The Africa – America Institute (AAI) has awarded President Nana Akufo-Addo with the institute’s National Achievement Award for the year 2017.
The award which is also for the people of Ghana was bestowed on the president on Tuesday in New York at the institute’s 33rd Annual Awards Gala.
The award is to recognise the President and the people of Ghana “for their continued leadership and excellence in promoting democracy, accountability and peaceful transitions of power”, a citation for the award said.
In his acceptance speech, President Akufo-Addo said “Ghanaians are deeply humbled by the award”.
According to President Akufo-Addo, the award, which recognises Ghana’s status as a free, democratic and stable country in Africa, is as a result of the contributions of successive generations of Ghanaian patriots who played invaluable roles in establishing the free, sovereign and democratic Ghana.
He noted that over the course of Ghana’s long, tortuous history it has emerged that “the spirit of the Ghanaian, in his or her quest for peace, progress and prosperity, cannot be quenched. We are a determined lot, who cannot be deterred.”
Despite taking a while to reach a consensus on the establishment of multi-party constitutional, democratic rule in Ghana, he added that “today, after quite some time, we are recognised as a beacon of democracy and stability on the African continent. We are a country governed by the principles of democratic accountability, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the rule of law, an aspiring modern nation.”
It is for this reason that President Akufo-Addo indicated that, in the aftermath of the disputed elections of 2012, “we demonstrated clearly that it was not the ambitions of Akufo-Addo, or the fortunes of the New Patriotic Party, that we sought to promote. The stability and progress of Ghana, and the enhancement of her democracy were the paramount considerations that guided our every action in those difficult days.”
President Akufo-Addo told the packed gathering that the time has now come for Ghana to move on even further to deepen her democracy.
“It is time to make sure that we have a genuine separation of powers between the various arms of government. Our Parliament, the legislative arm of government, must grow into its proper role as an effective machinery for accountability and oversight of the Executive. Our Judiciary must inspire confidence in the citizens, so we can all see the courts as the ultimate, impartial arbiters when disputes arise, as they would,” he stressed.
Additionally, he noted that Ghana must also decentralise more, and devolve more power with corresponding resources to the base of her political system and to her people, in the regions and communities.
“We must trust the individual and collective wisdom and good sense of our people. We must create wealth and restore happiness to our nation. We can only do this when we have a powerful private sector, with a strong sense of enterprise, innovation and creativity, and an educated and skilled population that is capable of competing in the global economy,” President Akufo-Addo added.
It is for this reason that his government, he told the gathering, is insisting on making basic education, i.e. kindergarten through primary school to junior high school to senior high school, free in all the country’s public schools, to guarantee access to quality basic education to all of Ghana’s children, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.
“In doing so, we must expand our horizons and embrace science and technology as critical tools for our development. We want to create a society of opportunities and incentives. We have to build a confident Ghana which is united, at peace with itself and takes pride in its diversity, and which continues to pursue its pan-African vocation,” he added.
Tribute to successive generations
President Akufo-Addo paid tribute to a tall list of Ghanaians who made the receipt of the award possible.
This list included the members of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society; the great nationalists who gathered at Saltpond to inaugurate the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC); Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and leading stalwarts of the government of the Conventions Peoples Party.
The President also paid tribute to some others, who are not listed among the forefront fighters for political freedom, but who fought equally hard for our cultural integrity and identity of who we are as Ghanaians, such as Philip Gbeho, Ephraim Amu, Theodosia Okoh, Amon Kotei, Kofi Antubam, Ayi Kwei Armah and Ama Ata Aidoo, Esther Ocloo, Dede Asikisham, Akua Shorshorshor, and other pioneer entrepreneurs.
He also paid tribute to his predecessor Presidents of the country, ”all of whom contributed in their diverse ways, during their respective tenures of office, variously to the Ghana we are celebrating tonight, the Ghana of Freedom and Justice, the stirring words of our national motto.”
Founded in 1953, the Africa-America Institute is a premier U.S.-based international organization dedicated to strengthening human capacity of Africans and promoting the continent’s development through higher education and skills training, convening activities, program implementation and management.
AAI raises funds to provide scholarships to smart and under-resourced students to attend top-performing African universities and develops programs that focus on increasing the skills of the next generation of African youth so that they become globally competitive.
AAI alumni are at the forefront of Africa’s public, non-profit, and private sectors.
The Gala supports AAI’s efforts to strengthen the human capacity of Africans and to promote enlightened engagement between Africa and America through education, skills training, dialogue and special events.
The award ceremony brought together diplomats, international and senior US government officials, business and civil society leaders, educators, philanthropists, journalists and other prominent figures.