In 93,316 out of 100,000 simulations, President Akufo-Addo of Ghana was re-elected in General Election
Elections Africa Prediction

In 93,316 out of 100,000 simulations, President Akufo-Addo of Ghana was re-elected in General Election

Andrew Eaddy
Clay Graubard
Andrew Eaddy, Clay Graubard

Table of Contents

Nana Akufo-Addo, the incumbent, is clearly favored to defeat ex-president John Dramani Mahama in the 2020 Ghana General Election, and is over 58 times more likely to win the presidency in December 7th's vote.

Update: Correct! (Akufo-Addo won with 51.49% of the vote; at the same time, the opposition has rejected the results.)

A Close Race with a Contested Result, Followed by Violence and Disruption: Ghana 2020
On December 7th, 2020, Ghana held its election for President and Parliament. The election has unfortunately been followed by violence and dispute. Here’s what you need to know in 3 minutes.
Our Election-Recap for Ghana 2020

What's Happening

Monday, December 7, the Ghanaian people head to the polls to vote for their next president and parliament.

  • The 2020 election marks the 7th general election (and 8th presidential) in the Fourth Republic, an exciting milestone for the country, and the continent as a whole.

The primary focus of the election will be whether or not the election patterns of the past will continue, and Akufo-Addo will be elected for a second term.

  • Some believe that the enormity of his promises will require more time in office to carry them out.
  • Others feel that his promises are empty, and just an attempt to appease the electorate and remain in power.

Although it is highly likely (>90% chance) a winner will be decided by today's vote, there is a >5% chance that the election goes to a run-off.

There is a 93.32% chance that Nana Akufo-Addo wins more than 50% of the vote in December 7 vote, which would result in direct re-election for another four years. By comparison, there is only a 1.58% chance that John Mahama wins outright in the first round of voting.


Background

The birth of democracy in Ghana, also known as the Fourth Republic, began in 1993 when the late Jerry Rawlings was elected as president of Ghana in the nation's first free and fair election. Rawlings, who held office from 1993-2001 and founded the National Democratic Congress, passed away on November 12th after a short bout of illness in Accra, Ghana.

Since Rawlings, there have been four different presidents of Ghana, with two political parties represented.

A graphic displaying the flags for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP), the two largest in Ghana
Flags for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP), the two largest in Ghana (Picture Credit: Adomonline)

John Kufuor became president of Ghana after Rawlings’ two terms, in Ghana’s 2000 election. This election marked the first peaceful transfer of power between political parties in the Fourth Republic, as the New Patriotic Party would go on to rule Ghana for the next eight years.

In 2008 executive power transferred back to the National Democratic Congress, as John Mills (who lost in 2000 and 2004) beat the New Patriotic Party’s new candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo after two rounds. Akufo-Addo held the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2003-2007 under Kufuor’s administration.

During the summer before Mills’ second-term election, however, he died suddenly, with his vice president John Mahama taking over. Mahama would go on to beat Nana Akufo-Addo again in 2012, retaining power for the National Democratic Congress.

In 2016 the pattern of each party holding power for two terms proved itself again when John Mahama was not able to win reelection against three-time challenger Nana Akufo-Addo. Akufo-Addo’s win was even more significant because he is the most politically-experienced president in the Fourth Republic.

This year Akufo-Addo and Mahama will face off for a third time as they vie for the Presidency in Ghana. Both candidates are former Ghanaian presidents with vast political expertise in Ghanaian government, making the events transpiring on December th even more of a spectacle.

Since 2000 there has been a peaceful transfer of power every other year in Ghana, with the incumbent party retaining power in the intervening presidential terms. This political undulation has proven health and sustainable over the past two decades, and Ghana will look to replicated their election success this year.

Despite a seeming pattern in presidential election results in Ghana, the importance of this upcoming election is still very high. Ghana holds immense geopolitical importance on the global stage, and the reelection of a leader who has made as large of promises as Akufo-Addo has deserves attention.

Importance

A Map of West Africa, highlighting the country of Ghana
Map of West Africa, highlighting the country of Ghana (Source)

Ghana has commonly been thought of as the gateway to Africa. The West African nation touches the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, and further out the South Atlantic Ocean. This geographic orientation is favorable for trade as Ghana is known for its exports of gold (hence the moniker “Gold Coast”), oil, and cocoa products, but it also connects with Ghana’s Lake Volta.

Lake Volta is the largest man-made reservoir in the world with respect to surface area and it generates most of Ghana’s electricity, as well as electricity for neighboring nations through exports.

