By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Folks, there is no doubt that Ghanaians continue to leave the country in the hope of “making it” in other countries. So much has been said or condemned about this “brain drain” syndrome as to make it register as unpatriotic. But there is more to it.
Communications Consultant to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Eric Ametor Quarmyne has been reported as urging Ghanaian nationals in the diaspora to utilize their expertise to improve the country’s economy.
Speaking on U TV, he expressed worry over the huge number of Ghanaians living outside the country. According to him, it is prudent for citizens to use the knowledge they have acquired in their various fields of endeavour to enhance the progress of the country.
He is reported as opining that the situation in which Ghanaians travel overseas to use the knowledge they have gained to develop foreign countries should stop.
Let’s hear him: “After acquiring knowledge and training, and they are supposed to use it to enhance the progress…you will locate several knowledgeable Ghanaians who are helping other countries. Though it is a fact that they transfer things to their families in Ghana, but the knowledge that they have acquired and using in foreign lands does not help us.”
Good ideas, no doubt. But the truth is that these exhortations fall flat on the face of the reality that continues to push Ghanaians out of the country. The brain-drain can’t be stopped with such exhortations because the factors that facilitate it are deep-seated and defy “mouth-talk”..
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, had on Saturday exhorted Ghanaians not to desert the country for so-called “greener pastures” elsewhere because there is more green pasture in Ghana to warrant their staying home. In other words, the green pasture in Ghana is greener than that elsewhere. Really?
Many others have also expressed their viewpoints on why Ghanaians should stay home to contribute their quota toward nation-building. The emigration continues, and many wonder why it can’t be stopped. Or why Ghanaians (or Africans, generally) will risk their lives on journeys into the unknown (Lampedusa on my mind).
An upfront answer: The systemic problems that have all these years kept Ghana under-developed and catalyzed the brain-drain aren’t being solved to warrant any stay-at-home exhortation or to guarantee that such exhortations will be heeded.
Ghana’s development challenges remain, not because Ghana lacks intellectuals or experts to tackle them but because the systemic problems make it difficult for those intellectuals and experts to be home to do as is suggested. The whole world knows the capabilities of Ghanaians; and I can tell you that Ghanaians are everywhere on this planet, distinguishing themselves as people of substance.
Go to Greenland, Iceland, and Papua New Guinea and you will see Ghanaians in responsible positions, defying the inclement weather conditions or weird socio-cultural constraints to excel in their calling.
I remember very well that when I entered the job market at the end of my graduate studies, some American friends asked me where I would want to be. I told them that I had no preference; and that if it came to the crunch, I would go to Alaska and become an African eskimo. They burst out laughing themselves lame! Why not back to Ghana? I brushed off that question and moved on.
I am speaking from experience and will be the first to admit that there is too much backward thinking going on in the country, which doesn't encourage anybody outside to return home to serve.
Just like me, many other Ghanaians acquiring higher education or professional training would choose to go elsewhere other than “home”. Personal reasons may explain their choice, but the truth is that there is a lot wrong with how public service is defined and approached in Ghana. It is a disincentive!!
One quick question that crops up is: If Ghanaians are so bright and ready to use their God-given skills/talents wherever they are (outside their own country), why isn't Ghana benefiting from their endowments?
Simple answer: the situation at home isn't conducive for them. Don't ask me to explain because the reality is right in front of your eyes. Too much negative thinking!!
The status quo in Ghana abhors innovation and creativity. Ghanaian politics is so dirty that with the politicization of everything in the country in this so-called era of constitutional democracy, nothing attracts the Ghanaian in the diaspora toward public service in the country; and there is too much of the Pull-Him-Down syndrome at work that deters well-meaning Ghanaians from staying home to serve their country to the fullest limit of their capabilities.
More importantly, the governments (both past and present) don’t seem to know how to tap into the expertise of those outside the country. No mechanism exists for consultation or collaboration. In a plain language, those at home are quick to dismiss their compatriots living outside as “too known” and a nuisance.
A few friends who chose to return home to serve Ghana didn’t take long to come to terms with the reality that would send them backing back to the diaspora. I am given to know that the NPP’s Dr. Kobina Arthur Kennedy who chose to relocate and got a place at the University of Cape Coast as a lecturer, has returned to South Carolina in the United States, carrying along with him bitter experiences. Many others have suffered in diverse ways and should be willing to tell their own stories. But who cares?
One can see a new trend, though, which reveals that most of those returning home have chosen to enter politics (If you consider Maxwell Kofi Jumah and many others as such) because politics is where they can quickly make ill-gotten wealth and put impediments in the way of those wishing to return home to serve Ghana in other departments of life. Unfortunately, not everybody wants to go into partisan politics. Too bad for our country!!
It is not as if living outside and serving other countries is rosy. It is not a blessing because there are numerous challenges that turn the Ghanaian Diasporean into a pitiable workaholic. Not because one loves working, or that the conditions of service are too overpoweringly alluring as to hypnotize them into doing anything else than serving those system.
The fact is that the Ghanaian is torn between many spheres—living in a country and meeting all the obligations (especially in a system where bills come every day) while turning an eye to the constant pestering pleas from those left behind in Ghana who constantly demand material support (payment of utility service bills, school fees, feeding, medical bills, etc.). The Ghanaian in the diaspora isn’t in a heaven-on-earth. Anybody who thinks otherwise must not know how steadily he/she is moving toward the abyss.
To cap it all, let me say that life in the diaspora is really challenging—and can be traumatizing for those who don’t play their cards well. That is why one needs to know what is at stake before taking the plunge.
And to worsen matters, Ghana’s missions abroad don’t even know what to do to keep track of Ghanaians in their areas of jurisdiction. How many of these Embassies and High Commissions even have any record of Ghanaians residing in areas within their purview? None!!!
You see, before Ghanaians in the diaspora can decide to return home, they need assurance that they will not be left at sea. They need assurance that their lives will not be “politicized” and that they will have what they need to put their professional training and expertise to good use as they are allowed to do in the diasporic systems.
Not until that full assurance is given, no amount of exhortation will deter the emigration from Ghana or motivate the return home.
The time has come for a drastic change so Ghanaians serving other systems can be lured back home and retained. The government has to do a lot to establish the parameters so returning Ghanaian professionals and experts can seamlessly blend with the Ghanaian situation to make their expertise available to solve problems. Anything short of that will rather frighten those
I shall return…
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