President Akufo-Addo’s government is faced with attacks from land and sea, as fears grow over Ghana’s security woes. By Cliff Ekuful in Accra.

Ghana’s crackdown on money-laundering and counter-terror financing sees the country removed from the dreaded ‘grey list’. By Cliff Ekuful in Accra.

Ghana’s Supreme Court overturns a ban on street protests, giving fresh hope to campaigners fighting deteriorating living conditions.

Ostracised by the ruling party, a single lawmaker holds the balance of power in Ghana’s feuding parliament.

Shunned by Ghana’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the rundown to the December election, independent MP Andrew Asiamah Amoako has become the cornerstone of the NPP’s hold on power, after his decision to ‘to do business with the NPP in parliament’ gave the party an effective single seat majority. 

With NPP and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) each having 137 seats in parliament, the independent MP for Fomena has found himself de-facto kingmaker in the West African legislature. 

Amoako, who represented the NPP in the 2016-2020 parliament, was kicked out of the ruling party by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo after he refused to step aside for another NPP candidate at the December election.

He went on to win the seat as an independent, but, controversially, has since signalled his intention to vote with the government in parliament. Ghana’s constitution frowns on so-called ‘carpet-crossing’ or switching parties once elected. 

The Speaker, former NDC MP Alban Bagbin, told parliament that Amoako has formally written to say that he will do business with the NPP.

This brought to an end to weeks of debate between the members of the two caucuses as to which one can claim majority status. 

The NDC flipped 32 seats from the ruling NPP in the December polls, giving the parties equal strengthen in the unicameral legislature.

This 50-50 split has already led to tensions on the floor, with the army forced to break up feuding lawmakers during the first vote of the new parliamentary session in January this year. 

The absolute monopoly previously enjoyed by the ruling party had reduced parliament to little more than a rubber stamp for the executive. 

Yet despite still technically being in a minority by one, the election of the opposition’s Bagbin as the Speaker on January 7, has risen hopes that the NDC will be able to hold the government to account, despite Amoaka’s stated NPP allegiance.

Ransford Gyamp, professor of political science at the University of Ghana, said the vetting of ministerial nominees by parliament last month showed that ‘the minority will exploit its numerical strength to ensure checks and balance in the house’.

At the time of press, the opposition had successfully held up the appointment of three ministerial nominees.

Speaking at the State of the Nation Address shortly before the new MPs took their seats, President Akufo-Addo acknowledged that his ruling party would have ‘no choice’ but to work with the opposition.

He added: ‘The next Parliament is not going to be anything like this one that ends today. I do not suggest that the House might not be as busy, but the sitting arrangements, the source and decibel levels of sound from the House would certainly be different.’ 

According to a senior research fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance, Kwesi Jonah, the near-hung situation will slow down some government business, especially any bills embroiled in controversy. However, he anticipates a bi-partisan co-operation on most of the president’s agenda. 

The Speaker has pledged to be a neutral referee and steer the affairs of the House to ensure there are no undue disruptions to government business. 

Whether the new situation in parliament will lead to proper accountability to improve the lot of citizens or unduly disrupt government business is still to be seen.

But with Ghana’s eighth parliament already overshadowed by brawling in the chamber, and the balance of power resting on one formerly outcast MP, it’s unlikely to be dull. 

It’s the airborne delivery service that’s transformed healthcare provision in Ghana and Rwanda.

While many people might think companies like Amazon will be the first to start with drone delivery services, few realize the technology has already been in use in Africa for several years - and for a far greater purpose.

Medical start-up Zipline has been using drones to deliver life-saving medicineand blood transfusions in Rwanda for four years and in Ghana for nearly two years.

And the US company is set to expand its drone-delivery service to Kaduna in Nigeria. 

The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from three distribution centres – each equipped with 30 drones – and will deliver to more than 1,000 health facilities serving millions of people across the populous Nigerian state. 

The Silicon Valley-based logistics company has also started to play a growing role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Ghana, Zipline began delivering Covid-19 test samples collected from patients in more than 1,000 rural health facilities to labs in the country’s two largest cities, Accra and Kumasi.

