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John Dramani Mahama in Brussels: Addressing fragility in Africa.

 
There is one critical issue that has become topical in the world and that is inequality. As the economy grows, some people are being left behind and that becomes a critical question. People take up arms against the state because they don't see any future in the state. And so, how do we lessen the inequality between our people?


Especially as the economy starts to accelerate, you begin to see a wide gap between the richest segment of your population and the poorest segment. When you get the additional resource as the oil and gas, you are likely to see billionaires and you are likely to see people who really are in the boondocks. What interventions do we put to ensure that we have a propper social safety net to protect the poor and vulnerable?

One of the very important instruments that have worked for Ghana is a fund that we call the District Assemblies Common Fund. It is in written into our Constitution that between 5 and 8% of Gross National Revenue must be transferred directly to the District Assemblies. We have 216 districts and every year the districts receive between 5 to 8%. The current is 7.5%.

The districts receive 7.5% of the Gross Tax Revenue and they decide how they want to use that money. They have an assembly that draws a budget, at the beginning of the year they know what they are expecting and so they can use the money on healthcare, on sanitation or for the provision of water. We see across the country 216 districts that have the basic infrastructure of a police station, of a district hospital, of schools, of a local government offers, of extension of electricity and many other things that make life worth living. So I think that addressing inequality by decentralization and empowering the people fiscally to take their destiny into their own hands is a very important issue that we must build into strengthening our states.


Then there is support to democratic institutions. Often, after conflict, we are still building our democratic institutions. And so direct support for capacity building, for parliaments, for the judiciary, for anticorruption agencies, for civil society organizations is also very important. And we've enjoyed a lot of support from the European Union and several other institutions in terms of strengthening democracy.


Youth employment is another area that we need to watch. Africa's population is the fastest growing and the youth are being chained out of school like on a conveyor belt. So how are you going to keep them engaged - in the English proverb they say "the devil finds work for idle hands" -, how do you engage the youth so they don't get engaged by the devil in social deviance and other such areas?


Coming right out of the ECOWAS meeting, for us the new horizing that we must push and push firmly is to integrate our economies. I believe that we have a better chance of growing comparatively in all our countries if we have a more integrated market in West Africa, where we are able to move goods and people easily across our countries, than if all of us make the same isolated effort in our individual countries.
Pushing the integration project forward in Africa is important and, in that regard, there is a need of infrastructure. How do we put in the road infrastructure, how do we expand the ports to create more economic activity, how do we share energy, for countries that have a comparative advantage to produce more energy share with countries that don't have - these are all things that we need to look at, and collectively we can strengthen the structures that support our countries if we work together than if we work individually. 


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