A cursory glance of newspaper headlines lined up in the streets, beaming on national and international television sites as well as streaming on various social media platforms will tell you one thing – that the ordinary citizens have increasingly been isolated and alienated from the socio-political and economic discourses of the societies they either live in or belong to. Yet the success story of any civilized society in the post-globalized era is that of inclusion, all-encompassing and fostering a culture of vigorous participation by the entire citizenry of a given society regardless of their color, creed, political affiliation, religion or even race.
Fostering of citizen participation and yielding positive results in as much as citizen empowerment is concerned has been a successful experiment in Ghana, where through the intervention and funding by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) has witnessed tremendous success and societal transformation. Funded by ACBF, the Economy of Ghana Network is a project hosted at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economy Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, Legon. The main objective of the project is to transform the EGN into a country-level knowledge Network (CLK-NET). This platform is to strengthen the voices of the ordinary Ghanaian, through support to Civil Society Organizations and business associations to help create a demand for effective government and hold government to account on issues affecting them.
Indeed, the initiative is vital in that, no society can prosper without adequate checks and balances put in place to constantly monitor how resources are utilized. Without adequate systems that ensure checks and balances, appetite for corruption increases resulting in plunder and looting and in some instances, the emergence of unpopular, undemocratic or authoritarian regimes. But with strengthened and capacitated citizenry, likelihood occurrences of the above undesired outcomes is very unlikely. The specific objectives of the EGN are to strengthen the institutional capacity of EGN as a formalized, regular and independent forum that convenes the country's disparate stakeholders groups for collectively diagnosing and addressing the policy challenges encountered in the development management process of Ghana; foster a more deliberate engagement of the policymaking process, thereby promoting greater stakeholder participation and knowledge utilization in development policy formulation and management in Ghana; provide Knowledge resources for guiding the design, implementation, and monitoring—and evaluation of the effectiveness of development policies and programs in the country; and establish a pool of human resources with adequate capacity in development policy analysis and research and management who can respond rapidly to the needs of policymakers and other stakeholders in the development management process.
The Network held a number of workshops within the period January 2015-December 2015 on various thematic areas. The aim was to garner public interest and engage members in discussions on cross-cutting issues. From the onset, it is important that the impact of some of the workshops be highlighted.
Discussion on ‘Ghana’s fiscal Challenge and the IMF bailout’ on the 30th of June, 2015 led jointly by the macroeconomics and development economics thematic area, triggered high level discussion within the media circles. Participants from government departments, CSOs, media organizations and graduate students from the University of Ghana’s Economics department and other departments convened to deliberate in a half-day workshop. Contributions from some major institutions like the Bank of Ghana, Ministry of Finance, Ghana Statistical Service, Ghana Cocoa Board, among others, enriched the discussions. Media-wide coverage of this workshop pressed the need for government to reanalyze the IMF support program, which would promote accountability and transparency in governance.
Given that climate change is here to stay and its effects are undesirable, EGN held a workshop under the climate change thematic area on Friday 31 July, 2015. The workshop held in collaboration with the DELtas, vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation (DECCMA) project on the 4th International Climate Change and Population Conference on Africa (CC POP-Ghana2015) discussed vulnerabilities posed to key population groups especially those in the coastal regions of Volta Ghana as a result of climate change. Participants were drawn from different countries such as Togo, Philippines, India, and the UK. The workshop ran under the theme “Environmental hazard and livelihood options in a coastal area in Ghana: A case of sea flooding’.
As part of the Economy of Ghana’s Social Accountability Report, a workshop was held with students of Ghanata Senior High School at Dodowa in the Eastern Region, to extend the forum’s expert discussion to other parts of the region. The Population and Public Health thematic area held a workshop on ‘Obesity and Overweight and their Health Implications in Ghana’ on 16 October, 2015.
The workshop targeted students and staff and educated them on implications of obesity and bad eating habits, sedentary work and irregular exercise. Participants were exposed to the collective experiences and lessons from a research work, which was conducted in some selected rural and urban areas. A report of the workshop on The Ghanaian Times, Ghana News Agency and TV3 attracted interest of stakeholders and key experts in the public health sector to address this emerging health issues in Ghana regarding obesity, BMI and the blood pressure rate.
The Ghanaian economy has performed remarkably well since the reforms of the 1980s. Unfortunately, the present huge debt accumulation, as part of the worsening fiscal situation of the country, threatens to torpedo this economic achievement. In aid to find answers to Ghana’s historical debt evolution, its implications on sustainable growth and development, an EGN workshop was held with the macroeconomics thematic area on 26th November, 2015 under the topic ‘Public Debt and Sustainability: Whither Ghana?’.
Discussions brought key governmental institutions like the Bank of Ghana, The Ghana Statistical Service, some universal banks and other civil society organizations. Discussions spilled over to various media—online, print and television news, which arose public interest and debate. The extensive media coverage and the presenter’s (Prof. N. K. Kusi of IFS) continuous interaction with the media, especially Joy Business, on similar issues show the effect the EGN forum is having towards national development.
The EGN Phase II project has achieved its objectives of being a pivotal platform for dissemination of key and relevant information on the economy of Ghana. The online platform has over 16 policy briefs that have been distilled from the various workshops conducted over three years. But all these successes would have remained a pipedream were it for the support of ACBF since the EGN’s inception in 2012.