About a thousand demonstrators have hit the streets of Accra to put pressure on President Akufo-Addo government to create more jobs under the social media hashtag #FixTheCountry.
The demonstrators, mostly youth, are clad in black and red blowing vuvuzelas amidst the chanting of patriotic and war songs.
Totally disregarding social distancing protocols in the over three-kilometre walk demonstration from the Obra Spot at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle to the Black Star Square, the protesters brandished placards with inscriptions such as: “Honesty will make Ghana heaven”, “Corruption breeds poverty”, “Turn all prisons into hotels and put prisoners on state farms”, “Stop tribal discrimination”, “Freedom of worship is a basic right”, “Fix our education system now” among others.
Some of them said they are coming from far away Kumasi and other parts of the country to pressure political authorities to fix different sectors of the economy.
“What are we going to do with the National Cathedral? Will it create jobs for the youth? Nana Akufo-Addo should answer me. Why do we waste time on unnecessary ventures and leave the most important issues? Our roads are bad, COVID-19 is killing us but nothing is being done,” Aboagye Dacosta, a cobbler at Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra said.
Naa Dedei Sowah, a 26-year-old hairstylist from Tema, said she wants the government to prioritise jobs for the youth, especially for university graduates.
“I am a graduate. I can’t use my degree and I’ve been forced to go into hairstyling as an apprentice. Why?” she asked.
“We’re suffering. The hardship is too much. Where are the promises,” Kofi Mintah, 27, from Amasaman said?
While the Ghanaian economy grew steadily in the past two decades, job creation lagged, according to a study by the Brookings Institute.
More than half of Ghana’s population of 31 million are under 25. Many cannot afford to go to university. A third of young people neither have a job nor professional training, according to the World Bank. The level of frustration among them increased in step with hardships brought on by the pandemic, a DW report said.
We’re fixing the economy
In early May this year, the government announced that it is set to roll out eight interventions under the GhanaCARES “Obataanpa” programme as part of measures to boost the economy.
Addressing the media in Accra on Sunday 9 May, the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta said the initiatives will be in the area of “health, agriculture, tourism, trade, digitisation, science and technology, housing and financial services.”
Ofori-Atta said the government is aware of the new social media campaign dubbed #FixtheCountry aimed at drawing officials’ attention to what the conveners describe as “a failure on the part of successive governments to improve the lives of the citizenry”.
“I acknowledge that these are challenging times for many of us, and we, like almost all the countries in the world, are living through rough weather. A time that has put a burden on the necessities of lives and livelihoods never like before in recent history. Unfortunately, these external shocks have heightened Ghana’s perennial problems, which we are committed to addressing.
“In extraordinary times, you should expect exceptional leadership from your Government. I truly believe we cannot ensure exceptional leadership without a collective effort. So, I commend the youth for calling on Government and leaders to be at their best. This shows the patriotism of the Ghanaian youth, echoing the President’s call to Be a Citizen, Not a Spectator. You have elected us to solve the problems that face this country. We will continue to work with you and other stakeholders to do just that,” Ofori-Atta said.
To this end, he announced measures that will be rolled out to address the challenges facing the economy.
“First, I am working with the Minister for Water and Sanitation to immediately ensure potable water to areas with felt need, especially in the most urban areas.
“Second, I am working with the Ministers of Roads and Highways, Transport and Interior to address congestion along the major highways.
“Third, we are fast-tracking the implementation of the US$200million Jobs and Skills Programme to enhance job creation significantly. This intervention is designed to facilitate new and expanded private sector businesses to employ a lot more people. This we believe is a more sustainable way to rebuild this economy instead of expanding Government employment schemes.
“Fourth, starting this month, we are rolling over 8 additional interventions under the GhanaCARES “Obataanpa” programme. These will be in the Health, Agriculture, Tourism, Trade, Digitization, Science and technology, Housing and financial services.
“Fifth, by the end of July, we will have a new Development Bank that will provide long-term wholesale financing to the private sector through Commercial banks,” Ofori-Atta said.
He added: “The good people of Ghana have given us the mandate to get things done. For us as a Government, this is a clarion call for a national conversation on the shared burden to renew the social contract of our democracy. At its minimum, we should ensure social justice and social mobility for most Ghanaians. At our best, we should open for all Ghanaians, an economic system under which each citizen shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best in him or her. As I always have, I will commit to working to fix those structures that will set Ghana on this path.”