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Opinions of Thursday, 6 December 2007

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Can Ghana Ever Develop Its Intellectual Capital?

Intellectual capital drives prosperity in every country. A cursory Look at Japan, Israel China and South Korea confirms the assertion that the best resource any country needs in the 21st century is qualitative human resource. Have these countries any significant mineral, timber and cocoa and fertile land? Not much, isn’t it?

Now let’s do the math:

ISREAL is about half the size of Togo; with total land mass of 21,000 sq km. Much of it is rugged and arid. It has a population of six and half million. It has no petroleum resource. Nonetheless, it exports chemicals, manufactured goods, fruits and vegetables. In fact, Israeli’s tomatoes are of high demand in the United States of America. Ghana is of the size of 238,537sq km. Much of the vegetation is tropical rain forest with the population of 21 million. Ghana neither exports fruits nor vegetables except the cultivation of cocoa which was handed down to this generation by a gentleman called Tetteh Quarshie, of blessed memory.

By every account, Israel shouldn’t be able to feed itself let alone to be able to export food items to other countries. The fact is that, Israel has little or no water for cultivation, the land is 60% desert with rocky topography. One would like to ask how the Israelites did it.

The difference is qualitative human resource. Israel decided to focus on developing its “intellectual resources vigorously by educating its citizens and attracting its human capital from anywhere it could be gotten.

By and large, Israel is rated as one of the world leaders in science, technology and medicine. Israeli advancement in technology is seen around the world. The technological breakthroughs of Israeli companies are evident in industries such as water conservation, computers, anti-terror technologies, crime- fighting devices and military hardware.

At the heart of these achievements is Israeli education and research in science and technology. Israel has a ministry which has the sole responsibility to make sure that resettlement of Jews migrants are as smooth and enjoyable as possible. You can now understand why that country appeals to the world’s best migrants regardless of insecurity in that region. The incentives are very attractive for the settlers to refuse. With such an aggressive intellectual development and recruitment effort from all over the world, Israel’s future is guaranteed in the community of nations.

Sadly, the ecology of our system doesn’t offer any nutrients to nurse the intellectual resources of our people because there is no comprehensive plan in place to do that.

It is somehow strange that Ghana has for some time now seen the need to attract its sons and daughters abroad to come home and assist in the developmental process. Unfortunately, the concept remains as a mere mouth work as nothing concrete has been done. In fact, the least said about any attempt made by the Government to court its citizens abroad the better.

We have Diasporian Affairs Office in Ghana but ask any Ghanaian immigrant you know if he or she knows where the said office is situated or the phone number of the so called, “Diasporian Office”. Israel tries to recruit every Jew it can get to move to Israel. It does so by giving very attractive resettlement incentives to entice the best brain to come to Israel and settle.

But, in Ghana the situation is different. The problems start right from the arrival hall at Kotoka International Airport till the day one checks out of the country. Nobody (including Government officials) seems to care. On your arrival at the airport you see Customs Official fumbling and combing through visitors stuff as if they have dossiers on each of them marked as criminal.

The experience at the departure hall is no different. The CEPS officials search bags as if everyone that walks on their corridor is a criminal, who is sought from OSU Castle. If the intention is to find drugs why can’t they put the bags into x-ray machines? Obviously, it’s not for the purpose of dutiable –item, because the “natives” are not subjected to the same search as the returnees. Yet the folks back home think the “returnees are not patient.” One is tempted to ask whether he or she is really needed back home or asks whether the treatment meted out to returnees are deliberate attempts to frustrate them as they are seen as those who have run away from the “heat” back home as such, must compensate everyone on their way right from the airport?

Others also see the treatment as a plan to frustrate them so that they do not even attempt to come home at all. As a Ghanaian in the Diaspora when was the last time were you approached by an official from the so-called Diaspora Relation office and asked your skills and your long- term goal for Ghana? Does the government have a record of what we do and the skills we have at home and abroad? Even the “dual –citizenship mambo –jumbo” processing is so complicated and time consuming that people simply give up after the first appearance. Believe it or not, it’s much easier to apply for a U.S citizenship than the Ghanaian so called, “dual citizenship”.

Nevertheless, a lot of Ghanaian immigrants are moving back to Ghana lately. One might be wondering what the incentive was. Well, either they’re moving back home because they had enough or they need a rest from the hectic life in the West or the combination of both. Except some few daring ones, majority are navigating in the system in Ghana as strangers in a foreign land. Getting the papers on his land has been a battle. Registration of his business is a life -long task and he is treated by the ‘natives’ as “trouble maker” who always complains. There is no direct avenue to voice your opinion or register your complaints. Everything back home is so strangely done that the foreign based Ghanaian gets frustrated and angry. If he or she dares to voice out any dissatisfaction he or she is told, “Aha die saa” meaning, just get used to it. He or she is left confuse if not dejected.

Even mere confirmation of flight details can result into warfare. The returnees are treated like outsiders searching for a way to make something out of life.

I wonder why the nation’s leadership is not doing anything aggressive to attract and retain its intellectuals from home and abroad. I’m not even thinking in terms of salary packages and other incentives they get from their employers in the host countries, rather the old way of caring and helping people to find their bearings when they come home.

It is nice to discover oil. It’s nice to get all the loans we can get from the World Bank and other donor countries but it’s a fact that Ghana cannot and will not develop and support itself if its human capital is ignored and neglected. There is the need to nurture intellectual capital just like Japan, China, Israel, South Korea and other countries do.

MY SUGGESTIONS: Setting up a business park as an incubator for will-be entrepreneurs to set- up their businesses with a rent free for a year would be a step in the right direction. What about setting up a more operational Diasporian office in every district? Those offices should be manned by people who understand the needs of the Ghanaians who want to come home and settle. These offices will advise the “returnees” with information on schools for their kids, acquiring land for projects and other important information which will facilitate smooth resettlement.

There should be incentives also for the home-grown intellectuals to develop and start businesses. Entrepreneurship should be taught in all our schools and colleges so that students can be prepared to be business-oriented. Business financing facilities like venture capitals should be in place to help small businesses to germinate and nurture.

THE BENEFITS: Why is it important to invest and nurture our Intellectual capital base?

1) It will pay high dividend than our agricultural and minerals resources combined. .

2) Developing our intellectual capital base will accelerate our socio- economic development.

3) It would control the Brain Drain epidemic. The nation will be able harness its human capital for qualitative development.

4) Medical Tourism will flourish, if we tapped and make use of the intellectual capital we have. For example, the Ghanaian medical doctors in Europe and New York State alone can man a state –of – the –art hospital in Ghana. Supposed they set up a specialized hospital to offer top –of the line medical services with relatively low price tag, to patients all over the world.-Bingo! Hope you are aware of the wonderful job done by Provita Hospital in Tema.

I’m not even talking about the foreign exchange coming from the hospital services but revenue from subsidiary industries such as hotels, restaurants, transportation, banking, telecommunication, beauty salons and interpreters. The employment potential is so endless to list.

We live in the ‘”Global village”, therefore there is the need to think globally and invest in areas which are likely to yield maximum dividend. Our brain drain is a blessing in disguise because it offers Ghana a huge reservoir of intellectual resources that it contributed very little or nothing at all to build. Thanks to the Exodus of the 1980’s and 90’s---the only thing we need right now is a leadership with vision.

There is the urgent need for a leadership that can harness both financial and human capital to make Ghana take off as one of the strongest economic giants of Africa.

Hello! Is anyone listening or I’m just a lone voice in the forest?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (NJ, USA)
Email: Asuomgag@hotmail.com
*The author is a social commentator and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment, Educational and Apprenticeship foundation.