There’s Life After Being President
Ebo Quansah in Accra
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor left the Accra International Conference Centre on Friday night, a contented man. After two hours of sitting in to a talk on the future of Africa, in the second lecture on the Global Development Series of the John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation at the centre’s main auditorium, the Chairman of the Foundation was satisfied with the delivery and was elated by the reaction of the audience, who gave the lecturer a standing ovation..
“I am extremely satisfied with how the evening has gone. Ngozi got the audience spell-bound. And from the reaction of the audience, they got more than they came here for,” Prof. Dodoo,the Chairman of the John A. Kufuor Foundation told The Chronicle.
The second in the series of lectures organized by the foundation had the theme: What Africa Should Do to Claim the 21st Century. It was delivered by Dr. Nkozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister for Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy in Nigeria.
The brochure listed her job as “responsible for managing the finances of Africa’s most populous nation and one of the world’s fastest growing economy.”
Dr. Nkozi-Iweala was from 2007 to August 2011, Managing Director of the World Bank Group, “where she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s US$81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South East Asia, Europe and Central Asia,” said the brochure on the event.
With the political weight of the Chairman of the Foundation, the evenings’ audience had a political bias.
In attendance was the Flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party in the 2012 elections, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo , Minority Leader in Parliament, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, a number of NPP Parliamentarians and former ministers in the Kufuor regime. Current Finance Minister Mr. Seth Tekper was also in attendance.
On first entering the auditorium, one was soothed by the sweet rendition of the Winneba Youth Choir, rendering patriotic songs and popular Ghanaian gospel music. The choir was in full flow, when the voice of veteran Yoofi Grant boomed in the background to announce the commencement of the night’s function.
Mr. Grant invited Rev. Sackey of the Anglican Church to commit the evening’s proceedings into the hands of the Almighty after which he invited Dr. Paul Acquah, former Governor of the Bank of Ghana, when Kufuor sat at the Castle, to the podium.
Dr. Acquah’s shot message was that the image of Africa is undergoing transformation from the era of doom and gloom. He said the notion out there was that Africa would catch up with Europe and America if the two economic super-powers stood still for 40 years. Currently though, “there is an analytical data that suggests that Africa’s fortune is brighter.”
Naturally, former President John Agyekum Kufuor, under whose auspices the Foundation organized the lecture, was invited to the podium. In his welcome message, the Chairman of the Foundation, who was Head of State of the Republic of Ghana for eight years, said the foundation had been set up to help nurture leaders of the various facets of society.
“Africa is a continent blessed with abundant natural and human resources. It has all that is needed for accelerated development in a sustainable and equitable manner. However, there cannot b e any sustainable development without good governance and strong and effective leadership.
“The John A. Kufuor Foundation, therefore, has the vision of being an enabling vehicle for the consolidation of leadership and democratic governance in Africa.
“In addition, the foundation aims to provide tangible evidence of its vision by partnering with select organizations to deliver progress in health, education and agriculture, all within the framework of good leadership, strong governance and sustainable development,” the former President explained.
When it was the turn of the main speaker, time stood still. First the Winneba Youth Choir was invited to soften the ground, ahead of the main speaker’s presentation. After the choir, a two-man appellation singing squad, with locally made chord and violin, invaded the podium to invite Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, an academic with four children, to speak.
“The story of Africa, sang the praise singers in Twi, “would be told by an African woman from the kitchen, telling the audience that there were more Nigerians in the audience with working knowledge of Twi, to translate the message to the lecturer.
Just as the praise singers took their bow, a Nigerian cultural troupe invaded the auditorium, singing and dancing to greet the Nigerian Minister of Finance.
With all the rigmarole over, the atmosphere was set for the former Managing Director of the World Bank to move to the podium.
Ngozi, who serves on many international organizations, including the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States, did not disappoint.
She rallied her audience with the can-do spirit that has the potent force to catapult Africa to effectively take charge of her destiny in the 21st Century. She said various countries in Africa, especially in the ECOWAS sub-region, have the natural resources and the manpower, to co-operate for the progress of their areas of influence.
“The best hair-dresser in my village is a Ghanaian…Ghanaians say they are Black Stars of Africa and the gateway to the sub-region. Nigeria is the destination,” Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said to wide applause.
She said in the eyes of the international community, Africa is already claiming the 21st century.” Since 2004, Africa has grown faster than most parts of the world, except South-East Asia.”
“Nigeria and Ghana can be a collective power of Africa and West Africa if we can look closely at economic ties we need to build to bind us,” she stressed.
The Nigerian Finance Minister identified infrastructure development as key, and assured her audience that with the co-operation like the unity of purpose with which countries in the sub-region were working on the West African Gas pipeline, Africa should be able to compete effectively.
“Infrastructure is certainly key, to the making of the West African Gas Pipe-line to work better. But trade is equally important. We need to facilitate commerce in our sub-region, making it easier for the private sector to manufacture and sell goods in our various countries.
In West Africa, we have a charter that calls for free movement of people and goods. But try crossing any of our borders. Overzealous immigration and custom officers take advantage of the vulnerability of tourists and traders to squeeze every ounce of bribe from them. One would hope that such unscrupulous public officials were brought to book.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said with conflicts abating on many fronts on the continent, various countries in Africa were now paying attention to factors that would aid trade and development. She premised her idea of development on the creation of the enabling atmosphere to promote productivity.
With the story of seizure of political power by men in uniform abating, indicators for the economic well-being of the various countries and their people, is becoming more prominent. She said inflation was dipping in most African countries and that what used to be over 48 percent inflation in most parts of the continent, was now hovering below nine percent.
To claim the 21st Century, Africa needs to manage climate change and create more job s for her people, Ngozi asserted. Africa is becoming warmer by an alarming one degree per cent per annum affecting rainfall pattern.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala ended by paying a glowing tribute to the idea behind the creation of the John A. Kufuor Foundation. “I will like to recognize that the John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation has become an important centre for Africa. It tells me that that there is life after becoming President.”
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