The US Government is providing $4.5 million to support Ghana’s electoral process.
One-third of the amount would be channeled to the Electoral Commission (EC) to strengthen its strategic communication and also educate the public on the practicality of voting.
Another one-third of the amount which would be channeled through the UNDP, would also be used to support the activities of the National Peace Commission both at the national and regional levels.
The US Ambassador to Ghana, Ambassador Robert P. Jackson, who announced this in an interaction with the media in Accra to mark his 90th day in office as ambassador in Ghana, outlined other areas the US would support to ensure peaceful elections.
The Ambassador spent almost an hour answering questions ranging from security, terrorism, democratic development and his vision in Ghana as an ambassador.
Potential conflict areas
Ambassador Jackson said other areas earmarked to benefit from the US support included training programmes for journalists on election reporting and also working together with the National Peace Commission to identify potential conflict areas.
He said even though the National Peace Commission and the UNDP had already mapped out such potential areas, the US would be bringing in leading experts on elections and security from the UNDP to validate that work and to talk with the EC and civil societies organisations on their perception of such potential areas and what could be done about it.
Ambassador Jackson said for Ghana to have a peaceful election would depend on the commitment of Ghanaians and urged the political parties in the country to make a pledge to hold peaceful elections.
He said rather than wanting to find out what happened after the elections, “Why don’t we focus on getting people to vote and make their choice? I think that should rather be our focus.”
Ambassador Jackson urged politicians to focus on what they could do when given the mandate and that would give the electorate the opportunity to select their preferred candidate.
On the use of mother tongue in the pre-school and lower primary, he said there were lots of academic evidence to suggest that people needed to have a command of their own languages before they could really learn effectively in another language.
“So, I’m very excited about what they are doing in the primary school to make sure that the children have strong foundation in their own languages,” he said, adding that he was very pleased with the educational sector in the country.
Priority to unlock Ghana’s potential
On his priority to unlock Ghana’s potential for sustained inclusive broad-based economy, the ambassador said though it was still too early to assess him, he said he had had fruitful discussions with President John Mahama and the Ministry of Trade and other relevant government agencies.
“I have also had several meetings with American businesses in the country, where they have seen opportunities and challenges and I think that we are on the path to unlocking some of the potentials, but I think 90 days are too short to accomplish that,” he said.
He said his target was to double bilateral trade between the two countries within three years, which would trigger the creation of jobs to realise that potential.
US, Ghana trade relations
On trade relations between US and Ghana, he said there were a lot of opportunities between the two countries, adding that last year, bilateral trade between the two countries was $1.2 billion and his target is to see that double this year.
He urged Ghanaian companies to focus more on the export sector to the US market, saying there were a number of US companies interested in dealing with some Ghanaian companies in the textile area.
Ambassador Jackson said Ghana is moving in a positive direction and identified the urgent needs for job creation and said that was an area he was prepared to work with the current government and any government that might emerge in the November general elections.
“Broadly, when I look at how Ghana has developed over the last 17 years since I was first here, it is clear that the country is much, much prosperous, it is moving in a positive direction, it is creating more opportunities,” he said.
Prioritising the areas of assistance by the US government to Ghana, Ambassador Jackson mentioned health, agriculture, education and democratic governance.
On the development gap between northern and southern Ghana, Ambassador Jackson revealed that the bulk of American support was channeled to the northern sector, “because we agree that is where the needs are.”
He said he had wide ranging discussions with stakeholders during his familiarisation tour of the country on how to attract more investors to the north, which would lead to creating jobs and not just giving assistance.
“That was the thrust of my conversation with the leadership of SADA, that we need to be looking at how to attract more investments to the north. I am very interested in seeing more jobs created,” he said.
He said there were a number of US companies with good records in the north for providing knowledge transfer and quality jobs.