Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo Discusses Democracy and Development in Africa

A new age is dawning on the African continent, one that will utilize democratic processes and economic development to create a prosperous, independent future for the African people, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, president of the Republic of Ghana, told an audience at the Yale School of Management on September 27.

“Democracy and freedom are providing the political, social, and economic platforms for Africa’s long-awaited development,” Akufo-Addo said. “Africa is on the cusp of building a great new civilization, one  which will unleash the great energy and potential of the African people.’

Akufo-Addo spoke about democracy and development in Africa to a capacity audience in Yale SOM’s Zhang Auditorium as part of  the Leaders Forum lecture series. The series brings leaders from business and government to Yale to speak students. The event was also part of Yale President Peter Salovey’s Yale Africa Initiative.

Yale SOM Deputy Dean David Bach introduced Akufo-Addo, noting that within 24 hours of the event’s announcement, Zhang Auditorium was booked to capacity: “Mr. President, this shows you how much interest there is in you, in your country, and in Africa here at Yale.”

Calling Akufo-Addo “a tireless promoter of trade and investment in Africa, and of Africa’s engagement with the world,” Bach commended the president for pursuing business and democratic practices as a means to sustainable development. He also pointed out that Yale SOM has strong ties to Africa. The continent is home to four member schools in the Global Network for Advanced Management. 

Elijah Paintsil, associate professor of pediatrics, epidemiology, and pharmacology at the Yale School of Medicine, moderated the conversation with Akufo-Addo.

“I’m happy to be here and among this audience of people who have an interest in what we’re doing to help Africa—and Ghana—achieve its full potential,” Akufo-Addo said.

In his 20 months as president, Akufo-Addo said, he has worked to build upon the gains that Africa has been making since the 1990s, as more countries have embraced democracy as tool for nation-building. “The past decade has been one of great expectation and promise for Africa,” he said.

The continent is rich in resources, home to the world’s second largest population and 25% of the world’s agricultural land, in addition to rich reserves of the minerals necessary to run a modern economy. “We have no excuse to deny this generation a new future of options and expectations,” he said.

But issues of mass poverty and lack of opportunity continue. Akufo-Addo said that Africa must address the “toxic problem of job creation” that forces migrants to undertake often dangerous journeys to Europe  “because they do not see a future in their respective countries.”

“Our economies must produce wealth and opportunities for their peoples,” he said. This wealth cannot be based solely on the production and exporting of raw materials, but should instead come from a diversified economy that promotes an educated workforce and industrial development.

Akufo-Addo’s government  has invested in expanding education and technical training for children and for young adults, while also investing in the digital revolution, he said.

Following his address, Akufo-Addo answered audience questions on topics including how to build bridges between Americans of Ghanaian descent and Ghana; the policies that Ghana has put in place to ensure continued economic progress even when presidential administrations change; and whether democracy offers a path for equitable economic growth in Africa.

Akufo-Addo emphasized that African nations must no longer rely on foreign aid. “I want us to have more self -confidence and accept that we shall never reach the level of development that we aspire to by relying on aid or external assistance, no matter how generous,” he said. “The time has come for us to pursue a path to prosperity and self-respect for our continent.”