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Opinions of Saturday, 2 April 2011

Columnist: Agyekum, Kenneth

An Ambassadorial Disaster in Houston, Texas

It was awkward to sit there while sharing a surname with him. When a business executive asked me if I was related to him, the shudder through me was obvious such that I did not have to answer ‘no.’ Ghana’s Ambassador to United States Daniel Ohene Agyekum come through Houston on an apparent mission to market Ghana to the business community here. Rather, what he ended up doing was completely disgrace our country. Excuse my bluntness but there is no other way to put it.

On Thursday March 24, 2011, the medium sized conference room at the Greater Houston Partnership in downtown Houston was packed. Many had heard about Ghana’s success in democratic governance and the resulting political stability. To add to that, the most recent large oil discovery occurred off the coast of Ghana. These two factors combine to form an attractive investment destination that, managed properly, could result in the influx of millions of foreign investment into Ghana.

It is thus fair to say that the executives and mid level officers clutching their briefcases with business cards accompanying their handshakes were there not for the refreshments but to listen for opportunities. The stage was set. All our Ambassador had to do was to deliver an impressive speech and answer questions as a person charged with marketing a nation should. But that was not to be.

Ambassador Agyekum’s speech was as incoherent as I have ever seen. Asked about the tax policies of the Ghana government and his answer was all over the place. Investment policies – what is that. I mean this man was so clueless that a Chinese businessman who obviously had done business in Ghana and thus was conversant with some of our policies had to step in to save the day. IF YOU CAN IMAGINE GHANA’S AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES STEPPING ASIDE FROM THE PODIUM AND A CHINESE MAN MOUNTING IT TO TALK ABOUT GHANA’S INVESTMENT POLICIES, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.

Later on after the discussion was over and networking followed, I overheard a lady discussing her encounter with the Ambassador. Apparently she had approached the Ambassador to collect his business card to set up an important meeting with her boss who is an executive of a Houston area corporation. Mr. Ohene Agyekum told the lady that he was down to only one business card so he suggests that she photographs the one remaining business card so that she would have his contact information. As embarrassing as that was, I have to give the Ambassador an ‘A’ for creative thinking. Lol.

Last Saturday the Ambassador decided to meet with the Ghanaian community in Houston in a sparsely attended town hall meeting setting at the Church of Penticost. Here he was articulate – but only to the extent that every question ranging from dual citizenship and Diaspora voting was answered with a monotonous NPP this, cocaine that. His delivery was full of empty rhetoric but devoid of anything substantive. Not surprisingly the meeting was over by the second hour when folks began to drift away disillusioned.