Emma Emeozor, e[email protected]
Africans have made immense contributions to the development of other continents, particularly Europe and America since the era of slavery. Their contributions cover all facets of human endeavours. And since the end of colonialism, Europe and America have launched various social programmes including the offer of scholarships and visa lottery to ‘lure’ young talented Africans whose potentials could be tapped to accelerate national development and growth.
The search for greener pastures abroad has not only depleted the work force back home but has also drained the mental power of Africans.
Interestingly, while Europe, America and Asia are advancing socially, economically, scientifically and technologically, Africa has remained an exporter of raw materials and a dumping ground for excess products from abroad.
But beyond the money they send to family members when the need arises, how can African countries utilise the talent of their sons and daughters in the Diaspora to develop their motherland?
This is the question Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo set to answer when he inaugurated the Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit (GDHS). Though the summit was set rolling as far back as 2001, Akufo-Addo revived it in 2017 and has made it an event to be held every two years, apparently to ensure the vision is sustained. From July 3 to 6, 2019, Ghanaian in Diaspora will converge on Accra to hole the 2019 summit and the president will be the chief host.
Undoubtedly, GDHS is on the priority list of the Akufo-Addo administration’s agenda. It is the reason the president has instructed its Missions abroad to hold pre-event cocktail and roadshow/exhibition in collaboration with the Ghanaian communities in their countries of operation. The president believes this is one project that will never fail.
In Lagos, the Ghana Consulate-General held the event in collaboration with the National Association of Ghanaian Communities in Nigeria (NAGHACON). The event which held at the premises of the Consulate brought together Ghanaians, the business community and friends of Ghana. The highlight of the event was the address delivered by President Akufo-Addo via recorded video.
It is instructive that Ghanaians at the event were upbeat and ready to embrace the project. For them, the summit is a demonstration of recognition. In a chat with Daily Sun, The Consul General James Kolma Nyasembi explained the objective of the summit.
According to him, it became necessary to convene the summit after the government had considered the important role the Diaspora community across the world has played in the development and growth of their home countries. He said the essence of the summit was to “tap from their resource not only in terms of money but also in terms of the experience Ghanaians have gained abroad to help in the development of the country.”
While pointing out that it wasn’t an idea of today, he said “the president during his campaign, had promised that he would engage Ghanaians in the Diaspora in the development of the country and this is just part of it”He was quick to explain reason the 2019 summit was attracting more attention than the previous ones.
“We live in a dynamic world, as the days go by, depending on the type of leadership you have, and this is a dynamic leadership, which is why things are changing, that is why it is attracting more attention from all over the world.”
He insisted that the government has done its home work and identified specific areas of focus during the summit. Hear him: “Yes, the government has mapped out a programme ahead of the summit. We have Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, Ghana Export Promotion Centre and a number of entrepreneurs. We are going to bring all the people together and there will be interactive sessions during which they will be able to tap ideas from one another, so it is going to be very interactive.”
Asked if his government was not out to exploit its citizens resident abroad? Nyasembi responded cautiously. “You will agree with me that the Ghanaians resident abroad benefited from the education of Ghana. Ghana has educated most of them working outside the country, in the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, etc, so this is just their contribution toward the development of the country. The payback is that they will also get ideas from Ghana and on the other hand, they will also give new ideas to the people. So, that is the basic pay back.”
The reason for the excitement the summit is eliciting among Ghanaians in Nigeria and other countries is not farfetched. Recently, the government made a bold step to address the issue of voting rights by its citizens’ resident abroad. Consequently, it passed the “Representation of the People’s Amendment Law (ROPAL)” even as the opposition protested.
Clarifying the position of the law, Nyasembi said, “We have passed a law . . . ROPAL which aims at giving Ghanaians abroad the franchise to vote during subsequent elections. The Electoral Commission has been tasked to implement the law and very soon it will send emissaries to some selected countries in Africa as well as Europe and America, so that they can begin to register Ghanaians abroad, then they would also participate in voting and selecting the leaders that rule the country.”
