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Opinions of Monday, 4 March 2013

Columnist: Norvor, Justice Dansu

Is the NDC making effective use of the Ghanaian Diaspora?

One now wonders if it has become a crime for a Ghanaian to acquire expertise and experience in the Diaspora. Yes, Ghana is worldly acclaimed to have a very good education system that continues to produce well-qualified and competent graduates that are serving efficiently in both Ghana and other parts of the world. But it has become evidently clear in recent times that, the country especially, the NDC is somewhat affront to those Ghanaians who learned their skills and acquired invaluable working experiences working in the Diaspora. In many developing countries, nation building continues to serve as an important progenitor of state interest in engaging diasporic communities. The Ghanaian in the diaspora is a product of different circumstances: political neglect, exile, economic migration, adventure, education or family ties. He or she is defined by many factors as in every human situation: success, despondency, crime, the positive, or the negative. No matter the circumstances, we need them – especially the successful ones to come in to invest. Not the ones in jail, not the poor ones who have no business being abroad in the first place, but the ones who have rubbed shoulders successfully with competitive foreigners, are making a difference in other lands, and whose expertise could be of great benefit to the country. There are many of such offshore talents and resources, the technocrats and experts, and the beacons of hope that are far better than the Chinese that we now adore.

The twenty first century is also giving birth to a new generation of nation building projects where many countries of origin have begun to enquire more seriously into possible ways in which the energy and talent of émigrés might be levered and harnessed from diasporic locations. This is in contrast to what pertains in Ghana today as often those of our countrymen who return home to serve mother Ghana are sometimes overlooked by successive governments. Are there any lessons our current leaders would learn from the introduction of the Father of the nation, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah into Ghanaian politics? The UGCC at the time had competent leaders, but they saw in Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, a unique offshore refinement that could positively influence the vision of a colonized Gold Coast. The J.B. Danquahs and others did not entirely lack leadership, yet they knew that the experience Nkrumah gained working in foreign lands and the dynamism in him that had engendered would make him an effective General Secretary of the UGCC. And today, we know that had Nkrumah not been tapped in a timeout Ghana’s history would have been very different. .

In recent times, our sister country, Nigeria, has done well in using her immense talents outside the country in growing the Nigerian economy. A case in point is the appointment of the renowned economist, Ngozi Okonjo—Iweala, who until recently was the Managing Director of the World Bank, as its Finance and Economic Coordination Minister. She served in various international institutions hence gained the necessary experience needed by Goodluck Jonathan to realize his vision for Nigeria. As a member of the country’s economic management team, Dr. Ngozi Iweala has used her international expertise to succeed in transforming the Nigerian economy to the admiration of an entire world. What then are we doing in Ghana? President Mahama recently told the Ghanaian community in London to come back home to help in our development process. But what precedence have we set as a nation to encourage them to come home? The pull of home is a religious and spiritual phenomenon, but it is also something practical. Are they to come back and be ignored like as done to others? Will their expertise and skills play second fiddle to that of the Chinese and other expatriates?

To be sure, Ghana, too, under President Mahama, has appointed, Mr Seth Terkper, who spent less than ten years abroad, as its Finance and Economic Planning Minister. Terkper was first brought into the Ghana government under President Mills, who also made his brother Dr Cadman Mills one of his advisers. Under President Kufuor, a retired IMF official, Dr Paul Acquah, was made the Central Bank Governor. Under President Mills also, Dr Nii Vanderpuije, formerly a high school teacher in the US, became Mayor of Accra; Alex Segbefia, a crown prosecutor based in London, was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff, and Prof. Danso-Boafo, a lecturer based in Atlanta, became High Commissioner to UK. It seems from media reports that President Mahama’s Chief of Staff, Mr Prosper Bani, was serving in some UN positions outside Ghana before his appointment. So, yes, Ghanaian governments have over the years occasionally appointed a few Diasporeans to assist in Government. No one is arguing that professionals from the Diaspora never get jobs in Ghana. Indeed, many get some good jobs in the private sector. But point is, given the depth, numbers and experience of Ghanaians in the Diaspora, not enough Diasporeans are ever appointed to enable Ghana to move from its levels of development to get closer to the BRIC countries. There are many more who should be tapped from the Diaspora, especially those who show some of the dynamism of Nkrumah, not just the quiet ones who can fill positions but may make little impact. As I have stated in a previous article, “The country often likes to pretend that they do not need most of the estimated two million Ghanaians who have gained great expertise outside the country, as surgeons and engineers in Germany, designers in Italy, IT experts in Silicon Valley, financial engineers on Wall Street and in the City of London, city administrators in Pretoria and Canberra, business managers in Singapore, and university professors all over Europe. Yet we need them. That is why many of these Diaporeans judge what value the country puts on their expertise by how they treat those like Spio-Garbrah who left high paying jobs at the World Bank, African Development Bank and more recently the CTO to return home to help? Can Ghana use such people, or should they always return to international jobs where their value is better recognized?” This extract from my previous article should remind us that Diasporean communities are watching with eagle eyes, how government treats those who left their high paid jobs to come and contribute through their expertise to our economy. It baffles me why from the Kufour government through to the Mills’ presidency and now to the Mahama administration, eminent statesman as Kofi Annan was not considered to chair the Council of State. Wouldn’t his vast experience acquired serving as UN Secretary General be priceless in advising the President? Was he not interested? Or do you have to belong to a particular political party in order to serve in a Ghanaian government? Could it not serve the nation better in a broader spectrum if he, Kofi Annan is placed in a policy making position other than as a ceremonial Chancellor for University of Ghana? The loss of expertise and talent in the Council of State over the years has adversely contributed to the drag on the country’s economic growth. . The country has continuously ignored our prominent citizens who have served in international institutions the opportunity to contribute their expertise and to make use of their international connections to benefit the country.

