John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana, will attend the 2nd Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai alongside four fellow African presidents, following a tour to New York to attend the UN assembly and meet with the IMF and US-based NGOs to discuss projects in Ghana.

The West African leader will speak on a presidential panel entitled “Leading the Continent towards Change” looking at the hope and challenges for Africa in the 21st century, and will be accompanied by Hannah S. Tetteh, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.

Mahama rose to Ghana’s presidency in July 2012 following the passing of John Atta Mills, and was subsequently confirmed in the office in a December 2012 election. A career politician, he was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2009, after which he assumed the Vice Presidency, and was Minister of Communications from 1998 to 2001.

Educated at the University of Ghana, Legon, he received a BA in history in 1981 and a postgraduate diploma in communication studies in 1986, before going on to study at Moscow’s Institute of Social Sciences in the then Soviet Union, where he obtained a further BA in social psychology and additional postgraduate degree in 1988.

President Mahama is arguably Ghana’s first president to have served at all levels of political office, from Ghanaian and Pan-African MP, through to Deputy Minister, Minister and Vice-President, and in 2013 the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) awarded him the Africa Award for Excellence in Food Security and Poverty Reduction.

In a possible twist on his Soviet-era education, he has also campaigned for the lifting of the 50-year economic embargo on communist Cuba and demanded the freedom of the ‘Cuban Five’ detained by the US government – a role for which Cuba has honoured him with its national Friendship Medal.

But global ties have been the emphasis of the last few days as President Mahama visits New York for the 69th General Assembly of the UN, which he will address on the 25th on the theme of ‘Delivering on and implementing a transformative post-2015 development agenda.’

Yesterday, he also met with Dana Hyde, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which will be investing $498m to transform Ghana’s power sector and also stimulate private investment following the signing of the five-year ‘Ghana Power Compact’ in August this year.

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Bridging the Gap

Mahama said in an interview that he may seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), noting that “a major feature of our economic difficulty has been a reduction in our external reserves, and fiscal injection from the IMF to stabilise the situation is useful” – speaking just days after the country’s sale of $1bn in Eurobonds to boost its foreign-exchange reserves.

Ghana’s budget deficit has increased conspicuously since 2012, prompting credit-rating companies to downgrade the nation’s debt – an action that saw the currency lose a third of its value against the dollar this year, rendering it the worst-performing currency in sub-Saharan Africa.

Moving forward, Ghana is targeting a fiscal gap of 8.8% of gross domestic product this year, while Fitch Ratings expects the shortfall to exceed 10% of GDP for a third consecutive year.

However, Ghana became an oil exporter in 2010, pushing growth to the fastest pace in Africa at 14.4%, and Tullow Oil is now pumping about 100,000 barrels of crude a day from the Jubilee field.

Prospects for the economy and currency are set to improve as gas and oil projects come on-stream, Mahama concluded, while asserting that $250m of the Eurobond proceeds will also go towards an infrastructure fund that will be a “game-changer” for the economy.