Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ghana Way

The United States is not the only country to experience an interesting election cycle this year. One of Africa's more prosperous nations will also replace a two term incumbent with a newcomer.

It now seems likely that a runoff election to establish a clear victor between Nana Akufo-Addo and John Atta-Mills will be held near the end of the year. According to Ghana's Constitution, a candidate must receive the majority, rather than a plurality, of votes to be declared the winner.
Despite a checkered history, this West African nation of more than 23 million is on the verge of becoming what some observers call a "mature democracy." This most recent election qualifies as Ghana's toughest test since 2000, when John Kufuor prevailed and the country successfully transferred power from one political party to another. After serving two terms, Kufuor will now be succeeded by one of the two aforementioned candidates; Mr. Addo is a member of the incumbent party while Mr. Mills heads the opposition.

In 1957, Kwame Nkrumah became the first President of an independent nation in Sub-Saharan Africa. For this reason, Ghana has long been seen as an inspiration for the rest of the continent. But for some thirty years between the 1960s and 1990s, Ghana raged with civil war, coups, and ethnic strife. Only during the last decade has this resource-rich locality began to realize its potential.

Ghana's assets include cocoa, gold, diamonds and even petroleum, which was recently discovered off the coast. Though smaller than the state of Oregon, Ghana also produces timber, bauxite, and rubber. Suffice to say, any country that can provide oil and chocolate will generate interest from the West. But generous natural resources alone cannot ensure a nation's wealth or stability; ask the citizens of Congo.

Even following a deeply contentious race during which Atta-Mills intimated his opponent might try to steal the election, the citizens of Ghana displayed remarkable equanimity and restraint, not merely by African standards, but by global standards. Regardless of which candidate wins, the policies pursued by the new President will likely remain similar to Kufuor's, with various programs to improve health and reduce poverty, as well as continued economic development with the help of Ghana's trade partners and benefactors, notably the countries of Scandanavia and the United States.

Though it is too early to declare the political process in Ghana has again succeeded without incident, all early indicators are positive. Ghana's increasing prosperity and stability are essential to the future of a turbulent West Africa. This triumph should serve as an example not merely to Africa but to all the developing world.

Sources:, voanews, 2009 World Almanac and Book of Facts