The service allowed the government to monitor and respond to the spread of the disease in some of the country’s most remote and difficult-to-reach areas, and reduced testing time from days to hours in some cases. 

In Rwanda, Zipline worked with global health non-profit organisation Partners In Health to ensure that quarantined cancer patients, who were unable to travel to the hospital for care and consultation, could continue to receive their chemotherapy treatments during the height of lockdown. 

Meanwhile, in the US, Zipline launched the first long-distance emergency drone logistics operation for hospital pandemic response, transporting deliveries of personal protective equipment to frontline medical teams in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Recently, the start-up announced a partnership with a major manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccines to build an end-to-end distribution system that will see the company distribute the vaccines in the countries where it operates.

‘Where you live shouldn’t determine whether or not you get a Covid-19 vaccine,’ said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo.

The drone company wants to help rural areas that have been hard hit by the coronavirus.

‘We can help health systems bypass infrastructure and supply chain challenges through instant delivery.’ 

The Covid-19 vaccine delivery service should help health facilities avoid the need for ultra-low-temperature freezers by receiving on-demand deliveries of the precise number of vaccines they require at any time, safely and compliantly within the required temperature profile.

‘We will build ultra-low freezers at all of our distribution centres. And we are developing special packaging that will help maintain safe temperatures in flight to allow the vaccine to be used within five hours,’ Justin Hamilton, Head of Global Communications and Public Affairs at Zipline, told NewsAfrica.

Zipline declined to specify its vaccine partner but said it has built a system that can deliver ‘all leading Covid-19 vaccines.’ 

It was initially thought that the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech must be stored in extreme cold temperatures of -70C, requiring special freezers. 

But recently, both companies announced that tests have shown that their coronavirus vaccine can withstand warmer temperatures, between -25C to -15C, which are at levels commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators. 

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‘This is good news for the world,’ Zipline’s Head of Communications said.

‘But we want to be in a position to deliver all vaccines at any temperature. They will still be a scarce commodity that needs to be distributed efficiently and effectively.’ 

A Pfizer spokeswoman said it supports Zipline’s efforts to expand access to vaccines and medicines to those in hard-to-reach geographies.

‘We share Zipline’s commitment to innovative solutions to ensure equity in the distribution of vaccines and medicines, she said, though she declined to specifically confirm a deal had been signed with Zipline.

Zipline expects to be ready to deliver Covid-19 vaccines in all the markets where it operates from next month.

The company’s fixed-wing, battery-powered drones navigate by GPS.

The unmanned aircrafts are able to carry 1.6 kg of medical supplies – about the weight of three pints of blood.

Through a very cleverly designed catapult-type system, the drone plane is accelerated to a 100km per hour (60mph) cruising speed in only 0.3 seconds. 

As take-off and landing are the most difficult stages of a flight, the drones don’t land on the designation but simply drop the supplies in an insulated cardboard box with a simple parachute, which afterwards can be thrown away.

Thanks to this system, clinics don’t need any infrastructure to sign up as a client or a distribution centre. 

Each aircraft can fly 160km (100 mile) roundtrip, in strong winds and rain, day or night, to make on-demand deliveries in 30 to 45 minutes on average.

A single distribution site can operate dozens of drones and supply an area of up to 20,000 square kilometres – or just under 8,000 square miles

Zipline says its drones have flown more than six million kilometres(3.5 million miles) and made nearly 400,000 deliveries in the last five years.

In Rwanda, the company’s drones transported a staggering 20 per cent of all the blood used in transfusions outside of Kigali, leading Zipline’s CEO, Keller Rinaudo, to describe the East African nation as a ‘role model’ for how the rest of the world’s health care systems may one day work.

Journalist Britt Collins shines the spotlight on a New York-Accra fashion brand, combining African designs, ethically sourced fabrics – and a touch of Hollywood glamour.

When Abrima Erwiah and Rosario Dawson started their socially conscious clothing brand Studio 189, they set out with a simple mission – to make great clothes and generate opportunities for struggling artisans and women across Africa.

Fusing their passion for nature and fashion, Erwiah, a former executive for luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta, and Dawson, a successful Hollywood actress, create beautiful, sustainable pieces that don’t harm animals or the earth.

