Mr. President; Members of the Board; Faculty and Staff of Ashesi; Invited distinguished friends; and of course Proud graduating students of Ashesi,
I would like to acknowledge with deep gratitude and express my sincerest thanks to the President and the student body for this invitation to share a few thoughts with your on this memorable occasion especially for the 31 students here who are graduating today. It is a real honor and I thank you.
In my opinion, your President is one of the foremost entrepreneurs in our generation. Though we were both honored by the Ghana Investment Promotion Council with the Planters of Seed Award last Tuesday Dec 13th 2006, I remain convinced that the seeds he is sowing in molding the minds of the future leaders of Ghana, will continue to resonate over the wealth, goods and products that entrepreneurs like us at Databank generate. As well, Patrick’s seeds and Ashesi shall remain a much more enduring legacy.
Patrick thank you for your courage, thank you for your boldness and thank you for believing in Ghana. Through Ashesi you have brought Goethe alive:
“Whatever you can do or dream you can Begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
And so, you privileged students at Ashesi, this then must be your clarion call as you step out into a new Ghana for you are students of a rare social entrepreneur and patriot and beneficiaries of a university education not known in our land. For you, you are stepping out into what I call the dawn of a new era for Ghana.
I believe that Ghana has a manifest destiny with greatness and not since the euphoria of Independence and the three to five years after that have we as a country seen such a time as this. These few years have been the best of times in a long while. The facts are as follows:
- The economy is experiencing the fastest growth spurt in its history of GDP growth rate of 6% - 6.5%
- GDP has doubled from US$ 6 BILL TO U.S. $12 bil.
- Inflation is close to single digit of 10%
- The currency has depreciated only within a range of 2% - 5%
- The country’s foreign reserves/import cover is close to four months
- A new source of foreign exchange in the form of remittances has risen from USD 400 million in 2000 to USD1.8 billion per annum this year compared to gold sales at USD 945 million, and Cocoa at USD 908 million.
- The reduction of interest rates has advanced more credit to the private sector
- The country has a sovereign rating of B+
- Ghana has successfully competed the HIPC initiative
- Ghana achieved full debt forgiveness, and
- Incredibly, we have emancipated ourselves out of IMF programme outright, and in our lifetime
- A cedi will be equivalent to (or may be stronger than) one US Dollar, and,
- The canceling by the Central Bank of 35% secondary reserves for Banks has thus released over 4 billion loanable funds
- Strong opposition parties with over 100 seats in parliament
- 4 successful elections
- A vibrant but sometimes virulent press. And finally,
- You get to celebrate Ghana’s 50th Independence Anniversary as fresh graduates with Ghana as your oyster
These are incredible achievements and seven years ago, in 1999/2000 when the value of our currency halved, we could not have believed that such macro economic and political stability was imminent.
You must there fore take advantage of this new era. The hardware has been provided and the challenge is to deploy the software of scholarship that Ashesi has given you to engage our society in order to rebuild the economy, to strengthen the moral character of our nation and to clearly define and establish a collectively owned vision of a good society.
But where do you start? I take guidance given in Jeremiah 6:16 which says that
“As we stand at the crossroads, and look we should ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it. “
For the good way remains anchored in faith in God. As we acknowledge the sovereignty of God, our whole duty will be to obey Him and therefore become a blessing to our fellow man. Your life will be one of stewardship where you become the mere trustee of your time, talent, and treasure to be deplored for the most beneficial results for the community.
The ancient paths are captured in Ashesi’s core values: Scholarship, Leadership and Citizenship. You have obtained comparably one of the best Liberal arts and computer Science education in the world. You are therefore poised to tackle the real issues of our very complex and challenging world. You are to think through your society’s intractable problems and to solve them. You must remain curious even as you leave these hallowed grounds; you must continue to read, you must debate issues and you must grow in wisdom. Cultivating a culture of care and love for your fellow man will lead to remarkable resolutions and progress for our society. Eschew dogmatism. Wisdom will give you the ability to see an accommodation with literally the obnoxious, and to reconcile your aspiration to those who oppose you. Your scholarship, your knowledge will thus leverage our national resources for your Leadership
The world has a crisis of leadership what with the massive and injudicious allocation of resources to Iraq. The result, a more fragile and less secure world than six years ago. However, the crisis of leadership in Africa and in Ghana remains quite grave. This new era requires inspired leadership from you graduates of Ashesi and fundamental to this is character.
