Ghana: A Model for Progress in Sub-Saharan Africa

March 15, 2012 By Jane Kaminski

“There is always something new out of Africa” – Pliny the Elder

As Ambassador Mark Green travels around Ghana, a primer on the types of success that the country is enjoying with its development programs:

For the longest time, many Americans viewed Africa as a so-called “lost cause”.  They believed that extreme poverty, dangerous pandemics, and poor governance were the norm and would continue to be for years to come.  However, Africa has entered a new time of hope and optimism—and nowhere is that more true than in Ghana.  Though just 20 years ago, it was struggling with a corrupt government, negligible economic growth, and poor standards in education, today Ghana has shown consistent, marked improvements on all counts.  With a free and open government, annual GDP growth per capita of 2.6% for the past 15 years, and literacy rates are far higher in young populations as more young men and women are attending school for longer.  The promise of the younger generation, the economic opportunities, and the deepening democratic ideals within Ghana give hope and a framework for its neighbors, while building up a new, important hub for international commerce in Africa.

 American support for democratic and economic progress

The United States and Ghana have enjoyed close ties for decades.  Just 4 years after Ghana gained independence, the first 52 Peace Corps volunteers were sent to Ghana in 1961, and since then, more than 4,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served to build peace and stability there.  The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has contributed life-saving AIDS testing and education of thousands of Ghanaian people, and the Presidential Malaria Initiative (PMI) has provided millions of mosquito nets, educated pregnant women, and diagnosed and treated thousands of people suffering from malaria.

The United States has been a strong partner in building Ghana’s political system and economy. USAID has programs building up civil society, supporting transparency initiatives, and encouraging civil participation in government.  Since 1996, Ghana has held free and fair elections, with relatively smooth transfers of power.  Freedom House has ranked Ghana as ‘Free’ with high scores in political rights, freedom rating, and civil liberties. International investors have taken notice of the stability of the government and opportunity for commerce and prosperity in this country.  Gross domestic consumption and household investment in Ghana grew by over 11% in 2010.  Clearly, there’s a rapidly developing market for U.S. goods and services, and American institutions have been taking lead roles in drawing up important sectors to improve the breadth, depth and sustainability of Ghanaian industry.

Just this February, Ghana wrapped up its Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact, which helped build economic infrastructure necessary for the Ghanaian economy to continue to thrive.  The Compact supported some 1.2 million Ghanaians by building roads, improvinig agricultural infrastructure, and strengthening rural communities to contribute to a better-rounded, sustainable economy to support this rapidly emerging market.  Building off the success of the MCC, the Administration’s Parternship for Growth’s pilot program focused on Ghana as one of its four focus countries, engaging the Ghanaian government to continue to draw up its economy transparently and sustainably.  In another instance of a U.S. institution ensuring American participation in Ghana’s market, the Export-Import Bank of the United States is supporting projects that will be mutually beneficial to U.S. companies and Ghana. These exports are helping American companies maintain a highly skilled workforce in the United States while providing high quality, American products to the Ghanaian people.

Stronger future Ghana = Stronger future for everyone

Ghana, like most of its neighbors, has struggled with literacy and education, especially among women and girls.  International organizations like USAID have established programs to put more children in school and improve girl-to-boy education ratios.  USAID in particular supports scholarship programs that fund girls’ educations and work to improve school completion levels for children in Ghana.  As a result, the girl-to-boy ratio in schools is about .96:1, and total literacy rates among young people (children up to 15 years old) in Ghana is 79%, as opposed to 66% of all people 15 and older.  This educated, driven generation has been deemed the “cheetah Generation”.  They are dedicated to building up the region and country into a strong, engaged region in the world.  These young men and women have benefited from American and western educations, bringing back strong democratic ideals and fighting the biggest problems facing sub-Saharan Africa from corruption, to public health and education, to resolving endemic political conflicts.  The cheetah generation is representative of the promise of the region, and potential for success through effective American engagement in this flourishing part of the world.

So I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – as partners with America on behalf of the future that we want for all our children.

– President Barack Obama: July 2009, in Accra