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Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was born in Accra, Ghana, to a prominent Ghanaian royal and political family as the son of Edward and Adeline Akufo-Addo. His father Edward Akufo-Addo from Akropong-Akuapem was Ghana’s third Chief Justice from 1966 to 1970, Chairman of the 1967–68 Constitutional Commission and the non-executive President of Ghana from 1970 till 1972. Akufo-Addo’s maternal grandfather was Nana Sir Ofori Atta, King of Akyem Abuakwa, who was a member of the Executive Council of the Governor of the Gold Coast before Ghana’s independence. He is a nephew of Kofi Asante Ofori-Atta and William Ofori Atta. His great-uncle was J. B. Danquah, another member of The Big Six.
He started his primary education at the Government Boys School, Adabraka, and later at the Rowe Road School (now Kinbu), both in Accra Central. He went to England to study for his O-Level and A-Level examinations at Lancing College, Sussex, where he was nicknamed ‘Billy’. He began the Philosophy, Politics and Economics course at New College, Oxford in 1962, but left soon afterwards. He returned to Ghana in 1962 to teach at the Accra Academy, before going to read Economics at the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1964, earning a BSc(Econ) degree in 1967. He subsequently joined Inner Temple and trained as a lawyer under the apprenticeship system known as the Inns of court, where no formal law degree was required. He was called to the English Bar (Middle Temple) in July 1971. He was called to the Ghanaian bar in July 1975. Akufo-Addo worked with the Paris office of the U.S. law firm Coudert Brothers. In 1979, he co-founded the law firm Prempeh and Co.
Akufo-Addo’s participation in politics began in the late 1970s when he joined the People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice, an organization formed to oppose the General Acheampong-led Supreme Military Council’s Union Government proposals. In May 1995, he was among a broad group of elites who formed Alliance for Change, an alliance that organized demonstrations against neo-liberal policies such as the introduction of Value Added Tax and human rights violations of the Rawlings presidency. The broad-based opposition alliance later collapsed as the elite leaders jostled for leadership positions. In the 1990s, he formed a civil rights organization called Ghana’s Committee on Human and People’s Rights.
In October 1998, Akufo-Addo competed for the presidential candidacy of the NPP and lost to John Kufuor, who subsequently won the December 2000 presidential election and assumed office as President of Ghana in January 2001. Akufo-Addo was the chief campaigner for Kufuor in the 2000 election. He became the first Attorney General and Minister for Justice of the Kufuor era, and later moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
In 2007, he was the popular candidate tipped to win NPP’s presidential primaries. In 2008, Akufo-Addo represented NPP in a closely contested election against John Atta Mills of NDC. In the first round of voting, Akufo-Addo tallied 49.13%, leading Atta Mills with a slim margin that was below the constitutional threshold of 50% to become the outright winner.
Akufo-Addo ran again as NPP’s presidential candidate in the 2012 national elections against NDC’s John Mahama, successor to the late Atta Mills. Mahama was declared the winner of the election, an outcome that was legally challenged by Akufo-Addo. The court case generated considerable controversy, and was finally decided by the Ghana Supreme Court in a narrow 5/4 decision in favour of Mahama. Akufo-Addo accepted the verdict in the interest of economic stability and international goodwill.
In March 2014, Akufo-Addo announced his decision to seek his party’s nomination for the third time ahead of the 2016 election. In the NPP primary conducted in October 2014, he was declared victor with 94.35% of the votes. Akufo-Addo also served as Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Mission for the South African elections in 2014.
He focused his campaign on the economy, promising to stabilize the country’s foreign exchange rate and to reduce unemployment levels. On 9 December 2016, sitting president Mahama conceded defeat to Akufo-Addo. Akufo-Addo won the election with 53.83% of the votes against Mahama’s 44.4%.
President of Ghana
Akufo-Addo took office on 7 January 2017. His inauguration was held at Black Star Square in Accra. Twelve presidents from African and European countries attended the ceremony, including Edgar Lungu of Zambia, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.
Akufo-Addo faced global backlash, especially on social media, for plagiarizing parts of his inauguration speech, having lifted passages, word-for-word, from previous inaugural addresses given by American presidents John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as well as prepared remarks given by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at a 2015 United States Institute of Peace event. After the scandal came to light, his press office issued an apology, with his communication director describing the situation as a “complete oversight and never deliberate.” However, after the mea culpa, it was found that Akufo-Addo had also plagiarized portions of his 2013 concession speech after the Supreme Court of Ghana upheld the 2012 electoral victory of President John Mahama. In that speech, lines were lifted verbatim from United States Vice President Al Gore‘s 2000 presidential concession speech given after the US Supreme Court verdict.
In September 2017, the president launched the Free High School Education (SHS) policy, which will make secondary high school free for students in Ghana. The president states it is a “necessary investment in the nation’s future workforce” and will help parents who are unable to pay for their children’s education due to financial hardships. The program met with positive reaction from the nation, parents and students were excited and fervent, however, private schools opposed to the program state it will decrease the number of students enrolling in their system.