Kingsley Ibokette

Kingsley Ibokette

Kingsley Ibokette BT

Every year an increasing number of Nigerians flee poverty and unrest at home. Now, rich Nigerians are planning their escape too. And they’re taking their money with them.

Dapo has spent too long at home in Lagos, Nigeria. Back in October, protests against the SARS police unit kept him from going to his office. “First, we were told to stay at home because of the coronavirus. Then this,” he says.

A wealthy Nigerian, Dapo, who is in his late 30s, does not want to make himself identifiable by giving his surname and age, lest it draw unwanted attention.

He has had a “backup plan” for getting out of Nigeria for some time, he says. “I have Maltese citizenship. I can leave for there any time.” With one small obstacle – a 14-day quarantine upon arrival – Dapo could be permanently in Malta any time he pleases. He is not planning to go imminently, but describes it as his “plan b’’.

Dapo is one of a rapidly growing number of Nigerians who have bought so-called “golden visas” or foreign citizenships-by-investment this year. In his case it was Malta, the Mediterranean island where citizenship can be acquired for a minimum investment of 800,000 euros ($947,180) through the Malta Citizenship by Investment Programme.

An aerial view over Malta Freeport in Valletta, in March 2018 [File:Getty Images]

Not that he has any special love for Malta. A record 92 countries around the world now allow wealthy individuals to become residents or citizens in return for a fee, sometimes as low as $100,000 but often several million dollars. It is billed as a “win-win”: The country gets much-needed foreign investment and, in return, the new citizens have new passports that open up more of the world to travel or live in.

 

Golden visas are the lesser-reported side of the Nigerian migration story. Every year thousands of Nigerians make their way to Europe via perilous crossings over the Sahara and Mediterranean. Now their wealthier counterparts are also making their way to Europe but via a different route.

A record year for golden visas

Whether rich or poor, the reasons for leaving one’s home country are often the same. Fear of political uncertainty at home and hope for better opportunities elsewhere. But 2020 has been exceptional.

Like Dapo, Folajimi Kuti, 50, was watching the #EndSARS protests from his home in Lagos in October. “I have children, they’re teenagers, and they’re asking me questions like, ‘How did we get here?’” he says, referring to the violence that accompanied demonstrations against the controversial Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Kuti says he has believed for some time that social unrest would boil over in Nigeria, because of issues of poverty and police brutality. “It had been clear for the past two or three years that something was going to happen. It’s happened now in 2020 but, frankly, we’ve been expecting this outburst for a while so it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’. It was a matter of ‘when’.”

An aerial view shows the central business district in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos in 2009 [File: Reuters]
Citizenship or residency abroad has become appealing, he adds. As a financial adviser to the wealthy, Kuti knows the process of applying for one having walked clients through it before. Most of his work involves advising Nigeria’s growing number of millionaires about investments and wealth planning. But now they are asking about foreign citizenships and Kuti himself is tempted by the idea. “Just knowing that if you need to go you certainly could and move without any restriction.”

The rush for golden visas among rich Nigerians started before October’s SARS protests. At London-based Henley & Partners, one of the world’s largest citizenship advisory firms, applications by Nigerians increased by 185 percent during the eight months to September 2020, making them the second-largest nationality to apply for such schemes after Indians.

More than 1,000 Nigerians have enquired about the citizenship of another country through Henley & Partners this year alone, which Paddy Blewer, head of marketing, says “is unheard of. We’ve never had this many people contacting us”.

Many, like Kuti, saw political problems ahead and wanted an escape plan. Others were focused on coronavirus: What if the pandemic overwhelms Nigeria?

“There is a lack of primary healthcare capacity that would be able to manage with either a second wave or whatever happens in, say, 2025,” says Blewer. “Let’s say there is COVID-21 still going on in 2025 that is of an order or magnitude worse. It’s, ‘Do I want to be based here and only based here, or do I want an alternative base of operations where I believe I will be safer and I will be able to run my global businesses’.

