13 September 2018

Africa: Young Ghanaians Inspired by Kofi Annan

Photo: Kofi Annan Foundation
Kofi Annan's family gather for his state funeral in Accra.

The state funeral of former UN chief Kofi Annan drew world leaders and royalty to his native Ghana, where young people especially are inspired by the distinguished diplomat who put their country on the world map.

The first United Nations secretary general from sub-Saharan Africa (1997 to 2006), Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2001 and founding member of The Elders, died on August 18 at the age of 80.

Kofi Atta Annan was born one of twins into a prominent family in Ghana's second-biggest city of Kumasi in the Ashanti Region in 1938. His father was governor of Ashanti province under British colonial rule. He attended top schools in Ghana, the US and Switzerland.

DW spoke to young people across the West African country who say they feel encouraged by Annan's legacy despite the incredible hardship and obstacles to success that some of them face.

"You know our situation - we have financial difficulties and all that - so sometimes, growing up, you depend on your parents a lot, said Daniel Nkansah Ampapeng, a 26-year-old student from the Ashanti Region.

"Growing up in Ghana, you cannot survive on what your parents give you."

"He is an inspiration to a lot of people. Looking at where he came from and where he landed, that is my inspiration, actually," Afi Antonio, a 28-year-old fashion enthusiast from the Volta Region along the border with Togo, told DW.

In Ghana it's "who you know"

In Ghana, where an estimated 57 percent of the population is under the age of 25, young people have a hard time finding jobs. Nearly half of the country's rural youth have had no education, according to the 2015 Ghana Labour Force Report.

"It is very difficult, particularly if you didn't grow up in a wealthy family, you have to struggle your way through and in Ghana it's who you know," said Dennis Dogbe, 32.

Antonio agreed. "No one is saying it is not difficult, but if you are determined and focused, you will get there."

The many young people are entering local politics these days can learn from Annan, said Professor Kwame Prempeh, a governance analyst and director of the Center for Democratic Development.

"Especially in our politics that tends to be aggressive, very rivalrous, very us versus them. I think he really teaches us the value of thinking of all of us as belonging to the same team, working together to build that commonwealth called Ghana," Prempeh said.

"Praying very hard to emulate his humbleness"

The actual background of the Ghanaian who made history at home, in Africa and the world is not known to most youth, historian Herbert Appiah Ofori told DW.

Ampaneng, who hails from Annan's home region in Ghana, wants to be like him.

"Definitely, I am praying very hard to emulate his humbleness and to emulate his peaceful demeanor to achieve a very high position in future, maybe at the African Union, or basically on the Ghanaian political frontier," he said

Annan's funeral in the capital Accra was followed by a private burial service.

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