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Opinions of Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Columnist: Amuna, Paul

Ghana-Qatar Partnership: A Bold Historic Initiative

By Dr Paul Amuna

H.E. John Dramani Mahama, president of the Republic of Ghana just concluded a historic visit to Qatar with a delegation from key national sectors. This was the first visit of its kind by a sitting Ghanaian president and is not only welcome, but a bold initiative which opens doors for meaningful economic and developmental partnerships between our two countries.

The timing of the visit couldn't be more appropriate. This week Qatar Airways has started direct cargo flights to Accra and will be operating passenger flights by March 2015. This is not only welcome news for the growing Ghanaian population living and working in Qatar, but a window of opportunity to open up Ghana to Qataris as well as others who may wish to take advantage of our warm hospitality and also explore business opportunities in one of the finest, peaceful and most stable democracies in Africa.

Ghana like most of Africa is rich and endowed with natural resources which are in some aspects under-tapped. Inward investment can help to generate projects in a wide range of sectors that create jobs and revenue to boost our economy. One of the ‘8 pillars’ of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (and no doubt will feature strongly in the proposed post-2015 Sustainable development Goals (SDGs)) and aimed at human and economic development is: International Developmental Partnerships. Such partnerships however need to be meaningful, purposeful, focused, based on an equal footing, and their associated projects time-bound. I want to believe that the president’s visit to Qatar has laid the foundation for one such partnership and thus should be embraced by all well-meaning Ghanaians.

For me it is exciting because it is good for the country and the foundations laid should be enduring and last way beyond the lifetime of this, and future governments. I hope that the domestic dialogue will capture the essence and historic import of this undertaking and that we will see the huge positives and potential and avoid the usual polarized debates which are not only unproductive but can be very demoralizing for progressives in our society.

Although I do not know His Excellency personally, my impression of him as an engaging down-to-earth and people-centred and honest leader were reinforced when I saw his interactions with the enthusiastic cross-section of the Ghanaian community in Qatar from all walks of life and parts of Ghana who had so enthusiastically come to dialogue with him. He eloquently briefed the audience about his delegation’s mission, what they had accomplished and shared his hopes for the partnership. He also touched on domestic issues at home and what his government was doing to mitigate the challenges. For me, it was refreshing to listen to a man who was willing to be frank and transparent about our national challenges and opportunities, express his concerns with his people and challenge us all to be part of the solutions.

Dr Amuna is a medical doctor, internationally renowned nutrition and public health expert and Associate professor at the University of Greenwich, UK. He is currently Head of the Research Section (Sabbatical) of the Primary Health Care Corporation, the largest provider of primary care and preventive health in the State of Qatar. He is an expert on health workforce capacity building with an interest in international developmental partnerships.