Ramapho­ria just can’t keep up with Addo-ra­tion

Sunday Times - - Business Opinion & Bits - By Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee

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

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