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Opinions of Sunday, 27 June 2010

Columnist: Abodakpi, Daniel K.

The Role of Ghana Missions Around the World

Strengthening South-South Partnerships for Sustainable Development: The Role of Ghana Missions Around the World



by
H.E.Mr. Daniel K. Abodakpi
Ghana’s High Commissioner to Malaysia with Concurrent Accreditations
to Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines, Brunei Darussalam & Myanmar.

Background

The President of Ghana exercises power under the Constitution to appoint Ambassadors to represent Ghana in foreign countries. The Ambassador represents Ghana’s interests in all aspects of international relations – politics, economics, social, and cultural. He/she also represents the interest of Ghanaian citizens living in foreign countries. The popular image of an Ambassador is one clad in beautiful traditional clothing, presenting credentials to the Head of state in their designated country, and afterwards taking pictures with the Ghanaian community in the foreign country. The Ambassador’s role is seen as ceremonial. Most people are not aware of the instrumental role played by the Ambassador as an agent of change. This information gap deprives the Ambassador of advice and input from citizens that may be useful in making decisions on how best to achieve the vision of a ‘Better Ghana’ under the leadership of President John Evans Atta Mills.

My objective in this short article is to share some of the initiatives being pursued to effect positive change in Ghana in my position as Ghana’s High Commissioner/ Ambassador accredited to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam and Myanmar. My hope is that readers will offer ideas and suggestions on ways in which an Ambassador can play an instrumental role and serve as an agent of change. Infact, the Ambassador must be an aggressive advocate of the policies of Ghana by pointing out the achievements and positive outcomes of the Government’s economic policies towards the achievement of the ‘Better Ghana’ vision.

Today, there is aggressive competition in the global diplomacy market as countries seek international respectability and recognition and to build investor confidence. Advances in Information technology have contributed to expanded South-South interaction demanding that today’s Ambassador shed the ceremonial image and become proactive.

I have intentionally cast the discussion within the broader context of “South-South” partnership-building to reinforce the proposition that the role of today’s Ambassador goes beyond pomp and ceremony since the role of an Ambassador as an agent of change is driven by the same forces that influence ‘South-South’ cooperation.


Strengthening South-South Cooperation
South-South Co-operation refers to co-operation between one developing country and another in contrast to North-South Co-operation that refers to co-operation between a developed country and a developing country.
The United Nations General Assembly established a special unit for South-South cooperation in 1978. The overall goal of the unit is to promote economic, social, and political relationships between developing countries, and also promote relations between developed and developing countries.

When I served first as Deputy Minister, and then Trade Minister of Ghana from 1992 through to1st January2001, I had the opportunity to engage in extensive dialogue with my counterparts from other developing countries on how best to expand trade between our respective countries. We were moderately successful in this effort as we find other developing countries gaining a larger share of our imports (ISSER, The State of the Ghanaian Economy in 2008, p. 106). Our exports pattern also follows what has been observed between South-South countries, that is, a greater share of trade between countries in the same region: for example, the trade between Ghana and Nigeria (Nigeria accounted for approximately 2% of our exports in 2008 (ISSER, op. cit. at 108).

Traveling through South East Asia and observing initiatives by countries in transition to a knowledge economy, I am convinced of the need to strengthen science and engineering research collaboration between developing countries as a strategic element in South-South partnership building. Athar Osama, an expert on ‘South-South’ partnerships, discusses the many benefits of ‘South-South partnerships in the June 23, 2010 issue of Science and Development Network, ‘SciDevNet.’ The author notes the immense growth in these partnerships, for example, he writes, “between 1988 and 2005 articles written by American scientists with at least one international co-author increased from 9 to 26 per cent of all peer-reviewed papers” (Osama citing a U.S. National Science Foundation study). Unfortunately, the expansion in collaboration has not been necessarily ‘intentional,’ or purposive, that is, it has not been the result of a carefully laid out strategy that builds on the resources and capabilities within a developing country. For instance, while there may be several memoranda of Agreement between Ghana’s tertiary institutions and other foreign institutions, there is no information on the number and details of such collaboration. But an even more challenging task is to build that critical link between academia, the political apparatus, and private industry in a seamless partnership to push the ‘Better Ghana’ vision.

The Ghana High Commission in Malaysia Initiative

The efforts at the Ghana High Commission in Malaysia are intended to create an enabling environment for expanded research collaboration between Ghanaian tertiary institutions and counterpart institutions in South-East Asia. Our efforts have targeted two main areas.

First, an effort is being made to improve information resources about Ghana. The High Commission is collecting and cataloguing publications, videos, and information resources about Ghana’s culture, economy, politics, and society. Given our restricted budget, we are forced to request, at no charge, publications from Development Partners, Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs) in Ghana, and research institutions around the world. We are interested in publications about growth, investment, opportunities in tourism, agriculture, agribusiness, energy, etc., and success stories – testimonials of foreign and domestic investors. We are also trying to acquire copies of the major business laws, register of professional bodies, telephone directories, tourist guides, videos and maps. We encourage all who have an interest in building this library to contact the Ghana High Commission in Malaysia at:



High Commission of Ghana
14, Ampang Hilir
Off Jalan Ampang
55000 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
ghcomkl@tm.net.my

The second initiative by the High Commission is to bridge the research gap between science/engineering and public policy. We are focusing particularly on how to nurture collaboration between the universities in Malaysia and those in Ghana to engage in research activities in support of the emerging oil, energy, and biomedical science sectors in Ghana. I had an opportunity to discuss this initiative with Vice Chancellor, Professor Ghauth Jasmon and Dr. Evelyn S.H Khor, the Deputy Director(Internal Relations) International& Corporate Relations Officer(ICR) at the University of Malaysia on June 18, 2010. The consensus was that there is an opportunity for mutually beneficial collaboration between the universities in our two countries. Collaboration would include both faculty and student exchanges between Ghana and Malaysia. We also explored science and engineering scholarship opportunities for Ghanaian students. Details will be worked out by the leadership of the Universities in Ghana, scientists, and appropriate stakeholders from Ghana and Malaysia.

I am also working towards establishing similar relations with the world-class oil and gas Academy of the University Malaysia Sabah and the Multimedia University at Cyberjaya.
I am optimistic about this emerging collaboration for several reasons: Activities in Ghana’s oil sector will lead to an increase in research in science and engineering. There is therefore solid institutional support for the proposed partnership. For example, Ghana’s most recent science policy document (2010) explicitly places emphasis on science-led economic development. In Malaysia, there are institutions such as the Oil and Gas Academy at the University Malaysia Sabah, that engages in advanced research and innovation in support of the oil and gas industry. Ghana and Malaysia share a long history of collaboration and Malaysia has made a strong commitment to South-South research collaboration with the UN-backed international centre for South-South cooperation in science, technology and innovation based in Kuala Lumpur. There are several public and private institutions that we plan to work with to put the proposed partnership on a sustainable basis.



Conclusion

In conclusion, I call on all citizens to support the strengthening of research ties between our universities in Ghana and those in other developing countries. This is not to deny the many benefits from partnerships between developed and developing countries. I am in total agreement with what Athar Osama wrote about South-South partnerships, “Ultimately, however, the true success of South-South research collaboration initiatives can only be measured by their ability to achieve sustainability beyond an initial period of enthusiasm and startup funding, deliver high quality and high-impact research, and solve challenging scientific problems of the South.” Today’s Ambassador must help define the framework to support sustainable South-South partnerships to achieve the ‘Better Ghana’ vision.