He was confident when he said the government would accommodate Ghanaians resident in Nigeria that are willing to return home. “Why not, the government can accommodate them so long as they are bringing in new ideas. They have friends who are businessmen, they can attract businesses to the country and so long they can do that, the government can accommodate them.
Even if they are not bringing business, so long as they are coming home to engage in some activities, that’s fine, there is land, they can engage in farming activities, Ghanaians are very dynamic, they have their small businesses, so when they return home, they can practice those trades.”
The envoy did not hesitate when he assured that the government will implement the outcome of the summit. “Sure, the government will implement decisions taken at the summit, otherwise, why are we organizing the programme. This government has a track record in terms of bringing investments to the country. In recent times, the government has come out with series of programmes and activities, we have ‘One village: One dam;’ ‘One district: One factory,’ all the programmes are in place and the government has instituted free secondary school education basically because it wants to reinforce its commitment to education as it will add massively, value to the development of the country.”
He acknowledged that the government was facing some challenges but there are efforts to address the situation. “Yes, the government also thought about areas of challenges. It is now placing emphasis on rural development, we are building more roads to open up the country because when the country is opened up, a lot of activities, such as agricultural ventures can take place, and products can be brought straight from the farms to the markets for the people to buy. We have land to offer even to foreign investors and communities are being involved, so they can be offered land for the purpose of production.”
And in his closing remarks, Nyasembi appealed to members of NAGHACON to give support to delegates attending the summit. But how did Ghanaians at the event reacted to the invitation to GDHS 2019? Mrs Chalotte Dehinsilu gave her nod, saying the summit will enable her to contribute to “my beloved country, Ghana because we are expected to go with ideas and with my background and the experience I have acquired in Nigeria, I should be able to make useful contributions.”
Dehinsilu is a financial expert who has worked in Nigeria’s financial sector for about 33 years. She drew attention to the presence of Nigerian banks in Ghana, noting that “almost anything that happens in Nigeria eventually happens in Ghana.” Therefore, “when it comes to financial matters, I should be able to tell them how it works in Nigeria and how to address the situation.”
On her part, Mrs Mercy Jackson hopes to bring her nearly 40 years experience as lawyer and educationist in Nigeria to the summit.
“As a lawyer, I look at the legal framework of policies, for example, the ease of doing business in Ghana. I’m very concerned about this area because businessmen want to go to Ghana. So, I need to understand the policy framework and give the government advice on how to remove unnecessary bottlenecks to encourage prospective investors . . . the more investors; the better opportunities, better employment, better youth empowerment and generally, the country’s GDP will increase. Youth empowerment is a big project in Nigeria so, we are also considering how we can empower the Ghanaian youth.”
In his comment, the national president of NAGHACON, Frank Quaye said “the government thought it wise that if Ghanaians resident abroad are doing well in their respective fields, why don’t we bring them home to help improve the economy.”He said the government is willing to engage participants at the summit in the areas of the economy they can be useful. He was confident when he said the government will be able to remunerate those it engaged so that they will be able to leave their greener pasture abroad to work in Ghana. “The government has realized that Ghanaians are leaving the country in drones and it need to take measures to check the tide.”
General Manager-Marketing (Domestic and International), Kinapharma Limited and Healthlife Beverages Limited William K. Segbefia described the summit as “a step in the right direction.” He said it is a good initiative because it brings us together, from Africa to Europe, to America, it brings us closer as one family where we share ideas and try to help each other achieve whatever prospects are our ambitions,” adding “we look forward to seeing the implementation of the ideas that come out of the interaction.”
He said the success of the summit should be the responsibility of both the government and the people (electorate) and therefore all hands must be on deck to implement the decisions reached so that they can “bear fruit.”
The General Manager of Mapleleaf Press Limited (Deekay Group) Mr V.V.S. Prasad lauded the Ghanaian government for organizing the summit. He said he had to attend the cocktail to identify with the project because “the advantage of being in a gathering like this is to ensure that we know each other better and also try to find new partners and new ways of doing business.”Prasad was a guest of the Consul-General.