11 December 2012

Ghana: The Task before John Mahama

Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege reports from Accra. ( Resource: Ghana Voters React to Mahama's Win )

President-elect Mahama has the onerous task of keeping up Ghana's good governance records.

The November 30, 2012 Ghana general election expectedly lived up to the country's democratic reputation. As predicted, the two leading parties - President John Dramani Mahama's National Democratic Congress, NDC and Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo's New Patriotic Party, NPP - remained evenly matched as they were in 2008. But at the end, John Mahama took the day, winning by a 50.7 per cent margin as against Akuffo-Addo's 47.7 per cent.

Ghana has made steady political progress since multiparty democracy was installed in 1992; having experienced two peaceful transfers of power since then. Late President John Atta Mills who passed away last July, built on the country's solid democratic foundation laid by former military ruler, Jerry John Rawlings. Mills gained wide acclaim for his personal integrity and stewardship of Ghana's transition into a middle-income economy. This was largely due to the start of oil production at the end of 2010. As a result, Ghana's Growth Domestic Product grew by more than 14 per cent in 2011; making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Maintaining or surpassing such records will therefore be the test of President-elect John Dramani Mahama. As he takes up office on January 7, 2013, the challenges ahead are enormous, but surmountable. First, are the heightened expectations of Ghanaian citizens for material improvements in their daily lives. Despite phenomenal growth in 2011, observers point to the risk of rapid inflation and the task of creating jobs for the country's burgeoning youth population. Sound economic management will be required to ensure that Ghana's oil wealth is harnessed in a transparent, accountable way that delivers sustainable, broad-based growth.

This will not be an easy task if the track record of other resource-rich African nations is anything to go by. Corruption is another big challenge. Ghana's institutions are fairly robust, but are being gradually eroded by the influence of oil money and the growing threat of international drug trafficking through West Africa. On the other hand, the economy has not remained unscathed by the global economic crisis. Its currency, the Cedi, lost 17 per cent of its value to the US Dollar this year.

Rapid population growth amongst the youth has made access to education difficult. Young women face additional challenges with less than 60 per cent finishing primary school and the rate of HIV infection being twice as high amongst young women as that of their male peers aged 14 to 24 years. On the sub-regional level, the new President is expected to join other leaders in restoring peace and stability to Guinea Bissau and Mali as well as handling the often volatile security situation on the border with Côte d'Ivoire. Above all, the most important challenge for Mahama would be maintaining Ghana's success story - its peace, stability, democratic credentials, flourishing economy, vibrant civil society, free press and record of good governance.

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