Last week the African Liberation Network (ALN), the largest conglomeration of liberal political parties in Africa held their 54th General Assembly in Accra, Ghana. The General Assembly was hosted by the Progressive Peoples’ Party (PPP) and called for the creation of a more free and fair market on the continent.
Welcoming the delegates, Nii Allotey Brew Hammond, Chairman of the Progressive Peoples’ Party (PPP) also called for accelerating pro-people policies to fast-track improvements in the lives of the people.
Below is his FULL SPEECH:
Let me start by wishing you all a very Good Morning, and recognizing in our midst today the President of the African Liberal Network, Mr. Stevens Mokgalapa; Mr. Boris Van Der Ham, of the Democraten-66 (D66) political party and the Liberal International Human Rights Committee (LIHRC); the Network’s Strategic Partners – the UK Liberal Democrats, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom; and all other Distinguished Delegates & Liberal Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I stand here on behalf of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) in Ghana, feeling honored to welcome you this morning to Accra, on this occasion of the 14th Annual General Assembly of the Africa Liberal Network (ALN). It might interest you to know that the Progressive People’s Party is also commemorating its 6th Anniversary, having received the Certificate to operate as a Political Party in Ghana on February 3, 2012 and to highlight the occasion, our Youth Wing – the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) – also hosting the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY), held a youth conference last Saturday to raise concerns about the rising levels of youth unemployment and its associated social vices. So it is with pride that we host the largest gathering of Liberals and Democrats in African.
I welcome your focus on the Liberal approaches to Free Markets to combat poverty and the chronic unemployment in Africa, and join you in accepting The Principles of Liberalism, that recognizes “People First”, as Africa’s best policy guideline to achieve prosperity, especially in these times of pursuing maximum freedoms to solve our basic political and economic problems. Our goal should be to continue to affirm our commitment to the Freedoms, Equality, and Liberties embodied in Liberalism as the means to preserve our individual rights, maximize freedom of choice, and clear the restrictions on the progressive development of the African to achieve Prosperity-in-Peace within the decade.
We must review and examine our strength to win elections, to overcome our most urgent challenges in the pursuit of Human Progress in a Free World, address rising threats to Freedom with liberal responses, and provide equal Opportunities and Progress for all in Africa without abandoning our values and beliefs.
For many of you attending the two concurrent fora, after putting away the hassle to obtain entry visas, this may be your first visit to Ghana, with your knowledge of Ghana being that it was the first Country south of the Sahara, to have gained Independence from the European colonialists.
Incidentally, eight (8) other African countries before Ghana were Independent: Liberia – 1847 from USA, South Africa – 1910 from Britain, Egypt – 1922 from Britain, Ethiopia – 1941 from Italy, Libya – 1951 from Britain, Sudan – 1956 from Britain & Egypt, Tunisia – 1956 from France, and Morocco – 1956 from France & Spain.
Many of you may also recall that Kwame Nkrumah famously intoned in his speech marking Ghana’s Independence in 1957 – that our Independence was meaningless unless it was linked to the total liberation of the African Continent. Today, no part of the African Continent is under colonial rule, with 54 Independent African Nations making up the African Union. But can we say the African Continent is totally liberated? Can we say we are free?
The World Bank reports that though the poverty rate in Africa has fallen from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2012, our population which has grown by 2.5% per annum since 1990, means more Africans are living in extreme poverty today than was the case in 1990. Noting that Half of Africa’s poor are children. The World Bank admits, we don’t even have a true sense of the scope of poverty across our continent due to unreliable surveys. But we can look around and see that although African economies appear to be growing, inequality is growing alongside it.
As we enjoy the air conditioning in this facility, scores of Ghanaians are sweating under the sweltering sun hawking, with young women balancing pans filled with all manner of sundry items on their heads, sidestepping gutters to keep pace for tips sometimes as low as GhC1. If they are lucky, they will earn GhC5 today–enough to pay for a stall in a kiosk to sleep in. If they aren’t able to earn enough they will sleep on platforms at Bus Stations with one eye open to potential armed robbers and rapists. And this is Ghana, stable, progressive peaceful prosperous Ghana. Let’s not talk about Nigeria. (Smile)
In Ghana, there are places where sellers quote prices in dollars because the Cedi’s value fluctuates downwards so often. To rent an apartment or house in Ghana, one has to be able to pay over two year’s advance rent–you heard me–two year’s rent. Who can afford that?
