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Jul 22, 2015

GHANAIAN DIASPORA ENGAGEMENT IN WASHINGTON


Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States of America (USA), His Excellency Lt. Gen. Joseph Henry Smith (Rtd), has noted, that there is no denying the fact that in an era of globalisation and heightened competitiveness in the pursuit of national interests, no nation can develop effectively without a clear strategy to harness the potentials of its human resource, including its Diaspora and those who consider Ghana as their homeland.

Welcoming members of the Ghanaian Diaspora and other African nationals within the Washington Metropolis to the Ghana Embassy’s Diaspora Professional Summit with the theme “The Role and Contribution of The Ghanaian Diaspora in National Development”,  on Friday, July 17, 2015, Ambassador Smith observed that, Global economic events beginning in 2008, have continued to shrink capital for development financing and budget support for developing countries. He added that, “Ghana’s new status as a middle income country at the lower echelon, has resulted in reduced donor support on account of the principle of differentiation”.

Thus, he said, leveraging on the multiple roles of the Diaspora as senders of remittances, investors, philanthropists, innovators, exportable labour and first movers in the growth of important sectors such as tourism and health, and in the development of human capital, can contribute to weaning Ghana off its dependence on aid and development financing, which are waning from developed countries.

Ambassador Smith emphasised the indelible contribution of the Diaspora to Pan Africanism, saying their contribution cannot be overlooked because Government greatly values their ideas and skills just as those living in Ghana, much more than any other natural resource and therefore, considers the entire Ghanaian populace as its basic and first priority.

It is for this reason that the Government is taking steps to leverage Diaspora knowledge, experience, skills, and financial resources to complement those at home for national development, he said.

Ghana’s Ambassador said, the renewed efforts by the Government, has received strong and clear policy directive from President John Dramani Mahama when he directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to mainstream the Ghanaian Diaspora in national development.

All Ghana Missions, he said have been mandated to establish Diaspora Desks to ensure policy coordinated action and provide a structured platform on which the Ghanaian Diaspora could give off their best to national development.

Ambassador Smith announced that for effective Diaspora engagement, a series of events are being planned for effective engagement and reiterated the need for the Ghanaian Diaspora in the U.S. to rededicate themselves to this new initiative. He proposed that the Mission and interested parties form a committee to make the Diaspora engagement process a fruitful one.

Such a Committee, he said will be the main point of interaction and coordinating activities to promote social, economic and cultural awareness among generations of our Diaspora community within the U.S.A.

 The proposed Committee, he believed, working in close collaboration with the Embassy, will create a database of business networks that would publish information on relevant organizations, individuals, and investment opportunities.

The keynote speaker, Mr. Adolf Kofi Afful, observed that for a successful engagement of the Diaspora, government need to create a Diaspora Ministry with its own mandate and accompanying budget and authority.

He said the Ghanaian Diaspora’s contribution to mother Ghana through remittances and financial transactions is in excess of $5 billion a year and it is in excess of $7,000 per capita per a year.

Mr. Afful emphasised that the Ghanaian Diaspora on the average contribute $7,000 per a year to Ghana saying, “Ghana’s Diaspora is its largest partner vis-a-vis all its foreign donors combined per a year”.

The Ghanaian Diaspora’s commitment to Ghana is interest free he said, it is not a sovereign loan and no collateral is attached to it.

To create the confidence and trust between government and the Diaspora, Mr. Afful called on government to implement the laws passed by the Ghanaian Parliament to allow Ghanaians in the Diaspora to also cast their vote during the country’s elections.

 

Find below the full text of the Ambassador Smith’s remarks.

 

OPENING REMARKS BY HE LT.GEN. JOSEPH HENRY SMITH, AT THE DIASPORA PROFESSIONAL SUMMIT ON FRIDAY, 18TH APRIL, 2015

 

I am very delighted to welcome you on behalf of HE the President Mr. John Dramani Mahama and the people of Ghana, and the staff of the Embassy to this august event.

