Despite being defeated in the 2016 and 2020 elections by incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo, the 64-year-old Mahama said he had decided to run again after months of consultations.
"At this stage Ghana demands experience and not experiment," he told supporters clad in the party's green, red, black and white colors in the NDC's Volta Region stronghold.
"Ghana needs a leader who will hit the ground running on 7 January 2025," he said, referring to the inauguration following the December 7 2024 ballot.
The NDC will hold primaries on May 13 to elect its presidential candidate. Mahama is being challenged by three others, including a former finance minister, Kwabena Duffuor.
Mahama launched his campaign to lead the party in the Volta Region of Ghana, the home region of party founding leader and former President Jerry Rawlings.
James Gunu, Volta regional secretary for NDC, told VOA the party needs a candidate with personality and the track record, and said Mahama had proven he possesses these qualities.
"This is one election that we are going in 2024, where we need the best material for the party as flag-bearer because it's one election that can make or unmake the NDC,” Gunu said.
“It's not an election that we should joke with, it's an election that personality track record counts,” Gunu added.
Ghana, a major exporter of cocoa and gold, has defaulted on its external debts including Eurobonds, and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $3 billion line of credit to strengthen the economy as inflation soars.
Mahama said it cannot be business as usual and promised to cut the size of government and expenditure if he wins.
He also pledged to probe the current government's spending, including expenditure of funds to help with the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ghana is struggling with inflation at more than 50 percent in January and a sharply devalued cedi currency, hit hard by the effects of the global pandemic and fallout from the Ukraine war.
Once seen as an investors' favorite, Ghana has recently struggled with its debt mountain. The government spends more than half of its revenues on debt servicing.
Information for this report came from Agence France-Presse. VOA's James Butty contributed.