Then there are the continental conflicts and political upheavals from South Sudan to Mali that exacerbates the poor living conditions of our most vulnerable to turn citizens into refugees. Why do you think so many are desperately escaping the “freedom” in Africa, risking drowning in the Mediterranean as our sisters and brothers in Lampedusa did, or being sold into slavery by fellow Africans as we recently learned was going on in Libya? This is not the freedom Nkrumah hoped for when he envisioned an Africa totally independent of colonial rule.
He did identify neo-colonialism as the spiteful development of an Independent Africa, noting that Africa would be entrapped in other unsettling ways. Nkrumah wrote: “The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries from being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.”
It is not clear that the leadership we have had across the African continent since our respective Independence dates have been committed to the struggle against neo-colonialism, which is really a struggle for true freedom – political and economic independence. While our natural resources supply all of the global growth industries with raw materials to make mobile phones, airplanes, cars, jewelry, real estate construction, and more; too many of us remain extremely destitute. How is this happening? Year after year, decade after decade? As the richest continent in the world?
If we are to rid Africa of poverty completely, then our Progress today in Africa remains too slow and uneven where inequality has become an issue slowing down both economic growth and poverty reduction – fueling dangerous social and political pressures. Many of our fellow Africans do not have the basic education to understand what is happening in their countries and why they have to live under such hash and degrading conditions. If we are to lift the millions of our fellow Africans from out of extreme poverty and help liberate ourselves from authoritarian leaderships, then we must strive to have our governments ensure economic and political policies that:; Guarantees our children a compulsory 13-year Basic Education from Kindergarten to the completion of High School; Provides our adult population access to lifelong education; Engages our youth and working class in meaningful employment; Manages preventable diseases like cholera, malaria, meningitis, etc., so everyone has access to drinkable water and sanitation; Ensures our people live decent lives in decent housing.
And we must find the money to support the agenda of improving the lives of our people especially when we know the MONEY is there in our Gold, Cocoa, Oil, Rubber, Bauxite, Manganese, Timber, Coffee, and other resources, – none of which we have to import into Africa.
Few countries in history have achieved significant economic development without trade. Currently, trade among the 54 African nations accounts for just a little over 14% of total trade. Certainly, having an “Open, Inclusive and Accessible Free African Market” will increase trade across Africa tremendously, create higher-wage jobs, and drive economic development to unlock considerable business opportunities. A single market of 1 to 2-Billion people in Africa will be much more attractive than the 54 fragmented ones linked by over 8-Regional Trade Economic Zones (ECOWAS, SADC, COMESA, EAC, ECCAS, AMU, IGAD, UEMOA, CEMAC, UMA,..). Tanzania belongs to SADC and EAC. Kenya is in COMESA and EAC. There are others belonging to two or more Zones but can we say they are benefitting from their association with the multiple economic zones?
We have the collective responsibility, as members of the ALN, to make Africa a better and more peaceful place to live, recognizing that, our greatest potential to be prosperous and peaceful can only be attained through increased cooperation between our countries and an aggressive integration of our economies, including smart trade policies with foreign interests. And, to ensure the realization of this objective we need to leave this General Assembly emboldened to get our respective governments to pursue policies that will allow all Africans to travel across the continent visa free.
As Liberals, we want to see Peace in Africa; we want to see migration between nations increase freedom to pursue happiness; we want to see the flow of goods, services, capital, and people across national borders to spread prosperity; we want to raise the living and health standard of the average African to sustain growth; we want to provide equal access to high-quality basic education to make the best use of talents; we want to protect individual freedoms as long as they do not compromise the rights of anyone else; and we want to decentralize decision-making at the local level to guarantee direct participation and control of government by citizens.
