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Good Governance, ethical leadership promote economic growth-Akwasi Opong-Fosu

The President of Africa Growth Solutions, Mr Akwasi Opong-Fosu has indicated that Good governance and ethical leadership dexterities are engines for Africa to actualize its growth potential as a continent.

This year’s US-Africa Trade and investment Conference was held in Miami, Florida under the theme ” The Diaspora: Accelerating US-Africa,Investment and Technological Innovation”, Mr Opong-Fosu a renowned expert on governance and a former minister of State disclosed that the connection between Good governance, ethics and free and fair elections are key pointers which promote trade, investment and development in Africa.

Mr Opong-Fosu expressed the hope that the conference would foster strong collaborations and all stakeholders in the sub-sahara Africa to promote corporate governance and ethical leadership to build a more resilient economy so as to attract investors into the soil of Africa.

Speaking on the topic , ethics, elections and good governance, he pointed out to numbers of measures to be undertaken to address the challenges that retard Africas progress which include the equitable distribution of wealth, respect for human rights, the safety and protection of the people and property and more importantly accountability of institutions such as judiciary and the electoral system.

This year’s US-Africa Trade and investment Conference was held in Miami, Florida .The conference was an extraordinary platform for engaging dialogue, fostering cooperation, exploring innovative strategies for advancing economic growth and sustainable development in Africa.

Read below what Mr Akwasi Opong-Fosu said at the conference

US-AFRICA TRADE AND INVESTMENT CONFERENCE AT THE DOUBLETREE HOTEL AND CONVENTION CENTER, MIAMI, FLORIDA
SESSION ON ETHICS, ELECTIONS AND GOOD GOVERNANCE:
OPENING STATEMENT BY AKWASI OPONG-FOSU, PRESDENT, AFRICA GROWTH SOLUTIONS

Let me first and foremost thank the Foundation for Democracy in Africa for the kind invitation extended to me to participate in this year’s US-Africa Trade and Investment Conference/Expo dubbed AfriCANDO 2023. I understand that this is the 24th edition and the theme which is “The Diaspora: Accelerating US-Africa, Investment and Technological innovation” comprises of the following sessions;
• Special Purpose Investment Fund for Africa
• Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development
• E-Commerce and Branding
• Technological Innovation, Manufacturing, and Industrialisation
• Future is Now for Diasporan Investment and Engagement
• Peace, Security, and Stability in Africa
• Ethics, Elections and Good Governance

I dare say that the theme and the sessions which are derived from it are very relevant and are appropriate for these times when Africa is striving to find ways of actualising its growth potential as a continent.

It is therefore my pleasure and privilege to be given the opportunity to kick-start the conversation with this opening statement.

I begin by posing two key questions to stimulate our conversation.
• What is the connection between good governance, ethics, and elections?
• To what extent does good governance promote trade and investment and development?

It is now axiomatic to say that good governance is conceptualised as the management of the interactions between State actors (elected representatives, bureaucrats and technocrats) and non-state actors (civil society, private sector, media, academia and the citizens in their generality and individuality) in policy-making. Policies which are formulated as a result of these interactions are expected to lead to the following among others:

a.​the equitable distribution of wealth;

b.​respect for human rights;

c.​the safety and protection of the person and property; and

d.​very importantly, the building of open, transparent, and accountable of institutions such as the judiciary and electoral systems.
To sum it all up, it fair to say that good governance is a sine qua non for the promotion of social and political stability which is a necessary precondition for attracting investments that can ultimately lead to economic growth and sustainable development.

Elections.

With the advent of representative democracy in which process the elected representatives of the people are given executive and legislative functions, elections have become the cornerstone of democracy and how well they are conducted and get accepted by the people is central to effective democratic governance.

The importance of elections is that it is the process by which the people select their political leaders who have oversight responsibility over non-political public servants, institutions and policy-making. Importantly therefore, elections can only fulfil this critical function if they are free, fair, and transparent. Compromised elections are a recipe for mis-governance.

Unregulated Funding of Political Parties: a challenge to Free, Fair and Transparent Elections- The issue of Ethics in Governance

One major challenge to free, fair and transparent elections and which ultimately poses the threat of undermining good governance is the unregulated funding of political party activities including campaigns. This is because such funding essentially introduces the issue of ethics (values, principles and rules that guide behaviour and institutions), or the lack of it, into elections.

As it is said, “he who pays the piper, calls the tunes”. Party pollical funding therefore presents a situation in which party financiers stand in the position to determine the controlling minds of the Political Party they are funding and therefore ultimately the leaderships which the elected politicians appoint to head public/state institutions within the governance system, including even those institutions which should serve as arbiters and guard posts against mis-governance in the governance architecture.

Imagine a case example of a country Z, where the only restriction imposed on political party funding is the prohibition of foreign owned firms from sponsoring political party activities. A firm, XY Financial Services sponsors a political party to win a presidential election and majority parliamentary seats to form a government. The Founder and CEO and most of the staff are appointed to assume ministerial and other high-level positions in the financial sector of government machinery. This position is leveraged to the advantage of XY as transactional advisers in many government businesses in what has been described as an unprecedented loan acquisitions and conflict of interest that has crippled the country’s economy which has become unattractive as an investment destination.

Again since the financier holds the leverages of power within the Political party, and knowing that his activities are likely to be put under the legal microscope and tested in the courts, the next line of action will be to ensure that the Judiciary which bastion of law in the country, is either corrupted to his advantage. Since all appointments onto the leadership of public/state institutions are made by the politicians whose party is funded by the corrupt financier, he will make sure that the leadership of such public/state institutions are at his beck and call. Public/State institutions therefore lose their essence and governance suffers.

Another major challenge to Free Fair and transparent elections is the inadequate/poor civic education of the people. Owing to this fact, the people are not easily able to see the linkage between the choices they make during the election of their representatives onto governance institutions, and the conditions which their choices create for attracting trade and investment into their country and ultimately the development or lack thereof, which can result therefrom.

Suggestions for resolving these problems.

Civic Education

The very first step is to undertake very serious civic education of the people. They should be educated in their rights and duties as citizens, the nature of choices they have, and the possible effects of the choices available to them on the kind of development they can expect from any of the choices.

Elections policy

The State must make it a policy to organise free, fair and transparent elections for the election of the peoples’ representatives. All efforts must be made to build ethical principles which support and promote the principles of freedom, fairness, transparency and accountability into the very fabric of state/public institutions as well as political leadership. The attitude of “zero-tolerance” for corruption and breach of ethics and public morality should be cultivated, inculcated and enforced. In this endeavour, the concept of whistleblowing should not only be encouraged but inculcated in the people while structures are put in place to protect the identity and integrity of whistle-blowers.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

There should be very clear laws, processes and procedures on governance and as well as those regulating governance institutions. Such laws must be enforced and there must be clearly stated penalties for breaches or non-compliance with laws, processes and procedures.

By Lawrence Odoom

About Lawrence Odoom

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