H.E. Mr. John Dramani Mahama
President of Ghana
JAPAN and the WORLD sat down with H.E. Mr. John Dramani Mahama to find out more about the purpose of his recent visit to Japan.
—After completing your education in Moscow, you returned to Ghana and worked as the Information, Culture, and Research Officer from 1991 to 1996 at the Embassy of Japan in Accra. Since then, how do you think the relationship between the two countries has evolved?
I think that we have the opportunity to move the relationship to a new level for many reasons. Japan’s first contact with Ghana was in 1927, when Dr. Hideyo Noguchi visited my country to conduct research on yellow fever. This created a platform for the two countries to enjoy a strong bilateral relationship. Aside from that, Ghana was the first country south of the Sahara to gain independence in 1957, so Japan established diplomatic relations in 1959. In the history of Africa, we are one of the few countries that have had a long history of diplomatic relations with Japan.
I was the African President who was chosen to present the Noguchi Memorial Africa Prize, and so all of this is an encouraging sign that shows that Japan and Ghana can build an even stronger relationship and I am committed to doing that.
Aside from that, I was the African President who was chosen to present the Noguchi Memorial Africa Prize, and so all of this is an encouraging sign that shows that Japan and Ghana can build an even stronger relationship and I am committed to doing that.
Personally, I have a special affinity for Japan as a result of my experience from working with the Japanese. I was an information clerk at the Embassy of Japan in Ghana for almost six years and, during that period, I worked with many Japanese people. I got used to the Japanese work ethic and, thanks to that, I have a great passion for hard work.
—How do you think the TICAD process is progressing and what are you expecting from TICAD VI?
I think that TICAD is a useful framework for Japan’s cooperation with Africa. The thing about TICAD is, unlike other agreements that Africa has with other countries, it is an ongoing process. We continue to work under TICAD as a framework for bilateral cooperation in Africa on a day-to-day basis in order to fulfill the agreements that we have reached under TICAD. We will put major programs on the table so that we can begin to convert those agreements into reality. There are many regional programs that I believe would enhance integration on the African continent.
—Touching on regional integration, you said what happened to Burkina Faso brought hope to Africa, which also showed that Africa has changed and it was a real success for democracy in West Africa. Now, what do you think are the main challenges that Africa is facing and what is the next big step for Africa?
I think that democracy has taken root in Africa. The modern Africa is an Africa that is confident, is prepared to take its place in the community of nations, and is prepared to compete with the rest of the world in terms of economic growth and prosperity. I believe that there is a new group of African leaders who have the commitment and integrity to be able to move their countries in the right direction. What happened in Burkina Faso showed that the people of Africa are becoming sensitive to the issues of governance. Ghana, as a member of ECOWAS, stepped in and guided the process of transition. West Africa has seen positive signs of consolidated democracy.
We continue to work under TICAD as a framework for bilateral cooperation in Africa on a day-to-day basis in order to fulfill the agreements that we have reached under TICAD. We will put major programs on the table so that we can begin to convert those agreements into reality.
—TICAD VI will be focusing on 3 pillars: health, social stability, and industrialization. How does Ghana cooperate with Japan already in those areas?
Japan and Ghana have excellent cooperation in those sectors. In the health sector, Japan is one of our major bilateral partners in terms of providing quality healthcare for our people. Chips compounds are community health improvement compounds. So, what we do is we select the most remote villages and put these facilities there.
Additionally, the establishment of a new advanced medical research center, the Noguchi Memorial Medical Center, has been announced. It is one of the major medical research centers in Africa, and I believe that recent investments have made it the best in Africa and in the area of global epidemics.
We should be able to ensure social intervention and social protection programs that make sure the poor and vulnerable are able to live a decent life. This is an area where Ghana has made a lot of progress. We have a lot of social protection programs and, in Ghana, the development is more geographically spread across the country. We need to include all of Africa in these programs.
Japan should watch over the establishment of such programs. Recently, Asia has become the major industrial producer of the whole world. When you look at low cost production and at the investments going into the production of lower cost products, it is cheaper in Ghana than it is in Vietnam. Ghana and Africa could become the next point for industrial production for the rest of the world.
—The future of Africa lies with the youth and the women. How do you plan to include more youth and women in the workforce? Do you have any programs?
The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection takes charge of the welfare and rights of women, children, and people with disabilities.
We have seen an increase in women participation at all levels of governance.
We have a gender policy that ensures that women are allowed to participate at the fullest extent. We have seen an increase in women participation at all levels of governance.
Now, women constitute about 30% of the government. Over the next few years, we hope to achieve an equal balance with women constituting 50% of the government.
—Last week, you attended the Anti-Corruption Summit in London. Japan is among the least corrupted countries in the world. Do you look at other countries to build an anti-corruption plan and how do you plan to achieve your goal of eradicating corruption in Ghana?
The first thing in the fight against corruption is to make sure that we are able to deal with it. One of the major problems we face in Africa is that our institutions are weak, and so it creates a situation where corruption is able to flourish.
We have a National Anti-Corruption action plan, which was approved by parliament and set up an implementation committee, where we are systematically following the anti-corruption action plan and putting into place the necessary means that will prevent corruption. I declare as the President that any allegation of corruption that is brought to my attention will be investigated and punished. We will make progress as we strengthen our institutions and put our systems in place and we will make every effort to stifle corruption.
Our country will follow the footsteps of Japan. I am working to ensure that in the future we will be considered as one of the least corrupted countries in the world.
—Have you a message for our Japanese readers? Or anything you wish to add?
I just want to give my warmest felicitations to your readers. I looked at the magazine and I think that it is a very interesting magazine and the production is good. Please continue to read JAPAN and the WORLD!