Ghana’s economic development dilemma: Need for paradigm shift

If you are an ardent viewer or fan of the National Geographic Wild, you are likely to agree with me that come each new day, an antelope in the jungle somewhere in the world wakes up bearing in mind that it must outrun the fastest lion, or perish. Likewise, a lion wakes up, every day, stretches and understands that it must outrun the fastest antelope or starve to death.

This routine phenomenon is indeed not different in the survival and development of every human being or a nation. Whether considered at personal or national levels, like the antelope or the lion, the crux of the point is that everyone or nation must simply outrun the race of development faster than others in order to survive.

Since the inception of our political independence in 1957 as a country, our economic development effort/drive was inevitably equally handed over to us as people with “common” destiny within our clearly defined geographical space. Unfortunately, however, we have arguably struggled to attain meaningful economic independence and development over the past 65 years of nationhood.

Indeed, politically, various governments (including military regimes) have over the period endeavored to steer the socio-economic and political development of the country through different compass lenses (often magnified around manifestoes or pledges) towards the attainment of a desired position of the country within the global economic ecosystem. But, without any equivocation, inasmuch as some progress has been made over the years, the speed of these socioeconomic development desired by every Ghanaian is quite slow and incommensurate with the country’s enormous natural resources and ‘talented’ human resources. We are therefore being left
far behind the speed of change and development around the globe.

By the way, with a public debt stock of ¢341.8 billion as at the end of September, 2021, and growing (November, 2021 Bank of Ghana Summary of Economic and Financial Data), a Debt to GDP ratio hovering around 78.6% or more, coupled with myriads of critical needs such as basic health facilities, basic school structures, etc., is it not just about the right time to take a genuine pause as a people to rethink the approach to our developmental efforts? After all, as the saying or the song goes “Once to everyone and Nation comes the moment to decide”. The time to decide is NOW.

Fellow countrymen, in the current scheme of things, it is no secret that many Ghanaians, especially, the younger generation, and interestingly, the political class themselves, are dissatisfied and despondent with the direction we are headed, which doesn’t convey guaranteed, meaningful and sustainable development of our beloved country, Ghana. Unquestionably, many observers, (including myself) vehemently hold the view that the current national governance and economic development quagmire requires a paradigm shift, where a unified and concerted approach needs to be adopted, for us to recover and survive in the global economic development race. Like many,
I believe we require not only a critical assessment of the current global economic development ecosystem, otherwise known as the new economy, our leadership and governance structure/systems, but also a re-examination and provocation of possible changes to our sociocultural values, human capacity building and empowerment strategies, and law and regulatory regime enforcement efforts in moving our country forward.

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It is worth noting that the new economy is highly characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (V.U.C.A). As such, it requires constant, deliberate and unified effort across board in monitoring and evaluating current trends so as to draw ourselves closer to
sustainable and progressive national economic development. Indeed, it is evident that the economic development of our beloved country cannot happen overnight, nor stop or be halted once the process has begun. We need to keep moving forward in the right direction devoid of parochial interests. From all angles of today’s fast-paced world, we must equally recognize, appreciate and admit that to survive and remain relevant players within the geopolitical and socioeconomic space, a nation should either be seen or known leading the global development agenda (as most Asian, Arab and some African countries are currently doing) or be left behind. The time is ripe to deliberately take our collective destiny into our own hands with deliberate strategic focus in our economic development agenda. Otherwise, if we continue to turn a blind eye to the realities of the new economy brought about by globalization, we should be prepared to continue to suffer its effects of being left behind.

Gladly, the new economy offers numerous opportunities for our collective advancement. So, we are better off embracing wholeheartedly, these positive and progressive opportunities of the new economy in order to bridge the yawning developmental gap between our country and the industrialized nations. Without doubt, the current global economic development ecosystem does not require only huge manufacturing and production complexes to thrive, as were the means that secured the supremacy of industrialized nations in the past, but also the ultra-fast technologies that energize and boost the performance and reduce costs in agriculture, industry and services. By
adopting a more robust global stance in trade, economics, science and enlightenment, not only shall we reap the immense benefits for the current generation, but also afford us the appropriate share of the world’s riches.