Specific to Ghana is a local government system that has the Executive appointing all Mayors and additionally, diluting the People’s Elected Assembly with appointments that constitute a third of the Assembly’s membership to effectively deny the people control of governance at the local level. What a waste of resources to conduct elections for a mere two thirds of the Assembly who end up being mostly ineffective?
Ghana has adopted a Basic Education philosophy where a 15-year old pupil is given a fake phony fraudulent certificate called BECE as the graduation prize for not completing a full High School Education. Well, the Supreme Court in 2015 dismissed a PPP law suit over implementation of a Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) enshrined in our Constitution by declining jurisdiction to adjudicate. Must we as Liberals continue this charade on our future leaders without a fight?
The 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana created an Imperial President to head the Executive, and a Parliament that does not only depend on the Executive for sustenance but is so weak the Legislative Body cannot even write its own laws. This Winner-Takes-All Ghana Constitution has at best created the breeding grounds that has over the years attracted corrupt politicians. Should Liberals continue to look on unconcerned? Must we as liberals not fight to strengthen the institution of governance by agitating for constitutional amendments to strengthen the independence of the arms of government?
As a Party that cares about governance that works for all we have pursued pragmatic principles along Liberal views with a clear, specific 10-Point Agenda for Accelerated growth built on providing incorruptible leadership, quality education, healthcare to permanently eradicate preventable diseases, and adequately prepare the citizenry for the millions of high grade jobs expected to be injected into the economy by a PPP Administration.
And you can guess that the swift rise of the PPP in Ghana’s political space caused so much nervousness among the establishment that the Electoral Commission and its political allies conspired to disqualify and eliminate the Party’s 2016 Presidential Candidate from contesting the 2016 elections even after the Supreme Court had ruled for his inclusion. Must Liberals accept such impunity and not aggressively promote the rule of law?
I will be derelict if I do not get you to see a bit more of Ghana before you leave to your various destinations. Accra has long welcomed visitors from around the world and as the host city for this 14th General Assembly of the ALN, which is coinciding with the celebration of Ghana’s 61st Independence from the British, I recommend that delegates find time to visit the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and Mausoleum to get the feel of the transition from Gold Coast to Ghana; the Ussher Fort Museum to view exhibits that explain the mechanics of the slave trade and the role played by respective institutions in its development; the Accra Arts Center – a tourist haven for beautiful African products – where the level of aggressive bargaining may make you want to keep your money in your pocket but if you have the patience may walk away with unique gifts to buy; and, to be aware to resist a similar slum from erupting in your country when you return – a visit to Agbogbloshie – a slum in the heart of Accra that has achieved notoriety as the world’s largest electronic waste dump site and the most polluted slum in the world.
Permit me in conclusion, to highlight the importance of the Network supporting and assisting more Liberal Democratic Parties in Africa to win Legislative and Presidential elections to assure individual rights and good governance in Africa. If we are to capitalize on the shining examples of our Network partners in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire – where liberals govern – then leaving this 14th General Assembly with a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out a road map for future collaboration and capacity-building support will go a long way to strengthen further our liberal and pragmatic views on improving the welfare of the average African to the world.
It is crucial that our effort to win elections tackle the lack of economic opportunities with emphasis on expanding opportunities for the youth, ensure that our natural resource wealth brings more inclusive and equitable growth to eliminate extreme poverty, marginalization, exclusion and discrimination, while ensuring respect for international human rights and humanitarian laws. Being the largest Political Affiliation of Liberals in Africa assembled here today, I am confident that you will affirm and reaffirm the principles of Liberalism in the interest and benefit of all our people in Africa and wish you success in your deliberations to make Africa free and more prosperous.
Thank you all for your presence in Ghana. It is an honor to take part in this meeting of the African Liberal Network (ALN) and the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY)
Akwaaba! Welcome to Ghana.
Long live the Progressive People’s Party in Ghana.
Long live Africa Liberal Network.
Long live Liberal International. Thank you.