Just as we see in a football team, let’s consider an all-inclusive economic management team with the likes of, Kofi Annan, Dr. Paa Kwesi Ndoum, Ibn Chambas, Dr. Ekwo Spio- Garbrah, Dr Cadman Mills, Dr Joe Abbey, Yaw Osarfo Marfo, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, Dr K.Y. Amoako and others. Is this team ‘national galactico’ not able to identify what looks like the perennial Ghanaian problems and advise the President on economic transformation, foreign policy, basic needs of citizens and our future direction? I bet my last blood that they will certainly succeed. Yes, some will argue that, Yaw Osarfo Marfo, Mahamadu Bawumia, and Paa Kwesi Ndoun served in Kufour’s economic management team, but what better performance would you expect from a Cristiano Ronaldo in a weak Real Madrid team? Let alone in a property grabbing group---the NPP, with the ordinary Ghanaian the least of their concerns. As my previous article stated, the non- involvement of our comrades who served international capacities with diligence had been an atrocity committed during the Mills’ administration causing some of them to return to serve international organizations where their expertise are recognized. Going back the same article for the benefit of readers, “We in the NDC also often think we can do fine by consciously ignoring some of our best comrades who may be in the Diaspora. So, in recent years, NDC and Ghana have not found much for such talents as Dr K.Y. Amoako, Dr Ibn Chambas or Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, causing them to spend much of their time outside the country.”

There can be no greater privilege than doing things which directly or indirectly affect one’s own society and its people positively. Many Ghanaians in the Diaspora have no delight in working offshore and are therefore willing to put their expertise to the country’s use but the thought of our leadership especially the NDC government preferring “domestication” and sometimes treating returnees as strangers, has made some of them to vote for continuous life abroad. Ask Alex Segbefia the subtle snubbing he has received while working in the Castle, after leaving a very comfortable job in London. So, as a country, we are always stagnant with the same problem year in year out, government after the other with no solutions to our main problems of education, water, energy, food security, technology and health care.

Successive governments over the years have expressed concern about the exodus of skilled labour from the country to developed countries which is invariably referred to as a ‘brain drain.’ Yet, the country seems to look down on attracting these brains back to contribute their refined skills to our economy and thereby experience the “brain gain” which some other countries are enjoying. . One of the major concerns that the Prez. Mahama’s government must consider is how to turn Ghanaians in the Diaspora into a great asset for the country's development process, by encouraging the gifted and the knowledgeable among them to return home to make a contribution, by building bridges across to each and every one in Diaspora, to ignite the fire of patriotism; to reconnect them with their roots back home if possible, and if not to ensure that they remain ambassadors for the country of their birth, and in many cases, to mobilize Ghanaians in Diaspora to support the Better Ghana Agenda. The President’s call on the Ghanaian Diaspora to come and help must go beyond verbiage. We need to see action.

And before more Diasporeans will return in droves to help mother Ghana, we need to see the plans the government has for those who have already returned and are at the President’s disposal with their great credentials in public service. Do we ignore them and continue calling all others to come down and add to the traffic congestion, unemployment and the daunting existential circumstances in the country??

I do not want to believe the call by my very good friend and father, President Mahama for Diasporean Ghanaians to come back home is only a rhetorical call because I trust him to correct the wrongs of the past. We are watching. May God Bless our Homeland Ghana.

By: Justice Dansu Norvor