Dohinayili Tiwumti Women Rice Processors at an advocacy workshop for farmer-based organizations in Ghana's rural north. (Photo: CIPE)
From May 5-7, 2010 leaders from across Africa and over 1,000 participants from 85 countries converged in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for the 20th World Economic Forum on Africa, entitled, “Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy.” Participants examined opportunities to unlock Africa’s growth potential. African and international leaders are focused on a wide range of topics important to Africa’s growth and development, ranging from regional integration to how to create a more conducive business climate and how regulatory reform can encourage both local and international investment.
Peaceful elections do, in fact, occur in Africa, and Ghana’s, on December 7, should be duly noted. The results of Ghana’s elections were announced on December 10. The country will face a run-off election on December 28 because neither of the two frontrunners reached the 50 percent threshold required to declare victory. Governing National Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate Nana Akufo-Addo won 49.13 percent of the votes and John Atta Mills from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) won 47.92 percent of the vote.
These facts, however, do not fully capture Ghana’s historic movement to an increasingly stable democracy. While the elections are not yet over, it is important that we do not look at them as a singular event that has already passed on as the newsfeeds continue to focus on many of the tragic news coming from many parts of Africa. Let’s examine the positive and very newsworthy stories coming from Ghana’s elections:
- At the end of Ghana’s second round of presidential debates, the four major presidential candidates literally came together by holding hands and verbally pledging for peaceful elections. This pledge has been circulated on billboards throughout the country as a positive reminder of what can and will be. And the peace has held despite a close contest and despite Ghana’s recent discovery of offshore oil worth a possible $3 billion.
With the post-election violence in Kenya an all too recent memory and as Zimbabwe continues to slip into a downward spiral after its most recent elections, Ghana’s December 7 elections could be a breath of fresh air for Africa. This is the first time in Ghanaian history that all major parties are taking part in televised presidential debates.
Today, Ghana’s four presidential candidates will sit before a record-setting television and radio audience for the second and final round before the elections. Today’s debate will address governance and social issues following the October 29 debate, which focused primarily on the economy and energy. Knowledge of the candidates’ platforms will help Ghanaians make an educated presidential choice not along ethnic lines, monetary handouts, or coercion, but based on policy.
The first round of debates on October 28th in Accra were an overwhelming success. They reached a record-breaking number of people – between 10 to 20 million with exact numbers difficult to determine. The debate was substantive, focused, and provided concrete policy positions. For example, on the economy and energy, My Joy Online reported:
In tandem with his party’s philosophy, Nana Akufo-Addo said the private sector was critical in dealing with the question of job creation….He said small and medium scale enterprises in the country should be supported because they are the main providers of jobs.