President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has urged world leaders to focus their energies and resources on combating poverty, as their performance as governments will be judged by how successful they are able to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty in their respective countries.
The President noted that poverty anywhere degraded everyone, whether he or she was found in the developed or developing world, and urged leaders of individual sovereign countries to bear the responsibility not only for reducing poverty but also creating prosperity for their citizens.
Taking his turn to address the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, he said: “We know that our performance as governments will be judged by how successful we are in reducing and eventually eradicating poverty in our countries.
“For us (in Africa), poverty is a daily reality that we live with and feel, for far too many of our people are burdened with it, and it robs us of the dignity that should be the inherent right of every human being.”
The use of technology, access to education and the fight against illicit financial flows from the continent, among others, he said, provided Ghana and, indeed, Africa with clear paths towards winning the fight against poverty and lifting up the standard of living of their peoples.
Rich, yet poor
With the world dependent on minerals from Africa, President Akufo-Addo bemoaned the prevalent levels of poverty on the continent, largely resulting from the fact that Africa did not get a fair share of the wealth extracted from the continent.
“I do not seek to blame outsiders for our problems, but since we are being urged to find multilateral solutions, I believe it is worth pointing out that unfairness in the economic order undermines the fight against poverty. Indeed, the flight of capital is continuing the external exploitation of Africa, represented by colonialism and imperialism,” he said.
He called for more collaboration among the nations of the world to stop the illicit financial outflows from Africa which cost more than $50 billion annually, and stressed the need for the world to work together to “stop this rape of Africa”.
The coming into effect of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), President Akufo-Addo noted, was a major collective effort by Africa to get to firmly grip the mastery of its own development.
“It will be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and will provide the vehicle for us to trade more among ourselves, offer an opportunity to exploit the abundant wealth and resources for the benefit of our peoples and give us protection in how to deal with other trading blocks,” he said.
The President also said Ghana still believed the key to prosperity was quality education and had thus taken the step to invest more in that sector to safeguard the future of the country and its citizens to put them in a place to effectively compete with the world.
“Where quality education is available, there is usually prosperity, and throughout the ages, education has been the most equitable source of providing opportunities and has provided the fastest and most reliable route out of poverty.
“We, in Ghana, acknowledge that we need an educated and skilled population to be able to compete effectively in the world economy. We are, therefore, taking the brave step of spending on education a substantial part of our national revenue; indeed, a third of our nation’s budget,” he said.
He said education must go in tandem with technology to accelerate the provision of quality education to as many people as possible.
“Very soon, we may not have to enter classrooms nor even go to the hallowed grounds of the famous universities to gain access to the knowledge that used to be exclusively available in those institutions,” he said.
While that was possible, President Akufo-Addo said, the benefits of those opportunities made possible by technology could only be derived with the provision of the appropriate infrastructure at the basic level.
“We need to provide reliable electricity and Internet services for the people in our towns and villages, and then they can truly join in the benefits of the technology that brings quality education to all. We can then have a realistic expectation of a prosperous future,” he said.
Technological advances, President Akufo-Addo explained, were short-circuiting the path out of poverty, adding that “it is no longer the long and tortuous road it used to be”.
With more than 41 million mobile subscriptions in Ghana at the moment, he said, it “has led to a remarkable difference in communications within our country and with the outside world. A sizeable and growing number of the population has been and is being brought into the formal banking sector by the mobile phone”.
Also, he said, the modernisation of agriculture through the application of technology could well turn out to be the fastest way to make the turnaround that Ghana sought.
Ghana’s and Africa’s youth, he stressed, had demonstrated their ingenuity and innovative prowess and they had to be enlisted fully in the fight against poverty.
“It will be an easier battle if trade practices are seen to be fairer and more equitable. The question always remains whether the rich nations are prepared for an equitable and fair-trading order,” President Akufo-Addo added.