A Sub-Saharan African beyond AID

President of Ghana: H.E Akufo Addo

During a visit to Ghana by the president of France Emmanuel Macron, both men gave a press conference and during the press conference a question was directed to president Akufo concerning Africa’s continuous reliance on European countries. Akufo's response to the question has kept the continent moving. He began by apologising for the comments he was about to make. Read the full response below.

I hope that the comments I am about to make will not offend the questioner too much and some people around here.

I think those are fundamental mistake with most of the issues in the question:

We can no longer continue to make policy for ourselves, in our country, in our region, in our continent on the basis of whatever support the western world or France, or the European Union can give us.

It will not work. It has not worked and it will not work. Our responsibility is to chart a path which is about how we can develop our nations ourselves.  It is not right for a country like Ghana, 60 years after independence to still have its health and education budget being financed on the basis of the generosity and charity of the European tax payers.

By now, we should be able to finance our basic needs ourselves, and if we are going to look at the next 60 years as period of transition, a period whereby we can stand on our own feet, our perspective has not to be what the French tax payers decide to do with whatever surpluses they have in France.  They are welcome. They are appreciated whatever interventions that French tax payers through their governments make to us are appreciated.

We are not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. But this continent with all that has happened is still today the repository of at least 30 per cent of the most important minerals of the world. It is a continent of a vast arable and fertile land. It has the youngest population of any of the continents of the world, so it has the energy and the dynamism. We have seen it, these young men who are showing so much resilience and ingenuity in crossing the Sahara, finding ways to go across with rickety boats across the Mediterraneans. Those energies, we want to have those energies working inside our countries and we are going to have those energies working in our countries, if we begin to build systems that tell the young people of our country that their hopes, their opportunities are right here with us. Migration in the movement of people is being presented in manners which suggest somehow it’s a new phenomenon. There is nothing new about it. It’s as old as man the movement of people and it has always been linked to the same thing; the failure of where you are to provide you with an opportunity so you move somewhere else.

Those of you, who are familiar with 19th century European History, will know that the biggest wave of immigration in 19th Europe came from Ireland, came from Italy. Waves upon waves of Italians and Irish people left their countries to seek the American paradise, largely because Ireland was not working, Italy was not working. Today you don’t hear it. Italian young people are in Italy, Irish young people are in Ireland. We want young Africans to stay in Africa.

That means that we have to get away from this mind-set of dependence, this mind-set of what can France do for us. France will do whatever it needs to do for its own sake and when those coincide with ours “tant mieux” as the French people say. But our main responsibility as leaders as citizens, is what we need to grow our own countries, what are the institutions that work, that will allow us to have good governance, to have accountable governance, make sure that the money that are placed at the disposal of the leaders are used for the interest of the state and not for the interest of the leaders. To have systems that allow for accountability, that allow for diversity, that allow for people to be able to express themselves  and contribute to  fashioning the public will and the public interest.

Our concern should be with what do we need to do in this 21st century to move Africa away from being capped in hand and begging for AID, for charity, for handouts. The African continent, when you look at these resources, should be giving monies to other places. We have huge wealth on this continent. In our own country of Ghana, we need to have a mind-set that says, we can do it, others have done it, and we can also do it. And once we have that mind-set, we will see the liberating factor for ourselves. We keep talking about how it was that Koreans, Malaysians, and Singaporeans who got Independence at the same time as us. We are told of at the time of Ghanaian independence our per capital income was higher than that of Korea. Today in Korea is part of the first world, so is Malaysia, so is Singapore, what happened?

Why did they make that transition and 60 years after independence we are where we are. Those are the matters that should concern all of us as Africans, as Ghanaians, and not, when I say so with the greatest respect for the French president, the corporation of France is something that I am as you know, is a strong friend of France; I am Francophile so I don’t have any difficulty with that. But I am talking about our own propulsion, what we need to do to get our countries to work, so that we can create the conditions that would allow our young people to forgo this hazardous effort to get to Europe.

They are not going there because they want to, they are going there because they don’t believe they have any opportunities in our countries, so that should be our focus and I believe that without that, if we change that mind-set , that mind-set of dependence, that  mind-set which is contingent on aid and charity we would see that in the decades ahead of us the full flowering of the African peoples would take place and that new African personality that was talked about at the time of our independence will become real  and imminent in our times. That’s what I am saying, I hope I am not upsetting the questioner or even some of my friends who are here, but these are my strongly held believes and this is the reason why I have adopted as the slogan of my presidency of my period of the supreme office of Ghana that we want to build a Ghana beyond aid. A Ghana which is independent, which is self-sufficient, that is capable of standing on its own feet and building its own life. We can do it if we have the correct mind-set to so.