‘It’s a social enterprise, which is much more powerful than aid,’ said Erwiah at Studio 189’s showroom in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

‘It’s unfair that natural resources are often extracted with value added elsewhere, leaving communities in a position to beg for charity support.’

Studio 189’s collection of bright, bold prints and sleek, figure-sculpting tailoring is crafted from natural materials, such as raw cotton and silk, and sewn and hand-dyed by local artisans in Ghana using traditional methods.

‘We’re inspired by the wonders of nature and the idea of going to the source to understand where things come from and what they will become in the future.’

Operating between Accra and New York, the fashion brand has grown immensely since its launch in 2013, and is now sold through online global retailers, such as Net-a-Porter and Yoox, as well as in its own Manhattan boutique.

Studio 189 has won multiple awards and counts luxury Italian brand Fendi and international sportwear label Nike among its collaborators.

It has also partnered with the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, a UN alliance for sustainable fashion that works with the likes of Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood to support local talent in Africa.

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Luckily for Studio 189, ethical brands seem to have weathered the Covid-19 pandemic much better than many global fashion houses.

‘In the beginning I was afraid I’d have to let people go and worried for the health and safety of my team,’ said Erwiah.

‘And then soon something magical happened. Customers started looking for more sustainable, more human brands. In addition, our community rallied behind us and supported us a lot.’

‘I also pivoted and started making face masks,’ added the designer.

‘We received many orders, which helps us stay afloat.’

The cloth masks – made from off-cuts – even feature the brand’s signature hand painted designs.

Erwiah’s African heritage remains central to Studio 189’s ethos – pandemic or otherwise.

Her father’s family immigrated from Ghana and Ivory Coast, while her mother’s came from Mississippi.

‘My family moved to Pittsburgh during the great migration to find work as cleaners and factory workers. My mother later moved to New York. Her younger sister Naomi followed and tried to become a model.’

Erwiah’s aunt Naomi Sims, widely known as the first black supermodel before the word existed, broke the colour barrier after appearing on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal in 1968, pioneering the Black is Beautiful movement.

Growing up in a close-knit community, Erwiah was always socially conscious and interested in people’s stories.

‘I remember when we were kids and didn’t have money, my mom would see someone who was in need and always gave to them whenever she could. And I’d say, “Why are you doing that? That’s your last dollar.” And she’d say, “It’s okay. We don’t need it. We are rich with love.” She would look them in the eyes and treat them with dignity.

‘It’s just about taking a moment to see each other’s humanity. I don’t know what my life would be like if my family and people in my community didn’t do their best to support and encourage me. If I can do my small part and pay that forward for someone else, I will.’

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Wanting to carve herself a meaningful space in the world, she volunteered at with the Kering Foundation in 2010 in Uganda, where she discovered the work of the Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel-Prize-winning entrepreneur, and the concept of social enterprise.

‘I liked the idea of creating a business that had impact at the heart.’

Erwiah met her future business partner, Rosario Dawson – who has starred in several US blockbusters, including Men in Black II – when the pair were teenagers in New York in 1994.

Dawson lived in an abandoned building with her parents in the East Village and was plucked off the street and cast for her debut film role in Larry King’s Kids.

Erwiah was attending a French school and planning to study business at New York University.

'Rosario and I both come from hardworking families who sacrificed and created a path for us. It’s not about ethics for me, but doing the right thing, consciousness, humanity.’

For years, the two long-time friends talked about doing projects together.

‘Rosario invited me on a life-changing trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the opening of the City of Joy, a community centre offering support and trade-based education for female survivors of sexual violence,’ said Erwiah.

‘We were awed by these women, who had faced so much atrocity but were resilient and wanting to see their villages and country thrive. What struck me most was that the women would make crafts and sell them, and take the proceeds and invest in agriculture. They would farm things like cassava to feed their families and sell it to send their kids to school. I realised that there are micro-economies existing on the outskirts of many societies that keep the world going.’

Inspired by these spirited, hopeful women, the pair decided to use their star power and business acumen to create Studio 189.

‘Rosario and I thought we could add value by working with marginalised communities to build a platform. And instead of focusing on the usual narrative of poverty, war and charity in Africa, what if we also highlighted the beauty. What if we worked with people that had been through various hardships, but we all come together through the power of our creativity.’