“And, I think, that’s what COVID has driven.”

The Victoria Island waterfront is seen from the affluent Ikoyi neighbourhood in Lagos, in June 2014 [File: Reuters]
It was in July, when the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria escalated, that wealthy Nigerians started looking more seriously at citizenship abroad, experts say. “Those with medical conditions that could not fly out – a lot of them are buying passports just because if there is any problem they can fly out,” says Olusegun Paul Andrew, 56, a Nigerian entrepreneur and investor who spends much of the year in the Netherlands.

“Flying out” of Nigeria is hard and not just because of the coronavirus pandemic. Just 26 countries allow Nigerian passport holders visa-free entry, many of them part of West Africa’s ECOWAS arrangement. Both the United Kingdom and Europe’s Schengen zone require Nigerians to obtain visas ahead of travelling.

For the wealthy, this is too much hassle. “They don’t want to be queueing for visas for any EU country or whatever,” says Andrew. Instead, why not purchase the citizenship of a country with visa-free access to Europe?

To Europe, via the Caribbean

Bimpe, a wealthy Nigerian who also does not wish to give her full name, has three passports. One Nigerian, which she says she never uses, and two from Caribbean nations: St Kitts and Nevis; and Grenada.

The St Kitts and Nevis passport, which cost her $400,000 via a real estate investment programme, was useful when she travelled between London and New York on business as it allows for visa-free travel to the UK and Europe. But now that she has retired in Abuja, Bimpe, whose husband has passed away, wants her three adult sons to have the same opportunities to travel and live abroad.

“My kids were interested in visa-free travel. They are young graduates, wanting to explore the world. So that was the reason for my investment,” she explains.

A general view of Grenada taken in March, 2019 [File: Getty Images]

Her investment to gain a Grenada passport for herself and her sons took the form of a $300,000 stake in the Six Senses La Sagesse hotel on the Caribbean island, which she bought in 2015 through a property development group called Range Developments. Like most countries offering their citizenship for sale, Grenada allows real estate investments to qualify for a passport.

Bimpe’s family has lived overseas before – spending nine years in the UK between 2006 and 2015. Of her three sons, she says: “One, for sure now, is never going to leave Nigeria. He loves it here. The second one lives in England. He’s been in England long enough to get British residency. My youngest – for him, living abroad is a very, very attractive option. He’s not very happy [in Nigeria]. He went to England very young – at age 12 – and he’s had a problem adjusting since. He’s been back in Nigeria five years and he’s still not settled.”

Now aged 26, Bimpe’s youngest son is looking at settling in the UK or in the US where, thanks to his Grenada citizenship, he qualifies for an E-2 visa, something not available to his fellow Nigerians since President Donald Trump’s ban on immigrant visa applications in February. Bimpe believes his career opportunities in acting – he studied Drama in the UK – are better abroad, and therefore considers the Grenada citizenship to be a worthwhile investment.

Neither Bimpe nor her sons have ever been to Grenada even though their investment allows them to stay on the Caribbean island, once known as The Spice Island. “I intend to go. I would like to go,” she says. “Just when I did [the investment], it was soon after my husband died and I wasn’t in the mood for travel and then I got my passport but there was no good reason for travel due to the pandemic.”

The Six Senses La Sagesse is being constructed by Range Developments, whose founder and managing director, Mohammed Asaria, says it is not unusual for investors never to visit. In fact, since there is no obligation for citizenship investors to visit Grenada, interest in the scheme has ballooned among Nigerians.

An aerial view of the Six Senses Grenada [Photo courtesy of Range Developments]

“We have between high single figures and low double-digit sales of hotel units on a monthly basis to Nigerians. The average investment is just under $300,000,” says Asaria. “It’s a big market for us. And it’s going to get bigger. There are 300 million people [in Nigeria].” Of these, more than 40,000 are millionaires and, therefore, potential customers for golden visas, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report.

