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President Akufo-Addo receives honorary doctorate degree from the Sorbonne

The Sorbonne University conferred the award on President Akufo-Addo in recognition of his commitment to entrenching values of democracy in Ghana, fostering peace within West Africa and guaranteeing access to a minimum of senior high school education for all of Ghana’s children

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Akufo-Addo, was presented on Monday (10 October 2022) with an honorary doctorate from the University of Sorbonne in Paris, France, one of the most prestigious tertiary institutions in the world.

The Sorbonne conferred the award on President Akufo-Addo in recognition of a range of achievements and principles, including his commitment to entrenching the values of democracy in Ghana, fostering peace within the West African region, guaranteeing access to a minimum of senior high school education for all of Ghana’s children by implementing the Free SHS policy, and also for the leadership he showed in the fight against COVID-19.

It is the fourth honorary doctorate to be conferred on the president – the first being a Doctor of Laws degree, conferred on him in May 2016 by the celebrated Fort Hare University of South Africa; the second (in December 2017) being a doctorate in humane letters from the University of Liberia; and the third, in May 2021, by the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.

Receiving the honour, the president expressed his delight to be in the company of Pablo Picasso, Kofi Annan, Amartya Sen and Nelson Mandela, other figures who have also received honorary doctorate degrees from the Sorbonne.

Vision of a fair world

In his acceptance speech, he addressed issues of climate change, equity and justice, reform of the multilateral system and the importance of strengthening international co-operation.

On climate change, President Akufo-Addo recounted events at the just-ended summit for financing Africa’s adaptation to climate change in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and noted that Africa contributes only 4% to the global production of greenhouse gas emissions but is the region of the world where the consequences of pollution are felt most heavily.

He explained that the Adaptation Summit’s mission, in the lead-up to the Conference of the Parties in Egypt (COP27), was to mobilise US$25 billion by 2025 to mitigate the consequences of climate change for food security, resilient infrastructure, creation of suitable jobs and green finance.

With Africa’s 1.3 billion inhabitants representing nearly 18% of the world’s population, the number of people on the continent will balloon to some 2.5 billion by 2050, he told guests at the ceremony to confer his degree.

“It is on the African continent that the future of the world will largely be played, in any case the future of Europe and that of France. These are not words. These are facts. And, as you say in French, facts are stubborn.

“Twenty-five billion in three years, for adaptation to climate change for the whole of Africa. This is about five times the annual cost of medical transport in France. That is a lot, of course. But that is derisory,” he argued.

President Akufo-Addo with Sorbonne academicians after receiving his doctorate degree


President Akufo-Addo noted that, paltry as that target was, and with G20 countries responsible for 80% of emissions, Africa left Rotterdam with pledges of just $55 million, outside of a pledge by the African Development Bank to mobilise $12.5 billion.

“You heard it right. I am talking about millions. Fifty-five million for 54 countries. That makes an almost round count: one million each.

“One would have hoped that the international community would have shown greater solidarity with the African continent, which is suffering the consequences of problems that she did not create. This is not right. This is not fair,” President Akufo-Addo said.

The president told the audience that African leaders have a duty to build, together with their respective populations, fairer societies where women, children, and also the most fragile, are treated appropriately.

“Societies where everyone, whatever their incomes, beliefs or ethnic origins, can have equitable and guaranteed access to the goods essential to the development of every individual and of society as a whole: access to water, food and quality care, access to energy, access to education; access, in short, to the decent life to which every free being can and must aspire,” he declared.

He said he was proud that, during his tenure as president, “Ghana has implemented a policy of free public high schools during my first mandate. It is a symbol for us of the central place that education must hold in the development of societies and the training of enlightened citizens able to play their full role.”

Calling for reform of the multilateral system, which, he said, “is leaking from all sides”, President Akufo-Addo stressed that the world of 2022 is not that of 1945.

“The crisis of the multilateral financial institutions and the United Nations system, which were born from the rubble of the Second World War, is a deep crisis. It will continue until a fair system is put in place; a system that reflects the new balances, no longer based on who lost or won the Second World War, but on the major contemporary and future balances,” he said.

Reiterating Ghana’s position as a beacon of democracy and stability in contemporary Africa, President Akufo-Addo condemned the aggression of Ukraine by Russia, which he described as leading the world to the edge of the precipice. The conflict in Ukraine, he said, has dramatic consequences for African economies and populations.

“Ghana, the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain her independence and to free herself from the colonial yoke – in her case, the British yoke – has always defended a vision of the world free of hegemonic practices, in which all nations, large or small, coexist peacefully, in fairness and with mutual respect, a vision that insists that disputes between countries are settled through dialogue and negotiation, and not by force and violence,” the president declared.

Wilberforce Asare

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