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Why Ghana’s strong democratic credentials have profound implications for the youth

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Young people waiting in line to vote

Congratulations are in order to the people of Ghana for peaceful elections. Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns with political vigilantism, Ghana’s political actors, national institutions, civil society organisations and the public at large showed their commitment to deepening democracy and to preserving peace and stability in the country and the sub-region.

The upholding of an earlier signed peace pact between the two front-runners for the presidential seat is worth emulating in all parts of Africa.  Ghana’s youth have also been at the forefront of campaigns and actions to shape peace with support from the National Peace Council and UNDP.

As we look to 2021 and beyond, it is noteworthy that Ghana’s reputation as a stable democracy bears profound implications for Ghana’s youth. This stability underpins progressive programmes over the years including ongoing pro-youth initiatives to create a legacy that will last for years to come.

As a result, Ghana’s innovation culture is spreading across the country, thanks to a growing number of young people who are keen on providing home-grown solutions to local problems. The personal backing of President Akufo-Addo and leading private sector institutions has been instrumental in this.

Importantly, the Presidential Pitch, a special entrepreneurship initiative offering young Ghanaians aged 35 years and below an opportunity to pitch innovative ideas to attract funding to further their businesses, is worth mentioning. It demonstrates the highest level of commitment that the government has towards supporting youth. Not to mention that the initiative is a joint venture by the Ministry of Business Development and the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP).

Such support to strengthen the ecosystem for innovation seems to inspire young people to come up with ground-breaking initiatives that are helping to foster creative development solutions.

Take for example the two brothers from Kumasi, Richard Kwarteng Aning and Jude Osei, who, in early 2020, developed a solar powered hand washing basin to promote personal hygiene and slow down the spread of COVID-19. The most impressive aspect of the equipment is that in addition to the sensor and soap dispenser, it also has a timer that makes users wash their hands for at least 20 seconds as recommended by health experts, including the US Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation.  The government is proud of the innovation, and is expected to lead the roll-out of the units to communities across the country.

At UNDP, we have taken note of the increasing inventiveness of young people in Ghana. Recently on December 23, winners of the 2020 Waste Recovery Innovation Challenge were announced following calls for concept notes in June 2020. The event sought to explore unique and sustainable solutions to plastic waste recovery and management in Ghana, with special consideration being given to projects that contribute to COVID-19 response and recovery.

The challenge, organised by UNDP, under the auspices of the “Plastic Waste Recovery for a Circular Green Economy in Ghana” project with funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) and in partnership with Waste Recovery Platform, aimed at providing technical and financial support to business solutions and strategies around plastic waste recovery and management.

The ideas that came through were brilliant. Therefore, the concepts by the four young people who won the awards can only be termed as exceptional. They are practical, a demonstration that young people can drive a country’s development by not only thinking outside the box but also using available and therefore affordable local resources to provide sustainable solutions.

The UNDP Human Development Report launched in December 2020 calls on countries to urgently use COVID-19 recovery as an “opportunity for harnessing the transformation called for by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Investing in our young people is the key to unlocking the much needed development. Ghana has a head start and the government and the business sector should increase the tempo of support to innovations by young people.

Today, more than ever, we need to intensely invest in the potential of Ghana’s young entrepreneurs and innovators. This is the surest way of creating more jobs in a country where the youth struggle to find work.

It is notable that the three-year Ghana CARES programme – the GH¢100 billion post-COVID-19 initiative the government launched in November 2020 “to stabilise, revitalise and transform Ghana’s economy to create jobs and prosperity for Ghanaians” as stated by the Ministry of Finance – factors in this reality. It is time to walk the talk.

By Dr. Angela Lusigi

Author is the Resident Representative of the UNDP in Ghana
Email: angela.lusigi@undp.org

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