It is a similar story across the Caribbean. Arton Capital, a citizenship advisory group, says demand from Nigerian families for Antigua and Barbuda citizenship is up 15 percent this year compared with the last.

St Lucia has also seen a record number of Nigerians applying in 2020. “It’s more than it’s ever been over the past four years,” says Nestor Alfred, CEO of the St Lucia Citizenship-by-Investment Unit.

The citizenship market is not exclusive to the Caribbean, but these are the cheapest and they maintain that all-important visa-free access to Europe that their clients are hankering after.

Tax incentives

“I’m rich but I’m not a Donald Trump. I wasn’t looking for a tax escape,” says Bimpe.

Investing in a foreign citizenship is not illegal for Nigerians, but the issue of wealthy citizens moving their assets overseas is a thorny one in Nigeria, where about $15bn is lost to tax evasion every year, according to the country’s Federal Inland Revenue Service. Much of that money finds its way to the Caribbean, as was highlighted in the leaked documents that formed part of the Panama Papers in 2016.

The tax benefits of an overseas citizenship are undoubtedly attractive. Citizens can become tax residents of countries like Dominica, where there is no wealth or inheritance tax, or Grenada which offers “corporate tax incentives”. In Europe, Malta has long been courting hedge funds with its light-touch regulations.

Tourists take photographs down a typical street in Valletta, Malta in 2018 [File:Getty Images]

Being a citizen of a country with a more stable currency is also appealing to the wealthy. “Second citizenship helps with capital mobility. Pull up a graph of the Naira. If you look at the Naira for the last 10 years it’s been a horrible journey,” says Asaria. Better, therefore, in the minds of the wealthy, to own assets in euros or even East Caribbean dollars which are pegged to the US dollar.

“Businesses are struggling, inflation on the rise, insecurity, and a host of other issues. These issues have prompted an increase in citizenship or residency-by-investment from wealthy Nigerians in a bid to secure a better future for their families in developed countries,” says Evans Ahanaonu, a Lagos-based representative for High Net Worth Immigration, a citizenship advisory firm. Grenada and Turkey are popular for clients wanting quick access to Europe, he adds, while some go straight for the UK Innovator Visa which means setting up a business in the UK.

Given the number of applications processed by the citizenship advisory firms interviewed just for this article, a conservative estimate would put the amount invested by Nigerians into citizenship schemes at more than $1bn this year alone.

Where rich and poor migrants meet

The loss of wealth from Nigeria has severe implications for levels of employment in the country. With wealthy businesspeople investing their capital outside Nigeria rather than in it, there is less funding for local businesses or government projects which might otherwise generate employment. This, in turn is causing more poorer Nigerians to want to move overseas as well, in search of better work opportunities, a trend backed up by the findings of a 2018 survey by Afrobarometer, the data analysis group.

Just before the pandemic struck, Kingsley Aneoklloude, 35, was able to make his way to Europe, but via a very different route.

He was working as a mechanic in his village in Edo State, one of the country’s poorer provinces which have been untouched by oil wealth, where he earned 1,500 naira ($3.95) a week.

The salary was poor but the final straw was police brutality. Aneoklloude was briefly employed as a local election monitor during the 2015 presidential elections. He says he was pressured by representatives of a political party to manipulate ballot papers, but refused, after which he became afraid for his safety. “I left because they were chasing me. Honestly, they come and chase me,” he says.

In a photo from 2019, migrants fleeing from Libya on an overcrowded wooden boat wait to be rescued in the Mediterranean Sea [File: AP]

First, he went to Kano State in the north of Nigeria. Then, in December 2019, Aneoklloude made the dangerous journey to Europe via Niger, then Libya, “where there was a heavy war in Tripoli”, before crossing the Mediterranean.

While adrift on the Mediterranean Sea, his small boat was rescued by Open Arms, an NGO which helps refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Their ship docked in Lampedusa, one of the Italian Pelagie Islands, where Aneoklloude’s asylum application for Germany was processed.

