Ghana: weighed down by the economic crisis, President Nana Akufo-Addo purges his government

Much criticized for its management of the economic crisis, the Ghanaian government is trying to put itself in battle shape before the general elections – presidential and legislative – on December 7

Ghana: weighed down by the economic crisis, President Nana Akufo-Addo purges his government

Much criticized for its management of the economic crisis, the Ghanaian government is trying to put itself in battle shape before the general elections – presidential and legislative – on December 7. The outgoing head of state, Nana Akufo-Addo, who is completing his second term, will not be able to run again and will let his vice-president, Mahamudu Bawumia, carry the banner of the New Patriotic Party (NPP, in power).

On Wednesday February 14, Nana Akufo-Addo announced a major reshuffle of his government, during which thirteen ministers and ten deputy ministers were replaced. Among them, the Minister of the Interior, those of Information and Tourism, as well as the Minister of Health Kwaku Agyeman Manu, involved in several health scandals and accused in 2020 of having concealed his contamination with Covid-19, which caused a wave of panic within the government.

But it is above all the departure of the very unpopular Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, which has attracted attention, while Ghana has been plunged into economic stagnation since 2022, with a massive debt and a depreciation of its currency, on cedi. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared at the end of January that the inflation rate, which had been falling steadily for six months, had fallen to 23.2% in December 2023 and was “moving in the right direction”.

But it unexpectedly rose again to 23.5% in January, destroying timid hopes of an upcoming improvement. The country's economic situation should occupy a central place in the presidential campaign debates, and Ken Ofori-Atta, in office since 2017, is held largely responsible for this by a large part of the opposition, economists and voters.

Ken Ofori-Atta becomes first adviser on the economy

Some observers concluded, somewhat hastily, that Nana Akufo-Addo was sanctioning his minister for his poor results and making way for his successor, Mohammed Amin Adam, previously deputy minister of energy responsible for overseeing the crucial oil sector. " But not at all ! corrects, sarcastically, an observer of Ghanaian politics. President Akufo-Addo would not do this to Ken Ofori-Atta, who is his own cousin and, moreover, a sponsor of his presidential campaign. »

The head of state had already promised that Ken Ofori-Atta would leave office when Ghana received its $3 billion bailout loan from the IMF, according to an agreement reached in December 2022 with the institution. The country received a first disbursement of $600 million in late January, and President Akufo-Addo appears to have kept his promise.

Except that Ken Ofori-Atta is not ousted yet. According to Ghanaian radio Asaase, the former minister should be appointed first adviser on the economy to the president. He would thus be entrusted with the responsibility of attracting international investors to Ghana, thanks to a vast network built during his previous career in private finance. If this appointment is made official, “this would mean that he will be responsible for negotiating, or at least influencing, the most important agreements,” explains Franklin Cudjoe, director of the Ghanaian think tank Imani. He will actually weigh more than the finance minister. »

Far from the anticipated upheaval, the ministerial reshuffle is in fact “cosmetic”, judges Franklin Cudjoe, who points out that six of the nine newly appointed ministers will be candidates in the legislative elections in December. “They will start working during or at the end of March,” he estimates, “and, in August at the latest, they will begin campaigning to keep their seat. What will they have accomplished to improve the economic situation? »

A “stillborn” reshuffle

Conversely, most of the dismissed ministers had just lost the NPP primaries and would not have been able to participate under the party's colors in the legislative elections. Further proof, for Chris Atadika, researcher in political communication and civil society activist, that the reshuffle is “only a repositioning strategy”, aimed above all at “preparing for the electoral “war” which is coming in December ".

On the side of the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the deputy leader of the parliamentary minority Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah estimated on the social network stillborn.” The change, “long overdue, comes at a time when the government is already collapsing,” he said. “The president had ample opportunity to reshuffle the ministers he had appointed, especially when their performance was abysmal and the country was facing an economic crisis,” Mr. Buah recalled, denouncing “a government that expects the last minute to give the misleading impression of tackling the problems”.

Economists and members of civil society also demanded that the government set an example, in these times of austerity, by reducing the number of its ministries to save public money. There too, they were disappointed: despite the waltz of portfolios, there are still 86 ministers in office in Ghana.