Monday, July 13, 2009

Ghana receives another visit from a U.S. President

U. S. President Barack Obama is about to visit the African country of Ghana. This will be the third consecutive U. S. President to visit the country. The U. S. continues to pay the visits because of the great strides the country has made in improving it's economy and shrinking poverty.

As a preview to the visit, this story in the Canada's Globe and Mail explains some of the improvements in the country. Writer Geoffrey York also includes some things that Ghana still needs to work on.

Ghana has become the darling of the Western donor community. With its bold programs in health and education, its vibrant democracy, its booming economy and its political stability, Ghana is widely touted as a model for other African countries.

Since 2003, when the new education policy was introduced, the number of school children in Ghana has expanded by a remarkable 1.2 million. Ghana now has one of the highest school-enrolment rates in West Africa, with 83 per cent of its children in school.

Child mortality, for children under the age of 5, has dropped by 30 per cent in the past decade. Malnutrition has declined, the health budget is growing, and only 28 per cent of the population is below the official poverty line, compared with 52 per cent in the early 1990s. Ghana is one of the few African countries on track to meet its goal of cutting poverty in half by 2015. With oil resources now being developed, the country even has an ambitious target of becoming a middle-income country by 2020.

Ghana's successes, however, are far from complete. There is growing inequality between the rich and the poor. Schools in northern Ghana have much lower enrolment rates than southern schools, and poverty is much higher in the north.

“Stark and rising inequalities have been generated by the growth model that Ghana has pursued in the last decade,” says a recent report by Oxfam.

“Millions of men and women living in northern Ghana have been marginalized from the development process. Poverty levels in two of the three regions are higher than they were in 1991-92.”

Despite its progress, Ghana is still ranked only 142 of the 179 countries in the UN human-development index, which measures quality of life. Some Ghanaians are so poor that they turn to desperate measures. Just last week, when a Ghana International Airlines plane landed at Gatwick Airport near London, the undercarriage contained the dead body of a man who had apparently risked his life to flee the country. He perished at high altitude.

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