It’s noteworthy to state that in the new economy, all nations are striving hard to adapt to the new realities and prepare their citizens to face the challenges of the present and the future. Our beloved country, Ghana is no exception. So long as we remain part and parcel of the comity of nations in the world, we cannot take things for granted. Perhaps, drawing from the statement by one of the most respectable and admired leaders on the African Continent, the late Nelson Mandela that “no country can really develop unless its citizens are educated”, we speedily but accurately need to develop and/or improve on an all-rounded educational system that promotes creativity and skills of the citizenry as one of the critical immediate priorities we need to move towards becoming part of the developed nations. We need to act speedily, as the fastest overtakes the biggest. Supporting and pushing for the right change or shift in paradigm by effectively adapting to the rapidly changing new economy remains an obvious choice/decision we need to make as a people with a common destiny, which will not only end up in catapulting us to becoming a relevant player within the advanced world, but also will enable us match the speed at which the world is developing.

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We do not need the change that allows us to catch up or cope with others; we need the type of change that allows us not only to win the present race, but lead the next. Too much time have already been wasted in the shadow of our past by constantly singing our closed-minded praises (more often from political party point of view) and comparing our historical status to other nations like Singapore and Malaysia. It is time to look forward and embrace the rudiments and the myriad of challenges of the times and plan for the future collectively. Indeed, the challenges of the times are quite enormous. But as prevailed in the past, our forefathers also had grievous challenges which they had to surmount to preserve the geopolitical and economic space we are currently operating in. Therefore, overcoming the numerous challenges in our race to economic development remains the utmost secret to our survival. Failure to do so, we risk downfall and continuous trail behind
other nations.

As succinctly captured in the book, ‘My Vision – Challenges in the Race for Excellence’ authored by His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai, “nation building requires intense effort at building a community and homeland.

A phenomenal task not undertaken lightly, but shouldered by a nation’s government, its public and private sectors, and its people. They must all be willing to respond to the rapidly changing conditions that ricochet around the world at breakneck speed. To achieve this, a modern infrastructure is not enough; there must be VISION and FLEXIBILITY to embrace change, to continuously adapt and improve individual and national economic performance, and commitment to selfless service to fellow countrymen and women”. To be successful in our collective developmental efforts, therefore we need to formulate and agree on a clear VISION and/or UNIFYING PURPOSE as a nation with serious developmental ambition. Most of the countries we often compare our country with, such as South Korea,
Singapore, Malaysia, etc., can be said to have succeeded in their developmental efforts by outclassing us through well-thought out and ambitious Vision and Focus. It took great Vision, Sacrifice, Determination and Mutual Commitment to Excellence by the leadership and their
citizens to propel those countries out of their initial economic woes to become respectable global economic development players. It wasn’t about intentions and rhetoric or speechmaking, it has been about being Pragmatic, Realistic and continuously working assiduously towards sustainable development.

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If we are to witness drastic departure from the current approach to our economic development effort, then it is time we admit as Ghanaians that inasmuch as our democratic governance structure or systems have provided great platforms for the joggling of ideas through party politics, it hasn’t helped much in our economic development effort. To harness the economic benefits of our democracy, we therefore urgently need to build consensus on a UNIQUE VISION for our beloved country, which we shall all collectively rally behind and pursue to its realization, irrespective of party affiliations. Such a unique vision should be:
§ Ambitious in form, essence and implementation.
§ Comprehensive and far-sighted.
§ Straightforward and clear to make it easier to implement.
§ Able to stir up creativity and initiative in the citizenry.

This calls for urgent national forum, devoid of individual political party interest, to brainstorm the future of our beloved country. The young people are craving for fast-paced economic development for a better life. Our traditional rulers, religious leaders and eminent personalities must be bold to support this clarion call. I am deeply convinced that if we continue on this current tangent, we will only be tickling ourselves and laughing and not record or witness any meaningful and sustainable development. We must all put our shoulders to the wheel. Let’s take our collective destiny into our own hands and build our country together for posterity. We deserve better with our God-given
resources. As the Medieval Philosopher, Socrates puts it, “unexamined life is not worth living”.

Fellow countrymen, especially, politicians, it is time to stop the rhetoric, acrimony and the parochial personal and party interest, and take stock of our economic development effort so as make life worth living.

Finally, let’s bear in mind that “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do” – Bruce Lee.


Author: Dr Victor Abbey – Fellow, CILG (USA & Ghana) (Author, Strategic Leadership, Security Risk & Change Management Consultant)


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