Protect Ghana's Democratic Reputation - F.W de Klerk

A former South African President, Mr F.W de Klerk, has urged Ghana to guard its reputation as a vibrant and stable democracy and beacon of good governance for the rest of Africa. He said Ghana had a smaller population compared to some other African countries, but a much larger reputation because of its continued holding of transparent and democratic elections in accordance with the law and must continue to uphold that reputation. Mr de Klerk was speaking on the topic: “The challenge of change in Africa” at a roundtable discussion organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on Monday. “Ghana has traditionally set the pace for change in Africa. Your country was the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence. You opened the way for the rest of the continent and espoused the ideal of African unity. Under the leadership of your late President John Evans Atta Mills, Ghana once again assumed a leadership position at the forefront of a new wave of freedom and development in our continent,” he said. Mr de Klerk, who is also a Nobel Laureate, said Ghana had been able to put aside its turbulent past and now played a major role in demonstrating stability on the continent. He added that the dominant reality of today was change and the key to survival in the world during the coming years was the ability of Ghana and Africa to adapt to change. Citing South Africa’s ability to effectively manage change during his tenure as President as an example, he said one could either be a victim of change or manage change effectively. He said in South Africa, change from a racially based society to a free and democratic one transformed the country and it was a clear example of how to manage change effectively. “In the same way, Africa today is faced with the challenge of managing the enormous changes that confront the continent,” he said. He said Africa was rapidly emerging from the periphery of global strategic interest and its mineral and agricultural resources were becoming increasingly essential for Europe, North America and Asia. As a result, he said, the continent was once again becoming a contested area as emerging economic powers led by China’s scramble for a share of its enormous mineral and agricultural resources. “In a world that would be increasingly hungry for natural resources and for food, increasing attention would inevitably be focused on Africa. “It is not by any means certain that such attention will always be benign or be concerned with the best interests of Africa or its people,” he said. To protect its turf from outsiders, wherever they may come from, he said Africa must change its attitude to governance, resolve its remaining conflicts, establish genuine democracies in the 39 sub-Saharan countries that were still only partially free and eliminate pervasive corruption. “Africa must change its attitude towards economic development; diminish dependence on foreign aid; expand intra-African trade; gain a larger and fairer slice of international trade; avoid reliance on single commodities; beneficiate its mineral and agricultural products; change its attitude to human development and catch up with the rest of the world in terms of education,” he said. Mr de Klerk said Africa must work towards doubling the percentage of children who went to high school and university and improve health, housing and social conditions, adding that “I believe that Africa is capable of accepting these challenges and that Ghana, once again, is showing the way.” Whatever happened, he said, global strategic attention would be increasingly focused on the continent because of its enormous mineral resources; because of its untapped agricultural potential in an increasingly hungry world; and because of the potential of its people. “Africa must show that it has the ability to manage the change that will confront it in the years and decades that lie ahead. If it does, I am confident that this will indeed turn out to be the African century,” he added. The Chairman of the IEA, Dr Charles Mensa, noted that in Africa, many political parties lacked depth and were divided along ethnic lines. Such parties, he said, could not contribute to socio-economic development and Ghana needed not go along similar lines.