The case for the creation of the ministry of diaspora affairs
By: Afful, Adolf Kofi
This proposal is the result of the enormous need to harness the huge talent pool of Ghanaian professionals in the diaspora to help in the critical task of nation building and the development of the key sectors of the economy.
It is an attempt to get this pool of talent to participate both in government and private sector ventures that help create jobs and development in our local economy. Ghana can be great because of the different talent pool it has from Ghanaians from home and around the world with diverse expertise and ideas.
Government must visualize the opportunity that exists in harnessing this talent pool and instituting a constructive process through a national policy.
Efforts of previous governments in initiating and capturing this essential pool of professional talent for our national development must be recognized, namely - Ambassador Alan Kyeremanteng, initiated a professional data bank under President Kufuor’s administration; the setting up of the Office of Diaspora Affairs within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under President Mahama.
Now, President Nana Akufo- Addo has taken the next step of creating an executive level Office of Diaspora Affairs - a position at the presidency responsible for the diaspora (a suggestion I made to the Mahama government and to the current government).
Below are some facts to support this thought process?
1. Ghana’s 2016 Revised Budget - $3b((@ an exchange rate of GH4 to $1)
2. Foreign Direct Investments (F.D.I.) - $1.41b 2016
3. Diaspora Re-investments/Financial Transactions in Ghana – $6b plus per annum
4. The per capita contribution is in excess of $6000 per each Ghanaian in the diaspora (est. of 1,000,000 people).
5. Ghana’s diaspora is its largest foreign partner vis-à-vis all foreign donors combined per year. Our commitment is interest free. It is not a sovereign loan and there is no collateral attached to it.
Other areas of significant contribution include the following:
1. Banking Institutions and Savings – Over 50 percent of Ghanaians in the diaspora have bank accounts at home. Many invest in stocks and T-BILLS. We saw what happened to the dollar flight when it was announced that the dollar accounts were being immobilized. The flight had a significant effect on dollarized investments in the country and adversely impacted the exchange rate markets.
2. Mortgage payments – about 20% of the diaspora hold mortgages in Ghana today.
3. Home Town Associations (HTA) – They are key institutions of transnational engagement with our motherland. They represent a significant conduit of identity and purpose and help promote social development. Their contributions are significant and are not limited to development activities like scholarship schemes; healthcare assistance; schools; rural electrification and access to clean drinking water etc.
4. Telecommunications – Ghanaians in the US alone spend in excess of $100M per year in making phone calls to Ghana. This does not only benefit The US carriers but the Ghanaian providers as well.
5. Consumables –Diaspora local food consumption is in the millions – again strengthening the local Ghanaian economy.
Even though the relationship between remittances and development is multifaceted and complex, financial leverage is very relevant to improving the impact foreign savings has on the individual household. The diaspora community is a critical source to knowledge; expertise; resources and markets for the development of our nation.
A successful relationship between the two i.e. (Ghana and those in the diaspora) is predicated on:
• The government’s ability to project a coherent, motivated and progressive body.
• The capacity for of our leadership in Ghana to help create an environment and institutions for a sustainable and symbiotically rewarding engagement.
Today, the Ghanaian Diaspora constitutes a significant and successful economic, social and cultural force in many parts of the world. The last few decades have seen a sea change in the character of Ghanaian migration and it is led by the ‘new Diaspora’. These include skilled professionals in the diaspora who have acquired their basic college education in Ghana and have received advanced degrees abroad; first generation children of Ghanaian parentage in the diaspora who by the laws of Ghana are entitled to Ghanaian citizenship and therefore ought to be encouraged to take a stake in our nation’s development.
To look at the potential Diaspora contribution only through the prism of remittances and financial flows is to take a myopic view. We cannot measure ones contribution towards development singularly through our financial transactions to our mother Ghana. The added value is the exchange of ideas between the local professionals and the diaspora professionals in the assimilative process of development is the unquantified value of this proposition. This fusion of ideas is how the middle class can grow to help build our nation.
Our beloved Ghana is beginning to recognize the need to pursue and promote the dynamic of the Diaspora and development. The Ghanaian Diaspora community is diverse and heterogeneous, representing different regions and tribes with its accompanying cultures language and faith. I can say that the common thread that binds us is the IDEA OF GHANA and the values this idea affords us. The Ghanaian diaspora share a very strong bond with our mother Ghana and this is manifested in our remittances back home; the return of many to live, work and engage in many development projects.
Our partnership ought to start with the RIGHT TO VOTE. The Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA), Act 699 should be enforced under the laws of Ghana, particularly Articles 17(2), 42 and 33(5) of the 1992 constitution. The absence of its implementation is a major threat to our relationship.
I strongly propose the following:
• The preparation of a Ghana Diaspora Policy
• The Involvement of the Diaspora in the realization of the Ghana National Development Plan to be recognized especially in driving investments in the priority sectors of the economy such as education
• The need for the government to engage with the Diaspora in a sustainable and mutually rewarding way across the socio-economic- cultural and political space is at the heart of our argument for a standing Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.