The country has a strong record of democratic elections, strong governance, and a stable economy, all of which make foreign involved in Ghanaian affairs more appealing. Additionally, Ghana’s preeminence in West Africa and its growing influence on the continent has added to this appeal.

Ghana’s centrality to Western Africa, and Africa as a whole, has existed since it became the country in Sub-Saharan Africa to break from colonial rule in 1957. Its natural wealth and coastal positioning has allowed it to become one of the most stable economies on the continent. This stability has led to a movement for greater self-sufficiency from Akufo-Addo, who, over the course of his first term, has made steps to distance Ghana from French, and by extension Western influences.

Akufo-Addo's distancing from the West was made most apparent in 2018, when controversy arose over the Ghana–United States Status of Forces Agreement which was proposed by the United States Department of State to the government of Ghana.

While agreement on education, health, and other civil issues in the proposal was straightforward, discussion surrounding military cooperation was most contentious, specifically permissions for the United States to build military bases on Ghanaian land.

In doing so however, Ghana has moved closer to China. This bilateral relationship was highlighted this past summer when Akufo-Addo and Xi Jinping exchanged messages celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Under a second term for Akufo-Addo, Ghana would likely move even closer to China, as both China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as well as their help to Ghana during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the two nations quite close in recent times.

Ghana Trade Import / Export Partners, 2018 (World Bank)
Country Import Share % Export Share %
China 19.13% 11.88%
United States 8.03% 3.59%
Belgium 5.82% 0.95%
India 5.67% 21.46%
United Kingdom 5.09% 2.87%
South Africa 3.42% 10.19%

Nana Akufo-Addo has done a lot of good for Ghana since taking office. In 2017 he introduced free secondary education for Ghanaian students, demonstrating significant investment in Ghana’s youth and future workforce.

Akufo-Addo also introduced “One District, One Factory,” a Ghanaian policy aimed at job creation through the construction of factories. The goal is the drive industrialization in the country while also stimulating the economy and increasing production overall. As this initiative would likely continue, and expand, in a second Akufo-Addo term, it can be assumed that Chinese money may be used to help construct and scale this project.

Ghana’s GDP per capita has also risen significantly since Akufo-Addo took power in 2016. While the country’s GDP per capita rose incredibly after the introduction of free and fair elections in 2000, it dipped between 2010 and 2015. It began to rise again in 2015 and despite complications attributed to the coronavirus, Ghana is still a strong African economy.

A graph of the USD-GHS exchange rate over the past four years
Graph depicting USD-GHS exchange rate (Source)

Ghana’s economy does have some outstanding financial concerns related to its debt and currency strength however. Ghana’s debt-to-GDP ratio has surpassed 70%, which while not completely out-sized, is still a concern for a nation that has a weakening currency, as shown above.

This will make it harder for Ghana to make its interest payments, especially as its debt is expected to grow in coming years. Akufo-Addo’s progressive policies will also be extremely costly, requiring more funds and in turn increasing the country’s debt levels. As it gets harder to make interest payments, there will be increases to interest rates on new loans, and it will also make refinancing debt more difficult.

Investors have found confidence in the lack of violent omens as the election approaches, and they feel that once the election has passed Ghana will be able to get back on track in its financial recovery. As such, investment in Ghanaian sovereign bonds, and emerging market bonds in countries like Brazil and China have regained popularity in recent weeks.

The Election

Ghana’s presidential election process is conducted using a top-two electoral system, the same system as that used in Burkina Faso. In this system, if no candidate wins over 50% of the vote in the first round of the election, a second round is conducted consisting of the top two finishers from the first round.

Ghana’s parliamentary election process uses a first-past-the-post system, however. This system, common in single-member constituencies, presents each candidate on a single ballot, with the most prolific vote-getter winning the election.

There are a number of factors that may stand to affect this year’s election however. The largest of these is corruption. Akufo-Addo’s platform in 2016 was founded on a promise to eliminate corruption from Ghanaian politics. He even went so far as to appoint a special prosecutor, Martin Amidu, early in his tenure to demonstrate his commitment to this goal.

Now, however, things look very different. Akufo-Addo’s special prosecutor has since resigned, citing the president’s constant impeding of his work as the reason for his departure. There have also been claims of Chinese illegal mining being ignored by the administration, as well as African gold royalties being sold to foreign entities. These incidents have tarnished his image to some.

A Picture of President Nana Akufo-Addo sitting down
Picture of President Nana Akufo-Addo (Photo Credit: The Africa Report)

Issues like this have plagued Akufo-Addo’s presidency, and started back in 2017 when he was found to have plagiarized large parts of his inauguration speech from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Just this month, Akufo-Addo was suspected of taking a $40,000 bribe from the wife of Eric Amoah, the Director of Urban Roads in Ghana, to keep his seat.

