Feature Article of Monday, 9 April 2012
Columnist: Owusu-Gyamfi, Clifford
Prologue: For the first time, three Diaspora MPs have been elected to represent the Macedonia diaspora in Macedonia parliament. Is this going to be a new trend to fortify a nation’s development? Ghana cannot afford to look down upon this proposal having great intelligent and able Ghanaians living abroad.
The effects of Ghanaians living abroad can at least be felt by many Ghanaians. It is estimated that there is about 3 million plus Ghanaians living abroad. A friend once said that if you have no idea of a Ghanaian living in a certain country, don’t go there.
The marginal growth of Ghanaians living abroad has been a great resource both for the government and Ghanaians at home. From housing and construction, exports and imports services, media etc. are few areas that could be credited to Ghanaians living abroad. Many institutions like schools, hospitals, churches, etc. have all equally benefited from donations coming from Ghanaians living abroad. A statistical report in 2011 showed that the revenues from the Ghanaians diaspora exceeded internal revenues in Ghana.
Many new sites developing in the cities and towns in Ghana are all partly accredited to Ghanaians living abroad. I take my own hometown as an example and can see the picture clearly. The importation of cars and spare parts, establishment of small scale business and enterprises, internet radios streaming and podcasts, exchange of Ghanaian culture, travel and tours, etc. are examples of the countless contributions that Ghanaians living abroad have immensely contributed to the economic development of Ghana.
However, Ghanaians living abroad have received less attention when they address their grievances especially in the area of CEPS where huge amounts are charged on goods and sometimes goods ceased without any justifiable reasons. A car in good condition may be bought at a price of $1500USD and import duties alone can exceed the price of the car. I remember in 2007 I was able to claim my Peugeot 406 from the Tema harbor at a cost of $4,000USD. Why should this happen? A friend of mine came to Ghana from Switzerland to produce Swiss yoghurt which is rated one of the best internationally. He ended up living in a single room. Local yoghurt producers frustrated him by black mailing his product until the company tumbled down. Whom was he to address? This and many other problems make it reasonable if a representative in the Ghanaian parliament would be appointed to address some of these issues and moreover let the voice of Ghanaians living abroad be heard in legislative and policy making.
Now Ghanaians living abroad would like to fully participate in the progress of Ghana in voice and action. Many Ghanaians living abroad has had the opinion that when they are giving the chance, they can do more things for Ghana. And there is no doubt in this since they have traveled and had had experiences about what is happening over the hedge.
I think this is the time for the government to recognize the input of Ghanaians living abroad in national decision making. There are doctors, engineers, foreign government appointees, IT professionals, International Business men, Educationalist, etc. who are all willing to infuse their ideas into the development of Ghana, if only given the chance.
Any visionary will see that, this is a new era for Ghana to benefit from international ideas as our brothers and sisters have acquired and are ready to contribute their experiences in national development. The hope of Ghana is taking up the mantle to walk shoulder to shoulder with other developed countries and this can be achieved by breathing in fresh ideas from Ghanaians living abroad.
Why Ghanaians living abroad?
1. People who have travelled always come with new ideas
2. Some Ghanaians living abroad have international networks with Governmental and non-governmental bodies and therefore can pull investment into the country
3. People living abroad are hard working and always seek for the progress of Ghana
4. Ghana has a lot of excellent human resources working for foreign institutions without any benefit for Ghana
5. They can (with the above mentioned profile) build hospitals, internationally ranked institutions, estate houses, promote IT and Digital operations into Ghana etc.
What will the MP do?
1. To help better connect to Ghanaians living abroad to influence governmental policies for better national growth.
2. To help solve problems that Ghanaians go through at the various ports of Ghana.
3. To help mobilize the Ghanaian Diaspora for their contribution in national development.
4. To solicit the ideas of Ghanaians living abroad for policy making in Ghana.
5. To link up with Ghanaians living abroad for specific national projects.
6. To invite Ghanaians living abroad to invest in Ghana.
7. To work with government and other ministers to enhance Ghana’s development.
The Ghanaian Diaspora is a big community with experts and individuals who have the country at heart. The government can not afford to lose the input of these visionary men and women. This is a new era, and we must embrace new ideas. It is however important for the amendment committee of the constitution to consider this issue.
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi, University of Lausanne