Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has said the Ghana card is enfranchising all Ghanaians to improve financial accessibility and also helping the security services in the fight against fraudulent activities.
In a recent feature in the February issue of PAV Magazine, the Veep lauded the Akufo-Addo government and also spoke about the impact of digitalization for the subregion.
“As a result, Ghana will be one of only a handful of countries where a national identification card also constitutes an e-passport, an illustration of the opportunities of digitisation. I will of course update citizens on developments concerning the activation of the e-passport feature, but discussions are positive.”
Dr Bawumia added, “For the time being, I urge travelers to, as always, bring their passport and other forms of the required documentation with them. Additionally, citizens should continue to apply for their own Ghana Card so that they can be part of this digital revolution.”
In an exclusive interview with PAV, Dr Bawumia sheds light on progress with key segments of the agenda of President Akufo Addo under his purview, COVID 19, and other seminal developments across the continent.
Vice President Bawumia – Thanks for accepting to answer our questions, could we start with a synopsis of how Ghana is doing politically, economically, and socially?
The last two years during the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for countries across the world, regardless of their level of development. Despite these challenges, I believe that Ghana’s political, economic, and social foundations are relatively strong, and our future is bright.
Politically, we are a robust multi-party democracy (we have been since 1992) with free and fair elections and peaceful transitions of power. Despite our political differences, Ghanaians have experienced authoritarianism in the past and we place too high a value on our democratic and human rights to give them up now.
In terms of our economy, we remain, irrespective of the damage of the pandemic, an attractive destination for foreign investment and a pioneer in the fields of digitisation and the democratisation of technology. The government of H.E. President Akufo-Addo has a plan in place for reducing the deficit, fostering public-private commercial partnerships, and improving tax collection. A stable economic environment will support rising living standards and our exceptional public services.
In the face of a deadly pandemic, Ghanaians have demonstrated the strength of our country’s social contract. Lockdown rules were respected by the vast majority of the population and every effort was made to comply with social distancing guidelines and government advice to wear masks. As a result, society was able to open gradually over the course of 2021, allowing Ghanaians to not only return to their livelihoods but also to reconnect with their loved ones.
President Akufo-Addo is the embodiment of hard work, public service, and generosity of spirit, and we share the same hopes and vision for Ghana, says Dr Bawumia
How has it been like working with President Akufo-Addo for the past six or seven years now?
It has been an honour working alongside H.E. President Akufo-Addo, a leader who is the embodiment of hard work, public service, and generosity of spirit. We have always worked very well with one another, and we share the same hopes and dreams for Ghana. The President is the boss, and my role is to assist him to implement his vision.
Under H.E.’s leadership since 2017, Ghana has experienced significant economic success, with annual GDP growth surpassing 6% in the lead up to the pandemic and with the World Bank predicting a return to this rate later this year. As one of the first countries to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in 2018, we have signified our commitment to free trade as the best way of generating increased FDI and fostering diplomatic relations with countries around the world. Indeed, our capital, Accra, is the Secretariat of the AfCFTA and is the base of operations for officials implementing the agreement. The President’s position as Chairman of ECOWAS also signifies our administration’s dedication to regional trade and co-operation with our neighbours.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the President and his government’s sheer determination to protect our citizens certainly helped us to steer the country through the worst of the crisis. Fortunately, the road ahead looks far more positive than it did in 2020, largely as a result of our government’s early action in mitigating the effects of the virus, as well as our successful vaccination programme.
I look forward to working with the President in the years to come, ensuring that our policy platform continues to result in beneficial outcomes for all Ghanaians.
On COVID 19 and the new Omicron variant, what is the situation like in Ghana, and what extra measures have been taken by the administration to cushion its effects on the economy, and national life in general?
In 2020, during the initial onset of the pandemic, the government followed WHO guidelines in instituting lockdowns, implementing contact tracing, and social distancing, and encouraging basic public safety measures such as the use of facemasks.
By April of last year, the pandemic had subsided somewhat, and we gradually reopened the country, with the government’s official advice to wear masks and maintain social distancing remaining in place.
The importance of these exact same public safety measures was of course reiterated after the emergence of the Omicron variant.
In terms of our economy, along with the rest of the world, COVID-19 hit Ghana hard, but the monetary relief and economic recovery programs instituted by the government, such as free water and electricity, provision of PPEs to schools, and the availability of ‘soft loans’ to individuals and small businesses, cushioned the blow to ordinary Ghanaians.
Moreover, with the Ghanaian state has thrown its arms around the economy during these past two years of economic uncertainty, the IMF has forecasted that GDP is now set to return to pre-2020 levels later this year.
VP Bawumia has been at the forefront of a digitisation agenda for Ghana, can you shed light on what this means for the country and progress made since its launching?
Digitisation is at the forefront of H.E. President Nana Akufo-Addo’s agenda for Ghana, and we are making great strides in upgrading Ghana’s technological capabilities.
The ‘Ghana Card’, a state-of-the-art, biometric ID card, is the beating heart of this government’s digitisation drive. The card is enfranchising all Ghanaians, connecting them with our fantastic public services, improving their access to finance, and helping our security services in the fight against fraudulent activity.
We are using digitalization to create a more inclusive society, fight corruption, and enhance domestic revenue mobilisation. A more secure society and the connection of consumers and business owners to the services and capital they need will spread entrepreneurship beyond the economic hubs of our towns and cities to our rural communities. Encouragingly, the card has seen an impressive take-up thus far with over 85% of the adult population enrolled.
While the spirit and innovation of the private sector are crucial, our government knows that world-class public services are essential for speedy economic development. When we came into the office 5 years ago, only 4% of the adult population had a Tax Identification Number. We took the decision to make the unique Ghanacard number the TIN for all citizens and residents. By so doing we now have 85% of the adult population with TINs. This has broadened the tax base and will improve our domestic tax collection, providing us with the revenues for sustained investment.
Healthcare, education, commercial infrastructure – these are the basis of our society and this government’s digitisation agenda will drive them forwards.
Economic progress and general development will pick up the pace again as COVID 19 recedes, says Dr Bawumia
Last year you made an announcement at a public lecture that efforts were underway to get the GhanaCard recognised globally as an e-passport, could you shed light on what progress has been made in this direction?
For both Ghana and our African neighbours, it is modernisation, a strong relationship between the public and private sectors, and an embrace of free trade that will raise living standards and this government is a flag bearer for each of these causes.