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Soon after Erwiah relocated to Accra and started establishing a network of craftspeople and tailors.

Two years later, on Valentine’s Day 2013, they launched their first capsule collection in support of the One Billion Rising campaign that grew out of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

Erwiah admits starting a fair-trade business in West Africa had been a steep learning curve that came with a mountain of challenges.

‘I’ve had to deal with serious issues that no education and professional experience could have prepared me for – poverty, death, sexual violence, disease, illness. I had to deal with how to work during the Ebola epidemic, along with infrastructure issues, such as electricity outages, poor roads. Even now I don’t have running water and my electricity comes on and off.

‘When I have to do a call with a retailer, I hope to God nothing goes wrong because people don’t understand what it takes to create and build here, to create infrastructure that can uplift, innovate and also try to compete in a crowded marketplace.’

Each of Studio 189’s production is carefully considered, from working with local talent to using manufacturing techniques that produce zero waste.

All the materials and fabrics are recycled or bought in the Ghanaian markets, and the organic cotton is grown in Burkina Faso and transported to Accra for patchworking and creation of the garments.

The fashion industry at large is hugely wasteful and exploitive, and is the second biggest polluter after animal agriculture. But Erwiah sees no reason why fashion should be such a problem.

‘We need to change what we value,’ she said, reflecting that consumers need to look at clothes in the same way many make ethical, cruelty-free food choices.

In the past, Erwiah thought she was powerless to make an impact.

‘I used to think I was too small, too insignificant and kept waiting for someone else to take the lead, but at what point do you take accountability?

‘Ultimately, it’s not about success and accolades, but trying your best with whatever means you have.’

See, studiooneeightynine.com

There are just days to go before Britain finally severs ties with the EU. But with the UK in chaos, Martins Azuwike asks whether Africa’s UK trade deals will ever happen?

Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, the former world superpower has been taking scintillating steps to hammer out trade deals with various global trading blocs.

More than four years on, though, and just one new trade deal has been signed so far – between Britain and Japan – with little mention of the much-anticipated agreements with African giants, such as the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

The 15-member Ecowas bloc – which includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo – had been pinning its hopes on a possible Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with a newly independent UK next year.

With a population of 66.5 million and a GDP of $2.8 trillion, the UK offers significant market opportunities for African products and services.

Bilateral trade between Britain and Africa stood at almost $42bn in 2018, concentrated mostly in South Africa, Morocco and the Ecowas powerhouse Nigeria.

The UK also ranks among the top five foreign investors in Africa, with a foreign direct investment of $46 billion in 2017.

While the London Stock Exchange has the largest concentration of African publicly quoted companies, with a combined market capitalisation of $70 billion.

Yet despite the considerable trade done between Britain and many of its former southern African colonies in particular – UK-South African trade is worth around $13.5bn a year – progress on post-Brexit FTAs have stalled thanks to difficult EU-UK trade negotiations and the global Covid-19 pandemic

In October last year, for instance, trade ministers from the 54-member bloc met in London to discuss ways to triple intra-Commonwealth trade to $2 trillion by 2030, with the UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, talking of a fight ‘against protectionism’ to ‘promote a transparent, inclusive, fair and open rules-based multilateral trading system.’

Yet while the post-Brexit FTAs still seem like blue-sky dreaming, the CEO of Nigeria-based Economic Associates, Ayo Teriba, said the UK has been working hard to ink trade deals with various trading blocs, such as Ecowas, using Commonwealth countries as a launchpad.

Analysts believe that the proposed UK-Ecowas deal, if it happens, would grow the volume and value of trade between the two blocs.

Most Ecowas members export mainly agricultural products and minerals, the bulk of which serve as raw materials to the manufacturing and processing chains of the UK industrial sector. Experts say that the proposed trade deal will give greater stimulus to the West African bloc if it is tilted towards allowing more than just the imports of raw commodities like cocoa (EU trade deals typically place low tariffs on raw commodities, yet add swinging tariffs to roasted beans in order to protect its own factories). Such a move, they maintain, would promote trade and create more employment opportunities among the 15 Ecowas members.

