Representative of the Hon. Osafo Maafo, Senior Minister and Chair of the Ghana Beyond Aid Committee;

Hon. Frank Fuseni Adongo, Acting Regional Minister for the Upper East Region,

Hon. Salifu Saeed, Regional Minister for the Northern Region,

Hon Sulemana Alhassan, Regional Minister for Upper West Region,

The President of Upper East Regional House of Chiefs, Naba Bosingo Ayamga Awuni III and paramount Chief of Naga traditional area,

Representative of the President of Upper West Regional House of Chiefs, Kuoro Richard Babini Kanton IV, Paramount chief for the Tumu traditional area and member of the Council of State ably represented by Kuoro Mohammed Zakarie Savei IV, Divisional Chief Kong Traditional Area;

The representative of the President of Northern Regional House of Chiefs, Yagbonwura Tuutumba Boresa I who is the Overlord of Gonjaland, ably represented here by Naba David Kansuk-Laar, who is the paramount chief for the Nakpanduri Traditional Area, Hon. DCEs present,

The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Development Authority, Hajia Zenabu Lariba Abudu, representing the Chief Executive Officer, Alhaji Dr. Haroun-Majeed;

The Chairman of the Northern Development Forum, Major Albert Don- Chebe ( Rtd),

The Chairperson, Board of Directors, STAR Ghana, Dr. Esther Ofei-Aboagye,

The Executive Director, ISODEC, Mr Tay Awoosah, Board members and promoters of the TAMA Foundation Universal;

Development Partners present here;

Civil Society Organisations and private sector players, academics, invited speakers, panel discussants , members of the media, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to have all of you here to reflect on His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana’s visions of a Ghana Beyond Aid vision, which he defines as “an optimistic, self-confident and prosperous nation, through the creative exploitation of our human and natural resources, and operating within a democratic, open and fair society in which mutual trust and economic opportunities exist for all”.

Ladies and gentlemen, Northern Ghana has been and remains a major beneficiary of development assistance by virtue of the level and depth of poverty. Grant-aided programs have financed education, health care, agriculture, roads and bridges, nutrition interventions, school feeding and occasionally humanitarian relief when we face disasters such as periodic flooding. We can recall URADEP (largely World Bank funded) which was the main driver of agricultural transformation in the 70s and 80s in the Upper Regions; NORRIP (largely funded by Canada) which invested in water resources and social programs in the Northern Region. Both died when donor funds seized. No post-mortem was carried out.

In recent times, USAID is the major investor in agriculture through the Feed the Future Program and the Millennium Challenge initiative as well as governance initiatives; Danida and JICA have made major strides in the health sector and social protection and IFAD to small scale farmers through successive programs. The Netherlands has made important contributions to Water and Sanitation. The EU is about to launch a substantial programme through the EDF 11 to promote small scale agriculture, infrastructure and District Assembly support targeting mostly the Upper West Regions while the African Development Bank is leveraging on their investment on the Fulfulso Sawla Road to introduce new programmes in agriculture, including the Transformation of the Africa Savannah Initiative (TASI).

DFID has been a major contributor to the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) which provides cash transfers for the poorest people, through the Millennium Villages Programme,through the MADE programme and AgDevco to catalyse the private sector and through STAR Ghana, to promote accountable governance. Added to these, are interventions by the UN system (WFP, WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF and UNDP) as well as a myriad of NGOs.

These investments have no doubt improved lives and but for them the poverty levels and the levels of desperation may have been even worse. But for development assistance including, the Churches and Islamic Organisations, fewer children may have made it to higher levels of education or even survived at all. Northern Ghana has much to be thankful to Development Partners and Development Assistance.

These notwithstanding, ladies and gentlemen, poverty remains widespread and even endemic. Modest Progress to reduce it has slowed or even reversed. In this context, the recent launch of both the Northern Ghana Human Development Report and Ghana Living Standards Survey (GLSS), round 7 report make grim, even frightening reading. Northern Ghana’s Human Development Index (0.116) is a fraction of the national average of 0.575. This means that the quality of life of the average person living in Northern Ghana is one-fifth of the rest of Ghana. The GLSS 7 report tells of serious reversals in poverty reduction. Only Northern Ghana, and to a less extent, Volta region has seen poverty incidence become worse compared to 4 years ago. Only Northern Ghana, and the Savannah regions of Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions (the former SADA Zone) has extreme poverty increased compared to 4 years ago. Worse still, the country as a whole has become more unequal compared to 4 years ago with north-south inequality of income and access to public services worsening. The period 2012/13 to 2016/17 has been years of development reversals for Northern Ghana. As a country, we are sitting on ticking bomb of increasing inequalities and desperate poverty in our Savannah zones.

If Northern Ghana has been the region that most donors have operated in, then there is a legitimate question to ask, why in spite of the concentration of aid, northern Ghana is not making progress? Is it that the volumes have been inadequate relative to what is needed to transform the area? Is it that the aid has been misapplied? Is it that the aid has been poorly coordinated and poorly aligned to the needs of Northern Ghana? Is it that the complementary investments the GoG ought to have made to leverage on the aid did not happen in adequate scales and timelines? Is it because there has been no strategic coordinated long-term plan to guide these investments? Is it that residents of Northern Ghana themselves have not been entrepreneurial enough? Or the local populations were not meaningfully involved in the conceptualization, planning and execution of these interventions?

These are the questions that this forum is convened to explore. The questions also suggest that the President’s vision is timely. It suggests, in my humble opinion that aid has to be properly aligned to transformational programmes and properly coordinated to have lasting impacts. It suggests that greater priority needs to be placed on transforming economic potentials of the area – agriculture, tourism, culture and creative arts; human resource/skills development among others. It absolves the work that has been done by SADA and now NDA to strategically plan the area for comprehensive development.

Fortunately, the flagship programmes of H.E President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo are in line with the transformational vision: a focus on agriculture (planting for food and jobs and warehouses); industrial development and agro-processing (One district one factory), irrigation and water development (one village one dam) and the revitalisation of urban centres; Placing emphasis on Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as part of the Free Senior High School policy; An aggressive and strategic approach to attracting local and foreign investments;

Those of you who have driven from Tamale to this place in the raining season cannot fail to notice green lush field, abundance of water, hardworking people on the land. Come November, the area is transformed into dry patch land. The water would have run-off to the sea. This is why organising water properly including flagship dams is a first priority. If you try driving between towns except between Bolga and Navrongo or the recently done roads linking Tamale to Wa, you will either get stuck, halted by broken bridges or be hampered by ditches on the road. Northern Ghanaians are enterprising. You see this wherever opportunities allow, mostly outside the north.How can we take advantage of the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda to unlock these opportunities? Finding sustainable solutions to these issue is why we are here today.

With these few words, I humbly accept the honour of chairing the opening ceremony of this conference. I thank STAR Ghana, ISODEC, TAMA Foundation, the NDF and the NDA for the collaboration that has brought about this most opportune conference.

We need to continue with such partnerships and take advantage of the NDA law and explore how to re-launch the Mole Dialogue series to promote cooperation and non-partisan dialogue for the development of Northern Ghana and Ghana as a whole.The Northern Development Authority will play a catalytic role by promoting partnerships and building consensus with other actors to see a prosperous northern Ghana in a Ghana beyond Aid. This will still require the strategic support of development partners to addressing some of the key areas that will give us a leapfrog into the new dispensation of “A Ghana beyond Aid”. Let us put our shoulders to the wheel as we go forward in this new direction.

May Allah bless you all.

Thank you all.