Now in Potsdam, Germany, he is waiting to hear the outcome of his application for new citizenship and a job. “I have a nine-month contract for work, but they need the immigration officer to sign the contract before I start,” he explains.

At 35, Aneoklloude is just a few years younger than Dapo. Both have witnessed police brutality from different angles, and both saw the Mediterranean as their way out.

But now, with Nigeria’s economy officially in another recession, more will likely follow. It is a dangerous spiral: The more wealth taken out of Nigeria, the fewer jobs available to its poorest.

 

The incumbent Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo has held on to power following the release of official results. Tensions are rising in the normally peaceful country as his opponent calls foul play.

The Ghanaian electoral commission on Wednesday declared incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo the winner of the country's presidential election.

The 76-year-old Akufo-Addo from the center-right New Patriotic Party (NPP) beat his opponent and predecessor John Dramani Mahama of the center-left National Democratic Congress (NDC) with 51.59% of the vote. It is expected that this will be his second and final term in accordance with the Ghanaian constitution.

More than 13 million ballots were cast out of a total electorate of 17 million and across 38,000 polling stations throughout the country. Voters also chose 275 lawmakers for the national parliament.

Five people were killed in election violence. Otherwise, Ghana's poll on Monday was carried out largely peacefully — a regular achievement for the West African country unlike for some of its neighbors that have seen violence following recent elections — although the process was mired by accusations of fraud before the official results were released.

Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Jean Adukwei Mensa praised election workers for operating the polls smoothly, and openly, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The NDC rejected the results of the election and said they planned to appeal the electoral commission's decision, Haruna Iddrisu an MP for the party told AFP.

The results of one constituency remained disputed, however Mensa said that even if all remaining votes went for Mahama, it still would not change the overall outcome.

Long-awaited results, but carefully counted

The electoral commission took several days to tally up the votes and had urged for patience while they were "working around the clock."

Around 12,000 observers were present for polling day and reported only a handful of incidences of intimidation. "While there were some challenges, these challenges were isolated and did not undermine the process's overall credibility," a coalition of observers said on Tuesday.

Ghana has successfully carried out democratic transfers of power for almost two decades and stands in contrast to neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone where violence disrupted recent electoral processes.

The two leading candidates signed a symbolic agreement on Friday to resolve any disputes in the courts and to avoid possible violence amid the tensions of the close contest and the country's first economic contraction in decades.

Over 60,000 security personnel had been stationed at polling stations to maintain order.

Accusations of fraud

Tensions rose on Tuesday evening as the contesting Mahama warned his opponent not to "steal" the election, accusing the sitting president of using the military to intimidate voters.

"You cannot use the military to try and overturn some of the results in constituencies that we have won. We will resist any attempts to subvert the sovereign will of the Ghanaian people," Mahama said at a press conference in the capital Accra.

Akufo-Addo's information minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, was quick to condemn the accusations as false and "irresponsible."

The candidate's comments mirrored those of US President Donald Trump who lost the presidential election in November but accused his rival of stealing the election.

Failure to accept the electoral commission's results could cast a shadow over the country's democratic credentials.

Both sides claim success

Before the electoral commission came out with its tallied results, the NDC communications director, Sammy Gyamfi, told DW that the commission wasn't doing its job correctly, "but they would fail because they cannot change the will of the people. We don't want to push anyone into any early celebration. We are on course, we have 140 parliamentary seats, safe and secured."

John Boadu, general secretary of the NPP told DW of the implications of accusations coming from the NDC: "Creating insinuations creates a lack of credibility on our whole election process … We are happy to announce that for the next parliament it is obvious from the results declared across the constituencies that the NPP will still maintain a majority in parliament."

 

(Reuters, AFP, DW)

Angola is expected to set oil production at one million and 267 thousand barrels per day in 2021, reducing it's production by 261,000 barrels per day as indicated on OPEC adjustment table in the meeting held on 3 December in Vienna, Austria.

