Address By The President Of The Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, At The 64th Independence Day Celebration, Held Virtually, On Saturday, 6th March, 2021.
“The Recovery Of The Nation From The Pandemic”
Sixty-four (64) years ago, we freed our nation, Ghana, from the shackles of colonialism and imperialism. We were the first nation, in colonial Africa, to gain our independence from the colonial power, and, thus, became the torchbearer of the struggle for liberation of the African continent.
As we lowered the British Union Jack on the eve of 6th March 1957, and replaced it with our own, the iconic red, gold, green flag, with the black star in the centre, the mood of citizens of this newly-minted State was one of unrestrained excitement and jubilation, because of the prospects of what the future held for us. Later that night, at the Old Polo Grounds, that vision of what an independent Ghana could be, that is a prosperous, progressive country, which was to be an active player in the affairs of the continent and the world, was eloquently laid bare by our historic first leader, Kwame Nkrumah.
The world, indeed, took notice of us. We had the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Philip Randolph, Adam Clayton Powell, Ralph Bunche and Horace Mann, leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement, as well as US Vice President Richard Nixon, present with us to commemorate the birth of our new nation. We were an example for the rest of Africa to follow. Not surprisingly, much was expected of the poster-boy country.
On sixty-three (63) previous occasions, we have usually congregated in our capital of Accra, and, recently, in other locations around the country, Tamale in 2019, and Kumasi last year, to celebrate our nation’s independence. At these annual events, we have sought to express a deep consciousness of love for country, and the importance of ensuring that we realise our potential as the Black Star of Africa. Year after year, we commit ourselves to ensuring that we work to lift the standard of living of the Ghanaian, and help construct an economy that is capable of creating a society of opportunities for all.
It is taking quite some time for us to get there, but I believe there is far more self-confidence among us Ghanaians today, than there has been since the very early days of self-government, that we can make it if we work at it. Today, freedom and the cultivation of democratic values are strengthening our determination to bring into being a new Ghana that is neither pawn nor victim of the world order. Attachment to the rule of law, respect for individual liberties, human rights, the principles of democratic accountability and the dictates of social justice has deepened for our common benefit.
Nevertheless, we recognise that the biggest challenge confronting us is to be able to put our country on the path of sustained progress and prosperity, and enhance the well-being of every Ghanaian.
Since 2017, a considerable amount of work has been undertaken to help us achieve this objective. Consistently for three successive years, our nation had one of the fastest growing economies in the world, leading to us becoming the largest destination of foreign direct investment in West Africa; global automobile companies had either setup shop in Ghana, or had expressed their desire to do so; the basic tenets of social justice, i.e. access to education and healthcare, were being guaranteed for all our people; we had become self-sufficient in food production, and, for the first time in a long while, exported our surpluses to our neighbours; sustained efforts, through digitisation, were being made to formalise our economy; and we had hastened our critical journey of industrialisation and value-addition activities, whose end result would be to create jobs for the teeming masses of Ghanaians.
Successful Ghanaian diplomacy enabled the African Union to agree to the location here in Accra of the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), arguably the most important initiative of the AU since its foundation. This is the first time since independence that we have had the privilege of playing host to a major pan-African institution. The single African market, which begun trading on 1st January, will present Ghanaian enterprises and businesses with a huge opportunity for the rapid development of the Ghanaian and African economy.
When the global pandemic of COVID-19 struck, it derailed our progress, and wreaked havoc on all aspects of national life. Lives and livelihoods have been affected, the economy has suffered, and Government has had to cushion households and businesses from the effects of the virus. If any more evidence were needed of the impact of COVID-19, the fact that this, the 64th Independence Day Celebration, has had to be cancelled, and substituted with, essentially, a virtual celebration, is one of them.
Collectively, my fellow Ghanaians, we all worked to ensure a relatively favourable situation with respect to the virus when it first broke out. In as much as our active case count has recently risen, I appeal to all of you to help ensure its decline. We did that before, and we can do it again. Yes, the first vaccines have arrived in the country, and they have begun to be deployed, and I appeal passionately to each one of you to take the vaccine when it is your turn. But, however, we cannot afford to let go of the enhanced hygiene and mask wearing protocols, which should define our way of living. These protocols have not only helped in the fight against COVID-19, but have also helped ensure that cholera, for example, is no longer a health concern.
If we are to be successful in building a resilient Ghana, capable of withstanding, in future, external shocks, such as COVID-19, then we must all put our shoulders to the wheel. Already, Government has taken steps to revitalise and transform the economy, a process which is hinged on the one hundred-billion-cedi Ghana CARES ‘Obaatampa’ Programme, the lynchpin of our drive towards the rapid industrial transformation of our economy, our main national priority. The Minister for Finance will this month, God willing, provide to Parliament further details on the measures to be taken to spur on the process of economic recovery.
A year from now, the benefits of economic recovery will begin to show. A year from now, our quest to move Ghana to a situation beyond aid will be accelerated, and our self-reliance enhanced. A year from today, we should regain our pride of place as one of the fastest growing economies not only in Africa, but also in the world. A year from now, we should be processing more and more of our raw materials, to help create jobs for the millions of Ghanaian youths. A year from now, more and more of Ghanaian children should be having access to education. A year from now, every district and region should have a hospital, where residents will be able to have decent, affordable healthcare.
Fellow Ghanaians, this is not beyond us. If we put our hearts and minds to it, we, who were the first to gain our independence in colonial Africa, can make it, and protect our heritage and environment. Let us not allow our energies to be sapped by either the failures of the past or the challenges of today. Let us embrace today’s challenges as opportunities for a brighter tomorrow. Let us redefine our sense of national responsibility, and remove any doubt some may continue to have about our ability to manage our own affairs. Let us devote ourselves to the freedom and welfare of Mother Ghana.
Albeit an arduous task, I am confident that, with dedication, hard work, honesty and integrity, we can fulfill the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of our nation, who envisioned us to be a dynamic, progressive, prosperous and united nation, a nation that, under God, in J.B Danquah’s immortal words, cherished its “ancient freedom”. We must all step up and play significant roles in the development of Ghana, our motherland. Let us bequeath to our children, their children, and generations unborn a nation of hope and opportunity, not one of despair and retrogression.
With God on our side, we can unleash our considerable energies, and make our own unique contribution to the growth of world civilisation.
Happy 64th Independence Day Celebration to all of us, and may God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention.