Aid organisations were seen as better able to help fix Ghana’s problems than the government.
In 2015, the US Pew Research Center undertook a public opinion survey across the world, including nine countries in Africa, of which Ghana was one.
Dr Richard Wike, Director of the Global Attitudes Research at the Pew Research Center presented his findings in Accra on Monday 4 April, at an event in conjunction with the IMANI Center for Policy and Education.
The nationally representative survey was conducted in 40 countries from March 25 to May 27 2015 totaling 45,435 respondents.
In Africa, the survey was conducted across nine countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda) totaling 9,062 respondents.
The survey in Ghana was conducted between April 9-29, 2015 with 1,000 respondents, all interviews were conducted face-to-face, across 125 different locations, and the sample size directly represented the population in terms of demographics, religion, education, gender and geographic location.
The survey found that in April 2015, on average African countries were more optimistic about the future of the economy compared to the US and Europe.
60 percent of African respondents believed the economy would improve in the next year (being 2016), while only 24 percent of respondents in Europe thought things would improve.
In Ghana, 56 percent of respondents believed their children would be better off economically than them in the future.
However, the survey found only 26 percent of Ghanaian respondents thought the economy was good at the time of the survey, a “depressing” figure, according to the IMANI President and chief executive Franklin Cudjoe.
The PEW survey also asked respondents about the top challenges in their country asking them to choose from a list what is a “very big problem” with many issues receiving top rankings.
In Ghana, 94 percent said the energy shortage, 90 percent were worried about health care and 92 percent said the lack of jobs were very big problems.
84 percent said government corruption was a top challenge, and 87 percent said quality schooling.
Lower down, 41 percent said political participation was a “very big problem”.
When the survey asked the respondents to choose the top priority for improvements, 34 percent in Ghana wanted the focus to be on health care, 23 percent on education, 21 percent said a top priority should be sorting the energy supply.
Of the African countries represented in the survey, 38 percent of respondents said health care was the biggest issue that needed sorting.
The survey also asked who the respondents have confidence in to help solve their country’s issues.
Aid organisations came out on top in Ghana, with 76 percent of respondents believing they can offer the best help to solve issues, compared to 60 percent having confidence in the government to do so.
Across the African nations, 78 percent believed national government will fix issues.
Further, foreign businesses in Ghana amassed 70 percent confidence in helping solving the issues, compared to 65 percent for domestic companies.
It found 68 percent of respondents also wanted more foreign aid in Ghana, and foreign aid organisations were generally seen as effective (74 percent) and benefiting people in need (68 percent).
The survey essentially found Ghanaians have more confidence in outside agencies and companies operating here, than their own government and local companies.
Further, the survey found 67 percent of the respondents in Ghana believed the government was for the benefit for a few in society, rather than for all.
Speaking about the research, Dr Wike said “Ghana stands out in having the highest percentage of people taking this view [that governments only benefit the few], [there are] a lot of complaints that in some ways people have confidence in government, but they don’t think it is being as inclusive as it should be, or as representative as it should be in terms of running for the benefit of all.”
The findings on aid was a point of contention for those in the audience, IMANI President and chief executive Franklin Cudjoe said research in Ghana had found that in about 10 years Ghana would not need any foreign aid at all.
However, Dr Wike said while there was debate globally, including in Africa that countries do not need as much aid or are moving away from it, that wasn’t reflected in the findings.
“In terms of public opinion, the data, what we see is that the average citizens in the countries we surveyed at least still say their country needs aid, so the debate about aid maybe evolving but at this point at least the average citizen still tends to think their countries need aid.”
He said what the scholars were saying “hasn’t filtered down to the average citizens”.
Dr Margaret Atuahene, a lecturer in public health at the University of Ghana said the need to improve health care in Ghana was “the reality”.
“There is still room for improvement. We will have to maybe look at previous interventions and see where we can improve to get the maximum out of those interventions.”
She said maternal mortality rates and health care for under fives were big issues.
The findings on foreign aid in Ghana reflected poverty here, she found.
“We have given our government many chances to improve the lot of the people and they are not seeing it so they believe — there is colonial reflecting — that maybe if we have more foreign companies, maybe that will improve our lives.”
However, thinking foreign agencies and companies are better at fixing Ghana’s problems “is not something we would like to encourage,” Dr Atuhene said.