Head of State of Ghana 1981-2000
President Rawlings was educated at Ghana’s prestigious Achimota School after which he enlisted in the Ghana Air Force. He was awarded the coveted “Speed Bird” Trophy for excelling in flight and airmanship.
Among other honorary degrees, he has received an honorary doctorate in Diplomacy and Development from Lincoln University Pennsylvania; an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Glasgow. He has also been honoured by Soko University in Japan.
Professional experience and political career
Former Head of State and President of the Republic of Ghana, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, is admired on the continent of Africa and internationally for his charisma, sincerity, drive, patriotism, and participatory leadership approach. He is also known for his anti-corruption credentials, and for his unwavering advocacy of social justice, political and socio-economic empowerment of Ghana’s people. He is the founder of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a political party established in 1992 on the ethos of social democracy. In October 2010, the African Union appointed Jerry John Rawlings as the AU High Representative for Somalia to “mobilize the continent and the rest of the international community to fully assume its responsibilities and contribute more actively to the quest for peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia.” President Rawling s has also been appointed Ambassador of the Pan-African Parliament in October 2011.
Jerry John Rawlings was Head of State of Ghana from 1981 to 2000, as well as for a brief period between June 4 and September 24 1979 when he brought a potentially chaotic popular uprising under control, and handed over to an elected government. From 1981 to 1992, he was the Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) – a joint military/civilian government. In 1992, he was elected president under a new constitution. After two terms in office, he handed over on January 7 2001 and served as the United Nations Eminent Person for International Volunteerism.
J.J. Rawlings initiated the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) – a pragmatic economic programme - to reverse Ghana’s collapsed economy and subsequently, revive the financial health of the country so as to generate positive economic growth. The ERP’s successful implementation restored international confidence in Ghana.
Rawlings’ primary objective was the institutionalization of a system of participatory governance that allows, in his words, “people at the local level to determine their own development priorities, generate financial resources locally, and control the use to which those resources are put. Our objective is to end, once and for all, the parasitic relationship that enables the urban elite not only to live off the sweat of the rural dweller, but to dictate to him the conditions of his existence.” Today, this works through district assemblies with decision-making powers, ensuring that Ghanaians at the grassroots level form part of decision-making and national development.
J.J. Rawlings focused on implementing human-centred development policies in order to improve the health, nutritional status and longevity of Ghanaians: Almost 40 percent of total public expenditure was allocated to education and the health sector alone. A comprehensive health policy was implemented to create a socially equitable system of health for Ghanaians. Under this policy, hospitals and clinics were rehabilitated and constructed at regional and district level to give rural communities access to healthcare services as well. Vigorous rural development programmes were realized. Electrification, which was available to less than twenty percent of Ghana’s population, was extended to all ten regions and every district.
While embarking on rural development programmes, policies were implemented that expanded Ghana’s middle-income group. In 1990, the National Development Policy Framework (NDPF) was developed under the National Development Planning Commission, which subsequently became known as Ghana Vision 2020 – a long-term plan for Ghana to become a middle-income country by the year 2020. Vision 2020 remains an integral part of the philosophy of the National Democratic Congress.
With food security a priority for Rawlings, agricultural policies were initiated that resulted in the recognition of Ghana’s food production growth of 148 percent for the period 1995-1997 as “the third highest achievement in the record after Jordan (157%) and China (156%)” in the World Bank’s 1999-2000 Development Report.
Aggressive policies were implemented to support Ghana’s traditional export industries such as gold and cocoa, and also to diversify its export content: In 1994, Ghana Investment Promotion Centre was created to encourage and promote investment in Ghana. Export incentives were put in place to increase the supply of non-traditional exports through the establishment of Export Production Villages (EPVs) and systematic market research. As part of Government’s policy to attract viable foreign direct investment to Ghana, the free zone scheme was implemented in 1997. This was an extensive and generous incentive package for investors interested in developing and operating free zone enclaves and single factory free zones in Ghana.
Whilst strengthening ties with progressive governments worldwide, especially members of the Non-Aligned Movement, and providing support to the African struggle, he restored relationships with western nations, as well as China and Japan. To enhance trade and economic cooperation between Ghana and other nations, J.J. Rawlings undertook investment tours to western nations, emerging economies of Asia, and within the African continent as well.
Under Rawlings, Ghana remained committed to peace and stability within Africa and internationally through its pursuance of a policy of good neighbourliness along the country’s common borders. This was consistent with Ghana’s commitment to peace and stability, and crucial to the socio-economic development of Ghanaians.
On the international arena, Jerry John Rawlings criticized the global system as inequitable, emphasizing that developing economies that are operating free market systems and undertaking structural adjustment are not deriving maximum benefit from such policies.
Within the sub-region, Jerry John Rawlings contributed to conflict resolution and political stability in countries such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In 1994, he became the ECOWAS Chairman during an impasse of the first Liberian war. Under his chairmanship, the Akosombo Accord and Accra Peace Agreement were signed.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) presented J.J. Rawlings with the ‘AGRICOLA’ medal for promoting agriculture in Ghana. He is the tenth person to be awarded this medal after personalities like Pope John Paul II, Late King Hassan of Morocco, President Jiang Zemin of China, President Abdou Diouf of Senegal and President Jacques Chirac of France. As part of his acceptance speech, J.J. Rawlings said: “The fact that these exist against the background of phenomenal scientific and technological achievements in the last decades of the twentieth century imposes on us an obligation to intensify our efforts in this new century at making hunger and starvation a thing of the past.”
He was awarded the Clarence Martin Medal for Support of Higher Education, and in 1994, the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award. He is the joint recipient of the 1993 World Hunger Award for transforming “his country from a condition of economic crisis to a model of self-reliance, consistently focusing on the need for increased food production.”
Jerry John Rawlings is married to Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings and has four adult children.