‘Naturally, this deal will grow the volume of trade between Ecowas and the UK,’ said Muda Yusuf, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

‘The prospects of such growth in trade would be higher for Ecowas countries that are Commonwealth countries.

The LCCI director general added: ‘Most countries in Ecowas export primary products, mainly agricultural products and minerals. 

‘The UK exports mainly vehicles, electrical and electronics products, iron and steel, pharmaceutical products and processed foods.’ 

Not all experts agree that a UK-Ecowas FTA will prove such a boon for West Africa, with tariff reductions likely to benefit UK consumers more than African producers. Ecowas trade with the UK is centred mostly on cocoa and cocoa preparations, which constitute five per cent of exports; precious stones, which contribute three per cent; as well as other raw materials such as cotton, fruit, rubber, plastics, wood, seafood and petroleum products from Nigeria.

The UK is also one Ecowas’s smaller trading partners. At present the whole of Europe, including Britain, accounts for just 28 per cent of Ecowas exports, while the Americas account for 40 per cent.

The UK’s reliance on an EU trade deal may also frustrate its attempts to negotiate new Free Trade Agreements with African trading blocs, such as Ecowas, with the EU strong-arming the UK not to sign FTAs with third nations that have what it considers to be inferior food safety standards, including the US.

The use of food safety and ‘unfair competition’ clauses to protect European producers from cheap imports is particularly relevant for any future UK-Ecowas trade deal, as the EU has form in this area, according to Yusuf, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

During the 3rd EU-Nigeria Business Forum held in Lagos in September 2014, Ecowas members’ agricultural practices were highlighted as a potential barrier to any EU-Ecowas trade deal.

Speakers at the event identified safe food and sustainability as the key demands that farmers and producers must meet. Reliability, prices, consistency, quality and adherence to regulations were also pinpointed as determining factors. 

‘The issues likely to arise would be similar to the concerns raised by a section of the business community against the European Partnership Agreement in the recent past,’ added the businessman. 

‘While some countries signed, many others did not sign. There were concerns about unfair competition between European products and products produced in the West African sub-region.’

But it’s not just EU threats that might bog down any post-Brexit trade deals with Britain. According to Teriba of Economic Associates, Ecowas states would likely demand easier access to British visas as a price of a trade deal – something the UK government might try to resist, given the central role that controlling immigration played in the Brexit vote.

‘To boost trade, consular issues would have to be addressed,’ added Yusuf. ‘With the deal being contemplated, concessions would have to be given.

‘Britain is a country that is good at going to other regions to extract resources and strengthen its well-being while restricting others from coming in.’

The head of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, however, believes that the outlines for an agreement are there – and not just with Ecowas or other regional trading blocs, like the Southern Africa Customs Union and Mozambique (SACUM), which the UK already has a limited trade agreement with, thanks to its former membership of the EU.

He believes the real potential lies in a UK pact with the continent-wide African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is set to become the world’s largest free trade area.

‘More important are the bigger market prospects, which the AfCFTA offers to the UK if the Ecowas deal falls through,’ said Yusuf. 

‘This would mean access to over $3 trillion African market.’

Doubts are cast over the country’s upcoming December presidential polls, reports Francis Kokutse.

When Ghana’s polls close on December 7, all eyes will be on the country’s Electoral Commission (EC), as doubts are raised over the legitimacy of the presidential vote.

The leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Mahama, suspended regional campaigning in September over ‘widespread anomalies’ during the voter register exhibition process.

The former president, who ruled Ghana between 2012 and 2017, said thousands of registered voters were missing from local electoral rolls, adding that he had ‘grave concerns’ about the EC’s impartiality.

‘We will not accept the result of a flawed election,’ said Mahama, who is hoping to topple his successor, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), in December.

'Neither will we shirk our civic responsibility and allow the EC – whether by ill intent or sheer incompetence – to usurp the people's mandate in the December 7 polls.’

Mahama said the voter registration exercise had been characterized by ‘bigotry and exclusion’, with many citizens prevented from registering on the pretext that they were not ‘Ghanaians’.

‘These acts of intimidation were perpetrated by the state security apparatus, which is now filled with vigilante elements loyal to the ruling NPP,’ said the opposition candidate, comparing the current campaign to a by-election won by NPP last year, which was marred by election day violence.

