Several thousand opposition supporters marched through Ghana’s capital on Wednesday to protest against widespread power shortages seen as harming the economy.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) which organised the rally, claims President John Dramani Mahama’s failure to boost electricity output has crippled business in a country viewed as the rising star of West Africa.
“We have a serious problem in this country,” said Isaac Osei, an NPP member of parliament who joined the rally.
“Our people have come out fully to show this government that it is time for them to fix the problem.”
Osei told AFP that the rally was not just a partisan demonstration, noting that business owners and labourers were also marching to show the damage done to the economy by power cuts.
“We don’t have light (electricity) to do our work,” said Isaac Kwaku Asante, who runs a barber shop in Accra. “If you go home, there is no light to power your fridge.”
Experts say power supply has been hampered by underperforming dams, with output partly hurt by lower than normal rainfall last year.
The NPP has also criticised Mahama and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) party for its wider failure to stabilise the economy, hit by a weakening currency, high deficits and worsening debt.
Ghana is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund for an aid package, with negotiations set to wrap up in April.
The cedi currency has fallen 30 percent against the US dollar over the last year and economists have urged Ghana to cut wasteful and unproductive spending in areas like public administration.
Ghana began commercial oil production in 2010 and many hoped the nascent sector would improve power supply while generating extra government revenue for key infrastructure projects.
Production has hovered around 100,000 barrels per day from the offshore Jubilee field but that figure is likely to rise with new fields set to begin output next year.
The country, which is also a major exporter of cocoa and gold, became an attractive target for foreign investment in part because of its reputation as a beacon of democratic stability in turbulent West Africa.
The opposition argued that Mahama has not done enough to maintain that momentum.
The NPP’s Nana Akufo Addo narrowly lost to Mahama in December 2012 polls and has already announced plans to challenge the president again in December next year.
“If (the NDC) can’t fix the (electricity) problem, then they must give way to another government which will take over and run the affairs of this country,” Osei said.