8 billion doses of vaccines distributed globally by the end of 2021 3 had been administered on the continent with only 8 percent of the over 1.2

billion living in africa fully vaccinated this compares with about 60 percent of vaccinations in high-income countries it is my firm believe that africa has survived covet by the resilience imbued in us as a people by nature and not by any skillful handling of the pandemic by any particular government most countries in africa lifted enforcement of lockdown restrictions after just a couple of weeks not motivated by any scientific considerations or superior knowledge of the disease and how to better handle it it was due largely to the severe suffering that millions of people began to go through with vast sections of the african population engaged in informal economic activity even a day's absence from their trade meant that food could not be guaranteed for the household and governments simply were not in a position to provide for those affected it was always always going to be an uphill task to rebound from the effects of the pandemic even as covered 19 still lingers an african country's attempt to reset the economies yet another disruption this time of a geopolitical nature threatens to wreak more havoc on an already fragile continent the russia ukraine conflict is said to pick peg africa's growth back by an estimation of about 0.7 percent inflation is expected to rise by at least 2.2 percent in 2022 and as many as 43 countries that depend on energy and food imports will be confronted with fiscal and current account problems global energy prices price increases have escalated the cost of living and compounded hardships in many countries in the light of the above the conversation is now about overcoming the twin problems of a lingering pandemic in its aftermath and a dual political induced economic crisis as opposed to one that focuses on just post-pandemic recovery what are the most appropriate and beneficial steps that ought to be taking to first overcome this pandemic and then the effects of the russia ukraine conflict there was a general report euphoria that the fall of the berlin wall and the end of the arms race will accelerate global prosperity the rise of globalization created an environment that admitted many parts of the world into the global economy including africa now we enter a most unpredictable era in our geopolitics it's not a question of if there'll be another global shock it is a question of when several propositions have been put forward the answer to this has been quite diverse and many pathways have been offered by various thinkers and credible voices i'm of the view that the best propositions must be situated within the context of the underlying problems that covered 19 pandemic and lately the russian ukraine war have exposed one there's a lack of resilience in african economies inadequate public health systems and virtually non-existent social welfare systems the first order of business is to rebuild our economies and position them for sustainable growth over the medium to long term if we needed to run in times past to bring our economies to adequate levels at this moment we need to fly in order to overcome the setbacks occasioned by the pandemic and have the resilience to withstand any future shocks of this nature in the short term however we need all the help we can get we are deeply appreciative of the support extended by multilateral organizations such as the world bank and the imf at the heights of the pandemic in ghana we received about a billion dollars to strengthen our response to the covet pandemic from the imf and we received another about a little below 500 million dollars from the world bank to help us with the fight against the pandemic such help would have to be expanded and deepened to offer us a chance at carrying out the necessary steps to reform our economies and rebound strongly the multilateral institutions have undergone reforms themselves and have come a long way from when the imf was described by kenneth kanunda as being akin to a mad doctor who prescribed quinine no matter the illness rising public debt which has been worsened by the pandemic has become a major binding constraint to our forward match many african countries including ghana are heavily burdened and we have reached that distress levels with debt to gdp ratios ranging between 70 percent and 80 percent i would advocate for a reinstitution and extension of the debt service suspension initiative that's the dssi to offer our country some fiscal space so investments can be made in critical sectors like education and health and other social services which at the moment are severely underfunded also the common framework for debt treatment beyond the dssi also requires expansion to grant african countries access to debt restructuring tools and mechanisms the imf's resilience and sustainable trust which aims to redistribute the share of countries with stronger external financing positions and the special drawing rights sdrs set up for cover 19 to weaken nations needs to be accelerated to offer the much needed respite for these countries mostly in africa an african version of a martial plan is urgently needed and i believe africa must not shy away from seeking the support of these multilateral institutions and their bilateral partners when the need arises it is important however for each country to develop its own homegrown fiscal consolidation program in working with these institutions as we did during our extended credit facility with the imf beyond these short-term measures is a really is the real heavy lifting that african countries must do to build resilience and robust economies that can withstand future shocks at the heart of this is the need for major governance reforms that focus on the establishment of strong governance institutions that operate on the basis of efficiency to reduce waste of state resources to a minimum and tackle the age world problems of corruption going forward the present economic model which revolves around public reduction and alleviation and poverty alleviation would prove inadequate economies must have inbuilt resilience to win as of dependency the resilience must be rooted in the acquisition of the nursery know-how education systems must emphasize modernity and have strong science engineering and mathematics components entre african trade must be high on the agenda and the work that has started with the establishment of the african continental free trade area must be seen to fruition to promote trade and commerce on the continent structure reforms leading to the diversification of our economies and production base and the attraction of investments into industry agribusiness the digital sector and tourism must be accelerated we must also push for self-reliance in key strategic commodities and supplies for which we have a comparative advantage and when i talk about this i talk about rice vegetable oil and things it's such a shame if you look at the quantities of these commodities that africa imports when we have all the conditions to produce them ourselves tomatoes onions and just about every toothpicks you know and just about everything africa must take greater control of the trade and processing of its natural resources like cocoa gold bauxite oil copper etc and build stronger capacity to respond to global energy shocks which have impinged heavily on our economies as a result of the current russia-ukraine conflict we need to be able to deal more effectively with such shocks in future to meditate mitigate the suffering of our people of our people during such times and when i talk about getting greater control of trade and processing of our natural resources i use my own country as an example that after decades of cocoa production still in excess of 60 to 70 percent of cocoa that we produce is exported as raw beans and processed in other countries ghana exports last last year our export of gold was 130 tons worth in excess of 8 billion dollars and yet royalties and taxes brought just a little over 2 billion into the ghanaian economy that's what i mean when i talk about things like this ghana's share of oil production over 10 years is about 6.5 billion

