In January 2025, a new government will take office in Ghana and usher in the second quarter of the 21st century. It will be a turning point for the nation—an opportunity to lay the groundwork for progress and prosperity. Despite years of progress, the country still faces considerable political, social, and economic challenges that hold its people back from achieving their full potential.
Ghana’s reputation as a beacon of democracy in Africa remains strong. Hailing it as a model for Africa in democratic practices were President Obama in 2009 and Vice President Kamala Harris this year. But Ghana’s democracy is under stress. Why? Because of a lack of trust in public institutions, officials, and leaders. Because of widespread corruption and patronage. And because of a lack of judicial independence. The latest Afrobarometer research shows that a clear majority of Ghanaians, around 87%, believe that their country is headed in the wrong direction. And as Ghanaians’ trust in their political leadership and democratic structures has diminished, the country’s journey toward economic transformation has stalled.
The Ghana Compact: Goals and Objectives
Over the past year, leaders of major policy institutes and civil society organizations—supported by leaders of several prominent national institutions, traditional and religious leaders, and business executives—have come together to promote a consultative dialogue to prepare a Compact for Ghana’s Political and Economic Transformation. It is intended to help Ghana chart a better path— one that will improve democratic accountability, deepen political discourse, and debate, and engage ordinary citizens to address four critical challenges to the country’s progress towards economic transformation.
- Political and constitutional reforms will help end extreme political division and polarization. Constitutional reforms are essential to safeguard democracy and underpin political and economic transformation and make elections in Ghana more issues-oriented, with political party manifestos and debates that bring in all Ghanaians and focus on strategies to achieve long-term goals.
- Policies that will bring about a new era of fiscal responsibility. Improvements to Ghana’s fiscal health will unlock greater and more responsible investment in the country’s development, increase revenue mobilization efforts, and break the pattern of economic crises and frequent IMF bailouts.
- A long-term vision for economic transformation will ensure policy continuity. A carefully considered, long-term vision for Ghana’s economic transformation will ensure the continuing implementation of medium-term plans and projects over time, spanning government administrations and transfers of power.
- Long-term targets will help improve human well-being. Targets are needed to address the gender inequalities in employment and pay, increase access to affordable quality health services and education, strengthen the skills of young Ghanaians, and foster small and medium enterprise growth and job creation—while preparing the country to deal with the impacts of climate change.
The Ghana Compact: Process
The Compact is a process to articulate a future we want for Ghana by 2050. For more than a year, the process has involved identifying issues of importance to Ghanaians and factors that have impeded Ghana’s transformation. Consulting a wide cross-section of experts and opinion leaders; the process has engaged leaders of the political parties on the goals and expectations of the Compact. It has involved the youth in articulating their aspirations and hopes for the future and in identifying the values and mindset changes for a prosperous future.
Understanding the issues
To start the process for the Compact, seven of the leading Ghanaian policy institutes joined with the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) to analyze the binding constraints and issues critical to Ghana’s political and economic transformation.1 The outcome of that collaborative analysis was a series of technical papers on thematic topics covering some of the country’s most pressing policy issues, including national development planning, development financing, youth education and skills, gender equality, private sector development, health, and climate change. All peer reviewed, the papers provide a well-informed foundation for the consultations.
Building on the issue papers, technical consultations brought together a broad range of experts, policymakers, and citizens to discuss challenges, share knowledge, and agree on priorities and recommendations. For example, the technical consultation on the Constitution brought in experts and elder statesmen, leading to the formation of a Constitutional Review Consultative Committee that will make recommendations for constitutional reforms for the consideration of Parliament. The technical consultation on National Development Planning led to the recommendation to strengthen the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) to enable it to undertake its constitutionally mandated roles and functions more effectively and efficiently. The consultation on Gender led to the recommendation for the long-standing Affirmative Action Bill to be passed and implemented with immediate effect. And the consultations on Fiscal Consolidation proposed short-, medium- and long-term recommendations for domestic resource mobilization and expenditure management to deliver macroeconomic stability and prudent debt management. Two technical consultations remain—on Health and Climate.
Once the technical consultations are completed, a broad national consultation and citizen engagement process will begin. It will comprise offline and online discussions with Ghanaians, active media engagements, citizen surveys, and polling to secure citizen input and ensure broader buy-in for the Compact’s goals.
