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21 February 2017

One-district-one- factory: A good intention but wrong approach?

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Considering some of the actions taken by President Akufo-Addo since he took office on January 7, 2017, I have no doubt that the man has good intentions for our dear country.

The credibility of some of his appointees and his commitment to making basic education free for the underprivileged children in our country gives me some hope for the future ahead of us. My hope is built on the fact that quality education is the key to the doors of every person’s destiny. I have always held the view that as someone who has taken close to two decades to prepare for this position, he has no option than to deliver, in order to vindicate himself and the people who have trusted in him.

Delivering the promises to “make Ghana work again” as he puts it, however, requires a realistic approach so that we can be sure from the word go, that we are on the right path of the transformation we have been yearning for. I am one of several Ghanaians who do not believe in Party Manifesto as the means to developing a country. This is because, once the developmental agenda is tied to the vision and ideology of Parties and not the collective vision and ideology of the country as a whole, then we are bound to see parties leave office with their visions.

This is one of the major reasons we have not made much progress over the years. Visions are always truncated along the way. And whenever there is a change in political power, proposedapproachour development process starts afresh as if we just got independence.

Among the numerous mouth-watering promises the President and his Party provided in their Manifesto, in line with their vision to developing Ghana, which they are committed to, is the building of one factory in every district of the country. As an advocate for patriotism, and the need to produce and consume our own “Made in Ghana” products, I strongly agree with any idea that will make it happen. A policy of this nature has the potential to boost employment for the teeming youth of our country. It can also reduce our level of import dependence, thereby helping to heal our negative balance of payment disease.

In as much as I support this idea a thousand percentproposed approach(to establish factories in every district within four years or possibly 8 years) should be reconsidered. This is necessary so that we do not spread structures across the country as factories; which cannot live beyond the current administration. Any such situation will be disappointing and will not help achieve the sustainable development we seek.

Developing a country is a gradual and consistent process and not done in a rush to earn short-term praises, without making significant impact in the long run. It is said that leaders whose main objective is to receive praises from people on their actions today, eventually die with their praises and their names do not live beyond their own generation. However, leaders who take hard decisions in the interest of their people and even thread on their toes while doing it, later receive the admiration of the people and their names live for several generations.

Building factories across the country is possible (because everything is possible) but I doubt if can be a reality given the time frame and whether it makes financial sense. Unless maybe we want this one to follow some of the previous special initiatives, which we bragged about but did not make any significant impact on the people and failed to exist beyond the administrations that created them.

The best approach in my opinion is for us to select some districts or cities with certain unique characteristics and make them industrial hubs, with focus on specific critical aspects of the economy. We can carefully select about five cities (towns) excluding Accra and Kumasi (which are already chocked) and concentrate our attention there within the period. The effect of this is that we would likely see real significant development, increase in urban living and increase in middle class population. We will end up having additional five “Accras” in Ghana and that will be very significant. Our attention should be on developing Ghana and not satisfying every district instantly.

Over the years we have given common fund to every district but that has not brought us the development we want. So the problem is not only about equity but also lack of focus. Ghana is not such a big country and therefore, there will not be a difficulty for people to move from one town or city to work in another. The policy to revamp railway sector will even make it easier. If our people out frustration are able to pass through the Sahara Desert and even the Mediterranean Sea in such of jobs in Europe and elsewhere, how difficult will it be to move from Mampong toTechiman to work on a vibrant factory floor.

The world’s second largest economy, China began its development in the late 1970s through the “opening up policy” spearheaded by their visionary leader Deng Xiaoping. That was the period China began to allow foreign companies to pitch camps in the country. That period also saw Coca Cola establish its presence as the first major international company to start full operation in China. Deng Xiaoping had a great vision to develop the most populous country in the world, but he did it one province/city at a time. He started the development from Shenzhen, a port city in the Guangdong Province, closer to Guangzhou which is nowa major city for international trade.

He believed that, in as much as he wanted the whole country to develop and to create employment for his people, he had to start from somewhere. Within a few years of focusing on Shenzhen, the approach begun to yield dividend and he extended it to Shanghai. At that time, the status of Shanghai was far less than a place like Cape coast, but todayit is one of the busiest and beautiful cities in the world and second to New York as the city with highest number of Billionaires.As we speak, the development of China is gradually covering the whole country even though it started from one city. This can be attributed to purposeful concentration and consistency.

So I belief that, in our quest to have a swift transformation of our country, we should be careful not to spread it too wide at the beginning such that the impact becomes insignificant. Wherever we put money, our focus should not only be on the people around today who will vote in the next election, but also on the millions yet unborn.

I don’t belong to the school of thought that think it is impossible to do it. My concern rather is that the resources should be channeled properly so that our attention will not only be on building and naming structures as factories. But rather we should be building factories and cities at the same time, so that in few years to come we would be able to boast of major industrial cities in the country.

We can do this by forming banking syndicates or establishing Ghana Development Bank (GDB) or National Development Bank (NDB) to solely focus on mobilizing funds within the country and across the world, and to woo investors into the country. These banks can also serve as avenues for young Ghanaians with brilliant entrepreneurial ideas to raise the needed funds to make their ideas reality, since the transformation cannot only be achieved by government.

I believe that with the right approach, we can do it.

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The writer, Abraham Gyekye is a Chartered Accountant and Member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants’, Ghana. His writings are available at www.mpactglobal.com.

 

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