and yet tens of billions you know have been exported out of dollars have been exported outside by partners windfalls from commodity exports in times of hikes should be channeled into the recovery effort and not squandered on mere consumption [Music] one area that africa has shown remarkable growth is the ict sector and digital uptake before the pandemic we're making major inroads in that area and we're recording the fastest rate of new broadband connections and mobile data traffic was projected to rise by 700 percent between 2017 and 2020. e-commerce was growing in leaps and bounds in africa and our population was becoming more and more reliant on online trade retailing we need to leverage this level of growth to catalyze economic development in ways that we have not done before the pandemic stretch the continent's already weak public health systems admittedly this was also the case for the global health system but ours took a beating and would not have been able to cope had a pandemic spread to the level that it did in more advanced countries our health systems urgently require fixing and recalibration to bring them up to a level where we can effectively deal with future occurrences as is obvious with the carbon 19. this means investments must not be channeled into a step just into establishing medical facilities across the continent but also importantly into research training of personnel and development to put us ahead of the cave and position us to respond rapidly to future emergencies the systems and processes to make ourselves sufficient in vaccine and medicine production as well as the supply chain to timelessly deliver same should as well be put in place and i'm happy to know that some countries have taken the lead to set up facilities for vaccine production for future pandemics transport networks and systems to e-supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic should also engage our attention to lessen the impact of future occurrences the social welfare and safety nets need to ease and suit the suffering that a pandemic of this scale inflicts on vulnerable groups and this is critical the lesson that coven 19 throws up for many african countries is that these systems simply don't exist and even where they did they proved insufficient and grossly underdeveloped to protect the poor and vulnerable we can't afford to have the status quo persist we must spring into action now and lay the foundations for delivering better outcomes for people and protect them against such harsh realities these perspectives add on to those expressed by other participants at this event and those outlined by other prominent thinkers on the continent a mccasey and company reports published in the aftermath of the pandemic identified nine ways to surmount the effects of the pandemic with an overarching theme of reimagining ways things are done in africa the eca also has made similar proposals all these thoughts converge on the fundamental points that this pandemic and risk fallout call for a radically new paradigm which africa must reinvent itself and aim for much loftier and bolder ambitions than it currently holds this is an existential imperative because the instruments we deploy in the journey towards economic development that's outlined at the introduction of my remarks have become ineffective and in the wake of the current crisis we face the pandemic and other geopolitical factors have created several new challenges which care and thinking and methods cannot resolve we need to think innovatively and to think outside the box in some african countries there have been overthrows of constitutional regimes and are returned to military rule this cannot be the solution to the problem the currents complexities of governance and integration of our economies into the wealth system are not amenable to military rule what we need is deeper democracy deeper freedom of expression transparent and accountable governance prudent use of our natural resources for the benefit of the people decentralized administration that creates opportunities for all no matter your gender geographical location or your political affiliation there is hope for africa and this hope is evident in our human resource it is in the critical thinking of our youth the many young people have interacted with back home and since i arrived here in harvard gives me the strongest assurance that africa will wake up to a new dawn out of the current adversity will emerge new opportunities we must seize the moment and change the narrative of our continent being a basket case of poverty and suffering this event and many more that i'm sure will follow will have their roles and the collective push for africa's ultimate takeoff because they provide a melting pot for exchange of ideas which is vital to our overall efforts at this endeavor the ideas would have to be generated first before they can be executed i thank you all for your kind attention [Music] [Applause] you

2022-04-28 15:55

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