Nana Akufo-Addo speaks at inauguration ceremony in Accra
New president wants to ‘provide direction’ to entrepreneurs
Nana Akufo-Addo was sworn in as Ghana’s president on Saturday, pledging to cut taxes and boost the private sector to accelerate growth in an economy that’s recording its slowest expansion in two decades.
“We believe that the business of government is to govern; ours is to set fair rules, and we will provide vision and direction and shine the light down the path of our entrepreneurs and farmers,” Akufo-Addo, 72, said during the ceremony in the capital, Accra. “We are counting on a vibrant private sector to drive growth and create jobs.”
An economist and former central bank governor, Mahamudu Bawumia, was sworn in as vice president. The ceremony was attended by West African heads of state including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, Ghana’s neighbor.
The leader of the New Patriotic Party won last month’s election against incumbent John Mahama on campaign pledges to create jobs, encourage mining of bauxite and solve chronic energy shortages that have crippled small businesses for the past three years. The previous administration was forced to seek a $933 million emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund last year, blaming the downturn on low prices for Ghana’s main exports cocoa, gold and oil.
“Expectations are really high, especially because the NPP’s policies are usually more business-friendly,” Godfred Bokpin, head of the finance department at the University of Ghana’s Business School, said in an interview Friday. “There’s very little fiscal space to finance development, but there should be a re-ignition of economic activity in the country.”
Akufo-Addo, who lost two previous elections with a small margin of votes, will face the task of reigniting growth while reining in inflation and consolidating public debt. After expanding at the fastest annual pace in Africa at 14 percent with the start of oil exports in 2011, Ghana’s economy was projected to slow to 3.3 percent growth last year.
“We will reduce taxes to recover the momentum of our economy,” he said. “It’s time to dream again, time to try that business idea again. Ghana is open for business again.”