If the country's production grows, it cannot exceed this maximum (1.528mb/d).

With the cuts planned for all Opec members in 2021, world oil production is expected to reach 36.653 million barrels per day, with a reduction of 7.200 million barrels per day.

Without cuts, world production for the coming year was estimated at 43.853 mb/d.

OPEC and its non-OPEC partners expect global oil demand to contract by 9.8 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2020 before recovering by 5.9 mb/d in 2021.

To ensure implementation of the 3 December conference deliberations, OPEC and non-OPEC agreed to hold monthly meetings starting in January 2021 to assess market conditions and decide on further production adjustments.

 

Angola Press Agency

A United Nations commission has voted to remove cannabis from a list that categorized it as one of the most dangerous drugs, a move that recognizes the plant as having medicinal value.

Experts say that the vote will have no immediate impact on loosening international controls because governments will still have jurisdiction over how to classify cannabis. But many countries look to global conventions for guidance, and United Nations recognition is a symbolic win for advocates of drug policy change who say that international law is out of date.

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) yesterday voted to remove cannabis from the list of the world’s most dangerous drugs.

The Vienna-based UN agency said in a statement that out of its 53 member states, 27 voted in support and 25 against the reclassification of the drug, with one abstention from Ukraine.

The US and European nations were among those who voted in favour, while China, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia were amongst the countries that opposed.

Canada and Uruguay have already legalised the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes and Mexico and Luxembourg appear set to follow suit.

The development comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) in January 2019 had recommended the deletion of “cannabis and cannabis resin” from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Substances classified as Schedule IV are a subset of Schedule I drugs. That means not only are they considered to be “highly addictive and highly liable for abuse,” they’re also labeled as “particularly harmful and of extremely limited medical or therapeutic value.”

“This is welcome news for the millions of people who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes and reflects the reality of the growing market for cannabis-based medicinal products,” a group of drug policy advocacy organizations said in a news release.

“We welcome the long-overdue recognition that cannabis is a medicine,” Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, said in a statement. “However, this reform alone is far from adequate given that cannabis remains incorrectly scheduled at the international level.”

 

CNN

China's exports rose at the fastest pace in almost three years in November, as strong global demand for goods needed to ride out the pandemic landed the world's second-largest economy a record trade surplus.

A brisk factory recovery in China from coronavirus shutdowns earlier this year has far outpaced reopenings seen in major trading partners, many of which are still struggling with outbreaks.

Exports in November rose 21.1% from a year earlier, customs data showed on Monday, the fastest growth since February 2018. It also soundly beat analysts' expectations for a 12.0% increase and quickened from an 11.4% increase in October.

The strong exports come despite the yuan hovering near multi-year peaks against the dollar, which would be welcome news for policymakers concerned about the impact of a weakening greenback on China's trade competitiveness.

Imports rose 4.5% year-on-year in November, slower than October's 4.7% growth, and underperforming expectations in a Reuters poll for a 6.1% increase, but still marking a third straight month of expansion.

Analysts say improving domestic demand and higher commodity prices helped buoy the reading.

"We believe China's export growth could remain elevated for another several months due to the worsening COVID-19 situation overseas," the note said.

However, they noted some signs that demand for these pandemic-related goods was losing momentum.

The firm shipments led to a trade surplus for November of $75.42 billion, the largest since at least 1981 when Refinitiv records began. It was also wider than the poll's forecast for a $53.5 billion surplus.

China's exports were supported by strong overseas demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and electronics products for working from home, as well as seasonal Christmas demand, Nomura analysts said in a note.

Booming sales of fridges, toasters and microwaves to households across the locked-down world have helped propel China's manufacturing engine back to life, super-charging demand for key metals like steel, copper and aluminium, after a sharp slump early in the year.

In another sign of buoyant trade, China's export surge and the low turnaround rate of containers from abroad have triggered a recent shortage of containers domestically, state media China Daily reported.

