• Iain Walker — The British High Commissioner to Ghana
The United Kingdom (UK) government has said it will continue to support Ghana on its development agenda, particularly in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.
This will comprise both financial and technical support in the social sector, such as health care and education.
This was contained in the UK government’s response to the report of its fact-finding committee, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), to assess whether the UK should withhold its support to Ghana or not.
The response, which was released last Tuesday, said the UK government was deeply concerned about the impact COVID-19 was having on women and girls, with evidence that gender-based violence, child marriage and teen pregnancy were on the rise in the country.
The report is titled: “The changing nature of UK aid in Ghana.”
It said the UK government was also concerned about the impact the pandemic was having on the economy, “with economic growth in 2020 being reduced from 5.8 per cent to 0.9 per cent”.
It estimated that the deficit was likely to expand to 16.4 per cent by the end of this year, making it the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
To help reduce the impact of the pandemic on the socio-economic stability of the country, the UK government said it would establish a new strategy specifically for Ghana within the themes of the seven global challenges, which included building global health security and supporting girls’ education.
“The government acknowledges that UK aid is making a difference in Ghana and will continue to do so. Ghanaian citizens’ needs and preferences should be included when assessing how fast to reduce aid in key sectors such as health, education and livelihoods and civil society engagement,” it added.
The report further charged the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), a department under the UK government, to work closely with civil society organisations in Ghana and also focus on technical assistance to help build the government’s capability to deliver growth and development.
“The FCDO is reviewing how it uses aid to deliver the greatest impact, which will require a strategic effort with clear goals,” it said.
It also said the FCDO would engage with the government to review the impact of the pandemic in terms of quality education, adding that girls’ education remained a priority across UK aid spending in Ghana.
The Chairman of the ICAI Subcommittee, Mr Theo Clarke (MP), said in the report that while Ghana was transitioning to a country that could finance its own development, the impact of the COVID-19 had highlighted the fragility of the country if there was any reduction in UK aid.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is potentially setting back progress in gender equality, with increased instances of child marriage and gender-based violence, while the country’s deficit will likely increase to become one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.
UK bilateral aid to Ghana has been dropping over the years, with bilateral aid programming from the Department for International Development (DFID) Ghana Office (DFID Ghana) in social sectors such as education and health seeing the greatest reductions in Ghana’s budget.
Bilateral aid to Ghana fell from £86.5 million ($138.7 million) in 2011 to £56.4 million in 2017, according to data from the ICAI, which monitors UK aid for effectiveness and value for money.
The ICAI said as a result of the reduced aid, there was a “considerable risk” of key areas of progress being lost, and warned against reducing bilateral aid too fast.
In 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced the government’s intention to develop the economy “beyond aid”.
The call by the President coincided with the UK government’s introduction of its first economic development strategy which saw the reduction in aid to some countries, including Ghana.
The ICAI’s Chief Commissioner, Dr Tamsyn Barton, in a statement last year, said the committee was concerned that the UK was winding down its bilateral aid to Ghana too quickly.
“This risks reversing the good results that have been achieved over the past 10 years,” he said.