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CONCEPT NOTE ON EJN PUBLIC LECTURE SERIES

Introduction and Background

As an introduction to an issues-based electioneering process for the December polls Economic Justice Network (EJN) of Ghana is embarking on a series of lectures on topical economic issues that are critical to the livelihoods of ordinary citizens who form the bulk of the electorate.

The Economic Justice Network (EJN) is a national platform of civil society organisations devoted to equitable national economic development. It is made up of trade unions, farmers’ organisations, associations from industry and services, women’s rights and equality organisations, faith-based organisations and non-governmental organizations.

It thrives for equity, socio-economic justice, the eradication of poverty, and economic development to the benefit of all the people of Ghana. To this end, it serves primarily as a platform of advocacy against the paradigm and related policies of economic development which have, over past thirty years, contributed to extremes of inequality and inequity, widespread poverty and lack of opportunity for the overwhelming majority of Ghanaians. At the same time, it promotes alternative policies which will contribute to end this state of affairs. The Network has the track record in advocating for appropriate policies.

EJN’s lecture series is in response to calls from institutions and citizens groups for the political debate and campaigns to move away from politics of insults and character assassination to issues of economic and social importance to the ordinary man and woman on the street. Many people are concerned about decent jobs and incomes, quality housing, access to quality education and health among others.

The lecture series will cover three thematic areas across the country in the form of zones:

Trade Policy and Industrial Development-The Case of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs)

Jobs and manufacturing-The Panacea to Youth Unemployment

Agriculture and Rural Development-The Latent Wealth of the Savannah

1.1 Trade Policy and Industrial Development-To be held in the Southern Zone-Accra

The first lecture will centre on the search for a trade policy which is appropriate for Ghana’s development challenges. Through the critique of the EPAs, it will show how the mainstream trade policy framework condemns Ghana to the trade regime that breeds Ghana’s woes, including its import-dependency, currency fluctuations, among others. This is scheduled to coincide with the 10th Anniversary of the EPA negotiations that were launched on 27th September 2002.

The EPAs, as indicated, are being negotiated between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP). The negotiations, which commenced at the all-Africa level, moved to the regional levels and by the end of 2007 some countries bowed to the pressure of the European Union and signed or initialled interim agreements with the European Union. Ghana for instance broke ranks with ECOWAS to initial an agreement with the European Union in 2007.

This development has created more fault lines on the agenda of integration and the transformation of the whole sub-region. A lot of arguments have gone on over the airwaves on the effects of such agreement with the world’s largest trading bloc and developing and even least developed countries. For instance the African Union has indicated that EPAs is not a priority within the current context of the drive for the promotion of Intra-African Trade and ultimately the desire of establishing a continental free trade area. At best the EPAs will stall the integration agenda on the continent.

1.2 Jobs and Manufacturing-to be held in Middle Zone-Kumasi

Ghana and other African countries have a huge task of resolving the unemployment challenge especially on the youth front. According to the Economic Outlook for Africa for 2012, young people aged between 15 and 25 represent more than 60 per cent of the Africa’s total population and account for 45 per cent of the total labour force. Unlike other developing regions, sub-Saharan Africa’s population is becoming more youthful, with youth as a proportion of the total population projected at over 75 per cent by 2015.

At the moment the problem of unemployment is a strategy of development which has over the past decades produced job-less growth. In 2011, Ghana’s GDP growth of 14% was among the highest in the world but the contribution of manufacturing was minimal. Overall GDP growth in recent years has resulted in the economy’s re-classification as a ‘middle income’. Alongside this, and based on thoroughly unrealistic definitions and measurements of poverty, official statistics claim successes in poverty-reduction. But as the UNDP points out, the “tragedy of averages” of these macro-economic indicators masks the depth of growing inequality in Ghana.

The problem with this growth is that it continuous to be based largely on primary commodity exports. This has been at the expense of industrialization, especially manufacturing. This lecture will explore a strategy for resurrecting Ghana’s manufacturing prospects as a route to job-creation

1.3 Rural Development and Agriculture-the Case of Northern Ghana- to be held in Tamale

Agriculture has special features for poverty reduction and rural development especially in Northern Ghana. Needless to say, Ghana is an agricultural based economy. The sector constitutes the main activity to which the bulk of Ghana's labour and land resources are put. While it employs approximately 54% of the economically active population between 15 and 64, rising to about 70% in rural areas, agriculture currently contributes 36% of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This gap between contribution to GDP and scale of employment derives from the fact most of the output is produced by small holder farmers on family operated farms using rudimentary technology. The situation these rural small-holder farmers who form the bulk of the rural population, and their marginalisation in terms of investment, finance, rural infrastructure, constitute the basic conditions of poverty experienced by Ghana’s majority. By the same token, the challenge of addressing poverty is a challenge of the transformation of the conditions of production and life in rural agriculture.

This lecture addresses the policy issues involved in this situation. It will be addressed through the prism of the rural communities of Northern Ghana, where all the challenges of rural poverty are most sharply experienced. Key policy initiatives taken in this context, Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) will be examined from the perspective of their adequacy or otherwise.

3.0 Proposed Partners

It is a collaboration between the Economic Justice Network (EJN) of Ghana and Citi Fm and affiliate stations across the country. Citi Fm will broadcast the lectures live.

4.0 Details on the Lectures

Southern Zone-Accra

Speaker: Dr. Yao Graham, Coordinator of TWN-Africa (tbc)

Chair: Rev. Dr. Fred Deegbe of the Christian Council (tbc)

Date: 27th September 2012 (Global EPA Day)

Venue: GNAT HALL

Time: 10am-12:00noon

Middle Zone –Kumasi

Speaker

Chair/Host: TUC

Venue

Time

Date: 4th October 2012

Northern Zone-Tamale

Speaker: Charles Abugri (tbc)

Chair/Host: SEND Ghana/ISODEC Tamale

Date 10th October 2012


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