Building partnerships and support
Widespread outreach and consultation have led to national support from many key institutions, bodies, and organizations in the public and private sectors: the Council of State, the Speaker and the majority and minority leadership of Parliament, the Association of Ghana Industries, the Trade Union Council, the Peace Council, the National Center for Civic Education, and the Standing Committee of the National House of Chiefs, as well as religious leaders, civil society groups, academic, media personalities, and youth influencers. Several eminent Ghanaians and former government leaders have endorsed the push for the Compact. And a Compact Leadership Group also has been established to help outline the shared values and vision to underpin nationwide deliberations, engage stakeholders on the economic and political issues framed in the technical papers, and lead dialogues across the country with community leaders.
Holding interparty dialogues
An initial meeting has been held with leaders of the two leading political parties– the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as well as leaders of five minority parties to discuss the ideas and objectives of the Ghana Compact and three specific issues underpinning it—making elections and party manifestos issues-oriented, constitutional reforms and medium and long-term development planning. All the political party representatives expressed strong support for the Compact and committed to future interparty dialogues with a shared understanding that, with elections on the horizon in 2024, Ghana cannot afford to have another season of contentious and divisive campaigns lacking substance or choice, leading to a winner-takes-all election followed by unstable governance and limited economic progress.
Examining national values and needed mindset change
Conversations have started on strong national values critical for the future we want. Values are important for the Compact because they act as guiding principles to help individuals and society achieve the desired goals. To this end, we convened a meeting of stakeholders from many layers of society to identify values such as patriotism, hard work, service, integrity, and loyalty that should underpin the Compact. The National Center for Civic Education, which has the constitutional mandate for such a task, has offered its collaboration in framing the values and assisting with the national consultations and civic education process on values, particularly for the youth.
The Ghana Compact: Next Steps—Sparking a Civic Movement
The basic principle of a democracy is that supreme power lies in the hands of the people. Ghana’s transformation is predicated upon the citizenry setting out clearly what their vision for the country is and holding governments accountable to that vision.
To that end, the Compact will, over the next six months, seek the support and buy-in of citizens through a sustained and strategic media campaign anchored and centered on Citizens’ Assemblies. These assemblies—which will bring together randomly selected Ghanaians representative of the population—will provide a platform for the people to deliberate upon and engage with the recommendations outlined in the technical papers. The objective here is to get citizens to debate the recommendations and ensure that they reflect the will of the people.
Such citizen engagements have begun virtually. In March, during a moderated Twitter spaces conversation, thousands of Ghanaian youths discussed issues like constitutional reform, equal access to quality education, the skills required to be competitive in the global workforce, and how they can take their rightful place in shaping the future of the country. There was a strong consensus among the panelists about how Ghana’s youth require greater voice and participation in economic, political, and social discourse and in policy implementation. Virtual citizen engagements will continue during this national consultative process.
Apart from these virtual engagements and discussions on social media, citizens will be able to engage with the Compact through radio and TV interviews, live stream and media coverage of Compact events, opinion pieces and articles published in the print media, blog posts, podcast discussions, newsletters, and on-the-ground interviews to get first-hand impressions from citizens. We will also make strategic use of radio ads and live presenters. All these will be on a community and national level in support of the ongoing citizen assemblies.
Once the consultations have concluded, the feedback from the technical consultations and citizen assemblies will inform the drafting of the Ghana Compact. To reach a consensus on the final Compact, the draft will be reviewed at the Citizens’ Convention in December. The convention will bring together many individuals and representatives from the groups participating in the Compact’s development and consultative process—from political parties, the business community, civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens—to debate and reach a consensus on the Compact’s content.
The final Compact will spell out all the parties’ roles and responsibilities and highlight the national values needed to ensure the future we want. It will set the stage for a social contract between the people and their government, no matter who comes into power. And it will stress the responsibilities of the citizenry in bringing about that future we want. The goal will be to strengthen the country’s governance and democracy—and to achieve sustained growth and economic transformation to improve the living standards of all Ghanaians and uphold our history and national values.
If we succeed, the Compact will bolster Ghana’s reputation as a beacon of democracy for other African countries. And in the West Africa region, engulfed in conflict and instability, the Compact will further cement Ghana’s social capital and the values of its citizens that have always held it together as a peaceful nation.
Looking ahead, we consider the next five years critical to achieving the Compact’s goals and will therefore continue the interparty dialogues in 2024 to ensure that the election campaigns are issues oriented. During 2025-2030 the objective will be to work with the new government to ensure that its policies and programs are consistent with the goals, targets, and recommendations emanating from the Compact process and reflecting the aspirations and hopes of the citizens of Ghana.
- The policy institutes are: Afrobarometer, Center for Democratic Development (CDD), Imani Institute for Policy and Education, Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Institute for Democratic Development (IDEG), and Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT).
- Details of the Budget are available on request.