 I say, august event because this is the first time, besides the Independence Day celebrations and periodic town hall meetings hosted usually in honor of our visiting Heads of State that we have such a large assembly of Ghanaians in the diaspora with one objective of mobilising resources to contribute to sustainable development of our country.

 As you are aware, this effort forms part of the Government of Ghana’s policy to reach out to the diaspora to enable them to play their rightful role in the on-going development process.

Accordingly, this evening’s event is designed as a platform to facilitate networking, as well as the exchange of ideas for businesses and investment support schemes between Ghanaians living abroad and Ghanaian entrepreneurs back home.

The role of the Ghanaian Diaspora in national development has, in recent years, won unprecedented recognition from Ghana’s government at the highest levels.

The indelible contribution of the Diaspora to Pan Africanism also cannot be overlooked. No doubt, the Government greatly values the ideas, skills and contributions of Ghanaians abroad, just as those living in Ghana, much more than any other natural resource and therefore considers the entire Ghanaian populace as its basic and first priority.

The Government is thus taking steps to leverage diaspora knowledge, experience, skills, and financial resources to complement those at home for national development.

That said, the renewed efforts by the Government, received a strong and clear policy directive from President John Dramani Mahama when he directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration to mainstream the Ghanaian Diaspora in national development.

As a result, all Embassies have been mandated to establish Diaspora Desks to ensure policy coordinated action and provide a structured platform on which the Ghanaian Diaspora could give off their best to national development.

 In this direction, the Diaspora Affairs Bureau is charged with coordinating the work of stakeholder institutions such as the Ministries of Finance, Interior, Trade and Industry, Employment and Social Welfare, Health, and Tourism, Culture  and Creative Arts, the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, the Ghana Immigration Service, the Ghana Revenue Authority and the Bank of Ghana to  establish an enabling environment, ensure policy  coordinated action and provide  a structured platform on which the Ghanaian Diaspora could give off their best to national development.

Turning to the purpose and rationale of diaspora engagement, there is no denying the fact that in an era of globalisation and heightened competitiveness in the pursuit of our national interests, no nation can develop effectively without implementing a clear strategy that seeks to harness the potentials of a majority of its human resource, including its Diaspora and those who consider Ghana as their homeland.

 Global economic events beginning in 2008 have continued to shrink capital for development financing and budget support for developing countries.  In addition, Ghana’s new status as a middle income country at the lower echelon has resulted in reduced donor support on account of the principle of differentiation.

Thus, leveraging on the multiple roles of the Diaspora as senders of remittances, investors, philanthropists, innovators, exportable labour and first movers in the growth of important sectors such as tourism and  health, and in the development of human capital, may well contribute to weaning Ghana off its dependence on aid and development financing, which are waning from developed countries.

As the first in the series of events planned for effective engagement, I wish to reiterate the need for each and every one of us present tonight to rededicate ourselves to this new initiative. Moving forward, I wish to propose that the Mission and interested parties here form a committee in order to make this engagement process a fruitful one.

In my view, such a Committee will be the main point of interaction and to coordinate activities to promote social, economic, and cultural awareness among generations of our diaspora community within the USA.

 In addition, this Committee, working in close collaboration with the Embassy, will create a database business network that would publish information on relevant organizations, individuals, and investment opportunities.

To conclude, let me remark that Ghana has one of the largest and most active Diaspora which, from time to time, has lent a strong voice, support and exhibited exemplary commitment to homeland development.

This, however, is unsustainable in the absence of an explicit development-sensitive Diaspora policy. The Government of Ghana’s formal acknowledgment of the importance of the Diaspora and the valuable contribution that Ghanaians abroad can make towards the country’s development, has led to the decision to develop a Diaspora Engagement Policy (DEP) that will span all governmental institutions.

 I therefore wish to implore you all to come on board in more constructive ways for national development. 

Once again, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish all you a pleasant discussion and I look forward to future engagement with you all in the interest of our dear nation, Ghana.

May God Bless us all.      

Thank you.