Diasporian News of Sunday, 24 June 2007
Source: Prince Osei Bonsu, New York
The Consulate-General of Ghana exists to provide the following services to Ghanaians and the general public:
a) Consular and welfare services
b) Trade and investment promotion
c) A window of the Ghanaian Diplomatic Community to the general public An example is the Consulate-General’s office in New York which is legally under the Embassy in Washington from which it receives the accreditation of its officers. However, on day to day administration, it works closely with Ghana’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
The Consulate-General is headed by a Consul-General, and the present occupant is Mr. Obeng Busia, who has the rank and status of a Deputy Ambassador
Electronic Visa (E-Visa) On assumption of office on January 8, 2005, Mr. Busia set about effecting changes that will benefit the at-large Ghanaian Community.
This idea, targeted at mostly out-of-state applicants of services such as visas who, prior to programme, had to go through a lot of cumbersome and difficult processing as a result of distance and time constraints. Initially, out-of-state applicants had to call the consulate to mail them visa application forms to be completed at their respective locations, mail them back to the consulate and barring any mistakes, process them and send them back to these applicants through the post or any of the established delivery agencies.
This practice was extremely out of tune with the realities of modern times and also very cumbersome. The Electronic Visa (E-Visa) was thus initiated by Mr. Busia as a means of correcting this anomaly once and for all. The E-Visa programme in New York is the first of its kind in the history of Ghana’s diplomatic community and it is quite significant to note that it was done with the assistance of philanthropists and well-wishers in the U.S.
Ghanaian business community
With the help of two US domiciled Ghanaian professionals, Dr. Victor Essien, a Legal Practitioner and Dr. Benjamin Dodoo, Medical Practitioner, Mr. Busia was able to generate funds from the professional communities to fund the E-Visa project.
Also through the help and co-operation of the Ghanaian business community, notably, the New York, New Jersey and New England region based Ghanaian travel agents, agreed to buy advertisers space or signage in the Chancery for yearly fees of $240.00 each.
The funds garnered through this process plus those obtained through the US based Ghanaian professionals enabled the consulate to provide a number of customer service packages to the community, including a DVD player and TV for waiting visitors at the Chancery, a writing counter to ease the burden of filing application forms, three computer terminals for the on-line programme, a router and a network printer with laser wireless accessors, the electronic visa project and its website, covering all the regions and districts of Ghana with their investment potential, and finally a laser system that allows the consulate to scan pictures of applicants in their E-Visa application into a data-base.
Consular and welfare services
In order to maximize consular and welfare services to the general public, the consulate has initiated a “Consular Service on Wheels” – a mobile consulate! It went into service on June 8, 2007 as a pilot scheme. It covers places in the Tri-State area of Staten Island in New York, Newark in New Jersey and East Hartford in Connecticut.
Its success will ultimately see the scheme being extended to Boston/Worcester in Massachusetts, Providence in Rhode Island, and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania in the very near future. At such events, problems about passport and visa applications and questions on dual citizenship are readily solved and government policies are explained to the Ghanaian community.
To further show the government’s appreciation towards the Ghanaian-owned US companies for their earnest contribution and services to the Ghanaian community, the Consul-General has initiated a programme known as “Award and Appreciation” in which appreciation certificate will be awarded to the businesses. The programme is due to commence, tentatively, by the 1st week of July, 2007. It has been packaged to be seen as a phase on the calendar of Ghana’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Relations between the communities
A Proclamation Certificate was presented to the Ghana Government through the Consul-General by the New York State Legislature in Albany, in commemoration of the Independence Celebration as well as to strengthen the cordial relations which have existed between the New York State and Ghana.
The Ghanaian Association of Greater Boston, in recognition of the friendship, hard work and good governance of the consulate also presented the Consul-General with a certificate.
The Mayor of the City of Hartford in Connecticut, in recognition of the Consul-General’s role in community affairs, has honoured him with a “Friend of the City” plaque.
Since his assumption of duty, Mr. Obeng Busia has developed good terms with his office and the Ghanaian Community through its umbrella association: The National Council of Ghanaian Associations (NCOGA). This relationship has extended to resolving issues and problems within the branch and affiliated bodies.
The Consul-General has visited almost all the recognized Ghanaian associations and taken the opportunity to appeal to them to help their respective towns and villages back home.
The Ghanaian Consul-General’s innovative spirit has earned him the respect of his peers ant they have appointed him chairman of the Legal Committee of the Association of African Consul-Generals. He is well known in the Diplomatic Community as a man of integrity, dedication, commitment and a focal point for mobilization for proactive development initiatives.
On the social level he has been very active, using his position to visit the Ghanaian Community, attending social functions and representing the government at all levels of society.
Mr. Obeng Manu fits the mould of Ghana’s new crop of diplomat from the ambassadorial level to the lowest desk officer in the Foreign Ministry. Perhaps, taking a cue from the Ghanaian President, who is very proactive in foreign affairs, they have forged a new respectability for Ghana on the international scene.