Leap into Life Ghana – context and call for action

Facts and figures on Ghana’s economic development.


Ghana GDP Annual Growth Rate

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Ghana expanded 6.10 percent in the second quarter of 2013 over the same quarter of the previous year. GDP Annual Growth Rate averaged 7.59 Percent from 2000 until 2013, reaching an all time high of 19.10 Percent in June of 2011 and a record low of 2.20 Percent in September of 2009. In Ghana, the annual growth rate in GDP measures the change in the value of the goods and services produced by the country economy during the period of a year.


In the second quarter of 2013, Ghanaian economy grew 6.1 percent over the previous year, slower than the 6.7 percent growth rate recorded in the first three months of 2013. While the services sector grew the most, agricultural production contracted.


Fishing was the only subsector with positive growth (2.9 percent), while crops and cocoa production (-1.4 percent), livestock (-12.6 percent) and forestry and logging (-8.6 percent) activities contributed negatively to the sector.



Ghana Inflation Rate

The inflation rate in Ghana was recorded at 11.90 percent in September of 2013. Inflation Rate in Ghana is reported by the Ghana Statistical Service. Ghana Inflation Rate averaged 17.30 Percent from 1998 until 2013, reaching an all-time high of 63 Percent in March of 2001


In Ghana, the most important components in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) are Food and Non Alcoholic Beverages (43.6 percent of total weight); Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Utilities (9.5 percent) and Clothing and Footwear (8.9 percent).


Year-on-year, cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased 8.9 percent, 1.0 percentage points higher than the 7.9 percent recorded in August. Cereals, fish and seafood and meat recorded the highest annual increase (12.2 percent, 11.5 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively). 


Growth above average

The country’s economy grew ahead of the average for the Africa region, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 15% in 2011 and 7.9% in 2012, prompted by strong cocoa production, construction and transport, continued increased gold output and the commercialization of oil. Inflation eased to 8.8% in  2012 on the back of declining food price inflation, but producer price inflation was at 17%.


In the medium term, real GDP growth is expected to remain high as Ghana explores its new oil fields. The Ghana Statistical Service projected growth to reach 7.4% by the end of 2013.

Inflation is expected to remain on the upper side of the Central Bank range of 9-11%, due to energy price increases that have been postponed.


Fiscal pressures will continue mounting in the economy due to a 10% retroactive rise in public sector wages (Ghs859 million) that needs to be paid and increasing interest cost.


The Cedi weakened on the interbank trading market in the first half of 2013. On average, the cedi depreciated against the dollar and euro by 3.4% and 6.6% respectively by half year.


Ghana Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate can be defined as the number of people actively looking for a job divided by the labor force. Unemployment Rate in Ghana increased to 12.90 percent in 2005 from 11.20 percent in 2001. Unemployment Rate in Ghana is reported by the Ghana Statistical Service. From 2001 until 2005, Ghana Unemployment Rate averaged 12.1 Percent reaching an all-time high of 12.9 Percent in December of 2005 and a record low of 11.2 Percent in December of 2001.


Sources: World Bank (October 2013) / Trading Economics (October 2013)



The African Development Bank (AfDB) warned recently that while Ghana and most countries in Africa are right to be excited about their recent high growth rates, the paucity of jobs in their economies should temper the celebrations. “The continent is experiencing jobless growth. That is an unacceptable reality on a continent with such an impressive pool of youth, talent and creativity,” said Mthuli Ncube, the AfDB’s chief economist.


The unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 24 in Ghana is estimated at 25.6%; twice that of the 25-44 age group and three times that of the 45-64 age group. Almost 30% of Ghana’s population still lives under the international poverty rate; the north has poverty rates nearly twice that of the south.


So these are the figures, but what do they actually say?

And what is not shared?


And what does society really tells us?

The consequences of Ghana’s rapid growth and Westernization very noticeable in ordinary life, even for me as a regular visitor. Though Ghana has many resources and is a relatively successful country in (Western) Africa, it exports most of its resources to Western countries to buy the end products that are produced elsewhere for a higher price. The devaluation of the Ghanaian Cedi in relation to the US Dollar makes import of daily products even more expensive.


Since I visited last year, life in Ghana has become more expensive and prices of all basic needs, energy and transportation have risen in my experience more than is shown in the figures. Also the division of prosperity is not equally divided; where the rich become richer, the gap with the poor in Ghana has increased dramatically and the poorest people do not profit from the national growth. On the contrary, life has become much harder for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Most of these people are farmers in rural areas.