Some are convinced that this is par for the course for a president who has had controversy follow him during his presidency. Others believe this is a story planted by the opposition in a last ditch effort to affect what seem to be fairly clear result expectations.

Where those issues hurt Akufo-Addo’s image, however, the Covid-19 pandemic certainly  helped it. Through the pandemic the president was able to flex his diplomatic muscle and show that he can be a good steward for Ghana. He was seen as a wartime president previously, but now he has shown flexibility in his ability to lead. And because education is low in Ghana (although improving) presidential races are often based on personality, not policy. Fortunately, Akufo-Addo seems to have a bit of both as voters head to the polls.

Prediction

President Nana Akufo-Addo has a 97.27% chance of winning Ghana's 2020 General Election for President, in comparison to ex-president John Dramani Mahama who has a 2.73% chance.
There is a 94.90% chance there is a winner named in today's election. If there is a winner in the first-round of voting, there is a 98.33% chance it is Akufo-Addo.
If the election goes to a run-off, John Mahama's chances of winning it are 22.46% (by contrast, he has a 1.58% chance of winning in the first round).
Akufo-Addo has a 29.37% chance of winning more than 55% of the vote in the December 7 round of voting.

Method

Our approach to prediction the odds that President Akufo-Addo would be re-elected in the 2020 General Election was based on three steps:

  1. Determine the odds that Akufo-Addo wins 50+1 in the first round of voting (today)
  2. Determine the odds that John Mahama wins 50+1 in the first round of voting
  3. Determine the odds that Akufo-Addo wins in the second round of voting.

In comparison to our Burkinabe prediction which was highly reliant on qualitative and subjective formulation (but also correct), our Ghanaian prediction is highly reliant on data and based much more explicitly in Bayesian Statistics.

Our prediction is based on the following factors:

  • The historical electoral performance of the NPP (Akufo-Addo in 2020) and NDC (John Mahama)
  • The historical bias and performance of Ghanaian pre-election polls and models
  • The polling average for Akufo-Addo, John Mahama, and Others in 2020
  • The historical effect of the incumbency (since Akufo-Addo is the incumbent)
  • Other fundamental factors impacting the base-rate

(This information can be found in our spreadsheet at the end of the article.)

With that information, we calculated:

  1. The "base-rate" vote for the NPP incumbent based on historical, weighted performance
  2. The "base-rate" vote for the NPP incumbent based on 2016 performance
  3. A blended "base-rate" vote for the NPP incumbent
  4. A blended "base-rate" vote for the NDC challenger
  5. The standard deviations for historical poll and model biases, historical electoral performance, and 2020 polls and models

With our calculations completed, we went to R and ran a series of simulations using five different models for, based on a modified United States Election Model, using state predictions for a round 1 vote prediction based on Bayesian statistics.

The prediction was a combination of the prior (baseline), the data (polls and models), and all errors and standard deviations, simulated tens-of-thousands of times.

A graphic explanation of Bayesian statistics
Graphic explaining Bayesian statistics (Graphic Source)

With round 1 predictions calculated, we determined the odds that the election went to a run-off. Afterwards, we predicted the odds that Akufo-Addo finished the first round with >50% of the vote, >49%, >48%, >47%, >46%, and calculated the rest by subtracting those totals from 100%.

We gave Akufo-Addo 5:1 odds of winning the second-round vote if he finished the first round with less than 50% + 1 but >49%, 3:1 odds if >48% but less than 49%, 2:1 odds for >47%, 1:1 odds for >46%, and 1:3 odds if <46%.

The Polls

The polls paint a clear picture: Akufo-Addo is the clear favorite entering into the election. Although we were only able to find three scientific survey polls conducted within the last 30 days in Ghana, they were high quality with sample sizes of 5,199, 8,800, and 11,949. (This a particularly large sample size when considering the difference to US national election poll sample sizes when Ghana has approximately 17,000,000 registered voters versus the United States' 150,000,0000+.)

  • Global InfoAnalytics | Sample Size: 5,199
    Akufo-Addo: 50.40% | John Mahama: 34.90%
    Others 4.00% | Undecided 6.80%
    Date (Published): December 3, 2020
    Notes: Could not find PDF of survey, only reports.
  • KsTU | Sample Size: 8,800
    Akufo-Addo: 56.60% | John Mahama: 33.80%
    Others: 9.60% | Date: November 30, 2020
  • UG | Sample Size: 11,949
    Akufo-Addo: 52.50% | John Mahama: 40.90%
    Others: 2.90% | Others: 3.70%
    Date: November 26, 2020
    Notes: Used the campaign message poll (rather than "if election were held today") given other survey polling showing greater faith in NPP to achieve goals and position opinions on direction of country.

