/ 2 October 2023

Ghana’s president under pressure

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President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo.(Photo by Dan Kitwood - Pool/Getty Images)

Ghana’s president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has been either one of the West African state’s worst economic managers or its unluckiest president. Either way, with just over a year to go till the next elections, the odds of him finishing on a high are not looking good.

Over the weekend, hundreds of demonstrators mobilised by the “Fix The Country” movement stormed the streets in a protest dubbed #OccupyJulorbiHouse. Julor bi translates as “child of a thief ” and in this case is also a play on the name of Ghana’s presidential palace: Jubilee House.

Police stopped the protesters’ advance about a kilometre away from Jubilee House on Liberation road, spilling the crowd into 37 Military Hospital.

“Most of my friends are at home with nothing to do, which shows the level of unemployment in the country. Yet we see the government taking no action,” said Peter Allotey, a protester who said he graduated from university four years ago.

According to a recent government labour survey, nearly 1.8-million Ghanaian workers were unemployed by the third quarter of 2022 and 3.5-million had moved in and out of employment since the year’s start.

Compounding that economic pain, shared by millions of Ghanaians, is a deep disillusionment with Akufo-Addo, who started his presidency saying and doing all the right things. In his inauguration speech in January 2017, Akufo-Addo said: “We must create wealth and restore happiness to our nation.”

His first year in office delivered on that, going by data from the Ghana Statistical Service. Industry, which contributes around a quarter of Ghana’s GDP, grew by about 17% in 2017. In the year before Akufo-Addo won the election, it had contracted by 0.5%. Within industry, the mining and quarrying subsector recorded spectacular growth of nearly 50%. Agriculture grew by 8% compared to 3% in 2016.

The economy remained buoyant until 2019. But then Covid struck in early 2020, followed by a global economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ghana’s economy has floundered since. Some call it bad luck. Akufo-Addo’s critics disagree.

Parliamentary minority leader Cassiel Ato Forson of the National Democratic Congress blames “the government’s implementation of many ill-thought policies”.

He accuses Akufo-Addo’s government of “illegal and excessive printing of money” and depleting Ghana’s external reserves “which resulted in the unprecedented depreciation of the cedi, the main cause of hyperinflation in 2022.”

By August 2023, inflation had shot to 40%. The World Bank estimates that 850,000 Ghanaians were pushed further below the poverty line in 2022 due to inflation alone.

There is little chance that Akufo-Addo will recover from such a record.

“A new government will take over in 2025,” predicts Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe, a leading member of the New Patriotic Party, which Akufo-Addo leads.

Nyaho-Tamakloe blames corruption in the current regime and says the new 2025 government “must bring to book all the people in the current government who have looted the country’s finances.”

Allotey agrees. Citing an investigation in which a special prosecutor seized over $800,000 in cash from the home of former minister Cecilia Abena Dapaah, he says: “The president came out to show support [to Dapaah]. If that is not collaborating with corruption, what else can this be?”

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper produced in partnership with the Mail & Guardian, which is designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here.