‘These alarming warning signs do not bode well for a free and fair election.’

Mahama’s NDC have catalogued a number of incidents of potential voter fraud across the country.

‘In the Binduri constituency of the Upper East Region, many cases of omission have been detected,’ said the NDC leader.

‘At the Narang-Saago Primary School, not a single person out of 444 registered could find their names on the register.’

He alleged that the problem was widespread, with no names listed at two other registration centres in the area despite 428 and 392 people being registered to vote at each polling station.

There were also more than 6,300 names omitted from 18 other centres in the same constituency, according to Mahama, and 2,000 registered voters were missing from the electoral roll in both Jirapa, in the Upper West Region, and Klottey Korle, in Greater Accra.

Meanwhile, the sitting NDC MP for Ashaiman, Ernest Norgbey, claimed to have detected the omission of over 21,000 names from his local register, including his own – a claim refuted by the Electoral Commission.

As well as alleged missing voters, the NDC alleges to have identified cases of voters being registered multiple times. In Krowor, Greater Accra, it claimed duplicated card numbers were recorded at as many as eight centres, with almost 2,500 people allegedly eligible to vote more than once in the constituency.

The chairperson of the EC, Jean Mensa, has denied accusations that the election is tilted in favour of the incumbent, and said the commission was working to deliver free, fair, and peaceful elections in December.

She urged all the politicians to engage in ‘a decent campaign – a campaign based on policies and programs that will lead to the betterment of our society,’ and promised that, as ‘referees, our role is to arrange and organise an orderly, fair, transparent, peaceful, and credible elections.’

Meanwhile, President Akufo-Addo dismissed concerns about the registration process, which saw nearly 17 million Ghanaians – or around half the total population – registered to vote by the end of registration process in September. (More than 750,000 18-year-olds alone were added to the electoral roll this year.)

President Akufo-Addo said: ‘Each of the elections has seen an improvement on the previous one. And we are looking forward to this year’s passing off peacefully, with characteristic Ghanaian dignity.’

‘All Ghanaians are agreed that we have to work together to ensure that the elections will be transparent, free, fair, safe and credible.’

The December poll will be the eighth election in the West African state 1992, when the country’s Fourth Republic was declared.

 

John Mahama is attempting to make history by running for president again despite possible legal impediments in his way. 

By Frank Kokutse, Accra

In a country where politics is often full of intrigue, it is not clear whether any last minute legal spanners will be thrown in the way of  John Mahama’s quest to run for president again. The constitution makes it clear that sitting presidents can only serve two terms but does not state whether they have to do so consecutively. This is the grey area that some political analysts are turning their attention to now that Mahama is preparing for his third contest with long time foe and incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo after the  National Democratic Congress (NDC) chose him as its flag bearer for the 2020 presidential race earlier this year.   

Mahama previously served as president when he won the 2012 vote against Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), before losing to his rival four years later.  While Mahama cut a straight talking, statesmanlike figure, his government failed to solve a crippling energy crisis that resulted in routine power outages. The country also had to turn to the International Monetary Fund in 2015 for a bailout after inflation jumped to 20 percent and increased the national debt.

Although President Akufo-Addo began his administration firing on all cylinders, the pace of reform has been anything but fast and people continue to feel the pinch due to the poorly performing economy.  

This has given the NDC plenty of ammunition to fire at the government. One person who has been at the receiving end is vice-president Mahamudu Bawumia. He was at the forefront of the NPP’s attack on Mahama before the 2016 election and, as an economist and banker, was seen as the politician most able to move the country’s economy forward. In power, he has not shown this in practical terms and the Ghana cedi continues to lose ground against the major currencies. While Akufo-Addo blames this in part on the volatile oil market and strengthening US dollar, the business community has gone on the offensive, forcing the Bank of Ghana to make several attempts to keep the currency in check. Whether or not any of the initiatives are working depends on which political colours one is wearing.

Youth unemployment remains a massive problem, too, despite government initiatives such as the planting for food and jobs programme. Alfred Kusi, a 34 year-old graduate turned Uber driver in Accra has already made up his mind about the coming elections. “I am voting against President Akufo-Addo in 2020 because he has deceived most of us,” he said. “He promised to create jobs but there has nothing to show for it. They are just making a mockery of people.” 