Historically, the polls in Ghana have been okay, however in 2016 polls underestimated Akufo-Addo while over-estimating Mahama. The University of Ghana's (UG) Political Science Department did a poll in 2016 which, when adjusting for undecided voters, was nearly spot-on to the actual results (see 2016 Polls in our spreadsheet).

Because we were unable to find a PDF for the Global InfoAnalytics poll, but it was the most recent, we weighted it at 0.15.

Because the KsTU poll was the second most recent and with a good sample size, we weighted it at 0.35.

Because the UG poll was the best-performing in 2020, it has the largest sample size, and was not that much older than the other two, we weighted it at 0.50.

The Models

In comparison to the polls which paint a positive picture for President Akufo-Addo of Ghana, the election modelers paint a much closer race. However, given the historical performance of Ghanaian modelers (especially in 2016), the data is much less reliable.

This is why the models only have a 0.20 weight in our blended prediction model (we want to include alternative perspectives and data sources, but also want to mitigate for error and bias).

Factors Affecting Base Rate

The two main factors affecting the base-rate are incumbency and the general performance of the country. The latter, a positive metric based on quantitative and qualitative metrics, is why our blended base-rate so highly weights the incumbency effect applying to the 2016 vote rater than the base-line vote in 2020.

Determining the incumbency effect required a lot more guess-work than the rest of the prediction. The difficulty is that we are only using data from elections since 2000 (we wanted to start counting data after the first transition of power), so there are only 3 cases of the incumbent. And one of those cases is when the actual incumbent died (2012).

As a result, we calculated the incumbency effect by aggregating the vote increase from non-incumbent to incumbent in 2004, 2012, and 2016 with weights 0.4, 0.2, and 0.4 respectively.

Weighing the Models

The final step in our prediction was to independently weigh the five different models and then average our weights to reach our final prediction.

We gave these weights for Akufo-Addo's prediction (for Mahama, we only used the double blended model, which means his odds are slightly aggressive):

  1. Weighted Historical Round 1 Vote, Adjusted for Weighted Incumbency Effect
    Win Percent: 88.70%
    Weight: Andrew: 0.2 | Clay: 0.2 | Final: 0.2
  2. 2016 Round 1 Vote, Adjusted for Weighted Incumbency Effect
    98.22%
    0.1 | 0.1 | 0.1
  3. 0.40 Weighted Historical Round 1 + 0.60 2016 Round 1 (Blended)
    95.75%
    0.2 | 0.2 | 0.2
  4. Blended, Adjusted Models
    88.76%
    0.2 | 0.1 | 0.15
  5. Blended, Blended Polls and Models (80/20 split)
    95.12%
    0.3 | 0.4 | 0.35

What's Next...

If Nana Akufo-Addo, the favorite to win this year’s presidential election, does in fact win, there will be immediate pressure on him to fulfill his lofty promises to the Ghanaian people. The citizens expect him to see through with free high school and more job creation, growing Ghana’s economy. Investors expect Ghana to become more austere with respect to its domestic fiscal policy, lowering its deficit-to-GDP ratio.

There will also be pressure on Akufo-Addo to make serious steps to rid Ghana of corruption. Both Akufo-Addo and Mahama have long records of corruption and to some voters, the choice is merely a lesser of two evils. Ghana has made great economic strides in the last 30 years, a period which saw its GDP quadruple and extreme poverty drastically decrease. Voters see rampant corruption as a direct threat to the continuation of Ghana’s economic prosperity.

Falling short of these goals will present a fascinating test for Ghana’s relatively new democratic institutions. Whereas some of Ghana’s neighbors have resorted to violence as an expression of political discontent, Ghana has constitutional impeachment processes in place that could be enacted. Should the political situation in Ghana get to a level of dissatisfaction that Akufo-Addo can no longer remain in office, both Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa could witness political history.

Data and R Code

Access GlobalGuessing's Ghana data, containing the 2020 polls, pre-election surveys, and models, and the historical electoral results for president, as well as some 2016 and 2012 polls. The file also contains some of the calculations we did for our prediction which was used in R:

GlobalGuessing_Ghana2020.xlsx - Google Drive
The data used in our projection

Look at our code to see how we reached our election prediction for round 1 (round 2 and overall is in our sheets):

ClayGraubard/GlobalGuessing-Ghana-Prediction
Contribute to ClayGraubard/GlobalGuessing-Ghana-Prediction development by creating an account on GitHub.
The code used to determine the probabilities of our prediction