Though Northern Region – as the least developed part of the country – has almost an overkill in developing projects and attention of international aid organizations, the people that I engage and work with do not benefit. I have heard stories of school fees and educational costs and -taxes going up, where the farmers earn less than they did before. Even if there is a solid educational basic infrastructure in a village like Saakuba (It has a school and a government teacher), these developments lead to families being forced to take their children out of school to provide extra hands to make an income. PAMEPI has helped the community of Saakuba by setting up a cooperative farm; which income goes to an education fund for children in the community. The whole community collaborates and it seems to work. But for how long?




Another consequence of development is that traditional culture of sharing in communion (Social Capital) is under severe pressure as is the traditional way of living. And people are concerned, not without reason. The Westernization of the country leads to depopulation of the rural areas, with only for the large (inter)national companies to be able to be profitable in agriculture. The first GMO rice fields are implemented in Northern Region, with help of the USAID program…


Ghanaians want a Western lifestyle that they see on TV and, as a consequence, they drive cars and motorcycles instead of walking and cycling, drink soft-drinks instead of water or fresh juices and fry their food or eat instant food instead of the traditional healthy meals. This was expressed as a serious concern and threat for Ghana according to the healthcare professionals we have spoken.


When asked about their major concern, relating health, the regional directors of health declared that they were more concerned about the radical increase of Western diseases as cancer and diabetes than HIV/AIDS or Malaria. The costs of healthcare will increase to levels that are now even unaffordable in my own country, The Netherlands; one of the 3 richest countries in the world. And if we can’t afford to sustain our healthcare system, imagine what lies ahead for Ghana.


The loss of traditional culture also leads to a more egocentric economy. I am not saying that tradition only brings good, but the alternative future Ghana seems to be heading towards doesn’t look very appealing to me. Where Ghana hardly has crime and its performance on HIV/AIDS and Malaria are exponential better than in other Western African countries, crime is increasing with urbanization. By becoming part of the global economy as a mid-range developing country, the country is also becoming more and more dependent of Western companies for food, medical supplies, and production of basic needs for the population.


Family and community, for centuries the pillar of Ghanaian society, are losing territory and values change not only for the good. Despite consultation with profound social change agents as Martin Kalunga Banda on a governmental level, ecology becomes less important than economic growth. The work being done on national level and in international collaboration, how good and well-intended it might be, just doesn’t reach the people it tries to reach, the poor.



Where the country as a whole seems to become more wealthy and healthy, the lower classes and even the mid class of both Western and African societies are driven further away from the upper middleclass and the upper class.  Societal tensions will arise and are arising as a consequence and meanwhile pollution of Earth – our living and caring mother – increases.


Virtues as kindness and hospitality are replaced by, yes by what actually, and pollution is noticeable by the increase of plastic waste everywhere. I have witnessed in person the effects of the off shore oil industry. The most popular beach in Accra with the luxurious resorts is covered in a grey layer of oil related waste.


Last weekend I visited the most luxurious resort at that beach and it was a shock to me to see how Westerners engage with their local partners there and how far their reality is of their Ghanaian partners. Only by that visit it became clear to me how significant it is to me to stay amongst local people in a part of Accra that is not one of the richest. I see and experience a part of Ghana that not many Westerners engage with by settling in the air-conditioned resorts and dining in the upper class restaurants.


Not only do I prefer it much more to engage with locals on their level, it also serves the purpose of my being here. Collaborating with 3 local partners, 2 NGO’s and a network of national entrepreneurs, I already learn more from Ghanaian culture than the average westerner, I have the feeling that we engage on a more equal level and sometimes even have to address that we are working cross cultural, meaning that they also have to align with my limited western perspective and norms. I have seen a side of Ghana that even some of my western friends and relations who have been living here for years have not experienced. They live in the same country, but in a separate world.


By living amongst the people in Ghana we try to serve with Leap into Life I hear stories that are of great value for what we are working on as a collective. When I go shopping I pay the same price for my vegetables and rice as my Ghanaian neighbor. People don’t even try to charge me a higher price because of my white skin that stands for being wealthy. Yes, I do get many requests to help with visa for Europe or to take a family member with me, but once we are beyond that stage I am just another brother, who is part of our global family. How long can I enjoy this, but more important, for how long can Ghana upkeep that culture of genuine hospitality and solidarity?


