Kente cloth is as symbolic of Ghana as kimonos are of Japan. Yet some practices and beliefs, though considered traditional, have no place in the world today, and they should not be permitted a place in the world of the future. Among those traditions are the ones that refuse individuals – particularly women and children – their basic rights and force them into situations that leave them vulnerable to poverty, disease and other hardships.

Most of the world’s poorest are women. We are creating programmes and policies to address this imbalance, yet regardless of how successful these initiatives may be, they are not permanent solutions and do not solve the ultimate problem, which is the vast inequality between men and women inculcated by so many traditions. Through Ghana’s Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, we have provided cash grants to a total of 77,006 households throughout the nation. Aimed at poverty alleviation, LEAP also entitles its recipients to the provision of free health care through the National Health Insurance Scheme. In addition, preparatory work is currently under way to earmark government disbursements for pregnant women and mothers of children under the age of one, in order to address the issue of child mortality and malnutrition. It is no secret that when it comes to gender equality, education is the key to driving change.

Inequality is a problem that must be addressed at its root. We speak often of ability and access, but in actuality, having access to an education is not the same as getting an education. Ghana has made tremendous progress in achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on universal basic education, and overall it has benefitted greatly from achieving other MDGs. Once a place that was derisively referred to as the dark continent, Ghana is now considered one of the bright lights of Africa. The nation boasts a stable democracy and a strong economy that has been growing positively for more than two decades. While we are exposed to the current uncertainty prevalent in the international markets, strong cooperation with our multilateral and bilateral partners is resulting in positive movements towards fiscal consolidation. Moreover, our current development agenda is aimed at diversifying the economy and accelerating growth.

My government is committed to maintaining strict fiscal discipline in order to stabilise the macroeconomy and stimulate growth and business activity. In spite of this, one of the major constraints that the whole of Africa, including Ghana, faces is a shortage of power. Across many African nations, power outages that occur as a result of a shortfall in generation are considered normal. Similarly, two decades of consistent positive growth in Ghana has resulted in demand for power outstripping supply. Unfortunately, the ensuing load shedding programme has slowed growth and is taking a steep toll on economic and social life. In particular, small and medium-sized enterprises, which can least afford the high cost of purchasing and operating generators to substitute their power supply, are being severely affected. We are currently pursuing an emergency generation programme to balance demand and supply. Our plan is to add 3500 MW of power to our transmission grid by utilising the significant reserves of gas that we have discovered in offshore concessions. This will be supplemented by renewable power, mainly from solar, biomass and wind sources.

The road ahead, not only for so -called developing nations like Ghana but for all nations, demands that we achieve energy sufficiency in a manner that is sustainable and does not do further damage to the fragile environment of our planet. In December 2015 representatives from all over the world will meet in Paris to discuss the issue of climate change, the effects of which have now become undeniable.