A spate of early indicators showed China's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has stepped up, with manufacturing surveys showing new export orders expanding at a faster pace for November.

That comes despite a sharp appreciation in the yuan in recent months, which some fear could hit exporters. Some firms reported that a strong yuan squeezed profits and reduced export orders in November, the statistics bureau said this week.

The yuan has booked six straight months of gains, its longest such winning streak since late 2014, and is trading at 2-1/2 year highs.

The strong exports widened China's trade surplus with the United States to $37.42 billion in November from $31.37 billion in October.

Chinese buyers nevertheless stepped up purchases of U.S. farm produce including soybeans to fulfill China's pledge in the initial trade deal it signed with the United States in January this year.

While a Biden administration is expected to soften some of the rhetoric seen in strained U.S.-China trade relations in recent years, there are no immediate signs the President-elect intends to unwind the punitive tariffs introduced under the Trump administration.

Although China's imports were weaker than expected, volumes continued to rise on a sequential basis, said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics.

"We expect goods imports to grow further into 2021, underpinned by strong domestic demand, with imports of capital goods to be better supported than those of commodities," Kuijs said.

China's iron ore and copper imports both fell in November from the previous month, customs data showed. Crude oil imports in rose as customs continued to clear a backlog.

 

Reuters

Smartphone shipments into Nigeria increased 13.7% quarter on quarter (QoQ) in Q3 2020 to almost 3 million units, according to the latest figures from global technology and consulting services firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

The firm's newly published Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker shows that Nigeria's smartphone market remained healthy in the third quarter as vendors shifted their model portfolios to entry-level and mid-range devices.

Transsion's Tecno, Itel, and Infinix brands dominated smartphone shipments in Q3 2020 with a combined 76.4% share. Samsung placed second with 7.0% share and Xiaomi placed third with 5.3%. Chinese brands continue to invest in the country as they attempt to penetrate the market and gain a foothold.

The average street prices of smartphones declined marginally (0.3%) as the dollar exchange rate remained high. The increase in VAT by 2.5 percentage points also had a negative impact on prices. With the relaxation of COVID-19 measures, the majority of consumers returned to the physical retail channel in Q3 2020, leading to a 21.5% QoQ increase in retail sales.

Feature phone shipments rebounded strongly in Q3 2020, with shipments increasing 21.2% QoQ to account for 56.0% of the country's overall mobile phone market. Feature phones remained resilient as they continue to be the preferred secondary phone in an environment of declining consumer purchasing power and rising unemployment. The major players in the feature phones space in Q3 2020 were Tecno with 49.7% share, Itel with 34.8%, and Nokia with 8.2%.

"In light of the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, vendors continued to ship more affordable devices priced below $200 as they sought to address demand for cheaper models and penetrate consumer segments with lower purchasing power," says George Mbuthia, a research analyst at IDC. "This strategy of offering more devices in the entry-level and mid-range price bands (<$200) ensured a faster market recovery from the weak performance seen in Q2 2020, which was heavily impacted by COVID-19."

IDC expects Nigeria's overall mobile phone market to grow 3.1% QoQ in Q4 2020, with feature phone shipments increasing 1.9% and smartphone shipments growing 4.7%. "Promotions from the end of November through the festive month of December will support the market's growth in Q4 2020," says Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC. "COVID-19 will continue to pose a threat to the overall economy and, in particular, to mobile phone markets. However, smartphone shipments will remain resilient in 2021, with customers moving from feature phones to smartphones and data usage increasing in the medium term."

Namibia is putting 170 live elephants up for sale to curb rising tusker populations under pressure from drought and territorial conflict with humans.

An advertisement for the sale of 170 "high value" elephants was carried Wednesday by a state-owned daily newspaper, New Era.

The ministry says the elephants are being sold "due to drought and increase in elephant numbers coupled with human-elephant conflict incidences".