One of my business partners, Fuseini Yakubu, once mentioned to me: “In Ghana everybody needs help, but we serve the desperate” The ones who are at the bottom of the pyramid are receiving the biggest blows from Ghana’s rapid economic growth and society is becoming more stretched and stressed. What I am afraid of is that it will create fertile ground for extremism in the country and tribal, religious and societal disputes. We are together on a collision course.


Where Ghana holds the oldest democracy in Africa and is known as a peaceful country, I witnessed during last elections how the tensions about the outcome paralyzed the country for over 8 months. Many major projects were stopped, no contract could be signed and business was slow during that whole period. There even where violent excesses and next week teachers will go on strike because their income is not sufficient to maintain in their human rights; water, food, education, healthcare and a safe environment to live in.


Westerners have the tendency to say that is because of African nature, but I dare to say that the growing influence of Western companies and NGO’s has a significant part in these developments. Maybe even the dominance of Western habits and standards in the global economy are even the cause of it, at least in some way. And are we doing that well in Europe and the US? I believe not.




We have as much to learn from Africans as they have of the Westerners and – though our life conditions are different – we hold similar questions in our own community. Both in the Netherlands as in Ghana I recognize a national concern for preservation of food security; an affordable and humane healthcare system; education that fits with the country’s needs; and discussion on values in our community.


Only if we engage with each other from an attitude to gain mutual understanding we will – by collaborating across the countries boundaries – be able to find solutions for our own communities. But this asks for a different approach than we are currently showing and a different attitude towards each other than we are currently holding.


I strongly believe that both Ghana and Europe have a great future ahead together, but not in the way we are currently acting. I’m not as much asking for radical change. No, I believe the key is in how we engage, and that we can only change by collaborating with respect for diversity and nature. Nature survives through diversity where humanity is creating a global monoculture. A culture that shows cracks and will not uphold. Earth will survive, but will we?


The answer is a strong yes! We are going for a better future for our children, a future that is sustainable and respectful for our planet as a whole and its inhabitants; human beings, animals, plants, … Being human is key. Some kind of a spiritual awakening is necessary and possibly already happening.


Or as social change expert Adam Kahane might say, we need to develop a proper balance of power and love and proper balancing between them. It is my belief they should be collaborating as two partners in a tennis double instead of as two opposites that exclude one another as competitors in a singles match.


We can achieve a better future for our next generations when we learn how to apply traditional values of the indigenous nations and ancient spiritual traditions that teach us to live in sync with nature in our modern global economy. This doesn’t mean going back to the Stone Age, but it does mean to re-invent ourselves and to integrate the parts in our self that we have forgotten about in our strive for success.



It also means using modern day technology for the good of the whole, not only for the good of the few. Earth is calling us to take our next step into the 21st century. Listening to that call only is not enough. We have to step up and act from a higher level of consciousness than we have been doing. And everything is there to do so; we have the technology, the skills and the capacity.


But do we also have the courage to take the leap into life?

I trust we do – or some of us do – though there are many challenges ahead.


In Ghana we start taking small steps.

I expect the consequences to be great and beneficial for all.

About Alain B. Volz

Alain Volz M.Sc. (1969) - Social Economy Entrepreneur, founder and director of ATMA - has studied Business Administration and Organizational Psychology. He started his career with Royal Dutch Ahold and has worked with IPMMC and TC&O. For 10 years Alain has been working with Twynstra Gudde Consultants and Managers as senior consultant Human Talent & Change Management. He was responsible for Competency Based Human Talent Management. He is co-founder of the Center for Human Emergence in the Netherlands (CHE), a former member of the CHE alignment circle and founding director of CHE School of Synnervation (currently Synnervate). In 2011 he held the position of partner with the RnR Group in Maarn. Alain is Strategy & Alignment Officer at Dipaliya Women's Association in Tamale, Ghana. In the Netherlands he is board member of the committee for the position of women and minorities in the Dutch Democratic Party (D66 Thema Afdeling V/M Sociale Innovatie). As such he represented D66 in the PVO; a cross party National committee consisting of represents from 6 different political parties (CDA, CU, D66, Groen Links, PvdA, VVD). The office of ATMA is located at the ImpactHub Amsterdam & the ImpactHub Accra.
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