This Ministry shall serve as a one-stop address for Ghanaians in the Diaspora. There shall be an appointed Cabinet Minister from the Diaspora. The Ministry shall have its budget from parliament just like any of the other ministries.
The Ministry will be the nodal institution for all matters relating to Ghanaians overseas, which will include Persons of Ghanaian Origin, Non-Resident Ghanaians and Overseas Citizens of Ghanaian decent. The Mission is to establish a vibrant institutional framework to facilitate and support mutually beneficial networks with and among Overseas Ghanaians to maximize the development impact for Ghana and enable the Diaspora to invest in and benefit from the opportunities in Ghana.
The Ministry shall be guided by some key policy imperatives.
1. To bring a strategic dimension to Ghana’s engagement with the Diaspora.
2. Provide customized solutions to meet the different expectations of the Ghanaian Diaspora community including our economic migrants and professionals.
3. Tap the investable diasporic community for their knowledge and resources.
4. Anchor our professional skills for overseas employment initiatives in Ghana.
With these policy imperatives, some of the entities to be established within the Ministry shall include:
- Ghanaian Diaspora Facilitation Centre – to serve as a one stop shop for economic engagement; investment and business.
- Diaspora Development Foundation- a non-profit trust to serve as a credible single place to facilitate Diaspora philanthropy that channel philanthropic capital into Ghana’s social development.
- Diaspora Data Bank – a platform that will facilitate the transfer of and or leveraging the expertise, skills and experience of the Diaspora professionals.
- Diaspora Global Advisory Council (to advise the President) – will be a body that draws upon the talent of the best Ghanaian minds wherever they reside to counsel the President on the strategic placement and dynamic of the diaspora project.
- Diaspora Officers at selected missions abroad – they will serve as field officers on matters relating to the Ghanaian Diaspora (this has been already effected under President Mahama, but I believe it ought to be manned by professionals from the diaspora who would have a deeper understanding of this endeavor).
- Diaspora Investment and Development Bank – to cater to the professional needs of the diaspora, regarding financial and investment transactions.
Ghana must join the more than fifteen other countries who have taken the lead in this critical area of development.
Examples – India; Israel; Ireland; Albania; Armenia; Azebaijan; Bangladesh; Chile; Dominica; Gambia; Georgia; Haiti; Indonesia; Mali; Morocco; Senegal; Serbia and the list goes on.
To be able to affect this we have to overcome the challenge of internal policy incoherence. A key constraint is the failure to make the Diaspora and Migration Policy as one that is a Development Policy on a Government -wide basis. There has to be a convergence of perspectives across government to recognize the Diaspora as serious and formal partners.
Ghana must transform the Brain-drain to Brain-gain – We can secure this important bridge to access knowledge, expertise, resources and markets only if we are able to establish conditions and identify institutions for application of this knowledge in areas relevant to the development imperatives.
The state of Israel over thirty years ago embarked on a similar campaign which continues today to help recruit all Jews in the diaspora with special emphasis on professionals to come home to help in nation building. The Jewish state is now considered a developed nation. I had the opportunity of working as a junior economist in the Mayor’s office in Tel-Aviv, Israel during this campaign. I believe this is the time to nationalize such a policy at the highest level of government.
We must do the following;
- Identify the best outreach program to reach most of the Diaspora population.
- Develop effective communication between Government and the Diaspora in all the specialized skill set groups.
- Leverage our demographic dividends as a bank for skilled labor
- Create a platform for dialogue with all political stakeholders.
- Set up our own Ghana Diaspora Volunteers Corps.
- Set up summer Youth orientation and work camps to assist in the assimilation process.
- Act as a lobbying body to seek Ghanaian interest abroad.
Option 1 – Funding for the construction of the Diaspora Ministry – this I believe ought to be part of the national budget. After all, the numbers listed above demonstrate that with a per capita contribution to the national economy of $6000 US plus, this is the least the government should commit to.
Option 2 – Funding from donor countries that have implemented similar diaspora Ministries/International development institutions who understand that this is a development issue.
Our first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said these words that are relevant today and I quote “I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me”. He further stated this and I quote “The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart”.
My fellow Ghanaians, our government needs to take a very bold step forward to create a standing Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. I believe that there is a huge opportunity for significant steps to be taken to embrace this simple idea that rests in our core competencies. This idea needs a leader with a vision to imagine and to accomplish. I believe President Nana Akufo-Addo is in the seat of a very few of our visionary leaders to accomplish this mission. Ghana wins - by becoming a melting pot of both local and diaspora expertise and ideas. Ghana can win and Ghana must win in this endeavor.
Adolf Kofi Afful – former Chairman – Council of Ghanaian Associations (Washington D.C. metro).