Ramaphoria just can’t keep up with Addo-ration
Ghana has a spring in its step. The first African state to fight for and win its independence is again leading the way. Growing at a cracking pace of over 7% last year (almost double the rate of 3.6% in 2016), this West African giant has as much Addo-ration as we have Ramaphoria. “Ramaphoria” describes the wave of positivity that gripped South Africa when Cyril Ramaphosa became president in February. I had the privilege of hearing the newly minted Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo, speak at a celebration of World Press Freedom Day this week, and it was delightful. He promised an access to information law by the end of the year and said he preferred the boisterous media scene in a free Ghana to the censored, stateowned beast that beset the nation when it struggled through decades of corruption and bad governance.
There’s a long way to go. Ghana is still aid-dependent and owes a whack to the IMF and World Bank, but its new order of leaders cut a very different image of the strong man of African politics. Take Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta. This founder of Data Bank put his shares into a trust to join public service. I was recently part of the moderator corps of a seminar called the “Great Africa Reset” he organised with Adrian Enthoven of Yellowwoods and Isaac Shongwe of Letsema. OforiAtta did not have a single bodyguard or flunky with him — the average
South African cabinet minister has about 20. He was engaged and interested, and is resetting the Ghanaian economy. Ghana is on a steep reform curve.
Ditto the Ghanaian minister of information, Mustapha Hamid. The
Ghanaian cabinet appears to comprise young technocrats with a single ambition: to get foreign investment into the country and to wean the nation off foreign aid. Their ambitions seem greater than the power of the role and the self-aggrandisement that can often go with it.
I’m sure there are nuances but I found it exciting to experience what is billed as a “New Day” in Ghana to match Ramaphosa’s “New Dawn”.
The plane on the flight over to Accra was filled with business people, and South African miners, retailers and banks are flocking west. The
Economic Times in Accra reported this week that, by the end of last year, capital investment by South African companies in Ghana stood at
R71-billion. It’s growing fast. While I was there, MTN rolled out a prototype ATM as it expands into banking.
Closer to home, Zimbabwe is a profitable option for companies that want to be part of its renaissance. Ramaphosa’s four investment envoys have been set a mammoth task to leverage $100-billion investment into South Africa to stimulate growth that is looking up but is well behind the curve of leading African economies. The four are top-drawer business people: former finance minister Trevor Manuel; former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas; businesswoman Phumzile Langeni; and former Standard Bank boss Jacko Maree. Perhaps I suffer the tyranny of lowered expectations after the disastrous years of Jacob Zuma, when growth slowed to the speed of a tortoise and poverty and unemployment shot up, but I feel upbeat about Ramaphosa. However, everywhere I go, there is a feeling that he’s not moving quickly enough.
In under 100 days, he has done at least 40 cool things, but in a world of such furious pace, there appears to be a need for greater speed. Faster moves on economic reform, more axing of useless political heads and sharper action at the NPA.
It’s an unfair burden to put on a new leader and one that underestimates the fragility of his political coalition, but perception is fact, and, after visiting Accra this week and Kigali last year, as well as watching Harare’s new dawn, it’s clear the regional competition is much stiffer than it was a year ago.
It’s clear the regional competition is much stiffer than it was a year ago