Character is crucial because it empowers our capacities while keeping them in check. It differentiates those who abuse power and those who steward it’
It is through character that ennobling virtues such as integrity, honesty, humility, excellence and selfless service into our lives and our communities are engendered. As leaders, you must nurture your capacities as well as your character, if you are to have meaning to your existence. For developing your capacities alone will lead to success but not a sense of achievement, nor an ability to realize positive significance, nor an enduring respect in your community. You must learn to trust in others and to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is not succumbing but it makes us realize our mistakes, makes us humble, and enables us to more easily align ourselves with the truth. Such leadership must be translated into action if it is to be meaningful. It must have vision, capacity to persevere, and courage.
Calvin Coolidge stated it best,
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on' has solved and will continue to solve the problem of the human race.”
Ghana needs leaders with character capacities to persevere. We need you in government, in the private sector, in the public sector, and in civil society. You must bring a new spirit of limitlessness, a can – do spirit which reigned at Independence and most recently when the Black stars shone at the world cup - our boys were mostly in their 20’s.
And let no one tell you that you are not ready. Lee Kuan Yew became prime Minister of Singapore at age 35. Gates, Dell and the Google boys started theory companies in their 20’s and Ghana in this part decade has seen en extraordinary upsurge of a new generation of leaders in the private sector that started their business in their 20’s and 30’s. To name a few;
- Herman Chinery Hesse and Michael Quarshie at Soft Tribe and Persol respectively
- Eddie Effah at Fidelity
- Albert and Comfort Ocran at Combert Impressions
- Kwesi Twum of Multimedia Joy Broadcasting
- Ken Quartey at Sydals Poultry
- Dr. Mensa Otabil of Central Gospel Church, Dag Heward Mills of Light House
- The Databank boys have also created the best performing mutual fund product in Africa called EPACK with a 10 year return of over 700% in dollar terms.
- We are also of course all here because Patrick dared to think the unthinkable.
So you too can transform your community and your country and yours is a new era of stability and modest prosperity.
Finally, let me say a few words about citizenhood. The blood that binds all of us together as one people, with our common destiny committed lockstep to building the good society. You stand on the threshold of our country’s 50th year since we attained our independence and we should have achieved much more than is currently evident. Your responsibility is to achieve greatness for Ghana in the next 50 years. The Ghana that our forebears envisioned.
A country not of squalor, poverty, illiteracy, and moral decadence but of peace, prosperity and progress. A new Ghana and a new attitude by the body politic with the following principles in your lives
- Ethics as a basic principle
- Respect for the laws and rules
- Respect to the rights of all citizens
- Work loving
- Strive for savings and investment
- Will of super action
- Honor your parents
If you as new leaders live these principles as part of your citizenship and remain passionate as guardians of these virtues, Ghana will prevail.
Your charge from Ashesi and your parents is captured by Plato in The Republic:
But we have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been educated and your are getter able to share in the double duty. Where fore each of you when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and get the habit of seeing in the dark. And thus our State will be a reality…. And will be administered in a spirit unlike that of other states, in which men fight with one another about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power ….’
So as leaders and citizens you will be required to go down to the deprived sectors of our society for it is only then that you will understand their images and impart the truth of a good society to be shared by all.
Dear Graduates, at Databank, our Good Way is our faith and giving Glory to God because like Isaiah says, he has constantly renewed our strength … we have not grown weary, and not fainted, and have often soared as eagles. Your ancient paths are captured in your scholarship, leadership and citizenhood. For there in lies wisdom, character , capacity , love of country, service, hard work, perseverance, discipline, sacrifice, passion, courage and the can-do spirit. Be confident as you step out. ‘For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self discipline’ (2 Timothy 1:7)
So we look to you to accelerate with boldness our journey to a middle income country. You are more than capable to straddle the complex demands of globalization with the realization of the good society for Ghana in the coming 50 years. By this degree you are being conferred this scholarship, the leadership and your status as ‘adehyea’ as Dr. J.B. Danquah portrayed all Ghanaians – as citizens.
Go forth then to be a blessing to our homeland and make our nation Great and Strong, for the world indeed is your oyster. . .
Congratulations and God Bless you