The year 2020 turned out to be what was not expected. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds across various parts of the world, Ghana was hit by COVID in March 2020. This affected every activity since the imposition of lockdown was seen then to be one of the popular ways of curbing the spread of the virus.
The challenges of managing the COVID-19 brought changes to the usual way of organizing society. These changes and adaptation took various forms and to a large extend altered the organization of the popular training for Journalists in Africa.
However, the African Journalists for Economic Training (AJEOT), an annual 3-day residential training organized in Ghana by the Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI) and sponsored by the Network for a Free Society was organized in-person amidst the dynamics of COVID-19. The purpose of the training is to impact journalists to understanding fundamental principles of a free society, Economic Freedom, Leadership, and Public Policy, to enable trained journalists to ask question the status quo and be agents of a free prosperous society.
AJEOT 2020 was slated for 24th -25th October 2020. However and because of travel restrictions, application was open for only Ghana Journalists due to the COVID-9 pandemic. This was the first time the international training, AJEOT, limited foreign nationals from participating.
Interestingly, AJEOT 2020 was blessed with insightful speakers across the globe. Again, the international speakers could not join in-person but used the online medium to educate participants. The speakers included Isaac A. Yalley – Ghana, Dr. Ike Tandoh, Director, Compassion International – Ghana, Ebenezer Teflondon – Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, President, IMANI Africa, Ghana, Nathaniel Dwamena – Ghana, Tanja Porćnik – Austria, Peter Bismark – Ghana, Prof. Enock Opoku Antwi – USA.
The theme for AJEOT 2020 was dubbed ‘Economic Trade and Property right – Synergy for creating prosperous societies’. The President of ILAPI simplified the concept of creating a free society during his session on CDs of free society. He said, “Liberty is what your parent taught you when you were growing. Simple principles like do not beat anyone who has done no wrong to you, do not take what does not belong to you, and do not use force or defraud others. These principles are natural and fundamental to human development to enable mutual co-existence within our society. This gives individuals liberty in making informed choices.” Participants read texts on the CDs and explained paragraphs of Authors. Ennison Paa-kwasi believes that it is only businesses and private men that can take people out of poverty and not government. He read this from Johan Norbeg on, In Defence of Global Capitalism.
The half-truth – “the richer are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer”
“From the analysis thus far, I also agree with that fact it is wrong even in Africa to say the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Where I come from in the central region of Ghana, at age 10, there was abject poverty and I cannot find food to eat in those days. There are no banks, computer school, restaurants, and private schools. People have opened businesses now and I mean private people not government and have one way or the other employed others including myself working for a restaurant to gather funds for school. Farmers have improved their yields including my uncle. I think I am no more in poverty and if others would side with me, the clothes we wear in those days are not the same today. It is a pure lie to say the richer are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. I will say the income levels of the poor have improved and others who are poor are getting up there to be rich. I am ok with Norbeg. Because I used to say this back in the days that the richer will always be rich but I think I have changed my thoughts today. “
The speakers impacted on various topics including; Understanding Liberal Public Policy Frame, Leadership, Business and Prosperity in Africa, Free Enterprise Policy Communication, and Marketing, Ease of Doing Business and Poverty Reduction, How to Measure Economic Freedom, Business Taxation and Fiscal Policies, and Policies to Facilitate the Ease of Doing Business.
Participants were thrilled with the insight from competent speakers. Prof. Enoch Antwi said, People prosper when you have a leader who thinks about individuals’ prosperity through business and less regulations. One who sees freedom beyond the laws and embrace property ownership beyond buying a television and uch a leader is the one who wants you to prosper via a strong and competitive market economy where voluntary exchange takes centre stage.”
The liberal policy expert, Mr. Ebenezer Teflondon, also admonished participants that government only functions on behalf of the citizen and its actions must be sanctioned by law or given approval by the representation of the people in parliament. Limiting the government is more important to secure our freedom.
In the Free Enterprise and policy communication session saw Dr. Ike Tandoh challenging the journalists to be economic freedom vigilantes that “When policies are communicated one must carefully finds out if it protects individual liberty, businesses or it restrict and regulate the two. Politicians are interested in regulations over individual liberty and often one must subject policies to scrutiny when communicated.” Mr. Franklin Cudjoe of IMANI Africa shared his thoughts on Ease of Doing Business in Ghana. He also said, “Government must see the Ease of Doing Business Index as one of the most important matrix and work on the indicators they fall short of. This will help create the business environment we need to prosper. His lecture gives practical examples of how current happenings in Ghana were not suitable for business development. “Administrative delays and procurement breaches and how certain regulations and state contract like Kelni GVG rob the state. Franklin said “it is difficult to do business in Ghana because the business environment is not conducive to promote free enterprise and it frustrates start-ups. There should be simple systems for everyone to work with. Policies should be focused on reducing and measuring impact of taxes and tariffs. A competitive market is important for economic growth not patriotism.”
The intensity of the training did not change as participants were engaged with group assignments to identify policy gaps (illiberal policies) and solutions across different sectors of society. Participants were randomly selected to one of the five groups to work on the sectors, specifically, F. Milton Group – Health, Hayek Group – Trade, Mises – Governance, and Corruption, and Bastiat Group – The Law. At the end of the training, each group presented their assignments, and Hayek Group was adjudged winners of AJEOT 2020 having identified policy gaps and solution under Trade with focus on Africa Continental Free Trade and Doing Business. The remaining groups ranked as follows: 2nd for Mises Group, 3rd for F. Milton, and 4th for Bastiat Group.
Also, all participants were given certificates of completion during the Dinner and Awards night on the last day of training. Bright Philip Donkor won Best Article titled, ‘‘Liberalism in Africa; An Embracement or Otherwise’ and other individual awards were given to three other participants. Network for Free Society CDs was introduced and given to participants to know how to use the CDs and continue learning after the training. Mr. Isaac Yalley was honored with a citation at AJEOT 2020 as speakers who have shown immense dedication to help impact journalists on explaining the concept of taxation and government regulations.
In all, AJEOT 2020 was educative. Participants shared eye-opening experiences and some were hopeful about recommending their colleague journalists to participant in future AJEOT.
I was told the training is intensive. This is the real intensive training I have ever attended. The ideas learned here are not in textbooks during my studies as political science student and journalist. Africans can prosper when we apply simple principles of economic freedom to doing business. Our prosperity is in business and trade and not in the hands of lawmakers. Henry Darko of Light TV confessed
The insights from AJEOT and the impact made on journalists who are given the opportunity to participate are overwhelming.
NFS – ILAPI