The sparsely-populated semi-arid southern African country is home to some 28,000 elephants, according to official estimates.

Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta told AFP that the government backed the policy of selling live animals after being criticised for shooting elephants to control overpopulation.

"We decided - after research - to sell them instead," he said.

The elephant population had dwindled to about 5,000 animals at independence in 1990, but increased phenomenally thanks to a globally-lauded conservation programme.

The advertisement said pachyderms on sale would comprise entire herds in order to preserve the important social structure in elephant communities - infants or juveniles will not be left behind.

Shifeta warned that Namibia would not recklessly sell the elephants to buyers, saying "we have to make sure that the country is conducive".

For export purposes, the buyers must ensure that CITES requirements are met by both exporting and importing states for the trade to be authorised, according to the notice.

In October, 100 wild buffalo went up for sale in Namibia.

Last year the government offered for sale around 1,000 animals including 600 buffalo, 150 springboks, 60 giraffes and 28 elephants.

 

AFP

 

Ghanaians go to the polls Monday with incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo and former president John Mahama as front-runners.

Akufo-Addo’s party has campaigned mainly on his education initiatives, while Mahama’s has focused on job creation and attacking his opponent's record on corruption. But the familiar faces have also made voter apathy an issue.

Ghana's government this week announced Monday, Dec 7, would be a public holiday - to help get voters to the polls to choose the next president.  

Despite more than 17 million registered voters and 12 presidential candidates, authorities are battling voter apathy with familiar front-runners from the last two elections.   

Incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is facing off against his predecessor, John Mahama of the opposition National Democratic Congress’ (NDC).

Mahama won in the 2012 election and then lost to Akufo-Addo in the 2016 election.   

Journalist Al-Smith says, despite his efforts to raise awareness of COVID-19's effects, it has been a struggle to get Ghanaians to take the virus seriously, especially as the election has taken center stage 
Off

Kojo Asante, with the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, says there is fatigue, mainly among the middle classes.

"The first few hours is always a good indicator of whether people will eventually go out," said Asante. "If they see the crowds are behaving and then they get feedback that it is very easy to go and vote and so, then they might eventually still go out, even if they had decided not to."

Despite the challenge, Asante says their pre-election survey shows Ghanaians are concerned about issues such as improving infrastructure and employment.

The survey pointed to positive responses on the ruling NPP’s handling of COVID-19, power supplies, and education. 

But the public was less impressed with Akufo-Addo’s record on inflation, inequality, and corruption. Attacking Akufo-Addo on corruption was a focus of Mahama’s campaign, along with job creation. But risk consulting group Songhai Advisory’s Kobi Annan says both men have underperformed in office. 
 
"It's a difficult choice for a lot of people. Neither of them have performed fantastically during their terms of office, and I think it will come down to primarily sentiments around things like education, corruption, job creation. I think job creation and education in particular - those affect more people day-to-day than corruption does," said Annan.

Under Mahama’s presidency, there was an energy crisis, corruption scandals and a currency devaluation.  

In 2016, the NPP won by about one million votes and with high expectations for Akufo-Addo to stamp out corruption.

But in the weeks leading up to this year’s election, the opposition NDC made corruption allegations against Akufo-Addo.  Ghana’s anti-corruption special prosecutor resigned just three weeks before the election, alleging political interference.   

While Akufo-Addo denies any corruption in his administration, analysts say it’s hard to know if the claims will impact the vote.   

Regardless of the result, or voter turnout, analysts are expecting Ghana’s election to be fair and peaceful – as with the last two elections.  

Maame Gyekye-Jandoh is head of the University of Ghana’s Political Science Department.

"Emotions may run high, but based on these past precedents, these past good precedents, I believe that the election will be peaceful, and the results will be considered credible and legitimate," said Gyekye-Jandoh.
 
The University of Ghana published a voter survey that gave the NPP an estimated 11% lead over the NDC with five percent of voters undecided.

 

Culled from VOA

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