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Former Ghana president: Fight poverty with wealth creation, not charity

From Max Foster, CNN
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John Kufuor's legacy
  • John Kufuor was president of Ghana from 2001 to 2009
  • Under his leadership, the country's gross domestic product quadrupled
  • He says Ghana is a safe place for foreign business investments

CNN's Marketplace Africa offers viewers a unique window into African business on and off the continent. This week the show interviews John Kufuor, the former president of Ghana.

(CNN) -- As president of Ghana for eight years, John Kufuor helped transform the West African nation into one of the continent's biggest success stories.

Kufuor came to power in 2001, a historic event that marked the first peaceful democratic transition of power since the former British colony's independence in 1957.

When he stepped down in 2009 -- after serving two four-year terms, the maximum period allowed -- his administration had quadrupled the country's gross domestic product.

Ghana is one of the world's biggest cocoa and gold producers. Its economic prospects were boosted recently after it started tapping into oil resources that were discovered in 2007, joining the club of oil-producing nations.

According to Kufuor, encouraging the private sector has been key to fighting poverty in Ghana. "We fight poverty with wealth creation, otherwise it's charity, and that's not what we came into government for," he said.

CNN's Max Foster sat down with the former president to learn about Ghana's economic progress.

CNN: Do you think now that Ghanaians have had a taste of a stable, growing economy, that they won't let go of that? That there's now a permanent change in Ghana's economic culture so things won't go back to the way they used to be? They will respect transparency?

We fight poverty with wealth creation, otherwise it's charity, and that's not what we came into government for.
--John Kufuor, former Ghanaian president

John Kufuor: I believe these things you are talking about are becoming more and more global. Everywhere, people want to be included in governance. And people have found their voices, people's power is becoming the reality.

I just hope Ghanaians will cherish these rights to keep their successive governments on their course, so then they will continue to enjoy sustained, good governance.

I have always believed that for development there should be a partnership between the public and private sectors. In fact, the public sector should be the infrastructure for the private sector or, as the slogan has been, the private sector is not growing.

How then would you have general growth in the economy, for the people like that? For instance, one of the slogans we used for coming into power was that our government would usher in the golden age of business in Ghana. To us, the private sector was the touchstone for the country to move ahead. And so we needed to get the private sector to access credits, and on that basis there would be investments.

With good management, wealth would be generated to fight the poverty we were suffering. We fight poverty with wealth creation, otherwise it's charity, and that's not what we came into government for.

CNN: Some people suggest you could become a victim of your own success because Ghana is a really hot place to invest right now, and there's concern that Western investors may pile money in and make a quick buck and pull the money out. Is that something you're concerned about?

JK: That's speculation, that's not economic development.

CNN: How do you stop that then?

JK: It's good governance, is the main thing. Not only good governance, but a good legal framework which would generate a business-friendly atmosphere.

If an investor comes to find it's a safe place for investments, finds that the infrastructure is in place for business to grow, finds the social atmosphere such that the personnel that were coming in would not feel endangered -- and in Ghana people walk around so freely, 24 hours of the day, they enjoy themselves -- they won't pull out easily.

Especially where Ghana is situated geographically -- six hours you are in London, you are in Paris, you are in Berlin, you are in the Middle East; United States and New York, eight hours or so you are there.

Accessibility is so easy. I don't know who would want to come in and make a quick buck and run away, because you don't feel threatened at all.