Corruption is another bugbear and public perceptions that not enough is being done about it are not helped by accusations that Akufo-Addo is creating a “government of family and friends”. Finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta is said to have given former colleagues at Databank, the finance house that he co-founded, plum jobs in the administration: Yoofi Grant is chief executive of the Ghana Investment Promotion Authority (GIPA), Daniel Ogbarmey Tetteh is the director general of the Security and Exchanges Commission, and Samson Akligoh is a director in the ministry of finance.  

Akufo-Addo’s attempts to re-shape the country’s educational sector is also receiving flak. A new curriculum intended to improve the basic level has brought changes in the way the Ghanaian history is to be taught, but the president has been accused in the court of public opinion of rewriting the country’s independence struggle by granting his uncle, the statesman and lawyer JB Danquah, a more prominent role than Ghana’s founding father Kwame Nkrumah. At the tertiary level, a new bill that the government says was intended to improve governance in the public universities has been condemned by dons as an attempt to curb academic freedom. In the meantime, the flagship Free Senior High School scheme got off to a faltering start when parents and teachers complained about it not working. 

These travails may be giving Mahama hope that he can win the hearts and minds of the public again. But the truth is that the country is divided down the middle and it is the floating voters who will determine the required 50 percent-plus-one outcome. 

There is also the thorny problem of his eligibility to stand for election, given that as vice-president under John Atta Mills, he stepped into the presidency following Mills’ death in office in July 2012 before going on to defeat Akufo-Addo in tightly fought polls the following December. The argument has been put forward that two terms must mean two terms. This means that there should be a determination as to whether, Mahama only fulfilled the constitutional requirement to become president after Mills’ death, meaning it does not count as a term.

During the main NDC’s primaries none of the other candidates raised the issue publicly and Mahama went on to win the presidential ticket. Privately, though, a number of NDC members said this was only down to the fact that the party hierarchy is filled with people who served under him.  

Even if he does not face any legal challenges, Mahama’s choice of a running mate will also be a determining factor in his desire to become president again. One communications expert, Etse Sikanku, is using his Centre for Public Discourse Analysis to determine who partners Mahama. It is not known if the NDC is behind this or whether it is Mahama himself who has sanctioned the move.  It is not easy to be a ‘come-back kid’ and so far, it is only the Beninois, Mathieu Kerekou, who has achieved that feat regionally. He lost one election and came back to reclaim his position in another.

Since winning the primary, Mahama has become a thorn in the flesh of President Akufo-Addo, who in effect has been forced to get on the campaign trail earlier than usual to counter some of the charges against his government. It is as if anywhere that Akufo-Addo turns up, there is a bullet waiting for him from Mahama and his NDC. Akufo-Addo has called critics who blame his administration for failing to improve the living conditions of Ghanaians  “traditional Jeremiahs”, saying they have failed to open their eyes to see the development that the country is witnessing under his leadership.

“Some traditional Jeremiahs… are saying you can’t do this, you can’t do this. They have been saying it all along, that I can’t do this and I can’t do that. They should open their eyes. I am doing it all, one by one, ” he said in March during a northern durbar celebration. 

The president reiterated his commitment to bring accelerated development to all parts of the country; saying he is on course to deliver all promised programmes and projects under his administration. “The commitment that I have made to the people of Ghana, that we are going to witness a revival and a redevelopment, are on course and our programme for government is on course,” he added.

But his task is not helped by factions within the NPP who are unhappy with the government’s performance. A leading member, Kennedy Agyapong, MP for Assin Central, has been openly bitter about the way some of his fellow lawmakers have dealt with him over his criticism of government policy. Within the NDC camp too, the campaign to select Mahama as presidential candidate has not been without acrimony and even though things appear calm at present there are likely to be some undercurrents. This means that, the fight to win the floating votes is going to be a difficult for both parties.  

“Things are not very clear in the country as everything has been reduced to politics,” one financial analyst said.  

Whether the NPP is on course or not, 

there are pointers to some cracks within the party.           

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