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Opinions of Friday, 29 March 2013

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

BlackRock's Michelle Edkins: Powerful Ally For Ghana?

By Kofi Thompson

Ghana's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Seth Terkper, is recently reported to have called for finance ministers in Africa to come together to fight exploitative multinational companies in the continent's extractive industries.

If Ghana's finance minister and his African colleagues want to stand up to the something-for-nothing gold mining and oil companies ruthlessly exploiting nations like Ghana through inimical agreements, they would be wise to make Ms. Michelle Edkins, the global head of corporate governance at BlackRock, a key ally.

Many players in the City of London, the financial capitals of Europe and Wall Street insiders regard BlackRock as the world's most influential financial institution. Ms. Michelle Edkins has led its tougher stance on corporate governance.

BlackRock holds large stakes in many of the world's leading companies - and is the world's biggest money manager with $3.6 trillion of assets as at September 2012.

In that same year, the online financial publication Street Authority said of it: "If the company were a country, then its assets under management would put it at the fourth largest in terms of gross domestic product, higher than Germany or France."

The question is: Has the time not come for Africa's finance ministers to be more subtle in their demand for fairness from gold mining and oil companies, as they seek more revenue for expanding the continent's infrastructure?

If they engage influential individuals like BlackRock's Ms. Michelle Edkins, Africa's finance ministers will be pleasantly surprised to discover that through her, they will find powerful new allies in Wall Street, the City of London and the other financial capitals of Europe, who will enable them win their fight to have a fair share of the proceeds from the exploitation and sale of the continent's natural resources by multinational companies.

Since no one who visits our dynamic country can fail to be impressed by what they see, and those they interact with whiles here, my humble suggestion is that Ghana's finance minister invites BlackRock's Ms. Michelle Edkins to Ghana as soon as practicable.

She will make a powerful ally for Ghana (and the rest of Africa) in Wall Street, and the other financial capitals of the West, as our country fights for fairness in the exploitation and sale of Ghana's gold and oil deposits.

Whiles the multinational firms operating here can ignore the demands of our leaders for fairness in their dealings with our nation, they dare not ignore the views of BlackRock's Ms. Michelle Edkins - on their obligation to be fair to Ghanaian society at a time of record gold and oil prices. A word to the wise...